Somehow, someway the NFL is back. In what is likely to be one of the most unique seasons in league history, the New York Jets will continue their quest to snap a mind numbing playoff drought, which is on pace to hit a full decade post 2020. Expectations are not any higher than they were last season due mostly to an unpopular, consistently mediocre Head Coach and a roster that appears in many spots to be in transition. Can the Jets exceed expectations or will 2020 just be another brick in the endless rebuild?
The Evaluative Season
Joe Douglas approached the offseason in a consistent way. The Jets made targeted, low cost, short term investments in free agency on potentially high upside players with durability and consistency concerns (Breshad Perriman, George Fant, Pierre Desir, Greg Van Roten) without sinking any real money beyond 2020 on any acquisition outside of Connor McGovern. He did not hesitate to ship out the team’s best player, Jamal Adams, for a massive haul of draft picks which will theoretically improve the team in 2021 and beyond but not help them in 2020 and he did not hesitate to take high ceiling, high variance players with his early round picks (Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mims, Ashtyn Davis). The Jets did not make any major play for veteran players at the last second like Jadeveon Clowney, Logan Ryan or Alshon Jeffrey.
The Jets carried themselves like they knew their 7-9 record in 2019 was a bit of an anomaly and that this upcoming offseason would be when a more aggressive collection of moves would be made to compete. They are certainly not tanking but they certainly did not push their chips to the middle of the table for the 2020 season. This will be a season for Douglas and his new front office to evaluate the coaching staff they inherited, the draft picks they inherited and the free agent dart throws they made, and whether fans want to admit it or not, it will also be a season for them to evaluate quarterback Sam Darnold, who was drafted by the previous regime…Sink or Sam
Unlike a season like 2017, the Jets have a puncher’s chance to exceed their preseason expectations because of their quarterback. Darnold is one of the most difficult young players in the league to evaluate through two seasons because of his surrounding situation. There have been moments of brilliance interspersed with maddening inconsistency, all over the backdrop of a below average coaching staff and supporting cast. The Jets badly need Darnold to make “the leap” this season if they want to exceed 7 wins and contend for a playoff spot or the AFC East. If he generally flat lines, it is hard to see a pathway to them having a winning record or even being competitive in many weeks. Darnold deserves another at bat with a different, improved situation regardless of what happens this season but if the bottom really falls out, he may not get it.
The X Factors
Darnold aside, the team has a clear x-factor on each side of the football. Tight end Chris Herndon has all the tools to be a Travis Kelce/George Kittle type focal point of the Jets passing attack but the Jets desperately need him to stay healthy and have his targets maximized by the coaching staff. Defensively, second year defensive lineman Quinnen Williams was touted as the best player in the 2019 NFL Draft by many but underwhelmed as a rookie. If he can start showing flashes of being the Fletcher Cox type impact player that many thought he could be, some of the Jets pass rushing concerns will dissipate and their defense has a chance to be much more formidable than expected, even without Adams and CJ Mosley.The Rookies
Mekhi Becton will start from day one at left tackle and hopefully show flashes of being D’Brickashaw Ferguson 2.0 for the franchise. Denzel Mims will likely be eased into action early in the season but should get as many targets as possible, particularly in the red zone to prepare him for a larger long term role here. Let’s not waste too much time with funneling attempts to Chris Hogan. Rookie Ashtyn Davis is inevitably going to find his way to a large role on the defense and is primed to be moved all over the place by Gregg Williams. Jabari Zuniga will start the season on the (now, short term) IR list and La’Micael Perine is unlikely to have a major role on the offense, at least in the early part of the season. Cameron Clark is hopefully a developmental player who will compete for a starting role in 2021 while the team is counting on James Morgan to be the long term backup QB. Braden Mann will punt from day one and Bryce Hall is unlikely to be mix anytime soon as he sits on the reserve/non-football list.
The Bottom Line
The Jets are not barren of talent but it is hard argue their overall roster is not in the bottom third of the league, which is coupled with a coaching staff who has shown no ability to punch above their weight. Darnold’s presence and prospective development makes every game worth watching but there could be some ugly moments despite the AFC East being more up for grabs than it traditionally is. I wouldn’t be on the Jets picking in the top 5 next year but I also wouldn’t bet on them making the playoffs…
On to the 30 predictions for the 2020 season for the Jets…
1 – Sam Darnold will start 15 games this season and throw for roughly 3,750 yards. He will have a YPA of 7.1 and throw 24 touchdowns to go with 14 interceptions. Darnold will rush for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns and lose 3 fumbles. He will be the Jets starting quarterback again in 2021…
2 – Le’Veon Bell will rush for 950 yards and 6 touchdowns with a 4.0 YPC. He will also add on 510 yards receiving and 2 receiving touchdowns. It will be his final season with the Jets.
