The season is almost upon us. The Jets are looking to end a Playoff drought approaching a decade. Their ability to do so will hinge on the respective performances of key players, coaches, and front office members.
Here are ten people who will swing the Jets’ season in the direction of success or failure. These aren’t necessarily the ten best on the team. They are the ten who will shape the season. For example, C.J. Mosley is undoubtedly a top ten player on this team, but we have a good idea what the Jets are getting from him. He will likely be a very good run stopping linebacker and a solid cover guy. This list is reserved for ten people whose performance variability will bring success or failure to the 2019 Jets.
I will list them in alphabetical order.
Anderson is one of the few genuine finds the Jets had during the Mike Maccagnan Era. An undrafted free agent signed in 2016, Anderson has blossomed into an excellent deep threat and a quality starter at wide receiver. The question for 2019 is whether he can take his game to the next level. In his first three years, Anderson has run a limited route tree and relied on the deep ball for a large percentage of his production. The deep ball comes and goes, and that is a big reason he was held under 50 receiving yards 10 times last year. A new coaching staff has indicated Anderson’s role will increase. While he likely will never run an Odell Beckham type route tree, adding a few more routes he can consistently run effectively could raise his ceiling to a number one type receiver. There have been some hints that the Jets might look to get him the ball more in space. Just being effective on those snaps might be enough to elevate Anderson to status as a capable go to guy.
Bell is back after a one year holdout and a team change. The Jets signed him for one reason, to help Sam Darnold. Darnold had far too much of the playmaking burden fall to him as a rookie. He couldn’t lean on an inconsistent run game. That’s where Bell comes in. The star back can be a useful safety valve as a receiver out of the backfield as well and can help Darnold identify coverages presnap when moved to the slot. There are plenty of questions surrounding Bell. What impact will the year off have? Will he be motivated after getting paid? Anecdotally I can tell you that when I was at training camp a few weeks ago Bell looked like he was in great shape. It was striking.
No player will do more to shape the destiny of the Jets than Darnold. He now has a year under his belt and has assumed command of the locker room. The team is extremely optimistic about his potential. The questions are how good he can be and how quickly it will happen. A big leap in year two could mean the postseason for the first time since 2010.
This isn’t really Douglas’ team. The Jets hired him only after allowing his predecessor to go on a historic free agent spending spree and run the 2019 Draft. Still Douglas will have a few opportunities to make his mark. He already has with the signing of Ryan Kalil at center. His most important early test will be making sure the team has an adequate kicker. Even consider Douglas’ late hiring, there is no excuse for him if the position is an issue at any point this season. There are always adequate kickers available. It is the rare position where supply is greater than demand. It will also be interesting to see whether Douglas can swing a trade in season for a problem position like cornerback. Sometimes it is easier to make a deal at the deadline after teams have fallen out of the race than it is before the season.
Gase’s tenure with Miami was rocky. He struggled in locker room management, in-game personnel decisions, and situational playcalling among other areas. He still was able sell to the Jets on the idea he is the right guy at the right time for this team. As such he has been handed a golden opportunity with a blue chip quarterback prospect. Nobody has ever disputed that Gase’s raw football IQ is high. Can he learn from his mistakes with the Dolphins? If so, we might be watching the start of a tremendous coach-quarterback partnership.
Johnson’s first year with the Jets was a disaster. His free agent deal currently looks like an expensive mistake. With a thin cornerback group, the Jets need a bounceback season from Johnson. His 2018 campaign saw alarming signs of decline. His lack of catch up speed seemed to reduce his willingness to play aggressive coverage. What we saw were shades of 2016 Darrelle Revis. Is there anything left in the tank? The Jets need it if so.
Kalil was a surprise camp signing. He is tasked with stabilizing a center position that has short circuited the Jets offense the last two seasons. Kalil comes with an impressive resume, but there are plenty of question marks. How quickly can he develop chemistry with Sam Darnold? How quickly can he develop chemistry with his fellow offensive linemen after not working with them at all prior to Week 1? Is he in football shape after signing during training camp? How well does he know the system? Does he have one more quality season in him at age 34?
Williams’ long career has seen plenty of peaks and valleys. After a successful tenure as Browns interim head coach, his stock is high. How high it remains will depend on his 2019 performance with the Jets. He has a challenge on his hands with deficiencies at edge and cornerback, the two most important positions on defense. It won’t be easy to work around these things unless a player or two steps up. With that said, Williams might need to back away from his preferred style of heavy blitzing. The construction of the Jets roster could call for a more conservative bend but don’t break approach. Will Williams be willing to adapt his style if that’s what it takes?
Playing out the fifth year option of his rookie deal, the Jets will have to make a decision on his future soon. Williams is a polarizing player in the fanbase. I would argue some of the criticism is unfair. While he has fallen short of some of the loftiest projections made when the Jets picked him, I think you would have a difficult time finding six players from the 2015 Draft class who are definitively better. That means he has justified his status as the sixth overall selection. Williams has quietly done his job effectively during his career. Now will we see more impact plays?
The selection of Quinnen Williams received close to universal approval in the scouting community. Most seem to feel Quinnen will eventually be a star. The question is how much we can expect immediately. Will he be an effective rotational player as a rookie, or will he be the type of impact player who can help compensate for a lack of edge rushers?