The NY Jets have a number of young players who will be looking to put together career years in 2020. Let’s take a look at three players on the verge of breaking out.
The NY Jets will host one of the youngest rosters in the NFL when they take the field for the start of the 2020 season. But with youth often comes inexperience.
Rarely do we see young players make an immediate impact when they first enter the league. It often takes time to adjust to the speed and talent level of the NFL just as it takes time to continue developing skills.
Fortunately, the Jets happen to have a number of second and third-year players who may be on the verge of reaching their potential.
While a player’s rookie season might come with a few hiccups, generally the second or third season is when we see a player finally break out, so to speak. We saw this firsthand with someone like Jamal Adams back a couple of years ago.
Now, that same process could be repeated by a few players currently on the roster.
Be it because of injuries, inexperience, or a variety of other reasons, these three players have yet to truly break out in their NFL careers. They’ve shown promise of future stardom, but their potential has yet to be reached.
With that, let’s take a look at the three Jets players who are on the verge of breaking out this upcoming season.
Next: 3. Chris Herndon
3. Chris Herndon, TE
Chris Herndon looked like one of the most promising young tight ends in the NFL during his rookie season in 2018. The fourth-round pick paced all rookie tight ends in receptions with 39 and touchdowns with four, trailing just Mark Andrews in receiving yards (502).
In fact, Herndon and Andrews posted almost identical numbers in their rookie seasons. But that’s where the similarities ended.
While Andrews went on to be one the most productive tight ends in the NFL last year playing in the high-powered Baltimore Ravens offense, Herndon would suffer a much more unfortunate fate.
The 24-year-old would sit out the first four games with a suspension before having his return delayed due to hamstring injury suffered in practice. He would finally return in Week 9 only to go down with yet another injury in just the first quarter.
Herndon had injured his ribs and would be placed on the injured reserve shortly after the game ending his sophomore NFL season with just one catch for seven yards in his lone quarter of action.
Realistically, it’s hard to have imagined a worse season for the young Jets’ tight end.
But hopefully healthy again in 2020, Herndon will look to pick up where he left off last year and re-establish the chemistry he was building with quarterback Sam Darnold. In many ways, Herndon is the X-factor that could make or break the Jets’ offense.
But for him to truly break out, he must put his injuries woes from a year ago behind him and stay healthy.
Next: 2. Blessuan Austin
2. Blessuan Austin, CB
Instead, the Jets saw the unexpected rise of one of the most likely players last season — sixth-round cornerback Blessuan Austin.
After playing just three games over the previous two years due to two separate ACL tears, Austin was a complete unknown when the Jets decided to make him their final selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The local Rutgers product began the year on the PUP list and was questionable to even play in his rookie season as he was still rehabbing his ACL injury. But perhaps spurred on by a desperate need at cornerback, Austin was activated off the PUP list and forced into action in Week 9.
Inserted into the game in the second half of a homecoming game for the Queens native against the New York Giants, Austin immediately impressed. So much so that he earned his first career start a week later.
Soon, Austin became a fixture in the starting defense finishing the year as the team’s highest-graded outside cornerback, per Pro Football Focus.
What Jets fans saw from Austin in essentially six and a half games last year was enough to convince them that he could be a long-term starter at the position.
Provided he receives that opportunity and stays healthy in 2020, expect Austin to take a huge leap in his second NFL season and solidify himself as a future building block of the defense.
Next: 1. Sam Darnold
1. Sam Darnold, QB
This is the one we’ve all been waiting for.
Last year was supposed to be Sam Darnold’s coming out party as the former USC star had shown promise in his rookie season and Jets fans were just waiting for him to put it all together.
However, a string of terrible luck and an abysmal supporting cast crushed any of those hopes early on in the season.
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A three-week bout with mononucleosis hindered the early portion of his year and subsequent embarrassments on Monday Night Football against the New England Patriots and the subsequent week against the Jacksonville Jaguars did his confidence no favors.
It certainly didn’t help that it seemed as though his supporting cast and coaching staff were actively working against his development either. Simply put, Darnold had it rough in 2019.
But optimism is once again at an all-time high that the former No. 3 overall draft choice will overcome the obstacles placed in front of him by external misfortunate and internal incompetence and take that next step in 2020.
Somehow, despite everything working against him, Darnold managed to improve last season. But the Jets aren’t looking for minor improvement again.
This team needs a true breakout season from Sam Darnold in 2020. And hopefully, he actually gets a little help along the way this time.