It’s time to see how the NY Jets stack up against the rest of the field going into 2020.
It’s no secret the NY Jets aren’t exactly the smoothest-run organization in professional football. Heck, they may barely be inside the top-30 in that category.
But they have one major quality about them that not that many other teams can say they have, and that’s a quarterback who is capable of carrying a team across the finish line regardless of how broken down it is.
The best quality a quarterback can have is the ability to make others around him better, elevate the play of his teammates, and facilitate the success of the organization that may not have come to be had he not been there.
There’s only a handful of teams in the NFL that can say their quarterback possesses that quality.
The Houston Texans have it with Deshaun Watson, the Philadelphia Eagles have it with Carson Wentz (proven last year), the New Orleans Saints have it with Drew Brees, the Green Bay Packers have it with Aaron Rodgers, the Seattle Seahawks have it with Russell Wilson, and I think it’s fair to say now the Tampa Bay Bucs have it with Tom Brady.
Whether it be a lack of weapons, bad organizations, poor offensive lines, unreliable defenses, headcase head coaches, or other extenuating circumstances, these teams have quarterbacks that have proven they can overcome all of that and still be successful at the end of the day.
The Jets have one of those guys in Sam Darnold and last year was his coming-out party.
Darnold not only had to deal with one of the worst offensive lines in football protecting him (sort of) that also let up 52 sacks on the season (fouth-worst in football). Not only did his running game rank 31st in rushing yards per game.
Not only did he lose Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon for the majority of the season and had Jamison Crowder as his number one receiver. Not only does he have a head coach with a rocky reputation for not being able to get along with players and having a massive ego.
But on top of all that, Young Sammy missed nearly a month due to mononucleosis and still came back to finish the year above .500 with a 7-6 record.
The Jets, for all of their highly-visible flaws, finished the 2019 season 7-9 — the same record as the Colts, Broncos, Raiders, Falcons, and Bucs and one game worse than the Bears, Steelers, and Cowboys.
Surely by glancing at the Jets, you wouldn’t think they belonged in that group of middle-of-the-road teams in the playoff hunt, but Young Sammy got them there.
I think 2020 will be more of the same.
Look, I know Darnold is still very raw and unpolished as a talent.
He’s good for about one to two terrible throws a game, his arm strength isn’t on the level of a Josh Allen, Carson Wentz, or Patrick Mahomes, he isn’t exactly gifted in terms of his athleticism and mobility, and he was the 25th most-accurate quarterback of 2019.
But what he was able to do last year with virtually nothing around him shows you how high his ceiling is and that he can carry this team.
This has become more of a referendum on Sam Darnold rather than a Jets team post, but with Darnold at the helm, this team is going to win a bunch of games on his will alone.
They went out and improved the offensive line adding a host of new starters including the big left tackle out of Louisville, Mekhi Becton, who, in case you haven’t heard, is a rather large human being at 6-foot-9, 360 some-odd pounds.
Greg Van Roten and Connor McGovern are also going virtually undetected, but Van Roten was sneaky good last year for Carolina letting up just one sack and McGovern is a budding star who is going to find himself on a Pro Bowl squad very soon.
Their running game and offensive line can’t be any worse than they were last year, so all of the additions to the offensive line are going to help tremendously and I’d be hard-pressed to not think the running back duo of Le’Veon Bell and Frank Gore isn’t going to improve on what we saw out of the Jets run game in 2019.
As far as weapons are concerned, I actually don’t think the Jets’ weapons are all that terrible. I know a lot of folks are down on the group the Jets have and I understand they still don’t have a number one receiver.
But Jamison Crowder is a reliable slot guy who led this team in receiving yards a year ago, Breshad Perriman has been a gamer these past two years averaging a PFF grade of 71.9, Chris Herndon was very good two years ago and is now healthy, and Denzel Mims has number one potential.
Even Ryan Griffin had his moments last year. Plus, they’re also going to have Bell coming out of the backfield and veteran Chris Hogan in the mix as well so I think the Jets are in a much worse position with their weapons than, let’s say, the Patriots and the Dolphins.
Defensively is where things get interesting.
To many people’s surprise, the Jets were actually second in the league in rushing yards per game allowed and, believe it or not, were also middle of the pack ranked 17th in passing yards allowed per game. On top of that, add 13th in completion percentage allowed and 12th in passer rating allowed.
We know they got solid linebacker play out of the trio of Neville Hewitt, James Burgess (now no longer with the team), and Blake Cashman in the wake of several major injuries, most notably to C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson.
Luckily for the Jets, they retained most of those guys and even added Patrick Onwuasor from Baltimore this offseason.
Mosley will be sitting out this season due to COVID-19 concerns, but it looks as though they will be getting Avery Williamson back and he had 120 tackles two seasons ago.
The Jets have solid linebacker play, great run defense, shockingly decent pass coverage, and even though they lost Jamal Adams this offseason, they still have Marcus Maye in there plus a very interesting safety in Ashtyn Davis out of Cal.
So the Jets lose a headache in Adams and still have two very good safeties. Brian Poole was also one of the best slot corners in football last year. This is a decent little team we have here in East Rutherford and Gregg Williams at the defensive coordinator position deserves a lot of credit.
Do not overlook the Jets this season, folks. I know, I know, I’m being very optimistic about them and I’m fully hitching myself to the Sam Darnold bandwagon.
Yes, the pass rush is a big issue. No, they don’t have a shutdown corner. Yes, the front office and head coach are pains in the neck. But I can’t help but like this team.
