Darron Lee New York Jets
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York Jets linebacker Darron Lee said he easily sees the team as a playoff contender in the 2018 season.

The New York Jets began organized team activities (OTAs) with a renewed sense of optimism. Quarterback Sam Darnold was drafted and the team hopes he is going to be the franchise quarterback they’ve been desperate for.

Linebacker Darron Lee is amongst those who are optimistic, telling Darryl Slater of NJ.com that he sees the team as a playoff contending team easily. Lee said, “if we trim down the penalties and get takeaways, we are a playoff-contending team, easily.”

The penalties were partially a product of the Jets having a young team on the field last season and should go down as the players gain more experience.

Lee also points to the team’s experience in close games, as seven of their losses were nine points or fewer.

“That’s the difference between 5-11 and 12-4. We’re super, super close. If people don’t see that, they’re not watching. We’re really, really, really close. We can really turn it around and be 10-6, 11-5, 12-4.”

Lee’s confidence goes back to last season. Towards the end of the season, he said that he felt the team was on the verge of dominance. He’s carried that confidence through the offseason and feels that the team can get back to the playoffs.

There is a huge difference between OTAs, where practice happens without any pads and it’s just running through concepts, and the actual games in the fall. Lee acknowledges that difference, saying “we aren’t winning games right now in May. We’re just trying to be able to set ourselves up, to be able to do that. Definitely, you’ve got to have aspirations for that. Why else are we here?”

Although all around they had solid numbers, the defense struggled to get the ball back for the offense last season. They recorded only 11 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries, giving them only 20 takeaways. Lee acknowledges that the defense needs to increase that output.

“We really want to increase takeaways. If we increase takeaways, we’re going to win a lot more ball games. I know that for a fact. I feel like that’s what we’re really missing. And trimming down on the penalties for sure. Oh, man. That’s been a huge emphasis this offseason.”

For his part, Lee had a solid season last year. He recorded 67 tackles and 27 assisted tackles, adding three sacks. He also tipped three passes and was able to force two fumbles.

He’ll be asked to do so much more in 2018, with the team deciding not to bring back Demario Davis this past offseason.

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