Football is back, sort of.
NFL teams across the country are set to open training camp on July 28, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Every year, numerous teams head into camp looking to bounce back from a bad season, others look to snap postseason-less streaks (looking at you Cleveland). The New York Jets are no exception.
After starting the 2019 season a retched 1-7, Gang Green surprised the rest of league in the second half of season winning six of a possible eight games. The Jets finished off head coach Adam Gase’s first season in New York, 7-9.
New York must capitalize off the hot second half of 2019, otherwise, Gase may get the boot early.
3 Position Battles To Watch:
Offensive Line: Alex Lewis, Greg Van Roten, Brian Winters, Mekhi Becton, George Fant, Chuma Edoga.
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that first-round pick Mekhi Becton will grab one of the starting tackle spots. Alongside him, look for former Seattle Seahawks starter, George Fant, to step up and start at tackle.
Guards are where it gets a little more interesting. Brian Winters, a 2013 third-round pick and longest-tenured Jet, was expected to be a cap casualty. GM Joe Douglas decided to keep the 6’4 320lb guard in town. Injuries were a problem for Winters in 2019, missing seven games, but if he can stay healthy, he’s a lock to start.
The second guard spot will see a competition between Alex Lewis, who started 12 games for the Jets last year, and Greg Van Roten, who started a combined 27 games the past two season for the Carolina Panthers.
Cornerbacks: Pierre Desir, Arthur Maulet, Nate Hairston, Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, Quincy Wilson, Brian Poole.
Brian Poole looks to be the only player guaranteed to start at Cornerback for Gang Green after appearing in 14 games with 10 starts in 2019. Poole managed 59 tackles- tied for a career-low- to go along with four tackles for loss, an interception, and a safety.
Alongside Poole there are a whopping four former Indianapolis Colts, vying for a starting gig. Pierre Desir signed a one-year deal back in early April, while Nate Hairston was traded to the Jets before the 2019 season, Quincy Wilson, a former second-round pick, was shipped to the Jets on draft night for a seventh-rounder and Arthur Maulet joined New York before the 2019 season.
Wilson is in desperate need of a bounce-back season under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He faltered in the Colts zone-scheme last season. Desir thrives in a zone-based scheme. But Williams prefers to run man to man coverage, which benefits the athletic Wilson, as well as Hairston.
Whoever Williams picks to start in the secondary, it can’t be any worse than Trumaine Johnson did last year.
Tight End #2: Trevon Wesco, Chris Herndon, Daniel Brown.
Wesco in his rookie year was not used for pass-catching purposes. He only caught two… in 16 games. Rather, Wesco was used mostly as an H-Back, lining up on the offensive line as a blocker. Brown will probably stick around New York, but not on the active roster. Since going undrafted out of Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) James Madison in 2015, he’s bounced around a couple of times before landing in New York. Look for him to sign a practice squad contract or maybe even find himself on a different roster come to the start of the 2020 season.
Everyone can agree, 2019 is a season Herndon would like to forget. Herndon was expected to be the starting tight end, but Ryan Griffin started the first four games while Herndon served a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. He wasn’t even activated until week seven. Less than a month later he was on the Injured Reserve and out for the season. All that took away the shine from his good rookie year the previous season, in which he caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Ready To Breakout: Sam Darnold/Chris Hendon
As mentioned, Herndon was supposed to be the number one tight end in 2019. Injuries and stupidity (suspension), quickly knocked him off that pedestal. In his absence, Griffin caught 34 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns. Look for Herndon to start the season as the number two tight end and eventually jump to number one like he was supposed to a year prior.
Having two capable tight ends will help third-year quarterback Sam Darnold. Coming out of the University of Southern California (USC) as the third overall pick, Darnold was expected to immediately produce for the lowly Jets. But that didn’t work out so well and the team went 4-9 in the 13 games Darnold started in his rookie year, thanks in part to his 17 touchdown and 15 interceptions. Things got a little bit better for Darnold in year two, once again starting 13 games (cough…mono), this time the team went 7-6 and he threw for 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. With an actual, capable offensive line, a healthy LeV Bell at the running back, and some decent wide receivers, Darnold is primed for a huge leap this season.
Rookie(s) To Watch: Mekhi Becton/Denzel Mims
The Jets offensive line sucked in 2019. According to football outsiders, they ranked 31st in run blocking and 30th in pass protection. Out of 32. That’s horrible. With some solid veteran free agents to help stabilize the line, look for Becton to quickly learn some tricks and tips, and become a staple for years to come.
Losing the number one wide receiver is never easy for a team, but when the number one wouldn’t claim that title on most other teams. Robbie Anderson is not worth the two years; $20 million the Panthers gave him. While Mims is no number, not yet at least, he was more than capable during his time at Baylor University, hauling in 186 passes for nearly 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns. Oh, and he ran the third-fastest 40-yard-dash time for a receiver, at the NFL combine. He’ll be a day one starter that will help open the field for Darnold.
Fantasy Sleeper: Breshad Perriman
Despite being the 26th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Perriman has bounced around, a lot. From Baltimore to Washington (for five whole days) to Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and now New York. Four teams (technically five if we’re counting Washington) in five seasons is never a good thing, especially for a former first-round pick. But this time, Perriman may have found a long-term home. The first 12 weeks of the 2019 season didn’t go Perriman’s way, catching only 11 passes for 139 yards. Then Mike Evans went down and Perriman became a go-to receiver. In the final five weeks, the former UCF receiver caught 25 passes for 506 yards and five touchdowns. Look for that production to continue with an improving Darnold.