The NFL offseason is officially here, which means Joe Douglas faces a ton of work if his New York Jets are to turn into a Super Bowl team.
That’s right, Patrick Mahomes. You’ve just won the Super Bowl. What are you going to do next?
Before you guess his obvious, commercialized, yet so American retort to that annual question, understand the reality of what you just witnessed…
Although great, Mahomes didn’t get it done on his own. The pieces placed around the son of a former New York Mets bullpenner can only be labeled as “Super Bowl champion worthy.” Mahomes and those pieces helped overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit in Super Bowl 54 en route to Andy Reid’s first Vince Lombardi trophy.
When glancing at Sam Darnold’s complementary pieces, it’s possible the word “worthy” could be used when describing those players, but “Super Bowl” won’t find itself in the description.
“Worthy” of a rebuild. “Worthy” of halting No. 14’s development entirely. “Worthy of finding the right guy to lead the New York Jets into legit NFL relevancy.” That’s more the reality of the current situation.
The question is, “Just how drastic a difference do the two depth charts (Jets and Chiefs) showcase in talent?” On the surface, the answer is obvious. Once dug deeper, it’s evident certain positions help bolster other spots on the field. For instance, take one look at the San Francisco 49ers’ overrated secondary.
With Richard Sherman still trying to catch up to any of the Chiefs weapons, it’s obvious that front seven and four-man conventional pass rush fooled so many football experts who may have labeled the Niners defensive backfield as “top-notch.”
Greater trench play—on both sides of the ball—bolsters every position behind it. Keep that mind as we now identify the New York Jets’ current Super Bowl championship pieces, one by one.
*Indicates free agent
- Sam Darnold
Yeah, go ahead and count Sam Darnold as a Super Bowl-caliber piece. While his championship stature is anything but set in stone, as a No. 3 pick whose skillset possesses all the tools needed in hit “elite” or “close to elite” status, a Super Bowl can be won with Darnold.
At the very least, it’s still up for debate. Until we watch the USC product with a legitimate offensive line in front of him, nobody can correctly evaluate Darnold.
He can make every throw, possesses mobility, can throw-on-the-run, has a solid head on his shoulders, and doesn’t shy away from danger or trouble. There were some troubling signs this season (the ghost game and afterward), but as long as he can figure out pre-snap reads and post-snap progressions, he qualifies as a title quarterback. It’s up to the Jets to ensure he properly develops and has a wall protecting his right arm.
- Le’Veon Bell
I didn’t want the Jets to go after Le’Veon Bell on the open market. It’s nothing personal; it simply boils down to salary cap structure and the unfortunate devaluation of the running back position in this league.
That doesn’t mean he’s not a championship piece.
Of course, Le’Veon qualifies. Even if he comes to the party overrated and a little older (for this position), he qualifies. How could he not? Two former castoffs—Damien Williams and Raheem Mostert—ran to success in the Super Bowl. The bar is set extremely low at this position. Just about anybody would qualify here, as it’s the offensive line that remains critical.
Both Ty Montgomery and Bilal Powell are free agents. Either one of them can serve as a championship-caliber backup, but New York should look elsewhere. The team needs youth at the position, especially by way of a shifty third-down back.
- Robby Anderson*
- Jamison Crowder (Slot)
- Vyncint Smith
- Braxton Berrios
The asterisk signals free-agent status. Robby Anderson, who’s seeking a big payday, can absolutely return and serve as a championship-caliber piece. It just can’t be at the No. 1 spot. Anderson’s lack of hips, blocking ability, and route-running ensures he’s not a No. 1 wideout in this league.
Jamison Crowder fits the bill as the perfect slot wideout. Both Vyncint Smith and Braxton Berrios work as depth parts, but another weapon to fill the fourth spot could be required before a Super Bowl is the goal. Joe Douglas might need to snag another shifty, elusive wideout for that spot.
- Chris Herndon
- Ryan Griffin
- Trevon Wesco (H-Back/FB)
Offensively, tight end is the most championship-ready position. Assuming he’s healthy, Chris Herndon is that vertical-threat tight end any big-time team needs. Ryan Griffin is the perfect No. 2. The question remains, “Is Trevon Wesco good enough to hold down the blocking tight end spot, the spot that needs to take the H-back and fullback duties?”
- N/A (LT)
- N/A (RT)
- Chuma Edoga
Now we arrive at the darkest spot of the page. It’s possible Chuma Edoga can start at right tackle and be a part of a championship five-man unit. But not yet. Nothing he showcased last year suggests that to be a plausible idea.
Douglas still needs two starting tackles to allow his team to reach epic status and Kelvin Beachum cannot be one of those guys. In fact, the Jets should only look to re-sign the veteran tackle if all else fails, and he should make the transition to right tackle, in such a desperate scenario.
- N/A (RG)
- Alex Lewis (LG)
The brightest offensive line light in 2019 shined on little-known Alex Lewis. We’ll peg him as the only current offensive linemen who can plug one of the five starting holes and even that is a highly questionable move.
Brian Winters has another year remaining on his deal, but the Jets would save a cool $7.2 million if they part ways.
