Top 5 things that Jets fans should be thankful for
By Justin Fried
Despite a 4-6 record and sitting dead last in the AFC East, the New York Jets season has gone better than many may have hoped and the team and its fans have a lot to be grateful for. In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, here are five things Jets fans should be thankful for.
Thanksgiving is the time of year where friends and family come together and express gratitude for all the little things in life that they take for granted on a daily basis. For the sake of this exercise, consider your fellow fans your “family” and the New York Jets as “the thing taken for granted.”
In spite of the fact that the team is sitting at 4-6 coming off an embarrassing display of football in Tampa Bay (and having to sulk in that loss through the bye week), there is plenty of optimism to go around. The Jets have performed at a much higher level this season than initially anticipated and are genuinely a fun team to watch.
Be it through the development of young players or the overall likeability of this team, there is certainly numerous things to be thankful for. At the very least, it’s always good to embrace the feeling of hope every now and then.
With that being said, let’s embark on a pilgrimage of positivity and recount the things that Jets fans should be most thankful for this year.
Next: 5. The Emergence of Austin Seferian-Jenkins
5. The Emergence of Austin Seferian-Jenkins
The long, enduring journey of Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been a prime topic of discussion throughout the 2017 NFL season thus far. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round pick has completely transformed his life and is playing his best football since perhaps his days at the University of Washington.
Once regarded as one of the most highly touted tight ends in the nation, the 25-year-old had failed to live up to the hefty expectations placed on him when the Bucs drafted him 38th overall back in May of 2014. Off-the-field issues, including multiple DUI arrests, once led many to believe that Seferian-Jenkins was just the latest example of a talented athlete wasting his opportunity at the professional level.
Determined not to become just another footnote in wasted talent history, Seferian-Jenkins made the commitment to his coaching staff, his team, and most importantly himself that he would turn his life around. This past offseason, ASJ shaved off 33 pounds as a direct result of devoting himself to the weight room and cutting fast food and alcohol entirely out of his life.
The bulky tight end has subsequently set his career high in catches and he will likely easily surpass his career totals in receiving yards and touchdowns as well.
Seferian-Jenkins has become one of the most dangerous weapons in the Jets offense and has already won over the hearts of many teammates and fans alike. His story is one of success and here’s to hoping that his path of prosperity continues for years to come.
Seferian-Jenkins should be thankful that the Jets took a chance on him when he was at his lowest point. And Jets fans should be thankful for the new and improved, dedicated version of ASJ.
Good to have you back big guy.
Next: 4. Coaching Improvement
4. Coaching Improvement
There was a time when Todd Bowles may very well have been the most heavily scrutinized person in New York sports. Boy it’s funny how times change, isn’t it?
Here’s looking at you, Ben McAdoo.
Not only have the cries for Bowles firing calmed down significantly, but there was even some talk of a potential Coach of the Year nomination at certain points this season. While those claims may be a bit hyperbolic, there’s no denying that the man has done a much better job than last year. And that goes for both attitude in the locker room to game management.
It goes without saying that the overall perspective in the locker room has completely reversed from last season. While some of that could be contributed to the young leaders on the team, Bowles certainly deserves some praise for having this team ready to play every game, with the exception of perhaps the Tampa game. This team is fired up and we’re finally starting to see examples of that “new culture” the coaching staff had talked for so long about.
While Bowles still makes some head-scratching decisions at times when it comes to game management, it’s clear that this is an area of his game that has been drastically improved. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball, Bowles has dialed up various new blitz packages and utilized reserve defenders such as Terrence Brooks and Rontez Miles in different formations. He has begun to adjust the way he uses second-year linebacker Darron Lee to best utilize his skills including blitzing him as an edge rusher. Overall, Bowles has just been more creative in his game planning which is a welcome change of pace.
First-year offensive coordinator John Morton has also done a fantastic job of making proverbial lemonade out of lemons with the talent at his disposal. He has effectively structured an offensive gameplan that simultaneously highlights quarterback Josh McCown‘s strengths and masks his weaknesses.
It’s been a successful season for Jets coaching and considering the current state of coaching in New York football, Jets fans should be expressing double the gratitude at the dinner table this year.
Next: 3. The Play of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye
3. The Play of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye
Out of all the entries on this list, this one is perhaps the least surprising. Regardless that still doesn’t take away from the sensational seasons rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye are having so far this year.
Despite having their ups and downs at points (more so the former than the latter), both Adams and Maye have shined as rookies and have shown the potential to be building blocks of this defense for years to come. And that’s exactly what the Jets were hoping when they selected the promising young stars in consecutive rounds to mark the team’s first two selections of the draft.
The two compliment each other perfectly, not only in their gameplay but their personalities. Adams is the flashy star who’s a classic do-it-all type of safety who has the size and aggressiveness to play down in the box and make stops in the run game but also possesses the speed and coverage ability to play anything from man coverage to a single-high zone assignment. He is the boisterous, bombastic tough guy whose charisma and personality directly translate to his on the field leadership apart from being one of the primary voices of guidance in the locker room.
