New York Jets – 2016 Individual Awards?

Joe Malfa projects New York Jets who could be in the mix for individual awards in 2016

A member of the New York Jets organization has won an individual award in two of the last three years — Sheldon Richardson was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and Mike Maccagnan was the NFL Executive of the Year in 2015. Here is a list of six Jets who may win individual awards in 2016.

Defensive Rookie of the Year — LB Darron Lee

The Jets desperately needed an athletic linebacker heading into April’s draft, and they got exactly what they needed when Darron Lee fell into their laps at number 20 overall. He excels in coverage, is quick to the ball against the run, and is capable of flying around the edge to get to the quarterback. In 28 games at Ohio State, he recorded 146 tackles, 11.0 sacks, and forced six turnovers (three INTs, three forced fumbles). Lee is in the mold of a Deone Bucannon, who Todd Bowles made great use of in his days as the defensive coordinator of the Cardinals. He is a linebacker/safety hybrid type of player who can rack up some very impressive stats. A stat line of 85 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and two INTs is well within the realm of possibility, which would make him a finalist for the award along with the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Joey Bosa, and Karl Joseph.

Defensive Rookie of the Year — DE/OLB Jordan Jenkins 

Another defensive need for the Jets was an edge rusher to get after the QB on 3rd downs with Lorenzo Mauldin. Jenkins was not even the first edge rusher drafted out of Georgia with the Bears selecting Leonard Floyd 9th overall, but he may be the more NFL-ready of the two. Floyd went in the top-10 because of his ceiling as a freak athlete at the edge position (like a Von Miller), but Jenkins is a more polished pass-rusher who should have success in this defense. Realistically, Jenkins should end up with five or six sacks, but who’s to say he can’t get to the double digit plateau? We have seen it in the past where an edge rusher gets hot and racks up the sacks — Aaron Maybin’s six career sacks came in a nine game stretch as a Jet in 2011. If Jenkins can get over 10.0 sacks and maybe 40 tackles, he could be a dark horse candidate for the award.

Defensive Player of the Year — DL Sheldon Richardson

If the experiment of Sheldon Richardson as an outside linebacker is over, he can go back to being an absolute beast on the line. We saw him win Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 with 78 tackles and 3.5 sacks. His numbers improved in 2014, recording 66 tackles and 8.0 sacks despite seeing more attention from offensive lines. Between the 4-game suspension, a nagging injury, and being played out of position, his numbers took a hit last year (35 tackles and 5.0 sacks in 11 games). With the return to his natural position and plenty of talent around him to prevent him from being double-teamed, he can go back to his 2014 form. J.J. Watt’s status for the early part of the season is uncertain, which leaves the door wide open for someone else to take the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016. Khalil Mack is my pick to win the award, but if Richardson registers 85 tackles and 11.0 sacks, he will definitely be in the mix.

Coach of the Year — Todd Bowles

The Coach of the Year award was within reach for Todd Bowles in his first season as a head coach. If the Jets would have beaten Buffalo in Week 17 to make the playoffs, Bowles would have had a chance to steal some votes from Ron Rivera. When it comes to an award for a coach, the only stat that matters is in the “W” column. Later this week I will have my 4th quarter schedule breakdown — *SPOILER ALERT* I have the Jets finishing 10-6. Bowles will once again be in the mix to win the award if those 10 wins are good enough to get the Jets into the playoffs.

Executive of the Year — Mike Maccagnan

Here he is — the reigning NFL Executive of the Year. Maccagnan was a shoo in for the award last season after he turned a lowly 4-12 team with a weak roster into a 10-6 playoff-caliber team. He was very active in the offseason in 2015, brining in the likes of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 2016 offseason did not produce those marquee names, but he made a lot of important tweaks to the roster that may give him a shot at repeating as Executive of the Year if the Jets can get to the playoffs. The odds are definitely not in his favor though — Bill Polian is the only executive to win the award in back-to-back seasons (’95 and ’96) with the then fledgling Carolina Panthers.

Comeback Player of the Year — QB Geno Smith

I made sure to put this one at the end, otherwise some of you may have angrily closed out of the website before you read the whole article.

Here is what I had to say about Geno is a recent TOJ Roundtable:

It seemed as if Geno Smith did more bad than good when he was the starter, but we cannot disregard the good entirely. In both of his seasons at the helm, he played very well down the stretch and looked like a legitimate NFL starter. We also can’t forget that he never had the chance to play with the weapons this offense currently possesses. He had Jeremy Kerley and Eric Decker, but he never had both at 100%. Beyond those two, he had guys by the names of Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill, T.J. Graham, another player who was always injured in Percy Harvin, and a Santonio Holmes in the twilight of his career.

Geno has a big arm, he is mobile, and with this current arsenal, I believe he will have a lot of success in Chan Gailey’s offense.

Let’s assume for a moment that Fitzpatrick doesn’t sign and Geno is the starter. Yeah, there is a chance that he may crash and burn, but who’s to say that he won’t perform well?

The media has loved jumping on Geno since his name was first called on draft day, but the media actually raved about him during training camp last year. It seemed as if he was settling into Gailey’s offense nicely and was having success with his new weapons, but his season came to an abrupt halt when he was introduced to the fist of I.K. Enemkpali. The only time we saw him take the field was in the loss to Oakland after Fitzpatrick injured his hand, and he actually looked solid.

Fitz is definitely a lot more consistent than Geno, but Geno has the higher ceiling. If he lives up to his potential now that he is in a more favorable situation, he can put up very impressive numbers. Fitz recorded 3,905 yards, 31 TDs, and 15 INTs in 15 full games last season. If Geno comes out and puts up similar numbers, he would easily be in the discussion for Comeback Player of the Year.

Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com