The NY Jets were ravaged by injuries last season. But they can’t afford to have these players hurt in 2020.
The NY Jets were at the mercy of the injured reserve last season as countless players on the roster suffered pretty significant injuries. The team experienced firsthand the impact of those injuries.
Whether it was Sam Darnold missing three games at the start of the season or players like Chris Herndon, Avery Williamson, and C.J. Mosley having their 2019’s essentially wiped away, the Jets felt the full force of the injury bug last season.
But 2020 provides the team with a fresh start. Injured players are due to return and the roster has once again been restored to full health. However, that only lasts for so long.
Players are going to get injured — it’s an inevitable reality of such a violent game. Hopefully the Jets won’t be hit quite as bad as they were a year prior, but make no mistake about it.
No team is immune to injury.
Obviously, however, some injuries are worse than others. This is true for both the severity of the injury and the quality of the player who’s gone down. Simply put, some players are more valuable than others.
So which players can the Jets not afford to lose to serious injury in 2020? We take a look at the four players whose absence would hurt the Jets the most.
Next: 4. Connor McGovern
4. NY Jets can’t afford to lose Connor McGovern
General manager Joe Douglas made addressing the offensive line a top priority this offseason. And his first major move in that regard was the signing of former Denver Broncos center Connor McGovern.
In an offseason featuring an almost-complete overhaul of the offensive line, no new face will be expected to contribute more right out of the gate than McGovern.
The 27-year-old has spent the last two seasons as a starter for the Broncos splitting time between right guard and center in 2018 before moving over full-time to the center position in 2019.
And it was that 2019 season that truly saw him break out.
McGovern would finish the year with just one sack allowed and a whopping zero penalties tallied against him. That would be good enough to earn him a 72.0 Pro Football Focus grade which ranked him 10th among qualifiers at his position.
On paper, McGovern is likely the team’s only above-average starting offensive lineman from day one. And while Douglas has done a good job of solidifying the offensive line depth, there’s a steep drop-off between McGovern and his backup.
Fringe starter Jonotthan Harrison will likely serve as the team’s backup center but he remains nothing more than a quality backup at best. The Jets have seen the offensive line with Harrison leading the way and they know just how bad it could be.
To avoid a repeat of Harrison’s play over the past two seasons, they’ll need arguably their top free-agent signing to remain healthy.
Next: 3. Jamison Crowder
3. NY Jets can’t afford to lose Jamison Crowder
Much like the offensive line, Douglas made it his mission to overhaul an underwhelming wide receiver group in the offseason. However, despite his efforts, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Question marks reside up and down the wide receiver depth chart, but one player who remains rock-solid is slot receiver Jamison Crowder.
In a wide receiver room of unproven, inexperienced talent, Crowder remains the only viable, proven wideout who’s already developed some excellent chemistry with Sam Darnold.
Meanwhile, the likes of Josh Doctson, Vyncint Smith, and Braxton Berrios — among others — appear to be nothing more than depth receivers at the moment.
This team needs Crowder — and they need him to stay healthy. Fortunately, after an injury-riddled 2018 season, Crowder bounced back and played all 16 games in 2019.
The Jets will need that to be the case again in 2020 for the sake of Darnold and the passing attack. If Crowder goes down, Berrios likely steps into the slot receiver role. That means you roll with a starting trio of Perriman, Mims, and Berrios.
Surely that would be the least accomplished starting trio of receivers in the NFL.
Crowder is the lone beacon of consistency in a volatile wide receiver room. The Jets can ill-afford to lose him for a significant period of time.
Next: 2. Jamal Adams
2. NY Jets can’t afford to lose Jamal Adams
Forget all of the offseason drama. Forget the contract disputes, forget the subtle social media jabs, and forget the seemingly limitless will-they/won’t-they dynamic.
Jamal Adams is arguably the Jets’ most valuable player and they can’t afford to lose him to any serious injury in 2020 or any point in the future — assuming there is a future.
Sorry, we’re supposed to forget about that. My apologies.
Simply put, the Jets defense with and without Adams is night and day. The superstar safety missed just two games last season dealing with an ankle injury, but his absence was felt in more ways than one.
The Jets allowed an average of 31.5 points per game during his absence — a stark contrast from the 21.1 points per game they allowed with him in the lineup.
And save for a last-second game-winning field goal in a game that they really shouldn’t have won against the Miami Dolphins in Week 14, they would have been 0-2 in his absence.
This is a small sample size, sure. And the numbers are inflated by the Baltimore Ravens Thursday Night Game. But if Adams is healthy for that matchup, there’s no way the Ravens put up 42 points.
That doesn’t mean the Jets win, but they’re at least somewhat more competitive against arguably the best team in the NFL at that point.
Jamal Adams is the heart and soul of the defense and no player could feasibly replace him.
Perhaps they’d try rookie Ashtyn Davis in that role if Adams were to go down. Perhaps they’d try Davis at free safety and move Marcus Maye over to strong safety. Or perhaps they’d use a player like Nate Hairston, Matthias Farley, Bennett Jackson, or someone else.
It wouldn’t matter. No one is replacing Adams.
Next: 1. Sam Darnold
1. NY Jets can’t afford to lose Sam Darnold
This one should speak for itself, really. Put in the simplest terms, the Jets actually had a winning record with Sam Darnold in the starting lineup last season.
Darnold finished the year with a 7-6 record as a starter. Without him, the Jets were 0-3. If they go 2-1 over that span, perhaps they even sneak into the playoffs.
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Of course, much of this was brought on by the fact that Luke Falk was thrust from the practice squad into the starting lineup with essentially no notice. Hopefully Joe Flacco will be a massive improvement over Falk if he’s forced to play.
But as we saw last season, the Jets just aren’t the same team when Darnold isn’t under center.
In many ways, the fate of this season rests on Darnold’s shoulders. If he could take the next leap towards stardom and firmly establish himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, this season will be a success regardless of the final record.
But the worst thing that could happen for the Jets or Darnold for that matter is an injury.
After all, the 23-year-old has yet to play a full 16-game season in his two NFL campaigns thus far. Now, it’s completely hyperbolic to label that as anything but poor luck. But if Darnold misses time again in 2020, questions will begin to arise (unfairly or not) about his durability.
That’s the last thing the Jets or Darnold need given the microscope that he’s already under.
Not only would the Jets likely suffer on the field if Darnold were to miss any significant period of time, but his image and future projection would become murkier.
If the Jets are counting their blessings that any player doesn’t get injured in 2020, it has to be Sam Darnold.