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Joe Douglas Has a Plan and Is Doing it His Way

The pundits aren’t so sure

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Jets GM Joe Douglas was angered recently by the lack of respect the 2020 Jets roster was receiving from national and local media. He didn’t mince words when talking about his resentment his first roster was getting from the football world. “Our guys don’t live in a bubble. We see the things that are said, we see the things that are written, It angers a lot of people,” Douglas said.

We can all give a collective sigh, but crying about your situation doesn’t win games.

The media didn’t have many positive predictions for the Jets before the season, and Week 1 was a poor start. Still, let me offer my thoughts on the pros and cons of the New York Jets.

Pro

1) The majority of pundits who follow NFL football view Sam Darnold as a franchise quarterback. That is not an easy transition from the college ranks. Yet Sam has a calming, positive approach QB style that it is hard not to like even though Week 1 wasn’t a very good start.

Darnold of course is the key but he has started his career by playing in a total of 27 of 32 possible games in his first two years. He has a completion percentage of 60 % but a troubling 37TD/29 INT ratio. He has to be given a pass on his mono infection in his 2nd year which robbed him of 3 games (which the Jets lost miserably). In those 27 games Sam has been sacked a ridiculous 66 times, a number that positively would have been much higher if he didn’t have great movement skills and the awareness to throw the ball away when he has a chance. Of course throwing the ball away has an adverse effect on completion percentage and the interception rate because of a lack of time to adequately read the defense.

2) Because of the sacks and pressure on Darnold, Joe Douglas made a significant dedication to improving the offensive line in 2020. The offensive line in 2019 was aptly named because the line was undeniably offensive in its play. There were 11 different starters during the year with no starter actually starting more than 13 games (Kelvin Beachum).

The Ryan Kalil experiment was as costly as it was ineffective. Kalil played only 343 snaps for the Jets. He was paid $6,712,500 for that, and he was graded out as #32 out of 35 centers by PFF (which might have been a little generous). Kalil played only 7 games. He was replaced by Jonotthan Harrison. Not to be outdone by Kalil Harrison graded out as the #34 of 35 centers in the NFL...from bad to worse.

The Guard play was equally bad with Brian Winters (started 9 games) receiving the highest grade (62.4 which was 41st) of players who took over 300 snaps. It was telling when Connor McDermott (who is a tackle by trade) started 2 games at guard, andgraded out just behind Winters at 62.2. Kelechi Osemele, who was a unmitigated disaster rated out as the next highest guard for the Jets at 56.2 just ahead of Alex Lewis at 56.1. Oday Aboushi and Spencer Long both graded out higher than Osemele or Lewis which gives you an idea of the quality of their play.

Brett Qvale (1 start at guard) and Tom Compton (who started 5 games) were worse than the others so there was no shining star on the interior line for the Jets. This horrid play allowed Sam Darnold to be harrassed continually while giving the ground game no effective blocking to find an open holes. This wasted the efforts of a Pro Bowl type back in Le’Veon Bell.

The offensive tackles were a disaster as well. Kelvin Beachum was destroyed on national TV by Myles Garrett play after play. Brandon Shell was a turnstile and benched in favor of Chuma Edoga whose play was arguably worse.

Since Joe Douglas had little chance to fix his line problem in 2019 he made it a priority to change the line with a economical approach. He didn’t sign the top free agent tackle Jack Conklin despite the lower than anticipated price tag ($42 million/3 years), his relative youth (26 years old) and his superior play (rated 10th best tackle in NFL by PFF). He stayed away from guard/center Graham Glasgow who is in his prime (28 years old), whose play is ranked very high, and whose contract was not overvalued (4 years/$44 million).

Douglas decided to give a 3 year/$27.3 million contract to a 28 year old tackle George Fant, a 3 year/$27 million contract to a 27 year old center Connor McGovern, a 3 year/$10.5 million contract to a 30 year old Greg Van Roten, and a 1 year/$1.047 million contract to a 29 year old center Josh Andrews. He then re-signed 28 year old guard guard Alex Lewis to a 3 year/$18.6 million contract and drafted a mountain of a man in tackle Mekhi Becton.

Douglas seems to like the offensive line he has put together. “No one is saying this is the Hogs or anything crazy, but this is a group you see getting better every day.” said Douglas.

3) He brought in experienced depth at he running back position in future HOF player in Frank Gore then drafted Lamical Perine to play alongside Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell. Gore’s contract was for the veteran minimum of $1.05 million which qualifies for the veteran cap benefit rule so Gore’s contract counts only $750,000 towards the salary cap. This depth could end up being important after Bell’s hamstring injury.

4) The Jets had a need for receivers, but Douglas didn’t overpay for Robby Anderson (2 years/$20 million). He instead brought in Breshad Perriman (1 year/$6.5 million). Douglas also drafted a powerful yet athletic receiver in 6’ 3” Denzel Mims who has 4.38/40 speed. He also brought in a veteran receiver in Chris Hogan late in camp to go along with Jamison Crowder (Jets 2019 leading receiver) and Braxton Berrios the main punt returner. It’s too early to draw sweeping conclusions about this group after a single week.

The Jets also had a breakout year from TE Ryan Griffin in 2019. They also welcomed back a healthy Chris Herndon who is now well versed in the offense. Herndon brings a huge upside to the position it lacked in 2019 along with being a big target for Sam Darnold.

