J-E-T-S 2018 Preview
The 2017 New York Jets summed up in one word; surprising, overachieving, motivated? I’ll let you decide. As most of us know New York was predicted by many NFL fans and, experts to win 1-2 games or even suffer the imperfect 0-16 season. Sure, there were a few ugly losses (see Week 2 at Oakland or week 14 at Denver), but all in all, there’s much to be optimistic about following the 2017 season and beyond.
Their offense and special teams were supposed to be a mess, the latter proving to be true, with a middling defense to go along with. Although, the Jets offense only averaged 18.6 points per game, good (or bad) for 24th in the league, did anybody really expect the Josh McCown led unit to be competitive in almost every game? McCown posted career highs in completion percentage, yards, and touchdown passes while the unit ranked 19th in rushing with 1,702 rushing yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
After missing out(passing) on the ever elusive franchise QB (yes we’re looking at you Deshaun Watson) GM Mike Maccagnan appears to have hit on a few draft picks with rookies, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye looking like they could be the next great safety tandem (Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas anyone?) Whereas rookie RB Elijah McGuire drafted in the 6th round figures to be in the mix for more touches going forward.
Let’s not forget about some of the veteran players that were already on this roster that have shown promise. Bilal Powell proved that he can still be a solid, complimentary back heading into his 8th season in the NFL compiling 942 yards from scrimmage and rushing for 5 TDs, a career high. Veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse posted career highs in receptions, yards, and matched his career-best 5 touchdown catches from 2015, while 2nd-year receiver Robby Anderson had a breakout year with 63 receptions, 941 yards, and 7 TD grabs.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins going into his 5th NFL season is a nice piece to the offensive puzzle for a team that desperately needed production from the position, assuming he returns. Austin is a big red-zone threat at 6-5, 262 with all 3 of his TD receptions coming inside the 10-yard line and finished the season with 11 targets inside the 20. Help is also on the way for the receiving corps with Quincy Enunwa on the way back from injured reserve who should be ready for the 2018 season. Enunwa figures to slide back into the h-back role with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse manning the outside.
Not to be overlooked, the defensive side of the ball for the Jets has a bright future. The previously mentioned Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye seem all but set to sure up the back end of the secondary for years to come and on cost-effective salaries with 3 years remaining on their respective rookie contracts.
2017 #6 overall pick, Adams played well this past season as New York lined him up all over the field. He played deep, close to the line of scrimmage, man coverage, blitzed the QB (2 sacks), you name it as he showed his versatility. Although showing some improvement in the final game of the regular season teaming up with linebacker Darron Lee to shut down superstar TE, Rob Gronkowski Adams has some work to do in his coverage skills, but make no mistake about the 22-year-old is a future star in this league.
Maye, on the other hand mostly played his free safety position finishing the season with 79 tackles and 2 interceptions showing off his deep coverage and ball-hawking skills. The linebacker group had a solid year with Demario Davis and Darron Lee leading the way piling up a combined 229 tackles, but it remains to be seen if Davis will return as he is a free agent, and if Lee can continue to develop.
Surely all can’t be well for a team that just finished 5-11, right? Of course not. New York did exceed expectations in 2017, and has some good, young building blocks, with an average roster age of 26.50 at the beginning of the season, but they still have a long way to go before they can compete for a championship.
Some key areas of need for the team going forward are Quarterback (shocking, I know) as Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty do not figure to be in the team’s future plans, offensive line, cornerback, and defensive end/outside linebacker, or in other words a pass rush. The Jets will have almost $100 million in cap space to sign free agents and there are a few big names to watch such as QB Kirk Cousins, CB Trumaine Johnson, and DE Ezekiel Ansah. Time will tell if General Manager Mike Maccagnan will break the bank for Cousins who will demand at least $25 million yearly, but he is by far the most attractive free agent QB. The question is how far can Kirk take a team, and is he a championship caliber QB? Bills QB Tyrod Taylor could also be available and at a much more reasonable price.
For now, Jets fans will have to hope the front office finally makes the right moves going into the 2018 season or they will be back to the same old Jets before they ever left.
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