These three NY Jets players will have a lot to prove during the 2020 season.
The NY Jets will enter the 2020 season with a lot to prove. They’ll be out to prove that last season’s 6-2 finish was more than just a fluke. They’ll be out to prove that the additions made in the offseason make them legitimate contenders.
And they’ll be out to prove that they shouldn’t be overlooked in a crowded AFC playoff picture.
Of course, to accomplish those things they’ll need their players and coaching staff to live up to expectations. Some of them will even need to exceed those expectations.
While the Jets may have surprised many down the stretch by winning six of their final eight games, the team ultimately disappointed through the first half of the season.
Players fell short of projections and injuries tanked what seemed like a promising season at first glance. Going into 2020, things will need to be different.
A vast majority of the roster has something to prove. Whether that proof will come via a healthy season or an improved statistical output, there are a number of players who are out to prove something in 2020.
For the sake of this article, we won’t be including players who need to prove something with their health (C.J. Mosley, Avery Williamson, Chris Herndon, etc.).
Instead, let’s take a look at three players who have a lot to prove with their performance in 2020.
Next: 3. Blessuan Austin
3. Blessuan Austin, CB, NY Jets
Blessuan Austin was one of the true surprises from a volatile 2019 season. Few expected any early contributions from the sixth-round pick in his rookie season — but the Jets got more than simple “contributions.”
Despite starting the year on the PUP list, Austin was activated ahead of the team’s Week 10 meeting with the New York Giants. Inserted in the second half, the local Queens native immediately made an impact.
Austin would end up starting six games down the stretch playing some excellent football and stabilizing what was a pretty bad cornerback group early in the season.
However, despite his rookie success, his role on the team is far from secure.
Austin was benched for the final game of the season after a misstep the previous week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams felt that Austin was “sulking” after getting beat deep and he decided to sit him as a result.
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The Rutgers product played well down the stretch, but he did so in a limited sample size. The Jets aren’t sold yet and will push him in training camp with guys like Quincy Wilson and Bryce Hall pushing for his starting spot.
Austin will need to prove that his late-season success wasn’t a fluke and that he’s a true building block for the future of the Jets’ defense.
He’ll be given every opportunity to do so, but he must make the absolute most of those opportunities with others gunning for his job.
Next: 2. Quinnen Williams
2. Quinnen Williams, DL, NY Jets
The Jets selected Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft expecting the former Alabama superstar to be an instant-impact contributor at the NFL level.
Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what the team saw last season.
Williams wasn’t necessarily bad, more so that he simply underwhelmed. The 2018 Unanimous All-American was a fine run-defender, but below-average as a pass-rusher as he failed to make the impact that most expected.
Of course, Williams was just 21-years-old and didn’t turn 22 until late December. Perhaps expectations were a little too high, to begin with.
Nonetheless, the Jets will certainly be expecting more from their top-five pick in his second full NFL season.
Williams will need to impress more as a pass-rusher and show the elite athletic traits that once made him perhaps the most dominant player in college football. The hope is that the added experience will go a long way towards allowing him to reach his full potential.
Now, he shouldn’t be expected to reach his ceiling in 2020, but a significant step forward is necessary for player once deemed the “best player in the draft.”
Williams needs to prove his worth in 2020 or else the cries of “bust” will grow louder from an impatient Jets’ fanbase.
Next: 1. Le'Veon Bell
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, NY Jets
Perhaps no Jets player has more to prove in 2020 than Le’Veon Bell.
After signing a massive four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets in the offseason, the hope was that Bell would revolutionize the team’s offense by providing a huge boost to both the running and passing games.
Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened.
Saddled with an abysmal offensive line and a lackluster coaching staff, Bell put together the worst season of his professional career rushing for just 789 yards on a disastrous 3.2 yards per carry.
Sure, Bell was put in a near-impossible scenario — he wasn’t going to succeed no matter how well he played. Still, it’s not as if Bell should escape all blame for his disappointing season.
NFL’s next-gen stats helped detail Bell’s ineffectiveness with the groundbreaking “expected rushing yards” statistic which is used to determine a running back’s efficiency without relation to their offensive line.
The stat represents an interesting dive into his 2019 effectiveness.
“For example, no one in the NFL had a steeper climb in front of him than Le’Veon Bell in 2019. The Jets as a team posted the lowest xYPC in the entire NFL at 3.81. And that mark of 3.81 was for all ball-carriers in New York; the xYPC when Bell was given the ball was even lower (3.7). As we know, if you can’t run the ball effectively, chances are, you won’t win many games. Not that Bell entirely escapes blame — using xYPC to read between the lines (pun intended), we see that Bell produced an underwhelming RYOE per attempt of -0.41, meaning he was rushing below the expectation set by the team’s per-play performance. No one was crowning Bell last season.”
Translation: the Jets’ offensive line was the worst run-blocking unit in the league last season, but Bell was still a below-average ball-carrier.
Given that the Jets have an out in his contract after this season, unless Bell really impresses in 2020, it’s likely that this is his last year with the team.
Bell must prove that the 2019 version of himself was a fluke and that he can return to his former All-Pro form in 2020.
He’ll certainly need some help, but he’s more than confident in himself to get it done.