Top 5 Surprises of Jets Camp So Far

Will Parkinson offers his training camp takeaways.

It’s been an exciting and fast-paced start to camp for the New York Jets. Below are the five biggest surprises of camp going into the Giants game.

1.       Rookie Defenders – Something that has stood out to me is the quick development of some of the Jets’ late round picks. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Brandin Echols, Jason Pinnock, Jamien Sherwood have all gotten a ton of reps with the one’s and two’s early in camp and all have had positive moments. I expect Nasirildeen and Echols to seriously contend for starting roles come week one and Sherwood and Pinnock to develop and get some playing experience in 2021.

2.       Denzel Mims – What is surprising to me is the panic from the media and fan base when it comes to the second year wideout. He had a rough spring (stomach illness) and an even rougher start to camp, running with the twos and three’s while struggling with the playbook and drops. Mims has flattened out over the past two or three days and needs to continue to stack good days together to ensure he is getting a lot of reps with Wilson going into the opener.

3.       Mehki Becton – Becton, coming off of a strong rookie year, was expected to take training camp by the horns and assert his dominance in this perfect scheme fit. Mehki has struggled a lot throughout camp, partly due to Carl Lawson as well as the lack of consistency at left guard. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about Becton, especially with the performance of Dan Feeney next to him, which is leading to a bunch of the sacks, but I do think it’s fair to say Becton is going to need to take his play to next level before the real games start.

4.       The Running Backs – Going into camp, I felt like running backs was one of the weaker groups on the Jets’ offense–not because of potential but because we really didn’t know what to expect. Thus far, the running back group has been impressive, and four players who all should make the roster have had their bright spots. Michael Carter has taken a bunch of starting reps, but La’Mical Perine, Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson have all ran well and will give the Jets a solid backfield with some pop and play-making to it.

5.       CJ Mosley & Jarad Davis – The Jets are betting big on potential with this linebacker group, specifically on the return of CJ Mosley to 2018/19 form and Jarrad David to his college and rookie year tape. Davis has been calling a majority of the plays for the defense and Mosley looks in as good a shape as he ever has. Both former 1st round picks have high potential, especially the former all-pro Mosley, and so far in camp they have formed a nice partnership that could pay huge dividends for this defense and team in 2021. Both guys are away from coaches that become draining on their love of the game and both have looked the part thus far in camp.

Have the Jets finally found their QB of the Future?

Will Parkinson offers his thoughts on Zach Wilson.

It’s no secret that the Jets have been looking for their franchise Quarterback since Joe Namath moved on to the Rams in 1977. There have been flashes of hope–with Ken O’Brien, Boomer Eisasion, Vinny Testeverde, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Christian Hackenberg, and Sam Darnold–but Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh believe they finally have the guy to buck the trend and be the Jets’ franchise QB for years to come. When the Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Panthers back in April, it became abundantly clear that Zach Wilson would be the Jets’ pick at #2 overall. Wilson is an uber-talented player who could have gone #1 overall in a draft, if not for Trevor Lawrence. The Jets feel like they found their guy and are doing everything they can to make Wilson successful. 

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The Jets’ Game Wrecking Strength

Will Parkinson talks about the strength of the Jets’ DL.

The Jets finally have a position group that other teams will have nightmares to scheme against. This is Saleh’s bread and butter. The DL has the potential to be scary and one of the most elite in the NFL. In this article, I will dive into this topic in more depth.

If you told a Jets fan in 2005 that it would be 15 years until they had an edge rusher like John Abraham on the roster, they would’ve called you crazy. This offseason, the Jets hope that they have solved their glaring EDGE hole by adding Carl Lawson. Lawson joins an already talented group of young defensive linemen. While the Jets struggled heavily in 2020, the defensive line was one of the lone bright spots. Going into 2021 this group is the strength of the team and features exciting players like Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, John Franklin Meyers, in addition to Carl Lawson, and a bunch of other depth pieces. Between the talent on this unit and the 4-3 scheme change, under Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich. This unit should be one of the best in the NFL if they can live up to their potential.

When the Jets drafted Quinnen Williams back in 2019, most evaluators thought they were getting the best overall player in the draft. Williams is supremely physically gifted for an interior defensive lineman. He showed some flashes in 2019 but took a huge leap in 2020, becoming one of the best young defensive players in the NFL. Williams produced 7.0 sacks, 10 TFL, and 14 QB hits in his second year, playing somewhat out of position in a 3-4 defense. Williams was a stud at Alabama playing in the 4-3 under front at the defensive tackle role, which he will be playing in 2021 and beyond. The scheme change and addition of talent will allow Williams to pin his ears back and create havoc in the backfield. This scheme will create more one on one matchups and allow him to use his size and speed versus smaller and slower IOL. He can get to the double-digit sack mark in his third year and compete for a pro bowl, maybe even an all-pro bid. On the TOJ Pod, Marcus Spears said, “I think for Quinnen Williams he can turn into that guy, where defense say we got to make sure we take care of that guy!” For the Jets, if Williams takes another leap in 2021, it should not only allow him to gain more recognition but the defense as a whole.

The Jets long search for the next John Abraham is hopefully over. In the offseason, the Jets signed talented pass rusher Carl Lawson to a 3-year 45-million-dollar deal. Lawson ranked sixth in pass-rush win rate over the past two seasons, ranking only behind superstars like TJ Watt, Myles Garrett, and Joey Bosa according to PFF. Austin Gayle of PFF is very high on Lawson, saying, “injuries remain a concern, but Lawson is easily one of the league’s premier pass-rushing talents when healthy.” Lawson had 64 QB pressures and 32 QB hits in 2020. His sack numbers (5.5) in 2020 weren’t as high, but he projects to have a large jump this year based on those pressures and hits, combined with playing with talented guys like Williams, Rankins, Franklin-Meyers, and others. Injuries have been a concern for the talented pass rusher from Auburn, as he missed major chunks of 2018 and 2019 in addition to injuries in college, which caused him to fall in the draft. With Lawson screaming off of one edge, the Jets defense will have a dimension that they have been sorely missing, as well as one that will help protect their incredibly young and unproven cornerback room.

One of the most underrated signings of the offseason around the NFL was the Jets bringing in Sheldon Rankins on a 2 year 18.5 million dollar deal. Rankins will be another talented interior defensive lineman to play alongside Williams and Lawson. Rankins was a dominant force in 2018 with the Saints, racking up 8.5 Sacks before tearing his Achilles in 2019. Rankins will look to return to his past form in 2021 and help provide stability and another dominant presence in the new 4-3 scheme. While durability this year and beyond is a concern for the Jets with guys like Lawson, Williams, and Rankins all who have missed time the past two years, if these guys can stay on the field at the same time, should provide a great force in the AFC and NFL as a whole.

The defensive line’s ability to create pressure and get to the quarterback without having to blitz is a massive key in today’s NFL. It’s why Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh put such an emphasis on it this offseason. Part of what made the 49ers so successful in 2019 was being able to get pressure with the front 4 and being able to provide protection their secondary, something the Jets will be relying on heavily in 2021. If Lawson, Williams, Rankins as well John Franklin-Meyers, who was a breakout player for the Jets in 2020, perform the way they are capable, this defense should be a top 12-15 defense. This is a must-watch group in 2021 and should produce at least one, if not two pro bowlers.