The NY Jets’ roster has taken shape following the 2020 NFL Draft. Now that the draft is complete, which positions are destined for a battle for playing time?
The main team-building portion of the NFL offseason has come to a close. The draft is complete, most free agent signings have been made, and several blockbuster trades were completed.
Now, it’s on to (virtual) minicamps, training camp, and eventually the 2020 season. The NY Jets have a big offseason ahead, as they look to improve from their disappointing 2019 season.
Joe Douglas’ first offseason wasn’t necessarily exciting given the fact that the Jets didn’t sign or trade for any big names, but the change of emphasis was refreshing.
Douglas prioritized rebuilding the offensive line, acquiring six (six!) new linemen through free agency and the draft to bolster the line. Rather than chase after big names, Douglas aimed for strong value throughout the offseason.
Douglas didn’t stop at upgrading the offensive line. He added talent all over the roster, especially in the secondary and at the wide receiver positions. He also retained several Jets who performed well in 2019, including Alex Lewis, Jordan Jenkins, James Burgess and Arthur Maulet.
Training camp will be exciting to watch in Florham Park this summer. There are several positions where roster spots, as well as starting spots, are up for grabs.
The Jets have emphasized a philosophy of playing the best players they have, which was reassured when they benched Trumaine Johnson last season.
With that being said, several position battles are destined to take place during the upcoming months. At which positions will they take place? Here are three position battles that will be worth the watch over the next four months.
Next: 1. Offensive Line
1. Offensive Line
There are too many open slots on the Jets’ offensive line to limit this position battle to one position. The Jets brought in a new batch of offensive linemen this offseason to help protect Sam Darnold and open holes for Le’Veon Bell. Nearly every slot on the line is up for grabs.
Offensive guard will be an interesting battle to keep an eye on.
The Jets brought back Alex Lewis, who started 12 games for Gang Green last season. They also signed former Carolina Panthers guard Greg Van Roten, who started 27 games for the Panthers over the last two seasons.
In those 27 starts, Van Roten managed to not commit a single holding or false start penalty. Penalties were an issue for the Jets last season, and was a point of emphasis in fixing during the offseason.
Along with Lewis and Van Roten, Brian Winters was held onto this offseason, despite many believing he would be a cap casualty early in the offseason. Winters is projected to be the longest-tenured Jet on the roster in 2020, barring the team re-signing Bilal Powell.
Injuries have bugged Winters for years and have curbed him from playing at a high level. When healthy, Winters played at a very high level.
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Of course, there are only two starting spots at the offensive guard position. Both spots are up for grabs between these three, and maybe rookie Cameron Clark could join that battle if he shines in the offseason. The Jets need to do whatever they can to support Darnold, so fully expect the best two performers to earn the starting spots.
Along with the competition at offensive guard comes a competition at offensive tackle.
The Jets drafted Mekhi Becton with the 11th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, who will likely earn a starting spot at one of the tackle positions. They also signed former Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant earlier in the offseason. Fant’s started 27 games in his career.
The Jets also still have Chuma Edoga, who’s coming off of a rookie season where he started eight games for New York. He and Fant will compete for the second starting spot at offensive tackle, whether that be on the right or left side.
There’s no clear favorite as of now. The offensive line will be an exciting position to watch during the next few months.
Next: 2. Cornerback
The Jets’ cornerbacks exceeded expectations in 2019, thanks to solid showings from several under-the-radar players including Blessuan Austin and Arthur Maulet.
They didn’t bring in any big names such as Byron Jones or James Bradberry, who they reportedly showed interest in during free agency. However, they did add several names who could make an impact in 2020.
In free agency, the Jets brought in Pierre Desir, who formerly played for the Indianapolis Colts. Desir battled injuries in 2019 which led to an underwhelming season. In 2018, he was the 18th best cornerback in football, according to Pro Football Focus.
Pierre Desir dealt with a hamstring issue throughout last season, which played a role in some of his struggles (5 TD allowed).
Allowed 48 catches on 83 targets (57.8%), two TDs, and a QB rating of 84.8.
Finished with PFF 90.3 run D grade, and 89.9 in coverage #Jets
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) March 22, 2020
Along with Desir, the Jets used the draft to bolster their cornerback room. The Jets drafted Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall with the 158th pick in the draft. Hall could have been a first-round pick if not for suffering a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery.
That injury led to him falling in the draft, and the Jets snagged him in the fifth round. If he could stay healthy, Hall could definitely be an impact player in the Jets secondary.
The Jets also traded their sixth-round63 pick for Quincy Wilson, formerly of the Colts. Wilson struggled in 2019 due to the Colts moving towards a zone scheme, however many predict he can bounce back under Gregg Williams’ man-heavy defense. He played well in 2017 and 2018, but struggled heavily last season.
The Jets also still have Austin and Maulet, as well as Brian Poole, who’ll likely start in the slot again in 2020 after a strong 2019 season. Austin and Maulet both played well filling in for the Jets in 2019 later in the season.
They will compete with Desir, Hall, and maybe even undrafted free agent Lamar Jackson (the cornerback, not the quarterback) this offseason for starting spots this offseason. Gregg Williams should be able to get a lot out of all of these corners.
The next few months should be exciting to watch.
Next: 3. Interior Defensive Line
3. Interior Defensive Line
The Jets found a way to use several of their defensive linemen in 2019 and got solid production out of each of them. Nathan Shepherd, Folorunso Fatukasi, and Kyle Phillips all raised eyebrows in 2019. They were key pieces in the Jets becoming one of the best run defenses in football.
Quinnen Williams had an underwhelming first season in the green and white, but that can be contributed to an ankle injury he suffered early in the season.
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He wasn’t healthy for much of his rookie season, which led to a shortage in production. Hopefully he can fully recover for the 2020 season and remind the Jets why they drafted him with the third overall pick.
Steve McLendon is another big piece on the Jets’ defensive front. He was given a one-year extension during the season in 2019, and for good reason.
He’s one of the most underrated run defenders in the league along with being an excellent leader in the locker room. Expect him to continue to contribute on and off the field again in 2020.
The Jets’ defensive linemen will continue to battle for reps this offseason and during the season as well. Gregg Williams will undoubtedly continue to find ways to use these guys during the season.
The question is, who will truly stand out amongst the rest? The Jets run defense was superb in 2019 and will look to be even better with C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson healthy for the upcoming season.