Before we head into the new league year, it’s worth taking stock of some of the returning players in terms of their injury status.
While they suffered an overwhelming amount of minor injuries in the early part of the season, the Jets were fortunate enough to avoid too many long-term injuries over the course of the season. However, there still may be some players who are racing against time to be ready in time for offseason workouts.
Let’s recap where everyone stands:
Players under contract
The most serious-sounding injury from last year was probably Kyle Phillips’ ankle injury that ended his season in October. Phillips was said to require surgery to fix multiple issues and Adam Gase said he had a long rehab ahead of him. While it is expected he’ll make a full recovery, this is one player who might not be ready for camp.
Another serious injury was the Achilles tear suffered by safety Saquon Hampton in mid-December. Hampton was making his first appearance with the Jets when he suffered the injury and will also be up against it to be ready in time for camp.
On the less serious front, albeit regarding a vitally important player, we have Quinnen Williams, who missed the last two games after being placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. This was actually believed to be a concussion. He should be fully recovered from this by the time the Jets retake the practice field, but obviously concussion issues are always something that bear watching.
Another player whose injury wasn’t necessarily serious but his overall history gives cause for concern is linebacker Blake Cashman. Cashman has struggled to stay on the field in his first two seasons and already had durability concerns due to his multiple shoulder surgeries before he entered the league. This time, it was a hamstring injury in early December that ended his season, although doubts over whether he can handle the physicality at this level will persist until he proves otherwise.
We don’t know much about Ashtyn Davis’ injury that ended his rookie season just as he was starting to settle into his role, other than the fact it was a foot injury. However, the fact that Gase said he could miss the remainder of the season in early December perhaps tells us it must not have been a long-term deal if there was a slim chance he might be back.
Cornerback Kyron Brown would have been out of contract, but he remains signed through 2021 because his contract tolled as he spent the year on the PUP list. Brown had worked his way into the lineup and earned a late season start as an undrafted rookie in 2019, but a quadriceps injury ended his season and he then failed his physical at minicamp six months later. This could be his last chance, if he even sticks around long enough to get one.
Finally, CJ Mosley wasn’t injured in 2020, but he hasn’t played since his persistent groin issues ended his 2019 season prematurely. If he starts the 2021 opener, this will only be Mosley’s second game since the 2019 opener. However, that’s not unprecedented - Blessuan Austin had only played one game in the previous 26 months when he made his NFL debut. Moseley has had a long time to get over those problems now and, if he’s up to full speed, could make or break Robert Saleh’s defense in year one.
Pending free agents
Of all the players who ended up the season on injured reserve, Harvey Langi is perhaps the most likely to return, since he’s a restricted free agent. The rest are all unrestricted free agents.
Langi was assessed for a neck injury in late December before being added to injured reserve. With it being a late season injury, it’s theoretically possible that this wouldn’t otherwise have been serious enough to keep him out for three weeks and warrant a spell on the reserve list. On the other hand, it also means he has less time to recover than someone injured earlier in the year. Without knowing the severity of this injury, it’s relevant to note that Langi also suffered a neck injury in the serious car accident that ended his rookie season.
Of the other free agents that ended the year on injured reserve, the main candidates to return are probably Jordan Jenkins, Patrick Onwuasor and Brian Poole.
Poole went on injured reserve in mid-November after being listed with a knee injury, but it was then revealed that he’d also require shoulder surgery. Jenkins had shoulder surgery as well, two days before Christmas. He had been listed on injured reserve one week prior that.
Onwuasor suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and then was left on injured reserve much longer than you’d expect for a routine injury before finally being activated and then immediately suffering a relapse. He’ll be starting from scratch in 2021 but at least he won’t have the wear and tear of the season to contend with.
The other four free agents that ended the year on injured reserve are arguably all less likely to return. Bradley McDougald had a shoulder injury at the end of October and Bennett Jackson had a hamstring injury in mid-December. The other two were listed right before the final game so they may have had short term injuries anyway; Josh Andrews with a thigh/groin injury and Frank Gore with a chest/lung issue.
While none of them ended the season on injured reserve, Tarell Basham, Neville Hewitt, Jamison Crowder and Mekhi Becton all left the final game of the year with injuries, so it’s theoretically possible they may have some rehab work to do. However, Becton was the only one of the four not to return to the game and there’s been no suggestion he is dealing with anything serious.
Although it was a rough year for the Jets and injuries took their toll on the team in the early stages, they actually didn’t suffer as much as you might think long term.
The key names on this list - Mosley, Williams and Davis - all have a chance to be 100 percent in time to have a full and uninterrupted offseason of preparation. As noted, Mosley could have a dramatic effect on the Jets’ fortunes if he is back at full speed. The Jets will be less optimistic about the youngsters Phillips and Cashman, but again they could help out next year if they can get healthy.
As for the pending free agents, the team will no doubt have kept tabs on the recovery process to assess whether to bring any of these players back. The injuries may put other teams off signing these players and should keep the cost of re-signing them down. Poole, in particular, is an important name to watch here.