Jets Breakdown: Where They Stand in the AFC East

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In the first offseason with general manager Joe Douglas in charge, the Jets were busy during free agency. Some areas got much-needed improvement while others were left in an even worse situation than before the offseason. Now, New York is overall a slightly better team. However, a more difficult division and schedule will make a playoff appearance virtually impossible.

The Jets were active on the market and acquired lots of help on the offensive line and in the secondary. In addition, they were able to leave $28 million of cap space. In other words, quite a lot of room for improvement. Their most notable moves included signing one of the best centers in the league at a very reasonable price.

However, there was a lot more than just positives during the offseason. It all started when the Jets lost their long-tenured target down the field, Robby Anderson. Anderson would go on to join the Carolina Panthers on a two-year deal. Douglas and his staff tried to replace him by bringing in Breshad Perriman, a much less proven option. Moreover, Joe Douglas was able to draft Denzel Mims after trading down in the second round in April. Mims resembles an impressive understanding of the draft market and what makes a receiver efficient. Nevertheless, he and Perriman are not what a team wants to have behind their top pass-catcher Jamison Crowder.

The Jets come out of the signing period a better team than the one that finished the 2019 season. However, that’s a mere overstatement. On the one hand, the spring represented a slight thumbs up. On the other hand, the tables quickly turn when the division rivals and the schedule get added into the equation. The addition of Stefon Diggs has turned the Bills into a powerhouse within the AFC. Also, the Patriots will look to use their running game at the beginning of the post-Tom Brady era. The Dolphins made significant steps forward and could be near the same level as the Jets.

New York Jets enter a vital season. It was supposed to see them in the playoff conversation for the first time in half a decade. However, it’s difficult to project them finish near the top of the division. This could force the Jets to ask themselves whether the off-season was as good as it seemed in May.

Off-season Moves

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: Added Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, George Fant, Josh Andrews; Re-Signed Alex Lewis; Drafted Mekhi Becton

The new-look Offensive Line is going into the season will extremely high expectations. McGovern had a wildly consistent three-year tenure in Denver, where he committed only eight penalties in over 2,400 snaps. Lewis comes back as the best piece from an abysmal line last year while Van Roten will join him as the starting pair of guards. In addition, either first-round draftee Becton and George Fant will have to play outside of his natural RT spot.

All in all, the Jets are ready for a significant improvement over their almost league-worst O-Line of 2019. The Jets allowed 52 sacks last year, the fourth-most in the NFL.

Grade: Strength

Main Article: Jets Breakdown: New-Look Offensive Line

Wide Receivers: Added Breshad Perriman, Chris Hogan; Drafted Denzel Mims; Subtracted Robby Anderson

The Jets’ wide-receiving corps were anything but eye-opening last year. However, there was a sense of improvement since, for once, a receiver not named Robby Anderson stood out. This was Jamison Crowder who led the team in receptions and total yards. After a weak season, Douglas decided to let Anderson go but wasn’t able to establish a deep group of pass-catchers.

Perriman is the receiver most closely utilized in previous efforts to Anderson. However, his 18 yards per reception last year came on just 36 catches. In addition, he caught just over 52 percent of his targets and had 69 targets in his best year. His average is not backed up by a credible workload, meaning he’s a substantially unproven option. Mims, on the contrary, was the opposite during his three-year stint in Baylor. However, the transition to pro football will make for a noticeable short-term regression to the mean. With nobody beyond these three names, Sam Darnold could be seeing ghosts again if Perriman or Mims don’t over perform.

Grade: Weakness

Secondary: Added Pierre Desir, Bradley McDougald, Quincy Wilson; Re-Signed Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet; Drafted Bryc Hall, Ashtyn Davis; Subtracted Jamal Adams, Nate Hairston

The Jets did miss a chance to sign a dominant outside corner when they passed on free agent Logan Ryan. Furthermore, they lost a lot of production both in terms of sacks and pass coverage by trading away Adams to Seattle. However, the 2020 season could see their passing defense thrive.

Much of the optimism comes from one of Joe Douglas’s best offseason addition, that of Pierre Desir. Experts regarded Desir as a candidate for a starting job before his release by Indianapolis. New York signed him for one year and $3.75 million, twice less then what he was initially owed by Indy. The Haiti native had kept his allowed passer rating under 100.0 over his last 160+ targets.

