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Thoughts On The Jets Core

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

Over the last few weeks we have run a series on establishing a core of New York Jets players who might still be with the team in two years. All of you were kind enough to play along and vote on the players and share your thoughts in the comments. Now I’ll return the favor and share my thoughts, for what they’re worth. I make no claim that they will end up being any more accurate than any of yours.

Here are the top 18 players most likely to be with the team in two years, as voted by you:

  1. Mekhi Becton
  2. Quinnen Williams
  3. Denzel Mims
  4. Marcus Maye
  5. Bryce Hall
  6. Ashtyn Davis
  7. Folorunso Fatukasi
  8. John Franklin-Myers
  9. C.J. Mosley
  10. Braden Mann
  11. Jamison Crowder
  12. Sam Darnold
  13. Brian Poole
  14. Chris Herndon
  15. Connor McGovern
  16. Neville Hewitt
  17. Blessuan Austin
  18. Bryce Huff

Let’s start with one thing that seemed to bother some: the idea that many of these players are not core player quality. No doubt that is true, if we define core players as top guys you want to build the entire team around. The current Jets team is bereft of top level talent, so after you get past the first few guys on the list, it’s questionable if these guys really represent core players in the way most of us understand the term.

While we could have stopped the series after the first few players, I was trying to do something different here. I was trying to identify who might still be here in 2022. While I could have titled the series “Building a list of Jets players who don’t entirely stink and have a more than zero chance of being on the team in 2022,” I made the fateful decision to go with “Building A Jets Core” because it somehow had a nicer ring to it.

Regarding the 18 players we ended up with, I could have cut it off sooner, but I went with 18 because, based on past experience, there is a pretty decent likelihood at least that many current Jets will still be here in two years. Don’t believe me? You may well be right. This roster is so lacking in talent even 18 players surviving may be too high. But consider this. In 2012 the Jets replaced then general manager Mike Tannenbaum with John Idzik, while keeping Rex Ryan in place at head coach. That roster was also bereft of talent. The leading receiver that year was Jeremy Kerley with 827 yards. No other Jets receiver had more than 359 yards, with the next four top targets being Jeff Cumberland, Dustin Keller (who suffered a career ending injury halfway through the season), Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill. Yikes! The quarterback room had Mark Sanchez, in his final year as a starter, Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy. Yikes again! The starting cornerbacks were Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. The defense featured five starters age 32 and older. This was a team in need of a complete overhaul.

What happened next? Over the next two years John Idzik tore down the roster and rebuilt. He made 19 draft picks in two years. He signed numerous free agents. And still, two years later, in 2014, the Jets had 23 holdovers from the 2012 roster. The 2014 Jets went 4-12. John Idzik was then fired.

Mike Maccagnan replaced John Idzik in 2015, and Rex Ryan was also replaced with Todd Bowles at head coach. Nearly the entire Jets coaching staff and front office was replaced. The 2014 Jets were a terrible team. The starting cornerbacks were Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen. Sheesh. The leading receiver was Eric Decker. Behind him were the likes of Jeremy Kerley and Percy Harvin. The tight ends were Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland. The offensive line was on its last legs, with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Willie Colon a year away from retirement, and Oday Aboushi starting full time for the only year of his career. This was again a bad football team. Yet two years later, despite an enormous spending spree by Mike Maccagnan in free agency, the 2016 Jets still had 20 holdovers from the 2014 team.

Keep in mind that in both those instances, the Jets replaced the general manager, and in 2015, the Jets replaced the head coach too, yet both teams still had 20+ holdovers two years later. The 2021 Jets team has retained the general manager, which means many of the current players were chosen by Joe Douglas. That makes it less likely he’ll be eager to completely tear down the team in two years. So the likelihood that at least 18 holdovers remain in 2022 seems fairly high. On the other hand, as bad as those 2012 and 2014 Jets teams were, this team may have even less talent, so maybe the turnover will be higher. In addition, Douglas has positioned himself with 19 draft picks over the next two years, and may acquire more, so that will help with rebuilding the roster. Nonetheless, replacing an entire 53 man roster in just two years just isn’t realistic. There will be holdovers, and I’m willing to bet the number will be at least 15, and probably more. If I’m right about that, then choosing 18 seems a reasonable number.

Getting more into the specifics of the list, here are my thoughts.

The list generated by all of you is comprised almost entirely of current Jets starters, other than Bryce Huff. This is to be expected, as they are most of the best players on the current roster. However, it’s unlikely the holdovers will actually turn out this way. A good number of current starters will likely not be retained, whether because of cost or injury or a lack of “fit” with the new coaching regime’s vision. In addition, a number of current backups are likely to stay on because they either develop substantially or because they are cost effective backups who carve out a role with the new staff.

Among the players I think may have a decent chance at remaining on the 2022 roster not chosen by all of you are the following:

George Fant. He fits the mobile tackle model the current coaching staff may favor, he’s still just 28 years old, he is reasonably cost effective, and he was signed by Joe Douglas.

Ty Johnson. He is extremely cost effective and has the kind of plus speed this staff may be looking for at the running back position.

Javelin Guidry. Plus plus speed, cost effective, under contract through 2022 and played well late in the year.

Cameron Clark. Nobody has any idea what this guy will become, we never saw him play. But his inability to see the field in 2020 was probably expected, given the huge jump up in competition level from Charlotte. Joe Douglas drafted Clark in the 4th round, offensive linemen are notoriously slow to develop in comparison to other positions, and Clark is extremely cost effective. My guess is he’ll be with the team in 2022.

As for guys who made the list who I may not have voted for, consider the following:

Sam Darnold. Volumes of digital ink have been spilled discussing this guy. Nothing I say will persuade anyone. Suffice it to say I am not a believer.

Braden Mann. Statistically one of the worst punters in the NFL in 2020. There’s little reason to retain a player like this unless he improves dramatically. There’s a good chance Mann will be out of a job by 2022.

Jamison Crowder. Crowder reminds me of the old saw, beware the best player on a bad team. The statistics tend to be inflated. It’s not that Crowder is a bad player. The issue is more, is he worth what he’s being paid? Crowder is entering the last year of his contract with the Jets. He was not signed by Joe Douglas. He is not, in my opinion, the kind of player you make it a major priority to re-sign. While I can see the Jets bringing him back, with two drafts and two free agency periods still to come before the start of the 2022 season, I’m betting the Jets will have upgraded enough at the wide receiver position by then that Crowder will be expendable.

Blessuan Austin. I’m just not a fan. He wasn’t drafted by Joe Douglas, he hasn’t performed well in the time Douglas has been here, my guess is Austin will have to improve dramatically to retain a position with the Jets.

As I said earlier, I have no illusions my thoughts here will end up being any more accurate than any of yours two years hence.

It’s been an interesting exercise trying to divine who might survive the coming roster purge. We’ll see soon enough how this all plays out.