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Maye is the more mild-mannered of the two. He doesn’t get the high-profile attention and is more of a prototypical coverage safety. Despite not making the flashy, exciting plays, Maye has proven to be more consistent than Adams and has perhaps even had a better season so far. He is the hushed hitman who leads by example rather than with his words.
Together the two combine for quite the dynamic duo in the Jets secondary and the organization and fans alike have much to be thankful for when it comes to these two budding stars.
Next: 2. The Development of Second-Year Players
2. The Development of Second-Year Players
Despite expectations for the Jets 2017 season being about as low as a snake’s stomach, there was still the presumption that the team’s inexperienced players would hopefully improve their game and take the next step forward in their young careers. While the Jets have unexpectedly surpassed initial expectations, the latter assumption has still managed to hold true as well.
The development of second-year offensive players such as Robby Anderson and Brandon Shell has been one of the bright spots of this 4-6 Jets team. The former is maybe the most improved player on the team to this point.
Anderson has always possessed the raw speed needed to be a deep threat. Unfortunately, the NFL has made it very apparent that speed doesn’t always equate to success if you can’t play the position you’re supposed to. Look no further than former first-round busts such as Breshad Perriman and Phillip Dorsett as examples of players who have the speed, but not the intangibles or route running ability needed to play wide receiver in this league.
Anderson has all-but perfected the vertical route at this point as he has improved drastically at beating his opponent off the snap and getting a good release. Even with opposing cornerbacks giving him 5-10 yards of cushion, he is able to get by them more often than not as his footwork and overall route running ability have improved at an alarming rate. Anderson has also become more comfortable running underneath routes and is developing into an excellent all-around receiver before our very eyes. Not bad for a skinny undrafted free agent out of Temple.
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Despite experiencing his fair share of difficulties at times this season, Shell has also shown nice improvement displaying his ability to hang with elite pass rushers at times. While he still needs to work on his footwork and get a little quicker off the snap of the ball, games like his one matched up against Khalil Mack in Oakland stand out as performances to build on.
On the defensive side of the ball, the development of second-year linebackers Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins has additionally been a pleasure to watch.
Lee has turned a corner in his professional career this season and has effectively silenced the majority of his critics in the process. He has become a more disciplined tackler and is learning to make the correct reads in terms of his gap assignments. The former Ohio State Buckeye has already come a long way and the sky’s the limit for Lee if he continues to improve at this rate.
Jenkins’ improvement has gone a bit under the radar this season but his Week 9 performance against the Buffalo Bills that netted him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors will likely put more eyes on the young linebacker going forward. He’s always been solid at setting the edge in run defense but his pass rushing skills are finally starting to come along as well. Jenkins is well on his way to becoming a complete player at the outside linebacker position.
It appears that the Jets fans have broken off the bigger side of the turkey’s wishbone as their wish has ultimately come true. The Jets have a foundation of young players to build upon in the coming years and that provides hope for a franchise that has been desperately in need of some.
Next: 1. #JetsDanceToAnything
1. The “Jets Dance To Anything” Meme
It was the fateful night of Thursday, November 2, 2017. The night the New York Jets became a meme…..for a GOOD thing.
The Jets are used to being at the butt end of jokes. Be it the infamous butt-fumble which just celebrated its fifth birthday and was coincidentally the last time the Jets took part in a Thanksgiving Day game (no relation of course), or the endless memes about Tim Tebow, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or really any quarterback to don the green and white in the past decade or so, the Jets always seem to be the punchline of a franchise-old joke.
Not this time!
Following the team’s 34-21 routing of the Buffalo Bills, the team went viral after a video of the defense dancing to a Lil Uzi Vert song was released and people began to dub over the original with various songs ranging anywhere from the Charlie Brown theme song to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.” It was a glorious moment for Jets fans who finally got the opportunity to celebrate their team online rather than be scrutinized for their fandom. Their loyalty had finally paid off.
But this wasn’t just some isolated instance of virality. This was a collective representation of this new Jets squad.
They are entertaining. They are energetic. And most of all, they are enjoyable to watch. The Jets are fun again. As a lifelong Jets fan, that’s about all you could ask for out a franchise that has provided so much heartbreak over the years.
This is in stark contrast to last year’s team which consisted of a group of overpaid veterans and players who simply didn’t want to be on the team all combined to put together one, single cancerous locker room. That’s not the type of environment that is supportive of player growth.
It seems that the team has done a complete 180 as this year, the Jets have a charming quality to them. They are a group of over-achieving veterans and young, rising stars who have come together to salvage what many thought was a lost season. It’s impossible not to root for a team like that.
#JetsDanceToAnything is a microcosm of the Jets 2017 season. They’re just a team that’s giving it their all and just trying to have fun. They may not be good enough for the playoffs, but they’ll be damned if any team is just going to come in and steamroll them. They have too much pride for that.
Must Read: A look at the entire 2017 NFL Draft class of the Jets so far
If there’s anything that Jets fans should be thankful for this holiday season it’s that the Jets are, once again, fun.
This team has certainly come a long way in the five years since the butt-fumble.