Top 5 Jets who will improve in 2018
By Mike Barry
Here are the top five players on the New York Jets who will undoubtedly improve this upcoming season.
The New York Jets have one of the youngest rosters in football as they are tied with the Detroit Lions with the sixth youngest average age at 25.68. With a young roster comes plenty of growing pains and room for improvement as players gain more experience.
On both sides of the football, there are key players who will need to improve in order for this team to feel confident in their young corps moving forward. Just because they need to show improvement doesn’t necessarily mean they did not perform well – they just need to continue to grow into the players we envision them being because of their potential.
The defensive side has youth across the board with Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye at safety, Darron Lee and Avery Williamson at linebacker along with Jordan Jenkins and now the combo of Leonard Williams and Nathan Shepherd on the line. If all of these players can continue to improve while being surrounded with dynamic talent, the Jets will create a pretty formidable defensive unit.
As for the offensive side of the football, it obviously all starts with quarterback Sam Darnold, if he can show signs of being the next franchise guy the talent around him will fall into place. If that be the case the Jets front office will have to take initiative in pumping more talent and playmaking ability into the offense.
Here are the top five players on the Jets who will improve this upcoming season.
5. Safety Jamal Adams
Jamal Adams was one of the top prospects coming out of the 2017 NFL Draft, many were surprised when he was still on the board when it came to the Jets pick. Adams at times flashed his dominance in the run and pass game in 2017 but should be more consistent this year.
His ability to play in the box presents Adams with plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills in the run game and in the backfield getting after the quarterback. On literally the next play we can see Adams take on a tight end or slot receiver, stick with him man to man – and win the matchup.
I fully anticipate the young safety to continue to excel in taking the necessary steps in becoming the All-Pro safety he has the ability to be. Adams is the leader on defense as well as for the entire team, a role we knew he’d take on from day one.
When he becomes more consistent, the Jets will have a dominant safety at the back-end of their defense for years to come. Pairing Adams with fellow rookie Marcus Maye forms the potential to have Pro Bowl caliber safeties for the foreseeable future.
Next: 4. Offensive Guard Brian Winters
4. Offensive Guard Brian Winters
The fifth-year guard out of Kent State has been a reliable piece to the Jets offensive line, up until last year. In 2017, Winters dealt with a “horrendous” abdomen injury that ultimately forced him to have season-ending surgery.
When Winters is healthy he is a very solid guard who will benefit not only from better health but the addition of Spencer Long. Between the mediocre play at center last year and his banged-up abdomen, Winters experienced his worst season as a pro.
I am a big fan of the right guard whose leadership and toughness will be key in how this group performs as a whole this season. The offensive line has got to be one of the most important position groups for the Jets this season.
Starting a rookie quarterback is a bold move for this team but his life will be a thousand times easier on gamedays if his line can keep him upright. I fully anticipate the Jets to upgrade their line during next year’s offseason. If health is on Winters side this year – he will give the Jets something to think about when it comes to his roster spot in 2019.
Next: 3. Safety Marcus Maye
3. Safety Marcus Maye
Coming out of the University of Florida, Marcus Maye had a reputation for being a physical safety. Maye had a very promising season, at time outperforming Jamal Adams who was picked the round before him.
Maye displayed both tremendous physicality and ball-hawking ability as he finished the year with 79 tackles and two interceptions. Having a player who can excel in both of these categories will give the Jets a playmaker in the backend for years to come.
Staying healthy is the name of the game when it comes to taking strides forward and developing into a legitimate player. Maye finished last year with a bad ankle sprain that required a scope procedure to clean things up.
The Jets have been bringing Maye up slowly this summer, holding him out of three of their four preseason games. Because of his physical play, it is important they have him at full strength come Week 1 in Detroit. If healthy, expect even bigger things this time around for Maye as he enters his sophomore year.
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Next: 2. Wide Receiver Quincy Enunwa
2. Wide Receiver Quincy Enunwa
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Quincy Enunwa began to make a name for himself during the 2016 season as the Jets and their fans had high expectations for him going into 2017. Unfortunately, a bulging disc in his neck forced Enunwa to the IR requiring season-ending surgery.
Having Enunwa back for this season will be huge for not only the team but for Darnold and his development as a young quarterback. Darnold will most definitely become comfortable in trying to find where No. 81 is on the field at all times.
Not only can Quincy make an impact in a game with the football in his hands, but he can lay blocks on corners, safeties and linebackers – efficiently. The number of screens and off tackle designed runs that will go for big gains because of his ability to block will put the Jets in favorable positions often.
Surrounding a rookie quarterback with as many playmakers as possible is essential when a team tries to build around their young future franchise quarterback. Enunwa will be a contributor in the Jets offense on a week to week basis, as long as they continue to see the consistent improvement the football world was starting to see in 2016.
Next: 1. Linebacker Darron Lee
1. Linebacker Darron Lee
The former first-round pick has had an inconsistent three years in the NFL so far. We have seen flashes of Lee’s athleticism but then followed up with poor pass coverage and honestly some timidness.
An undersized linebacker in a 3-4 defense leaves Lee exposed on some plays when linemen make it to the second level. He also has the speed and athleticism to avoid blockers while putting himself in a position to make a play.
Pairing Lee next to somebody like Avery Williamson should allow for plenty of opportunities to make plays on the ball. Between Avery’s knack for making tackles and Lee’s speed, the Jets inside backers should be flying around the field.
Speed wins games these days in the NFL, if you don’t have it you wont be all that good – on offense or defense. If Lee can be more consistent and find the similar knack to get to the ball like Williamson, the Jets will have a paid of inside backers to go along with a young duo of safeties that will anchor the defensive side of the ball.