The NY Jets will need these three offensive players to step up in 2020
The NY Jets had a multitude of issues that hindered the team’s overall success throughout the 2019 season.
Aside from an obvious lack of talent at various positions across the board, specifically at offensive line and cornerback, the Jets also dealt with an unusually large amount of injuries, which certainly didn’t make things easier.
Overall, however, the Jets simply lacked production, which led to a disappointing 7-9 record and yet another season that ended with the team missing the playoffs. Because of this, it was clear that things needed to change, or, perhaps in better terms, things needed to improve.
And although any type of future success remains to be seen, it does, in fact, appear that newly minted general manager Joe Douglas did make improvements to the roster at multiple positions of need.
For example, Douglas bolstered the offensive line, signing free agents such as Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and George Fant, while re-signing Alex Lewis. The Jets also used the No. 11 overall pick on towering offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.
The defense was also addressed in the offseason, as the team signed cornerback Pierre Desir before drafting versatile defensive back Ashtyn Davis and cornerback Bryce Hall.
Clearly, the Jets have added talent to the roster throughout the offseason. These new additions along with weapons the Jets already possessed should aid in turning things around for the team.
However, production must be seen on the field for that to take place and the Jets will need certain players to step up in order to find that success.
Let’s take a look at three offensive players the Jets will need to step up to find success in 2020.
Next: 1. Le'Veon Bell
1. Le’Veon Bell
When the Jets signed former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell to a massive four-year $52.5 million contract prior to the start of the 2019 campaign, the Jets were expecting to get the player that emerged as one of the best rushers in the league throughout his time in Pittsburgh.
Despite sitting out the 2018 season due to a contract dispute with the Steelers, the now 28-year-old Bell’s production spoke for itself. A dual-threat back who played his collegiate ball at Michigan State, Bell was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro Selection.
Statistically, Bell stood out as a rare and unique weapon, as he became the first player in league history to total 4,000 rushing yards and 2,000 receiving yards through his first 50 games.
Prior to signing with the Jets, Bell last played in 2017 where he totaled 1,291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 321 attempts, while also totaling 85 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns.
Still believed to be in the prime of his career, this signing stood out as a massive one for the Jets, and Bell was initially viewed as a dynamic weapon for new head coach Adam Gase to work with.
Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out as well as the Jets had hoped in 2019 with Bell, as he performed well below expectations and well below the level he had become known to perform at.
For example, Bell had one of the worst seasons of his career statistically, as he rushed for just 789 yards and three touchdowns on 245 attempts, while also only catching 66 passes for 461 yards and one touchdown. To be fair, however, his struggles weren’t all his fault.
After all, it is important to remember that Bell was coming off of a year in which he didn’t play a single down of football and he’s only getting older, so perhaps it was a bit naive to expect the same level of production out of him that we had become accustomed too.
In addition, it must be noted that Bell was running behind one of the worst offensive lines in all of football and an offensive line that was often altered due to injuries. And finally, many have argued that Gase didn’t use Bell properly.
Whatever the reason for his struggles, it will be crucial to the Jets success that Bell, and the team’s rushing attack as a whole, improves in 2020, as it will not only make things easier for Darnold, but it will open things up for Gase and the offense as a whole.
And although many suspect Bell won’t be with the Jets beyond 2020, it’s certainly reasonable to believe that he’ll perform better this upcoming season due to the improvements made to the offensive line.
Next: 2. Connor McGovern
2. Connor McGovern
As previously mentioned, the Jets had, across the board, one of the worst offensive lines in football last year both due to injuries and simply due to a lack of talent overall.
And not only did this negatively affect Bell and the rushing game but it also negatively affected Darnold, who has missed time and dealt with injuries in both of his first two seasons.
Looking ahead, there is certainly a reason to be optimistic about the offensive line’s future, as additions and expected improvements were made. In fact, the Jets will likely have four new starters up front when the upcoming season begins.
One particular position on the offensive line that needed to be improved was the center position, as the Jets have struggled mightily at that spot ever since the legendary Nick Mangold, who anchored the team’s front five for years, retired in 2016.
In 2017, for example, the Jets tried Wesley Johnson at the position, but he struggled. In 2018, the team signed Spencer Long, but he was nothing short of a liability, and this past season, the Jets signed Ryan Kalil out of retirement, but he too proved to be a letdown.
Luckily for Jets fans, Douglas was able to address this position in free agency by signing former Broncos lineman Connor McGovern, who was seen as perhaps the best center available on the open market.
At just 26-years-old, he’s proven to be both durable and versatile, two traits the Jets could use on the offensive line.
And since making the switch to center in 2018, McGovern has performed well, as he’s started 31 of 32 games over the last two years while finishing 2019 with a 71.9 Pro Football Focus grade while allowing just one sack, three quarterback hits, and 11 hurries.
This type of production is exactly what the Jets need at the center position and like Bell, McGovern will need to step up in 2020.
Obviously, the offensive line as a whole will need to step up and improve for the Jets to see success, but McGovern will be tasked with anchoring the unit and making sure the unit communicates and works in unison.
Next: 3. Chris Herndon
3. Chris Herndon
Aside from a depleted rushing game and a struggling offensive line, one of the biggest issues the Jets offense had last season was that the team simply lacked weapons and dynamic playmakers, which certainly doesn’t make things any easier for a growing young quarterback like Darnold.
And while the team simply lacked offensive weapons in general and has been in the market for help at the wide receiver position all offseason, it also didn’t help that Darnold was without one of his best and most trusted pass catchers for the duration of the 2019 season in second-year tight end Chris Herndon.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami, the 6-foot-4, 250-plus pound Herndon proved to be a bright spot for the Jets in 2018, as he brought in 39 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Dynamic and athletic, Herndon proved to be a valuable weapon not only in the receiving game but as a blocker as well, which led Adam Gase to label him as a unicorn.
Perhaps, most important, however, is that Herndon provided Darnold with a reliable weapon and a safety net of sorts. The two clearly developed chemistry and that chemistry was only expected to grow in 2019.
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However, that didn’t occur, as Herndon ended up only making one catch and appearing in one game, as he missed four games due to suspension before suffering a hamstring injury and then a rib injury that ultimately led to the 24-year-old essentially missing the entire season.
As the 2020 season approaches, Herndon is seemingly healthy and ready to pick up right where he left off. And it’s no secret that the Jets could use a return to form out of him.
Overall, the team has attempted to address the passing game throughout the offseason.
After Robby Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers, the Jets signed Breshad Perriman, who performed well towards the end of last season and drafted Mims, who performed well at Baylor and was seen as a steal for Douglas.
Both Perriman and Mims are a bit of unknowns, however. Sure, the Jets still have Jamison Crowder, who was the team’s top wide receiver last year, but Darnold needs more around him if the Jets are going to be successful.
It’s for that reason that Herndon, like Bell and McGovern, needs to step up.
If he’s healthy, can continue to improve, and can continue to develop chemistry with Darnold, he’ll likely be a huge asset to the Jets offense.