The New York Jets have had some rookies come in and make a splash early in the past, and we can expect two rookies to be in contention in 2017 for Rookie of the Year.
In the history of the New York Jets, only four players have won Rookie of the Year, and not surprisingly, they’ve all come on the defense. In fact, in each of the last four decades, the Jets have had one Defensive Rookie of the Year. Erik McMillan (1988), Hugh Douglas (1995), Jonathan Vilma (2004), and Sheldon Richardson (2013) all made a splash early on.
Given the fact that most people think the Jets won’t finish with more than four wins, it may be tough to conceive a Rookie of the Year on this team. However, the Jets did have a record of .500 or less with two of their Rookies of the Year, and an 8-7-1 record another time. So, it’s possible.
Let’s examine the Jets top candidates for each award.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jamal Adams
This one is obvious. Jamal Adams is among the favorites to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he would’ve been no matter which team drafted him.
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He has the leadership skills and the talent to help guide this Jets defense from the outset. He’s a three-down safety who can help against the run and cover tight ends or receivers. Adams will be an integral part of the defense early.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jordan Leggett
This is dependent upon who ends up starting at quarterback, but despite going in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Leggett has the potential to make a huge impact on the Jets this season. If Christian Hackenberg starts at quarterback, Leggett will likely have to step up early.
The role of the tight end has grown in recent years across the NFL, and it’s become a glaring hole in the Jets offense. He can be a good security blanket for Hackenberg, and with Austin Seferian-Jenkins suspended for the first two games, Leggett will get to prove himself early.
Leggett has the chance to prove the stigma that the Jets can’t do anything with tight ends wrong. If he does that, he will have to garner consideration for the award.
If either or both of these players win Rookie of the Year, it would be history in the making. If Adams wins, he would be only the third safety to win the award. Only the aforementioned Erik McMillan and Mark Carrier (1990) won the award. Leggett would be the first tight end to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
If they were to both win their respective awards, that would also be history. In the first 50 years of the Rookie of the Year Award, the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards have never been given to teammates.