NY Jets: 3 positions that were upgraded in the offseason
By Justin Fried
The NY Jets did a pretty good job of addressing some of the team’s biggest needs in the offseason.
The NY Jets went into this offseason with a number of key positions in need of fixing. And while it may be too early to truly judge things, the team does seem improved on paper.
In reality, it wasn’t just a few positions but nearly the entire roster that needed to be addressed. One offseason won’t fix all of the Jets problems, but general manager Joe Douglas seemed to set the organization up for success with the moves he made.
This was Douglas’ first offseason with the Jets and it’s safe to say it was no easy task. From having to deal with a barren roster to the COVID-19 situation to now the Jamal Adams debacle, Douglas has been thrown into the figurative fire.
But he’s seemingly come out unscathed providing Jets fans with hope for a brighter future.
While certain positions on the roster remain major question marks, others appear to have been properly bolstered over the last few months. Through free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft, Douglas made it his mission to improve the overall quality of the roster.
The 2020 season will provide the true test to determine just how well he did. For now, all we could do is project how players will perform and base the state of the team on past performances.
It’s an inexact science, sure, but that pretty much goes for all projections/predictions.
It may be too early, but let’s take a look at three positions that at least appear improved on paper.
Next: 3. Punter
3. The NY Jets upgraded the punter position
Are we grasping at straws here a little? Perhaps, but the value of the special teams unit often gets overlooked. And that’s doubly true for the value of a punter.
The Jets are hoping that they upgraded at the position in a big way this offseason.
After four underwhelming years of Lachlan Edwards, the Jets decided it was best to move on in the offseason and they turned to the 2020 NFL Draft to find his replacement.
That player is set to be sixth-round rookie Braden Mann who is expected to run unopposed this summer. Mann will be the Jets’ punter in 2020 barring any unforeseen circumstances and it’s easy to see why they value him so highly.
The Texas A&M product has a massive leg and has had no issue with coffin-corner punts throughout his career — two areas that weren’t exactly Edwards’ strengths.
Mann was honored with the Ray Guy Award in 2018 and was widely considered to be the top punter in this year’s draft class. Edwards, on the other hand, remains unsigned.
Edwards wasn’t exactly a bad punter, but his lackluster leg didn’t allow for him to really flip field position extensively and he very rarely pinned opponents back inside their own five-yard line due to his poor directional skills.
Instead, he made a living on his hang time which only gets a punter so far. He’s serviceable, but the Jets are hoping that Mann could be a true weapon on special teams.
As long as Mann could live up to the hype and continue to do what he did in college, the Jets will have upgraded at the punter position in a big way this offseason.
Next: 2. Cornerback
2. The NY Jets upgraded the cornerback position
The Jets went into the 2019 season with arguably no greater weakness than at the cornerback position. With a projected starting duo of Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, few had any expectations for the team’s cornerbacks.
And through the first half of the season, those low expectations were met with Johnson and Roberts expectedly struggling. Meanwhile, free-agent signing Brian Poole proved to be quite the find manning the slot.
And once the likes of Johnson and Roberts were replaced by more impressive talents such as Blessuan Austin and Arthur Maulet, things turned around quickly.
Still, it would have been foolish to expect similar production with the same cast of characters in 2020 and the Jets took that into account making a number of moves to upgrade the position.
That started with the signing of former Indianapolis Colts defensive back Pierre Desir in early April. Desir is expected to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback heading into the season and will look to rebound after a disappointing, injury-riddled 2019.
Meanwhile, the Jets also added two new cornerbacks on Day 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft in the form of fifth-round pick Bryce Hall and trade acquisition Quincy Wilson.
The trio of new additions will round out a cornerback group featuring the likes of Austin, Poole, and Maulet as well. Suddenly, the Jets seem to have a pretty deep cornerback depth chart after it was arguably the biggest need less than a year ago.
Perhaps no position remains more improved over the last year than cornerback and the moves made this offseason solidify that notion.
Next: 1. Offensive Line
1. The NY Jets upgraded the offensive line
Simply put, there was no greater point of emphasis this offseason than the offensive line. After a disastrous showing in 2019 that saw the unit finish as the second-worst valued offensive line in the NFL, something needed to change.
And Douglas made it his mission to create that change.
Of course, overhauling an entire five-man offensive line can’t really happen effectively in one offseason. But Douglas did his best to ensure that the unit will not only be improved in 2020, but is set up for success down the line.
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This started in free agency where the Jets went heavy on offensive linemen. Their most notable addition was former Denver Broncos center Connor McGovern who signed a three-year, $27 million contract in the offseason.
McGovern will likely be the Jets’ top offensive linemen heading into the new season. Meanwhile, the additions of veterans like George Fant and Greg Van Roten will provide depth and versatility to the offensive line.
But the biggest move made — both literally and figuratively — was the selection of highly-touted offensive tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Becton will likely man Sam Darnold’s blindside from day one and while he could struggle early with his pass sets, he no doubt will be an improvement over Kelvin Beachum in the ground game.
The offensive line looks revamped on paper and while it will take some time to truly assess how good they are, it will be difficult to be any worse than last season.
And for that reason, it’s hard to argue that the unit hasn’t been upgraded.