Lichtenstein: We’re There Already — J-E-T-S, Just End The Season

Time For GM Douglas To Shift Focus To 2020

Steve Lichtenstein
October 07, 2019 - 10:16 am
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Given how disorganized the Jets appeared throughout their embarrassing 31-6 defeat in Philadelphia on Sunday, you’d have thought they were operating on a short week instead of coming off their bye.

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All the rest, the extra practice and the shakeup on the offensive line did nothing to prevent Gang Green’s third consecutive humiliation. The offense still looks like something a high school team would run. For a second straight game, the Jets were held to fewer than 70 net yards passing and 130 total net yards. The Eagles, who came into the contest ranked last in the league with three sacks, posted 10 sacks and 16 QB hits on the stat sheet. 

And folks, Sam Darnold won’t be coming back to save the day for the 0-4 Jets. The franchise quarterback, who has missed the last three games with mononucleosis, would have been almost as much a piñata Sunday as Luke Falk. That wouldn’t have been good for Darnold’s enlarged spleen. 

Jets coach Adam Gase bet the farm that Darnold would pass his sonogram and blood tests to make him available for Sunday anyway. With Darnold wearing a red noncontact jersey, Gase gave him all the practice reps until he was ruled out Friday. 

The Eagles' Vinny Curry sacks Jets QB Luke Falk on Oct. 6, 2019, in Philadelphia.
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Surprise: Come game time, Falk looked like an unprepared third-string quarterback facing a title contender. His internal clock was nonexistent, especially on the strip-sack/touchdown return by blitzing Philadelphia cornerback Orlando Scandrick in the fourth quarter. 

Side note: The Steelers somehow managed to hang with the Ravens while playing obscure third-stringer Devlin Hodges as an injury replacement down the stretch before falling in overtime. So maybe coaching matters.

Well, there’s no need for Gase to rush Darnold back now. This season is over. As I noted in my last post, the 1992 Chargers are the only team since the AFL/NFL merger that made the playoffs after starting a season 0-4. The Jets do not have the kind of team capable of going on that kind of a run. Instead, they have 12 more games of playing out the string. Reinsert Darnold when it’s absolutely safe, not when the meter ticks just past the point-of-no-return mark.

As for the rest of the team, Jets general manager Joe Douglas should be holding a fire sale until the clock strikes 4 p.m. on the trade deadline of Oct. 29. CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported Sunday morning that league sources say Jets are willing to deal defensive lineman Leonard Williams and guard Kelechi Osemele.

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That’s a good start. Williams, the sixth overall selection by prior GM Mike Maccagnan in the 2015 draft, does not make enough of an impact in games to warrant an extension of a contract that pays him $14.2 million this season. Williams may be double-teamed often when rushing the passer — fourth-most in the league entering Sunday, per ESPN — but he was the only player in the top 25 who failed to achieve a single pass rush “win” against a double team. How about making a play once in a while? He had eight total pressures (no sacks) in the Jets’ first three games. On Sunday, he registered exactly one tackle.

There’s no justification for re-signing Williams as a free agent after the season. Letting him walk would put the Jets in line for a late third-round compensatory pick. If Douglas can get a better return in a trade, sayonara.

Osemele first has to get healthy before he can be effectively dangled. He was one of two Jets offensive linemen (Brandon Shell was flat-out benched, replaced by rookie Chuma Edoga) shuffled out during the bye week. Not that it made much of a difference. Per ESPN, eight of Philly’s sacks were accomplished using a four-man rush. By my math, assuming the Jets didn’t keep a running back or a tight end in to pass protect, that’s still a five-to-four manpower advantage for the offense.

Osemele, whose shoulder and knee woes rendered him inactive Sunday, hasn’t been the same player since suffering a knee injury that cost him five games last season. ProFootballFocus.com ranked him 44th of 69 guards with at least 100 snaps this season. 

If the Jets are smart, they won’t let Osemele’s trade value fall further by putting him back on the field before he’s healed. At the deadline, they might be able to recoup the fifth-round pick they surrendered to Oakland in Maccagnan’s offseason trade (the Jets also received a sixth-rounder in the deal). A prospective trade partner with a desperate need for an experienced guard could take solace in that Osemele’s $11.7 million 2020 cap number can be excised without any dead money penalty. 

Other players who should be donning price tags going forward include wide receiver Robby Anderson, tackles Kelvin Beachum and Shell and running back Ty Montgomery. All of them can help a contender with depth issues and will be free agents after the season. None are indispensable to the Jets’ future.

In fact, this team has no untouchables, and that includes building blocks Darnold and safety Jamal Adams, though the prices for them would have to be exorbitant.

This is the consequence from owner Christopher Johnson’s decision to fire Maccagnan after allowing him to use a premium third overall draft pick and about $100 million in cap space this offseason. Douglas is now going to have to blow it all up again.

It’s not a full-blown, race-to-the-bottom tank. Other teams (Miami, Washington) have gotten a head start and I’m sure the Jets will win some meaningless games when key players like Darnold and linebacker C.J. Mosley return to action. Securing the No. 1 overall pick would be sweet, but it’s not essential.

However, the only way out of this mess is for Douglas to accumulate picks and then actually draft guys who can play. A repeat of Maccagnan’s 11-for-28 between 2015-2018 that are still on this roster (including suspended players Chris Herndon and Nathan Shepherd) is not going to cut it. 

We’ll see if Douglas can do better. We just have to end the season first.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.