3 – Jamison Crowder will lead the Jets in targets and receptions for the second season in a row. He will have comparable stats to what he had in 2019.
4 – The Jets will go 2-4 in the AFC East, splitting with Miami and Buffalo and getting swept by the Patriots again.
5 – Jordan Jenkins will lead the Jets in sacks with 6.5. He will sign a new, two year deal with the team after this season.
6 – Quinnen Williams will take a notable leap forward in his second season and finish with 5.5 sacks. He will start all 16 games.
7 – The Jets DVOA rating on defense will drop from 10th to 15th.
8 – Frank Gore will narrowly exceed 120 carries for the Jets this season and rush for 3 touchdowns. He will average 3.4 YPC.
9 – Breshad Perriman will play between 10-12 games for the Jets this season and finish with around 500 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.
10 – Chris Herndon will play in at least 14 games this year and exceed 625 yards receiving. He will have 5-7 touchdowns.
11 – Ashtyn Davis will play in at least 50% of the Jets defensive snaps this season and be a core special teams player from week 1.
12 – Jabari Zuniga will have a minimal impact as a rookie and not register more than 2 sacks.
13 – The Jets will go 1-3 against the NFC West.
14 – Denzel Mims will play between 10-12 games this season and finish with around 350 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns.
15 – Chuma Edoga and Conor McDermott will start games at some point this season on the offensive line.
16 – Mekhi Becton will start all 16 games at left tackle and despite a few early season bumps will show more than enough to believe that he will be a cornerstone player at the position.
17 – At least four different players will start at outside corner for the Jets this season.
18 – The Jets will blow out the Raiders again.
19 – Brian Poole will regress a little bit from last season but still be one of the better slot corners in the NFL and grab three interceptions. He will be back in 2021 on a new contract.
20 – This will be George Fant, Joe Flacco, Perriman and Gore’s only season with the Jets.
21 – The Jets will split their games with the Broncos and Colts early in the season.
22 – La’Mical Perine will have 55 or less carries as a rookie.
23 – The Jets will lose by at least 17 points to the Chiefs.
24 – Chris Hogan will have somewhere between 30-40 receptions for the Jets this season but not be back in 2021. Donte Moncrief won’t be on the roster after week 4.
25 – This will be the last season with the Jets for Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon and Avery Williamson.
26 – Blessaun Austin, Foley Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd will all have solid seasons and be back in 2021 as large contributors/starters.
27 – The Jets will improve their offensive DVOA ranking from 31st to 22nd.
28 – Connor McGovern will start all 16 games at center and be a major upgrade from what the Jets have had at the position in recent years.
29 – The Jets will finish 6-10 and miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season.
30 – The Jets will fire Adam Gase after the season…
NFL predictions (* = wild card team)
- New England: 10-6
- Buffalo: 9-7*
- Jets: 6-10
- Miami: 6-10
- Baltimore: 12-4
- Pittsburgh: 10-6*
- Cleveland: 8-8
- Cincinnati: 6-10
- Tennessee: 10-6
- Houston: 9-7*
- Indianpolis: 9-7
- Jacksonville: 2-14
- Kansas City: 14-2
- Denver: 9-7
- Las Vegas: 7-9
- Los Angeles: 6-10
- Dallas: 12-4
- Philadelphia: 10-6*
- Giants: 6-10
- Washington: 5-11
- Green Bay: 11-5
- Minnesota: 9-7
- Chicago: 7-9
- Detroit: 5-11
- New Orleans: 11-5
- Tampa Bay: 10-6*
- Atlanta: 7-9
- Carolina: 6-10
- San Francisco: 12-4
- Seattle: 10-6*
- Los Angeles: 8-8
- Arizona: 7-9
Super Bowl: Kansas City over Dallas
- MVP: Patrick Mahomes
- OPOY: Dak Prescott
- DPOY: Nick Bosa
- OROY: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
- DROY: Chase Young
- COY: Bruce Arians