After nearly a decade without a playoff appearance, the New York Jets finally have the pieces in place to build a perennial postseason contender.
It’s been eight years since the Jets made the playoffs, but it seems like even longer since Mark Sanchez and a stout defense took the Gang Green to back-to-back AFC title games.
But after a long drought, the Jets are finally ready to make not just a brief playoff run, but a sustained streak of success that could last another eight years of its own.
In today’s NFL, everything starts and stops with the quarterback. The Jets knew this when they trade a trio of second-round picks to the Indianapolis Colts to move up just three spots in the 2018 NFL draft, putting themselves in prime position to land one of the top passers is a quarterback-heavy class.
They did just that with USC’s Sam Darnold, who showed flashes of brilliance throughout his rookie season. After a full offseason and another training camp, Darnold should be primed for a breakout sophomore campaign, giving the Jets the true franchise quarterback they’ve desperately needed for years.
Darnold can’t do it all himself, though.
That’s why the Jets broke the bank for Le’Veon Bell, arguably the most dynamic and versatile running back in the entire NFL. While there will certainly be questions, and perhaps some understandable rust to knock off after sitting out the entire 2018 season, Bell’s rare skill set gives Darnold and the Jets offense a unique weapon.
Darnold also has one of the league’s more underrated groups of pass-catchers, led by wide receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa. Jamison Crowder is one of the league’s best slot receivers, and was a huge signing this offseason. Chris Herndon was a pleasant surprise last season, and the addition of fourth-round pick Trevon Wesco should give the Jets a fantastic pairing at tight end.
There’s also versatile depth in the backfield behind Bell, with Elijah McGuire, the newly signed Ty Montgomery, and the return of Bilal Powell.
And as promising as the Jets are on offense heading into the 2019 season, they could be even more impressive on defense.
Led by Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, this unit is primed for a collective breakout this year. Adams is heading into just his third NFL season, and has already established himself as one of the NFL’s best all-around safeties. Leonard Williams is entering a contract year, so we could easily see the best football of his career in 2019, which could lead to a long-term extension.
There were huge additions on defense this offseason, as well, despite losing out on Anthony Barr in free agency. The Jets signed one of the league’s most complete inside linebackers in C.J. Mosley, and stole arguably the best overall prospect in the 2019 NFL draft, Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, with the No. 3 overall pick.
Adams, Mosley and Williams give the Jets leadership and playmaking ability at every level of the defense, and there’s enough young talent around them to make this entire group of the league’s best-kept secrets.
Sure, the Jets aren’t without their question marks heading into the 2019 season and beyond. New head coach Adam Gase still has to prove he can captain a successful franchise, after his short stint with the Miami Dolphins crashed and burned. The offensive line is still a work-in-progress, though the addition of veteran Kelechi Osemele should be a huge help. New general manager Joe Douglas is getting his first shot at the big chair in the personnel department, but he’s already putting together an impressive staff, and his reputation as an effective communicator and evaluator should have Jets fans excited.
It’s hard to blame Jets fans for being cautious in their optimism for the near future franchise, given their recent disappointments. But all of the pieces are in place for this team to make a return to glory sooner than later.