It’s that time of year again. Football season is right around the corner, which means Gang Green is just about to get underway. The Jets open up their 2021 season in Carolina, where they will face a pair of former Jets in Robby Anderson and Sam Darnold. The Jets have not had a winning season since 2015, and have not made the playoffs since 2011.
Robert Saleh Joins Jets
The Jets have been in rebuild mode for a long time now. It seems that Joe Douglas and co. have a plan in place, and the Jets faithful are going to have to be patient yet again to see the results. The Jets made several key moves in the offseason to upgrade the team. In addition, they upgraded the coaching staff, most notably hiring Robert Saleh to be the team’s head coach. Saleh’s passion and energy will be a plus for a team that seemed to lack energy and fire over the years. If the players can feed off Saleh and each other, they can end up having a successful season. Now, what defines a successful season?
To me, a successful season for the Jets would include at least six wins. A 7-10 record would be ideal for the club and show that there has been a significant improvement from the year prior. Making the playoffs would be the best-case scenario, of course, but how realistic is that for a team that won only two games last season? Well, we can look no further to the 2019 San Francisco 49ers who made it to the Super Bowl after winning just two games the prior year and being awarded the second overall pick. The Jets are currently in a similar situation and have the right and best possible man at the top of the helm to lead them.
Jets’ Schedule Is Their Own Worst Enemy
There are some potential hurdles in the way of the Jets. One thing is their schedule. The Jets will be playing in a very tough AFC Eastern division. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Jets could finish 0-6 against teams within their own division. The Jets could show people early on that they mean business if they’re able to beat the teams that they face the most. Breaking their struggles against the Patriots is another area where the Jets will look to improve in 2021. They have not beaten the Patriots since 2015, and the last time they took one in New England was during their playoff run in 2011. It’s safe to say that the Jets have a lot of catching up to do and it starts with this very young group of players.
Jets’ New Threats
The Jets now have young threats up and down the offense and defense, which will help the team become more sound and disciplined. Robert Saleh is known to be the head of many great defensive teams, most recently San Francisco, and he will look to carry that over to the Jets.
Unfortunately, the Jets defense took a hit with Carl Lawson‘s season-ending ACL injury. However, the Jets have a deep enough defense to make up for Lawson’s absence. Quinnen Williams and newly-signed Shaq Lawson, among others, are set to take big steps forward this year under Saleh. Elijah Moore is a potential breakout rookie candidate at wide receiver. Alijah Vera-Tucker is another talented draft pick who will be a part of a potential strong Jets core in the future.
The offensive retool began with the trade of Sam Darnold and the drafting of Zach Wilson. Joe Douglas had two years to evaluate Sam Darnold. The team was not particularly strong around him, however, and Darnold didn’t show enough to the Jets to warrant keeping him.
It was evident that the Jets needed to move in another direction and having the 2nd overall pick made their decision very easy. They got a good haul for Darnold, including a 2nd-round pick in 2022 and two other picks.
The Jets then took Wilson with their first pick, after some prior speculation of the Jets’ potential interest in Deshaun Watson. Aside from Wilson, however, there are numerous differences from how the Jets front office is dealing with building around their QB, in comparison to how Darnold’s cards were handed to him. First, the Jets signed Corey Davis to be their WR1.
They also drafted Elijah Moore in the 2nd round, who is on track to be one of the potential steals of the draft. They then drafted a running back in round 4 in Michael Carter and also signed one, Tevin Coleman, in free agency. The Jets also traded up in the draft to draft guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Mekhi Becton, Chuma Edoga, Dan Feeney, Vera-Tucker, and Connor McGovern are among those who make up the improved offensive line in an effort to protect the Jets rookie QB in Zach Wilson. The Jets know firsthand how it turned out by not putting enough emphasis on the O-Line over the past few years. Darnold had a really tough time of it as opposing defenses didn’t have too hard a time of getting to him and forcing turnovers and/or incompletions.
On the defensive side, the Jets’ biggest move was bringing in edge rusher Carl Lawson. Unfortunately, for the Jets and Lawson, he will be missing the whole season after tearing his ACL during practice. The Jets will look to rely on some of their younger edge rushers such as Quinnen Williams, John-Franklin Myers, and Folorunso Fatukasi to fill the void of Lawson’s loss.
However, the Jets will be getting a boost as C.J. Mosely will be returning two years after signing a big deal with the Jets and hopes to play a big role for this team.
Furthermore, the Jets will be relying on several rookies in 2021, giving them a chance to prove their worth under year one of Robert Saleh. Saleh is bringing his defensive mentality to NY and will look to build a defensively, sound team that can match up with the best of the best offensively.
One area where the Jets could’ve added defensively would be at the defensive backs positions. They didn’t add any veterans to their young players, which was a little surprising. Perhaps Saleh and co. want to see what their young guys can give and then evaluate after the season the areas in which they need to upgrade.
At cornerback, rookies Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Jason Pinnock, and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) are poised to be on the receiving end of quite a bit of playing time, mixed in with the likes of second-year corners Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry.
Marcus Maye will be the anchor at the safety position. However, no one knows how much longer he will stick around in NY after being unable to agree with a long-term deal with the club. As a result, he’s playing this season under the franchise tag.
Jets’ 2021 Opponents
Here’s a look ahead at the Jets schedule. The Jets’ home opponents are Buffalo, New England, Miami, Jacksonville, Tennesee, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. The Jets’ road opponents are Buffalo, Miami, New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Carolina. There are some winnable games on this schedule, but there are also some very difficult ones. The Jets have some fresh blood this season and will look to move past their disastrous 2020 season and improve in 2021.
Thus, a realistic prediction for the Jets this coming season would be around 6-11. The Jets’ peak would be around 8 wins, while their ceiling sits around 3 or 4 wins. After last year’s showing, anything that happens this year would be an improvement. Also, there is the fact that there is new blood with the coaching staff and younger players. The team will be more alive and energetic, possibly leading to some unexpected success. If you’re a Jets fan, the best you can do is hope for the best after years of disappointment. But it seems the hype this year differs much more than different years because of the stability of the coaching staff, with Robert Saleh leading the charge.