Will the New York Jets be the most improved team of 2020?

New York Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
New York Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Will the New York Jets take a bigger leap forward than any other NFL team in 2020?

There has been a host of teams in the NFL that have drastically improved this offseason but none go under the radar more than the New York Jets. It won’t be an easy transition but do not count out the Jets in 2020 because they are more than capable of surprising a lot of naysayers.

When we look at teams that have dramatically enhanced their roster this offseason, we don’t automatically think of the Jets. The Broncos, Colts, Buccaneers and even the AFC East rival Dolphins stick out as the teams that have had the loudest offseasons thus far and appear to be headed towards very successful 2020 campaigns. But let’s not forget what the Jets did this offseason and how much better they are at this moment in time.

What was the biggest need for the Jets this offseason? The offensive line of course. Last year, the Jet O-line let up 52 sacks, which was the fourth-worst in the league. Many even considered the Jets to have the worst offensive line in football.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, there is still a little ways to go before the Jets have themselves an elite O-line to brag about but drafting Louisville’s big left tackle, Mekhi Becton, as well as the free-agent acquisitions of George Fant and Connor McGovern put this team in an astronomically better position than they were at the end of last season.

On top of that, they get back Brian Winters after his 2019 was shortened due to injury. Chuma Edoga, who can play four of the five positions on the line and who the Jets seem to love, is back in the fold as well. Not only will this enhanced offensive line give Sam Darnold the protection he so desperately needed last year but also the run game with Le’Veon Bell and newly-acquired Frank Gore will get a bump.

Speaking of the run game, you can’t get much worse than what the Jets were last year in this department. They were 31st in rushing yards per game (78.6), tied for dead-last in average yards per attempt (3.3), and scored only six touchdowns on the ground, which was also second-worst in football.

Not only that but Bell averaged about 246 rushing attempts and 79 targets over his five-year career only to see him rack up 245 rushing attempts and 78 targets a year ago, so Bell’s touches seem to have been noticeably cut from what he’s used to. That may be due to what past reports have indicated about head coach Adam Gase not loving Bell.

Maybe that’s due to Bell being past his prime. However, Bell is still more than a formidable back bye my estimation. And, along with the addition of a power back in Gore and a beefed-up offensive line, the Jets run game may very well see a significant uptick in 2020.

New York Jets defense getting upgrades too

Defensively, the Jets currently find themselves in a bit of hot water with their star safety, Jamal Adams, and his contract negotiation. Maybe that works out and they get to keep Adams. Maybe it doesn’t work out and Adams winds up getting traded. But they have to make a big decision here in order to keep their defense in good spirits.

Do they want to pay Adams, a safety (not particularly a position that gets paid big)? Or would they be more comfortable if they brought in a Jadeveon Clowney for that big money instead?

It’s important to remember they still have Marcus Maye and they also just drafted a very good safety out of Cal in Ashtyn Davis, so they’d be missing an elite football player in Adams but they can still survive without him.

As for the rest of the defense, this may surprise you to no end, but outside of a weak pass rush that accumulated just 35 sacks a year ago and didn’t really get improved this offseason (except if they went and got Clowney), this Jets defense was second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game allowed (86.9) and just outside the top 10 in opposing completion percentage (62.1) and passer rating (88.0).

So, defensively, this group isn’t too shabby when you delve deeper into it. There’s a good chance it’s the weakest in the division, but considering you have the Patriots’ and Bills’ defenses in there to compete with, it’s not the end of the world for them.

They’re still relatively young at the corner position but Arthur Maulet and Blessuan Austin look like they’re both going to be nice players. They added Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson to their secondary as well as two under-the-radar rookies in Bryce Hall out of Virginia and a big corner in Lamar Jackson out of Nebraska.

Also, don’t forget the linebackers that stepped it up last year in James Burgess, Neville Hewitt, and Blake Cashman being retained by the team, Patrick Onwuasor getting picked up in free agency, and the returns from injury of CJ Mosley and Avery Williamson. I don’t see why this group can’t be just as good if not better than they were last season. Gregg Williams is really doing a good job so far directing this bunch.

The Jets have a very nice roster that many aren’t paying much attention to yet. But to top it off, they’ll have one of the best young quarterbacks in Sam Darnold leading the way. And now he has pieces around him. Look at what Darnold had to overcome last year:

  • One of the worst O-lines in football
  • Injuries to his receiving corps
  • A first year head coach who is known to be a bit of a pain
  • No running game
  • And to top it off, mono

Through it all, Darnold still managed to finish the season with a winning record of 7-6. Come 2020, outside of a potential problem at head coach and limited receiving weapons (though I think the group he has now is better than people think), you’d have to think Darnold is going to be golden this year and potentially get this team to the playoffs.

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Yes, their schedule looks daunting on paper, but with the AFC East wide open and Darnold being the best quarterback in his division, one need not overlook the strong possibility Sam Darnold can pony up and carry his team to the postseason like he might’ve been able to do last year had he stayed healthy, or if the Jets had a legit backup quarterback like they do now in Joe Flacco.

Keep an eye on the Jets this season, especially on Sam Darnold. They’re going to be in this AFC playoff race and could wind up being the most-improved team of 2020.