5) On the defense where Gregg Williams did an outstanding job in 2019 the Jets look for a big season from a now healthy Quinnen Williams and a new secondary. After finishing in the top half of defense in 2019 in most indices the Jets added two safeties in Ashlyn Davis, Bradley McDougald.

6) The Jets believed they have improved their special teams by drafting Braden Mann who was considered one of the best punting prospects in the country. Unlike college kickers who can dominate at the university level then struggle in the NFL, punters usually perform more like their collegiate levels than place kickers.

Cons-

1) They Jets are missing their two best defensive players on the team in Jamal Adams (traded) and C. J. Mosley (opted out). The Jets missed Mosley last year as well, but his leadership was needed after the departure of Adams. Other than Steve McLendon (who is more of a lead by example type) the Jets lack leadership on the defensive side of the ball.

2) The secondary has gone through a massive overhaul. We saw some reasons for concern in the opener.

Defenses, especially like a Gregg Williams aggressive defense need time to jell. They need to know where everybody is in certain alignments. Defensive breakdowns could now be more likely to happen which could lead to big plays for opponents.

3) The lack of cohesiveness on the defense can be multiplied significantly on the offensive line. Talent is a need for sure, but knowing how your teammates are going to react to stunts and blitzes is paramount to success on the offensive line. Things happen very quickly in the trenches and this current offensive line has played one game together.

Look how the Patriots over the years have lacked premium players on the offensive line or suffered serious injuries yet their lines always held together. Their linemen who were considered upper echelon type players have disappointed when moving to other teams through free agent deals. The intense leadership of coach Dante Scarnecchia was considered underappreciated by many in football. They have always protected a statue in Tom Brady and run the ball very effectively when they need to.

4) The Jets have a thin receiver corp that seems to get thinner all the time. As injuries mount the lack of depth becomes much clearer. The team will be without two of its three starters on Sunday.

5) The Jets fielded a solid defense in 2019, but that defense really didn’t provide a lot of pressure on the QB. The Jets had a grand total of 35 sacks last year which ranked 23rd in the league, but 18.5% of those sacks were lost when they traded Jamal Adams. In fact other than Jordan Jenkins (8) and Adams, no player had more than 3 sacks. Additionally Adams created a lot of havoc when he blitzed or even faked a blitz. That caused offensive linemen to adjust their protections allowing other Jets easier penetration. The Jets no longer have that specter of chaos now that Adams is gone. Marcus Maye had a pair of sacks in the opener, but overall the defense struggled to generate pressure.

6) The special teams will be relying on a rookie punter after the Jets decided not to bring back Lac Edwards even though he averaged 45.9 yards per punt on 87 tries. Vyncint Smith was the Jets best kick off returner in 2019 as he averaged 29.9 yards on ten returns, but much of that was because of a single 78 yard return. Without that big return he had a modest 24.5 yards per return. Still his speed provides the possibility for a game changing play everytime he touches the ball.

Braxton Berrios returned all 21 punt returns the Jets had in 2019 and did a solid job. He had long return of only 25 yards but he had an excellent average of 11.4 yards per return. The Jets may be hard pressed to find a sure handed returner if Berrios should go down.

The Jets chose to only bring in a cursory challenge to Sam Ficken as the place kicker despite him having struggled mightily in 2019. It was strange that the Jets decided to replace their punter who did a relatively solid job but passed on some placekickers in the Draft, instead trading their last pick for Quincy Wilson who would have probably released. They could have drafted a solid kicker with that pick as competition for Ficken.

Ficken made just 19 out of 27 kicks (70.4%) and missed 3 extra points. He made just 3 of 6 kicks from 50+ yards and 7 of 11 from 40-49 yards. He had a touchback rate of just 46.8% (29 of 62).

Douglas is obviously proud of the job he did this year building the Jets. He must have worked hard to make so many moves, moves that did not always agree with the many in the media or the fans. Yet he feels he know something that others don’t when he said, “Obviously, there were good players that were on this team last year that aren’t playing this year. But just going through this camp, I can tell you there are some guys on this team that may not be household names, but they are good football players. Their mission is to go out and become a household name.”

We will see if he was right to give a $27.3 million contract to George Fant rather than the $42 million contract that Jack Conklin received. He also spent money on a Greg Van Roten rather than ponying up for a Graham Glasgow. Some critics say the Jets spent money on mediocre talents instead of proven quality players. Either way time will tell who was right, but Joe Douglas can be congratulated for doing things his way. He’s going to get the applause or the scorn no matter what. You can tell he has the utmost faith in what he is doing and his plan.

As Joe puts it, “We have a vision, we have a game plan on what we’re trying to accomplish. We want to have the flexibility so when the right player presents itself, the right opportunity, we are going to be aggressive. It may seem like we’re not doing that right now, but we do have a vision.”

As of now if the cap is reset to $175 million in 2021 the Jets will still have about $40 million in space to use. Many teams will have to cut players or be unable to make a pitch to free agents because of the salary cap. If the Jets decide to let go of Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell you can add another $20 million to that total. This is the flexibility Joe Douglas talks about.

The Jets have (as of now) 10 Draft picks in 2021 with two picks in each of the 1st, 3rd and 5th rounds. With the picks combined with the salary cap room the Jets may be poised for big things in 2021, just as Sam Darnold gets into the prime years of his career. He even could have a new coach. Who knows? Joe Douglas may be crazy; like a fox.

That is what I think.

What do you think?