The 2019 NFL season is just a few weeks away, so Andy Benoit makes a few predictions for each NFL team. Today he analyzes the New York Jets, who finished 4-12 and last in the AFC East last year.
Sam Darnold progresses. The third overall pick from the 2018 NFL draft can play from both in and out of the pocket. New head coach Adam Gase lives with the occasional interception because the decisive throwing that creates them allows Gase’s system to mostly operate on schedule, and as designed. Gase has always shrewdly catered to his quarterbacks. Here, that means loosening the timing on later progression reads and featuring more bootlegs and rollouts to highlight Darnold’s on-the-move throwing.
Le’Veon Bell thrives down the stretch. Not because he’s fresh from having sat out 2018 but because Gase, who did not prioritize the running back position as the offensive architect in Denver, Chicago or Miami, dreams up more and more ways to use Bell’s unique, multi-dimensional skillset as the season goes on. With Trenton Cannon and Ty Montgomery, the Jets can surround Bell with other receiving backs. Factor in the receiving prowess of up-and-coming tight end Chris Herndon (who boosts the offense upon return from a four-game suspension) and the Jets have enough versatile pieces to compensate for their lack of a threatening big-bodied perimeter receiver.
Free-agent pickup Jamison Crowder pays off. The passing game goes through speedy receiver Robby Anderson, but Crowder, who prospered from the slot in Washington when playing alongside a quality receiving back (Chris Thompson) and dynamic tight end (Jordan Reed), becomes an important cog.
Opponents struggle to run the ball. New York is stout and athletic up front with stalwart fifth-year pro Leonard Williams and 2019 third overall pick Quinnen Williams. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams augments this advantage by aligning his D-tackles more directly over opposing guards, creating hybrid 4-3 and 3-4 “even” fronts that complicate most run-blocking structures. Pricey free agent linebacker C.J. Mosley is great at reading these fronts, and he has the long arms and strong hands to stack and shed blocks. The former Raven might not quite be worth the $51 million guaranteed that he got in free agency, but at least his style perfectly complements incumbent Avery Williamson, who can now be more of a run-and-chase ‘backer.
The pass D struggles. The lack of a quality edge rusher poses difficulties for the disguised Cover 2 looks that Gregg Williams loves. And Williams’s uber-aggressive interior blitzes are hindered by cornerbacks who can’t be fully trusted in one-on-one scenarios. Trumaine Johnson is coming off a disappointing season and has no obvious No. 2 caliber corner opposite him.
BOTTOM LINE: The offense improves dramatically but the questions in pass D are too daunting.
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