McDougald, coming from Seattle on the Adams deal, also offers an upside in coverage. The Kansas product surrendered just 58.8 in passer rating last season over 57 targets. Brian Poole comes back as the team’s best corner in the nickel. Meanwhile, Arthur Maulet, Blessuan Austin, and rookie Bryce Hall could all play meaningful snaps as the campaign progresses.

Grade: Average

Main Article: New York Jets Breakdown: Secondary

Pass-Rush: Drafted Jabari Zuniga, Re-Signed Jordan Jenkins

New York made virtually no effort to improve what was a bottom-ten pass-rushing unit last year. The Jets ranked 23rd with 35 sacks, with Jordan Jenkins leading the ranks with 9 sacks. The second-best pass-rusher within the team, Jamal Adams, is no longer in Florham Park. Furthermore, the only new face in the group, Jabari Zuniga, will start the season on the Injured Reserve list.

Grade: Weakness

Main Article: New York Jets Breakdown: Pass-Rush

AFC East Rivals Outlook

Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills

The Bills enter the 2020 campaign as the almost runaway favorites to win their first division title since 1995. Led by star cornerback Tre’Davious White, Buffalo’s defense cruised past NFL offenses and allowed the second-fewest points. Meanwhile, the team has taken significant steps towards upgrading its passing game, trading for Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs. In addition, Devin Singletary and rookie Zack Moss could form a very solid running stable. There will be little that can interfere with the Bills’ path of domination in 2020. The Sean McDermott-led squad is the club with the fifth-best odds for ultimate success in the AFC, according to Sports Insider.

New England Patriots

However, the Bills don’t even lead their own division in these betting odds. The Patriots are in an unusual role of undercover winners with Bill Belichick reviving Can Newton’s career. Netwon has not made his living throwing the ball accurately. However, the Belichick system demands nothing more than short passes and gradual movement of the ball downfield. Therefore, an experienced face like Newton at QB could turn out to be a beyond reliable option.

The best defense from 2019 has Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung opting out of the 2020 season. Nevertheless, Stephon Gilmore is back as one of the league’s best corners. Last year, he allowed a passer rating of 44.1 in 101 targets. The Patriots are capable of putting on a solid defensive year and having a surprisingly positive offensive turnout. However, it’s even more likely that they face a serious regression to the mean defensively. Still, Belichick’s offensive system will keep the battle in the AFC East alive late.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are likely not in the same conversation as the aforementioned teams. However, they are trending in the right direction. The offseason saw them add players to fill in different needs. Ereck Flowers improved the second-worst O-Line in the NFL. Meanwhile, Shaq Lawson (6.5 sacks) was brought in the weakest pass-rush. In addition, Kyle Van Noy joined the linebacker group.

However, two units most avidly benefitted from the spring shopping spree. Firstly, Byron Jones gives Miami a dominant outside cornerback. Jones kept his surrendered passer rating under 90.0 in both of his last two seasons in Dallas. Secondly, Jordan Howard and Matt Breida have formed one of the most interesting running duos in the AFC.

Miami might be a Wildcard contender at best. Nonetheless, they have made improvements aimed at balancing their components. Generally, balance is what forces a team to rebuild but also determines whether a rebuild is successful or not.

Where Do the Jets Stand Within Their Division?

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The chances of New York shocking the world to win the division are very slim. The lack of depth keeps the Jets years away from the Bills. In addition, the inability to move the ball due to an abysmal receiving core also gives the Patriots a good chance to chase the top of the East.

New York comes into the season with the second-most difficult strength of schedule in all of NFL football (.533). New England (1st) and Miami (3rd) are in the same boat. However, the Jets have gaping holes that marginalize them from the solid teams.

A one or two-game improvement would be the absolute maximum out of this year’s Jets. And that would take a lot of undercover players to step up massively. A record near .500 could, in 2020, mean a spot on the verge of postseason football. However, that would still take the current roster wildly over-performing because “efficiency” and “balance” are not descriptions of the 2020 Jets.

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Teodor Tsenov is a writer in the NFL Department of Overtime Heroics. Teodor joined the media in March 2020, previously writing for Franchise Sports UK. Also a second-year International Sport Management student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences in Den Haag, the Netherlands. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria.