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NY Jets Roundtable: Who will be the team’s breakout player in 2020?

NY Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
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NY Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

The NY Jets have a number of players who can put together breakout seasons in 2020.

The NY Jets were witness to a number of surprising standouts last season. While certain players who they hoped might break out ultimately didn’t, they still saw a few guys who no one expected accomplish that task.

Players like Folorunso Fatukasi and Blessuan Austin emerged from out of nowhere to put together true breakout campaigns. And going into 2020, the Jets are hoping for more of the same.

With the regular season set to start in less than three weeks, the Jets are gearing up for a critical season. After finishing 7-9 last season — albeit in miraculous fashion — many are hoping to see the team take the next step towards postseason contention in 2020.

On paper, however, that will be no easy accomplishment.

The Jets have one of the most difficult schedules going into the year and the roster is hardly one of the more talented in the league. There are still plenty of holes on this team — many of those holes blatant.

At the same time, all the Jets need are a few things to go their way and they might just be able to push for a playoff spot. In a league with as much parity as the NFL, it’s certainly far from impossible.

But to do so, they’ll need a few of the players on their roster to break out in 2020 and perhaps even exceed expectations.

Who might those players be? We asked our staff members here at The Jet Press who they think will be the Jets’ breakout player in 2020.

Let’s take a look at what each of us had to say.

Next: 1. Justin Fried

NY Jets (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

1. Justin Fried: Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets

The Jets will return a few key players this season who missed the majority (or all) of 2019 with injuries. But perhaps no return has been as heavily discussed as that of tight end Chris Herndon.

Herndon missed essentially all of last season dealing with a four-game suspension and multiple injuries. In total, he played less than one quarter of football hauling in one catch for seven yards.

Hardly the sophomore season that Jets fans were hoping for after an impressive rookie campaign. But going into 2020, the Jets are expecting that breakout season that many thought they’d see last year.

Herndon has wasted little time reacquainting himself with the offense — particularly quarterback Sam Darnold. And it’s through his chemistry with Darnold that the talented tight end might be able to find success this season.

The former Miami standout has quickly emerged as Darnold’s favorite target in training camp — a role he began to shift into towards the end of his rookie season.

And given the barren state of the Jets’ receiving corps, he should be given ample opportunities to make an impact in the passing game. That’s not even considering his impact on the running game, an overlooked aspect of his absence last year.

If all goes according to plan, Herndon has the potential to solidify himself as a borderline top-10 tight end by the end of the season.

Of course, to do so however, he’ll need to stay on the field.

Next: 2. Sean Basile

NY Jets (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

2. Sean Basile: Sam Darnold, QB, NY Jets

It’s easily going to be Sam Darnold.

When you can endure one of the worst offensive lines in football protecting you, a headcase for a head coach, losing two of your top receiving weapons, having the second-worst run game in the league, and to top it off mononucleosis, and still finish 7-6 as a starter, you’re doing something right.

Darnold is one of a handful of quarterbacks in football who can carry a bad team into relevance. We saw it with Carson Wentz last year throwing to practice squad players down the stretch.

Deshaun Watson does it with a terrible offensive line every year. Drew Brees for all those years put up monster numbers on a New Orleans Saints team that would have a top-two pick every year without him.

Here’s the thing about Sam Darnold, he takes a lot of chances and on most Sunday’s he’s going to give the ball to the other team once or twice. But what he can do to counteract that by keeping his team in games and making clutch throws makes him a rare talent in the NFL.

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The Jets in 2020 are going to be better in those facets of the game that were lacking last year. They can’t be much worse.

You would have to think Le’Veon Bell and Frank Gore get the run game up and running and the offensive line is going to be a drastic improvement with the additions they made in the offseason.

Chris Herndon is also coming back and the receiving corps added Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. The supporting cast is going to give Darnold a better performance in 2020, so that alone should ensure that he has a better season than 2019.

Even on his own, Sam Darnold is going to keep this team relevant. Once he gets just an ounce of support, he’s going to break out even further on to the scene than he already has and people are going to start paying attention to him.

By the end of 2020, Sam Darnold is going to be considered a top-five quarterback in the AFC and he may even sneak into the top-10 league-wide.

Next: 3. Tyler Capossela

NY Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

3. Tyler Capossela: Quinnen Williams, DL, NY Jets

There are a few candidates to consider when evaluating a player poised to break out currently on this team. A rookie is unlikely, as it’s important to gather pro-tape before appraising someone as a potential star.

Dialing it down, no surprise here, it’s Quinnen Williams.

The second-year defensive lineman out of Alabama is ready to show why he was picked No. 3 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. While Williams’ rookie year may have been a bit underwhelming to some, for Quinnen, it was only the beginning.

With under three weeks until the NFL season is set to kick-off, Williams is determined to eclipse last season and prove to be a dominant force in the trenches for the Green and White.

“I feel like I’m tapped into that zone, tapped into that level that I’m going to be unstoppable,” Williams said actively manifesting during a Zoom call this previous week, seeming as motivated as ever to prove his doubters wrong.

Williams transformed his body this offseason by working like a mad-man, by working harder than anyone else.

He looks like a new Quinnen, he looks unstoppable.