- Jonotthan Harrison
Another fashion in which Jets fans are fooled comes when the centers are discussed. The Ryan Kalil move didn’t work, yet, for some reason, folks believe Jonotthan Harrison played tremendous ball.
Either way, Harrison—still under contract—can remain with the club as long as a starting center is snatched.
Interior Defensive Tackles
- Quinnen Williams (3-Tech)
- N/A (1-Tech)
- Foley Fatukasi
- Steve McLendon
- Nathan Shepherd
Much like Darnold, Quinnen Williams has to represent a championship-piece. If either guy is incapable, the Jets are in trouble. For us, however, it’s a much better fit if Big Q holds down the 3-technique spot.
While Foley Fatukasi and Q make for a solid duo in the middle, a true 1-technique is still needed. Gregg Williams needs a true 320-plus gobbler he can use when stopping the run is absolutely essential. But aside from that, the interior defensive line looks pretty solid.
- Henry Anderson
- Kyle Phillips
It’s critical to understand (Gregg) Williams’s defense and how it operates. There are interior defensive linemen, edge players, second-level linebackers, and guys who play multiple spots. For instance, Brandon Copeland, Frankie Luvu, and Harvey Langi can play edge and second-level linebacker. He loves that versatility when rotating players, packages.
The tweeners are the players who can play edge and inside. The problem for the Jets defense in 2019 was that these guys were forced to play edge when they shouldn’t. Three-hundred-plus-pound players shouldn’t be forced to play in space. It just doesn’t work in this league.
Nonetheless, Henry Anderson and Kyle Phillips are useful tweeners that can help plug a championship defensee.
- Jordan Jenkins*
- Tarell Basham
- Brandon Copeland*
Ah, yes, we almost forgot about the other position that bleeds as much desperation as the offensive line.
Jordan Jenkins led the Jets with eight sacks a season ago and could be re-signed this offseason. But don’t think for one moment he should be penciled in as one of the two edge starters. At least not for a Super Bowl-type defense.
Jenkins is a tremendous locker room player and run-support edge, but two edge players who can move flawlessly in space are required. That’s just how the league works these days.
- C.J. Mosley
- Avery Williamson
- Blake Cashman
- Neville Hewitt*
One through four, the linebackers are completely set. Avery Williamson might not return, and a return from season-ending surgery is always complicated; but, if healthy, he’s, for sure, a championship-worthy No. 2.
If Williamson doesn’t return, either Blake Cashman or Neville Hewitt can fill that spot. Picking up valuable experience thanks to C.J. Mosley’s injury will prove crucial in 2020.
- Brian Poole*
- Darryl Roberts
- Bless Austin
- Arthur Maulet*
Brian Poole represents the Jets long “must re-sign free agent” this offseason. He, along with the two safeties, served as the identity of this defense all season long. He’s nearly as good as it gets in the slot, one of the toughest positions to fill every season.
Darryl Roberts can remain with the club (still under contract), but it would be a mistake to pencil him in as one of the two starters. It’s probably what will happen thanks to other, more desperate needs (offensive line, edge), but we’re highlighting “Super Bowl championship-worthy” pieces and where they should fit. Under that scenario, the Jets are still without a starting corner.
Roberts, Bless Austin or Arthur Maulet would be fine as a starting corner if the Jets employed a four-man pass rush similar to the San Francisco 49ers, but that’s obviously not the case.
- Jamal Adams (SS)
- Marcus Maye (FS)
- Matthias Farley
Jamal Adams is the best safety in the game, and at strong, he can do things for a defense most play-callers can only dream about on a nightly basis. Marcus Maye is also championship-worthy in centerfield.
Rontez Miles is the question here. Do the Jets re-sign the locker room and special teams leader or do they go in another direction?
- N/A (K)
- N/A (P)
- Thomas Hennessy (LS)
Much work needs to be done here. Sam Ficken is coming off a so-so season and hits free agency. Lachlan Edwards is also a free agent. Perhaps Edwards could punt for a Super Bowl team, but that’s one serious argument.
The only for-sure situation under this bucket is long-snapper Thomas Hennessy, who remains under contract through the 2023 campaign.
From an overall standpoint, the Jets’ situation is backward. Thanks to the regimes prior, Joe Douglas faces an outside-in situation as opposed to inside-out.
The top goals remain the same: an entire offensive line, two edges, one or two cornerbacks, and a No. 1 wide receiver. The problem also remains the same: it’s tougher to snag those spots as opposed to running back and inside linebacker, which are devalued positions in this pass-happy, 11 personnel league.
The good news is this: assembling a true offensive line and four-man pass rush will automatically lift the play of everybody playing behind those units, so we have yet to see the true ceilings of guys like Sam Darnold and—as scary as it sounds—Jamal Adams.
Pieces do exist. A possible franchise quarterback is in the house. If Joe Douglas doesn’t mess around while worrying about fictional ideas such as “best available player,” a legitimate offensive line and edge player (or two) will be welcomed into Florham Park this spring, and the New York Jets will finally enjoy the ability to truly start the turnaround.