Nick Ballistreri takes us through his New York Jets season preview, outlines the players to watch and shares his win total pick.
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New York Jets Season Preview
For much of the 2020 season, it looked like the New York Jets might have a winless season. They began the season 0-13, with only three of those losses coming within a touchdown. Fans were calling for Head Coach Adam Gase’s job, and many who supported the team stated that they would trade a winless season if it gave them the #1 overall pick, and the opportunity to draft Clemson quarterback, Trevor Lawrence.
Then, the unthinkable happened. The Jets shocked not one, but two playoff teams in a row, with wins over the Rams and Browns. Their wins came at a cost though, as they lost their hold on the #1 pick in the draft. They finished the season with a loss, going 2-14 and securing the #2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. It was clear that this team needed a change at the coaching level and the quarterback position.
Changes came in full swing this offseason in New York. The Jets started their offseason by firing Head Coach, Adam Gase, and replacing him with long-time San Francisco Defensive Coordinator, Robert Saleh. Saleh brings a defensive mind and a winning culture from his days as a 49er, and his youthful energy will be a welcome surprise for this franchise.
With the 2nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected quarterback Zach Wilson of BYU. Wilson was a bit of an unknown coming into the draft process because he played in a Non Power-5 school, but his college tape and draft workouts made the decision clear. Wilson would be the quarterback of the Jets for the 2021 season, and hopefully for the franchise, a long time ahead.
Roster Strengths and Weaknesses
With a new coach and a very young roster, it goes without saying that this Jets team is still in the midst of a rebuilding phase. They have some young pieces offensively, namely a budding star at left tackle, Mekhi Bekton, and Zach Wilson.
New York Jets Offense
That being said, if there’s a weakness on this Jets team, it’s on the offensive side of the ball. They plan on running a trio of running backs this season, none of which inspire much fear into opposing defenses. Look for journeyman Ty Johnson to get the bulk of the reps at the running back position, followed by 4th rounder Michael Carter.
While the team made a note this offseason to improve the offensive line, this preseason showed that the Jets still have a long way to go in the trenches. Mekhi Becton will look to improve on his stellar rookie season, and the team has hopes he can be a stalwart on the blindside of Wilson for years to come. The team also used a 1st round pick on guard, Alijah-Vera Tucker. Tucker is known as a brawler from USC, and he will bring a toughness that is needed along this offensive line.
The strength of this offense, and excuse Jets fans for not being used to this, may be the receiving group. While there is no bonafide #1 receiver on the roster, the unit has depth led by free agent signing, Corey Davis. Davis is coming off an impressive year in Tennessee and will be looking to build on his efforts. The Jets also used a premium pick in the 2021 NFL draft on Elijah Moore, an exciting prospect from Ole Miss.
Expect the Jets to look to get Moore involved early and often, as building a rapport with Zach Wilson will be of utmost importance. The group is rounded out with Keelan Cole, a free agent signing from Jacksonville, and Jamison Crowder. This group will be tough to cover due to their varying skill sets, and depth.
Offensive player to watch: QB Zach Wilson
New York Jets Defense
Defensively, the Jets will look to make a significant jump after struggling last season. They finally welcome linebacker C.J Mosley back into the mix after almost two full seasons off. After signing Mosley to a huge contract in 2019, he was hurt in his first game as a Jet, and chose to opt-out in 2020. He will look to solidify the middle of this defense.
Mosley will likely have plenty of free lanes this season thanks to the Jets massive defensive tackles, Sheldon Rankins and Quinnen Williams. Rankins, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, is a big-body in the middle of the defense that will make running the ball up the middle a tough task. Flanking Rankins is rising star, Quinnen Williams. Williams is entering his 3rd season and is already one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. His potential is sky-high, and the Jets are looking for him to keep on his trajectory.
The weakness of the defense comes on the back-end, as the cornerback group leaves much to be desired. This is an issue that the team will look to address in this coming offseason, and there may be some long days for this group. The team likes what they have at safety, with Marcus Maye continuing to make plays, and Ashtyn Davis showing potential.
Defensive player to watch: DT Quinnen Williams
Prediction and Win Total Pick
While there are reasons to be excited about the direction the New York Jets are heading, there will not be much celebration going on this season.
With a tough division and a young quarterback, this team will struggle to string wins together. Coupled with a bad secondary and an offensive line that needs improvement, I find it hard to believe that this team, with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback, can get more than six wins.
With their win total set at 6.5, I’m taking the under. That being said, the Jets will consider this season a raging success if Zach Wilson turns out to be as good as they expect.
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