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NY Jets: Preseason Midpoint Takeaways

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What have we learned?

NFL: Preseason-New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Halfway through the preseason, most of the key Jets have gotten some real game reps. Le’Veon Bell has been bubble-wrapped despite not playing for about 600 days, but everyone else has seen the field and given us something to think about moving forward. Here are some of the things to note from weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason:

1) Sam Darnold looks like he’s taken a step forward

Darnold has only lead a handful of drives thus far, but has put a TD on the board on both of his opening drives. He’s looked sharp, accurate, and decisive in Gase’s offense, and I’m excited to see what he can do in his sophomore year after a rookie season that left me with some concerns. It appears that his development will be especially crucial considering the fact that Trevor Siemian has looked very uninspiring and Davis Webb looks as though he should be out of the NFL come September.

2) The starting defensive line looks dominant

The Jets have gone up against two of the weaker offensive lines in the preseason, but the starting defensive line has ripped them apart in back to back weeks. Henry Anderson and Quinnen Williams have shredded their opposition, which has also allowed linebackers and safeties to waltz right through to the quarterback, resulting in sacks and pressures. Some of the backups have also shown a little something, as Brandon Copeland, Bronson Kaufusi, and Anthony Wint have all recorded sacks. Polite has looked useless out there, but even if he isn’t a factor this season, the Jets look pretty good at the DL and LB positions.

3) The cornerback position is as bad as we feared

These guys have been torn apart. The starters have held their own well enough, but certainly have impressed. The Falcons combination of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Calvin Ridley is a tough task for anyone, but the Giants preseason group shouldn’t scare anyone. As soon as the starters left the field, the backups have been so atrocious that any team should be able to simply lob balls repeatedly until they reach the end zone. An already weak group will likely turn into the worst cornerback group in the league if the Jets suffer any injuries this season.

4) The Jets should be competitive this year

The Jets have the second fewest wins in the NFL over the past three seasons, better than only the Cleveland Browns. This could very well be the year the Jets bounce back. The first team offense has looked incredibly sharp even without their prize acquisition Le’Veon Bell seeing a snap. There’s not a lot of elite talent on the field, but there aren’t as many gaping weaknesses either, meaning that if Darnold makes a big step in year 2, the Jets have enough tools to be competitive on offense.

On defense, the team is loaded with first round picks and Pro Bowl-level talent. There’s elite talent at safety (Adams), linebacker (Mosley), and the defensive line (pick your Williams.) Supporting players like Avery Williamson (or not), Marcus Maye, and Ironman Anderson could also make an impact each week. The clear Achilles’ heel is the cornerback group, which could threaten to turn an otherwise top-10 defense into a mediocre or worse group. If the Jets can find ways to mask this weakness, the Jets may field an above average offense and defense for the first time in so long that I’m not willing to check the statistics on this one. This team may not be elite, but this is easily the best team the Jets have put on the field since at least the 10-win 2015 season.

5) The Jets kicking game is comically terrible

You already knew this, but it had to be said. The biggest and most glaring takeaway from the mostly meaningless first two preseason games is that the Jets are desperate for a kicker. Arguably the only thing that’s identical to the regular season in the preseason is kicking.......and yikes.