Next: 4. Michael Henken

NY Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

4. Michael Henken: Chris Herndon, TE, NY Jets

As the 2020 season nears closer, I personally feel as if there are likely a few players on the Jets who are preparing to have breakout seasons.

One of the names to watch includes rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton, who will play a pivotal role in the team finding success on the offensive side of the ball.

Then there’s also second-year defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who’s looking to bounce back after a down rookie season, and safety Marcus Maye, who’s taking on a bigger role following the departure of Jamal Adams.

In terms of which player will be the team’s breakout player overall, however, I feel as if the most likely choice is 24-year-old tight end Chris Herndon, who after being drafted by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, turned out to be a diamond in the rough for the green and white.

During his rookie season in 2018, Herndon slowly but surely developed noticeable chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold and became an offensive weapon for the team in the process. On the season, he appeared in 16 games totaling 39 receptions, 502 yards, and four touchdowns.

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Due to the success he had as a rookie, 2019 was expected to be a big year for Herndon, but that didn’t end up being the case, as he served out a four-game suspension before appearing in only one game due to injury.

Now, however, it appears as though the tight end is primed for a bounce-back year in 2020, as reports seem to indicate that he’s healthy and performing incredibly well during training camp thus far.

The Jets will also need a high level of production out of Herndon given the state of the wide receiving corps.

Should he remain healthy and pick up where he left off with Darnold, Herndon will be a focal point of the Jets offense and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t make the most out of the opportunities presented to him.

Next: 5. Bryan Levin

NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

5. Bryan Levin: Blake Cashman, LB, NY Jets

“Breaking out” is a relatively vague term that varies based on the situation/player. Breakouts are typically thought of when a good player takes a major leap in their development and becomes a great player.

But, as we saw with the Jets in 2019 and Foley Fatusaki, it can also be when a little known, back-of-the-roster player ascends to become a stable, valued member of a defensive rotation.

That is what I believe Blake Cashman, a 2019 fifth-round selection out of the University of Minnesota, can become for the Jets defense this season.

Cashman entered his rookie season buried on the depth chart, but early-season injuries thrust him into a starting role by Week 2. The former Golden Gophers linebacker went on to play in seven total contests in 2019, starting five, and found himself around the ball often.

In that span, Cashman compiled 40 combined tackles, 80 percent of which came between Weeks 3 through 7 before suffering multiple shoulder injuries that ended his season.

While his final Pro Football Focus grade of just 49.1 is not exactly encouraging, it was a small sample size and Cashman was only on the field when the Jets were in the midst of their worst stretch of the campaign.

Even with a crowded depth chart once again, Cashman has a chance in year two to become a regular contributor if healthy.

Next: 6. Mike Mitchell

NY Jets (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

6. Mike Mitchell: Quinnen Williams, DL, NY Jets

It’s been a long time since the Jets have had a dominant presence upfront on their defensive line. The time has come for Quinnen Williams to become that player.

The 22-year old out of Alabama showed flashes of brilliance last year, but ultimately, he didn’t live up to his lofty status as a top-three selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.

In many ways, the rookie version of Quinnen Williams had the attitude that he was just happy to be in the NFL. You get the sense now listening to and watching Williams that he has a renewed purpose for the upcoming season.

He’s a man on a mission.

Williams has dynamic physical tools for a player of his size. 4.80 speed with great agility for a 300 pounder. In year two, he is surrounded by an unheralded group of defensive lineman and strong coaching from position coach Andre Carter and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Must Read. NY Jets: 6 takeaways from Wednesday’s ‘ugly’ scrimmage

The coaching staff and great veteran leaders like Steve McLendon should be able to get the most out of Quinnen Williams’ potential.

Jets fans have seen this movie before. So it’s understandable for them to have low expectations.

Dewayne Robertson never became the “bowling ball with butcher knives.” Muhammad Wilkerson faded fast after being a star. Sheldon Richardson peaked too soon and wore out his welcome. Leonard Williams underperformed.

Call it a hunch or blind optimism, but I think the Jets breakout player this year will be Quinnen Williams.

Next: 7. Alex Wendling

NY Jets (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

7. Alex Wendling: Breshad Perriman, WR, NY Jets

Wide receiver is a thin position for the Jets right now and so far in training camp, Denzel Mims has been battling a hamstring injury, Vyncint Smith underwent core-muscle surgery and undrafted rookie Lawrence Cager is set to have an MRI on his knee.

Breshad Perriman also got hurt but is expected to return to practice this upcoming Saturday. The injuries at the wide receiver position keep piling up, but Perriman is expected to strap on the pads and start Week 1 in Buffalo.

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I see Breshad Perriman breaking out for the Jets in 2020, as long as he can stay healthy during the regular season. The former first-round pick out of UCF is going into his fifth year with the hopes of finally becoming a full-time starter after only starting four games last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In the final three games of last season, the 26-year-old veteran hauled in 17 receptions for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He ended last season with 645 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

However, Perriman still has to prove that the last three weeks of 2019 weren’t a fluke.

What we have heard out of Jets camp so far is that Perriman is already building chemistry with Sam Darnold, but the biggest issue surrounding the former first-round pick is his health and if he can stay on the field.

Next. NY Jets Roundtable: Did the team do enough to get Sam Darnold help this offseason?

If Perriman can healthy in 2020, he can be an important deep threat in the Jets offense this season.

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