Grading the Jets Offseason: Has Gang Green Set Up Sam Darnold for Success?

Jason Keidel
May 29, 2020 - 12:25 pm
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During this year's NFL Draft, the Jets picked five players on offense, three on defense, and a punter. The most ink goes to one of the largest men in the draft, Mekhi Becton, the 6-foot-7, 370-pound tackle out of Louisville. If the Giants got the most complete tackle with Andrew Thomas at No. 4, the Jets got the guy with the highest ceiling at No. 11. Not only is Becton a hulking man, he's oddly nimble and ran an astonishing 40 time of 5.10 seconds, the heaviest player ever to record such a time. Becton is a road-grader who will blast open holes for Le'Veon Bell. And even though pass-blocking is his second-strongest suit, he allowed just one sack as a junior.

The Jets took speedster Denzel Mims in the second round. Mims ran a ridiculous 4.38 seconds in the 40 yard dash, and the 6-foot-3, 207-pound wideout has the size to muscle his way past cornerbacks and grab the football. He has a 38.5 inch vertical, and is just a physical phenom. Between Mims and the free agent signing of Breshad Perriman, the Jets will quickly get over the loss of Page Six graduate Robby Anderson.

The rest are largely variables, including two Florida Gators (Jabari Zuniga and Lamical Perine) and little known quarterback James Morgan, who jumped from Bowling Green to FIU. It's probably safe to say that the Jets, unlike most NFL clubs, helped themselves the most before the draft since they had so much cap space - approximately $70 million entering the offseason and about $18 million left on draft day.

In free agency, the Jets signed 14 players: seven of them on offense and seven on defense.

After losing Anderson to the Carolina Panthers, they replaced him with Mims and Perriman, which makes their receiving corps better than last year, even if it looks like the promising Quincy Enunwa will spend his career on the IR.

Gang Green also poured cash into their offensive line, which was an eyesore last year. The Jets allowed 3.2 sacks per game in 2019, which ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams. By contrast, the Super Bowl champion Chiefs allowed 1.7 sacks per game. The unit also stifled Le'Veon Bell, who averaged a paltry 3.2 yards per carry.  Becton will help with that. So will free agent signees Greg Van Roten, who should start at right guard. They signed Connor McGovern, who should be a solid starter at center. They also grabbed Alex Lewis at left guard. The only truly questionable call was making it rain on tackle George Fant, to the tune of three years and $30 million, for a former basketball player who has never started a full season in the NFL. But by default the Jets' offensive line should be exponentially better this year than last.

The Jets also made a sneaky-smart deal when they signed cornerback Brian Poole to a one-year, $5 million deal to help with their secondary, which is their weakest unit outside of Jamal Adams. Worried about the health of Avery Williamson and CJ Mosley, the Jets signed a conga line of linebackers: Patrick Onwuasor, Jordan Jenkins, James Burgess Jr, and Neville Hewitt. Williamson and Mosley are expected to be ready to play this fall, but insurance is essential in a sport that mangles limbs on the regular.

It's almost redundant to say a team needs a pass rusher, but the Jets certainly do. Gang Green notched just 35 sacks in 2019, one fewer than the anemic Giants. Of the 15 teams that registered the most sacks, nine went to the playoffs. And the Jets are still looking for their Cameron Jordan, Danielle Hunter, or Bosa brother. Still, the Jets made enough improvements on offense to slightly offset their lack of rabid pass rushers.

Like most NFL clubs, the Jets' success will pivot off their quarterback. Most franchise QBs find their groove by their third season. There are myriad reasons Sam Darnold has been inconsistent - lack of weapons, blockers, and an infamous apparition in Foxborough. If that weren't enough, Darnold was saddled with mononucleosis last season, costing him three games, crucial experience, and surely rendered him enervated when he returned.

Most football periodicals have the Jets in the middle of the offseason pack. It helps that GM Joe Douglas actually ran the team this winter. Last year, he was hired after the Jets signed their free agents and made all their draft picks.  Some are already sick of head coach Adam Gase, who can be surly with the media and condescending with everyone else, odd traits for someone with a 30-34 record after four NFL seasons.

But at least the Jets have one thing in common with all good football teams - continuity. No more infighting or backstabbing among the brass. Gase can't get Douglas canned. And it feels like an adult is running the team. Though they finished 7-9 last year, the Jets were actually 7-6 with Darnold under center. Perhaps they've done enough to keep him upright and not uptight. 

Grade: B+

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