The New York Jets offseason goal was to get younger and faster, which meant parting ways with many house hold names. Owner Woody Johnson has publicly expressed his support for building through the draft. NFL experts have been predicting the Jets to be one of the worst teams in football due to their lack of talent. However, the fans who follow the team closely know that they have plenty to be excited about for this upcoming season.
Depth at WR:
Once upon a time, the Jets had arguably the worst group of wide receivers in football. Once Mike Maccagan took over as General Manager he totally revamped the position. He proved once again this year that wide receiver is a top priority. In addition to this year’s selection of Ardarius Stewart (3rd round) and Chad Hansen (4th round), Maccagnan struck gold last season with undrafted free agent, Robby Anderson. Stewart or Hansen could make immediate impacts from year one and Anderson proved last season that he can be a dynamic playmaker. Not to mention, Quincy Enunwa has only gotten better since he entered the league four years ago and was arguably their best player on offense last season. The Jets desperately missed Eric Decker’s sure hands in 2016 but the veteran is on pace to be ready for the season opener. All of the wide outs compliment each other well and should thrive in John Morton’s system which relies on yards after the catch. Whoever the quarterback is will have fun throwing to these gifted targets.
Youth in the Secondary:
Marcus Gilchrist was an easy player to root for due to his high level of professionalism but he didn’t make enough plays at the safety position. He probably was a cap casualty even without his knee injury. There’s a new wrecking crew in Florham Park now. Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye are going to be foundational pieces for Todd Bowles’ team going forward and will be eager to make names for themselves from day one. Former first round pick Calvin Pryor shouldn’t be written off just yet. Pryor has shown flashes of being a good NFL safety before and is now more motivated than ever to live up to what made him the 18th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He will count for a little bit more than a measly two million dollars against the cap and can still be valuable in Bowles’ defense that often plays three safeties at once. Not to mention the cornerback position will feature many players who are hungry for their shot to get significant playing time. Young players like Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts, Marcus Williams, and new comer Morris Claiborne are going to give it their all when they’re on the field and look to develop into quality NFL starters. This will be an entertaining group for fans to watch during training camp because effort won’t be an issue.
Linebacking group on the rise:
ILB Darron Lee has a lot to prove this season as his rookie campaign didn’t go according to plan. The ankle injury he suffered in the beginning of the season definitely didn’t help matters but in year two he will have to make significant strides, particularly in coverage. Lee says all of the right things to the media and has the makings of becoming a leader on this young Jets team. Fellow rookie Jordan Jenkins too had a slow start to his season due to injury but proved towards the end of the season that he is capable of being every down edge rusher. This is a put up or shut up season for third year OLB Lorenzo Mauldin. Down about ten pounds from the previous year, Mauldin appears to be back to the speedster that he was in his rookie year and he too has the makings of a leader based on his high motor. Then there is olé’ reliable David Harris, the longest tenured player on the team. Entering a contract year at age 34, Harris may very well be entering his final season as a Jet but the Hitman is just concerned with proving the team’s doubters wrong. There’s no denying that he’s slowed down over the years but there are definitely worse inside linebackers in football. Harris is still the glue to Bowles’ defense and will be a great influence on the many young players in the locker room.
DE Muhammad Wilkerson has received tons of harsh criticism over the past year. Some of it is warranted as it is unacceptable to be showing up late for meetings or skipping them. Wilkerson apologized for this and vowed to be a better leader. He also assured Jet fans that they will win more games than last season. He also heard the noise about how he is “out of shape” and didn’t bring maximum effort on Sunday’s in 2016. Wilkerson was critical of the team’s medical staff for a lack of a plan following his broken leg suffered the year prior, causing his level of play to drop. Mo has had plenty of time to heal now and can no longer use that as an excuse this year. He knows that if he doesn’t get back to the player he was in prior to least season, the Jets will have the option of cutting him so it would behoove the 86-million-dollar man to do whatever it takes to start causing constant disruption again on the defensive line.
The Hack Attack:
The Jets used a second round pick on QB Christian Hackenberg in last year’s draft. The youngster was lucky to see practice reps let alone game action in his rookie campaign. Hackenberg claims to have made significant strides since he was drafted and his new QB coach Jeremy Bates has gotten raving reviews across the league. If Hackenberg doesn’t show much improvement in 2017, the scholarship will be over and his roster spot could be at stake. The second year man knows how wide open the starting job is right now and looks to prove the Jets right for being patient with him.