As the 2020 season nears closer, it is worth examining which players on the Jets are likely to break-out or regress. This article focuses on three players whom I believe will improve significantly over their 2019 performance and three players who will play worse than they did last season.
REGRESSION CANDIDATESBrian Poole (cornerback)
Last season was an extremely positive outlier in Brian Poole’s career. Poole was one of the most consistent players on the Jets defense and a surprising force in the run game.
That said, Poole was an average slot corner prior to joining the Jets, and the level of receivers he faces this year will be significantly higher than last year.
The confluence of elite opposition and career history make him a prime candidate for regression.
Alex Lewis (guard)
Lewis has significant potential for regression due to his injury history.
Lewis suffered significant injuries in each of his three seasons prior to joining the Jets:
– he sprained his ankle and missed 6 weeks in 2016;
– suffered a shoulder injury in the 2017 preseason that sidelined him for the entire regular season;
– and was suspected of having a serious neck injury in 2018 (although he only missed 2 games).
Lewis’ lack of injuries last season was a positive outlier compared to every other season in his career and it would not surprise me to see his tendency to get injured re-emerge.
Bless Austin (cornerback)
While I’m pretty confident in Poole and Lewis regressing this season, there is reason to believe Gregg William’s zone-heavy approach protects corners from vulnerable, man-to-man match-ups.
However, my concern regarding Austin is his lack of reactive athleticism, which was on display even during some of his best games. Take his pass break-up against the Washington football team last year, for example: Austin speed-turned in order to break up a 10 yard dig, but the reason the pass fell incomplete was because the ball arrived late–not because Austin made a great play on the ball. In fact, 9 times out of 10, that pass is a completion in the NFL and viewed as a losing rep by the cornerback.
Especially considering the level of wide receivers the Jets play in 2020, Austin is primed for regression.
Quinnen Williams (defensive lineman)
A common break-out candidate, Quinnen is hyped up by fans because he is in phenomenal shape this preseason and early reports out of training camp are positive.
However, the aforementioned reasons are too “narrative-y” for my taste.
In my opinion, the reason Quinnen will be a breakout player is because he showed flashes of dominance against the best offensive linemen in the NFL: Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Zack Martin, Jason Kelce, and Rodney Hudson–to name a few.
Especially considering that the Jets play relatively poor interior offensive lines in 2020, Quinnen is primed for a dominant season.
Blake Cashman (linebacker)
Currently sitting near the bottom of the Jets’ linebacker depth chart, Cashman will have an opportunity to prove himself in 2020. Cashman is the only linebacker on the roster who is signed past this season, so one can reasonably expect the front office to push for him to play. At a minimum, the Jets must know whether he is a viable option going forward or whether he will live out his rookie contract as a mere depth piece.
Cashman is an athletic linebacker with a higher long-term upside than Neville Hewitt or James Burgess, so fans should expect for Cashman to play on passing downs and start in the event of injuries.
Chris Herndon (tight end)
Aside from Jamison Crowder, the Jets offense is devoid of receiving weapons. Herndon has the opportunity to provide a much needed, big-body target for Sam Darnold.
Herndon had a phenomenal rapport with Darnold in 2018 and, if not for injuries in 2019, was primed for a breakout season as a result. Although his injury history is concerning (he also tore his ACL in college), if Herndon can stay healthy this season, I see no reason why he cannot be a top-8 tight end in receiving yards.