I think they’re going to be right there in the playoff hunt and Darnold is going to continue to develop and have another impressive showing.
Here’s my run-through of their schedule.
Week 1: NY Jets at Bills
I’m still going back-and-forth with this game because the Jets actually ended last season with a win up in Buffalo. Also, Sam Darnold is 2-1 versus the Bills whereas Josh Allen is 1-2 versus the Jets. Darnold has gotten the better of Allen and the Bills in his short career.
But the Jets have not beaten the Bills in consecutive games since 2017. And I feel as though the Bills are the better team. I think this game is extremely close, but Buffalo edges it out with their defense making a big play, late.
- Record: 0-1
Week 2: NY Jets vs. 49ers
This is a super tough defense for Darnold to go against so early in the season. Fun stat — the Jets have faced the 49ers 13 times historically and they’ve only won at home once in seven tries.
I think San Francisco is the better team here too.
- Record: 0-2
Week 3: NY Jets at Colts
This is where every person who’s done with the Jets is going to get un-done. I love this matchup for Sam Darnold because his back is against the wall and he’s not supposed to win this game.
The Jets are actually 4-1 in their last five games against the Colts and 4-2 in their last six games on the road in Indianapolis.
- Record: 1-2
Week 4: NY Jets vs. Broncos
The Broncos are a team that likes to beat up on the Jets. They’re 5-2 in their last seven games against Gang Green. I think this is a game that the Jets can win because it’ll be third-year quarterback Sam Darnold against second-year quarterback (really a rookie) Drew Lock.
The tough part for me is going to be Sam and his tendency to turn the ball over against a very good Denver defense. I don’t have the Jets winning this game as of now, but this is a game to keep an eye on.
- Record: 1-3
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Week 5: NY Jets vs. Cardinals
People are going to love the high-flying young Cardinals coming into this game, but the Jets are actually 6-3 all-time against the Cardinals and 4-1 at home.
- Record: 2-3
Week 6: NY Jets at Chargers
This is a game to watch Sam Darnold because he’s a California guy going back home against (what I assume will be) a weaker Chargers team in a reboot.
But they’ve lost three-in-a-row to the Chargers as well as five of the last seven meetings and by now, I would suspect Justin Herbert could come in and have a lot of success against this Jets secondary.
Another game to watch, but I gave it to the Chargers.
- Record: 2-4
Week 7: NY Jets vs. Bills
You know Sam Darnold and Josh Allen have to split again. These two are going to be going back-and-forth for years to come and at this point, the series is deadlocked at 2-2 (with the Bills winning opening day).
I’m giving this game to Sam Darnold and the Jets because they’re 6-4 in their last 10 home games against the Bills and because they already lost to them once this season.
- Record: 3-4
Week 8: NY Jets at Chiefs
You’re going to roll your eyes here, but I actually think this is a spot where the Chiefs are going to take the Jets lightly and the Jets are going to pull off the upset.
The Jets are 6-4 against the Chiefs in their last 10 meetings and 4-2 in their last six. I owe the Jets for the Broncos and Chargers losses I gave them.
- Record: 4-4
Week 9: NY Jets vs. Patriots
Bill Belichick made Sam Darnold see ghosts last time out on Monday Night Football. Here we are again on a Monday night. Not good news for Darnold, unfortunately.
- Record: 4-5
Week 10 and 12: NY Jets at Dolphins and NY Jets vs. Dolphins
I’m going to go with the home-home split between these two teams because they usually go back-and-forth. Miami has won its last four home games against the Jets while the Jets have won three of their last five home games against the Dolphins.
I’ll be surprised if these two don’t split even though Sam hasn’t been so great against the Fins in four career meetings.
- Record: Jets 5-6
Week 11: BYE
Week 13: NY Jets vs. Raiders
The Jets really did a number on the Raiders last year and basically took them out of the playoff hunt after they were so hot before coming into that game. I think the Raiders face similar issues this year and Sam Darnold is going to do a repeat job.
Same scene of the crime as last year. Same results.
- Record: 6-6
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Week 14: NY Jets at Seahawks
So the Jets have actually lost three-straight to the Seahawks. But if we look back nine games further, we’ll see that the Jets are 8-4 in their last 12 matchups with the Seahawks, with a 3-3 record in Seattle.
Another close one here that I don’t think people are really paying attention to. Sam Darnold in the Pacific Northwest again against a team the Jets have good numbers against dating back to 1985.
I’m not bold enough to give it to the Jets, but this is yet another game to keep an eye on for this team.
- Record: 6-7
Week 15: NY Jets at Rams
Bad matchup for the Jets. I know Darnold is going back to the West Coast again, but the Jets are 4-10 all-time against the Rams and they’ve only had one road win at the Rams in the last 49 years.
- Record: 6-8
Week 16: NY Jets vs. Browns
I want the Jets to win this game. Baker Mayfield has gotten the better of the Jets twice already in their two meetings. I would hope I’m wrong here in saying Baker gets it done a third time.
But too many weapons for the Jets to deal with from the Brownies.
- Record: 6-9
Week 17: NY Jets at Patriots
The Pats are packing it in. They’re going to finish somewhere around .500 and Darnold is going to finish 2020 as strong as can be, lifting his team to another 7-9 record.
Not too bad for a team with so many problems.
- Record: 7-9
I have the Jets finishing 7-9 again and coming in third in the AFC East. Lots of people are underestimating this team. I just took you through the schedule.
There are a few matchups in there that the Jets can easily win and those could wind up swaying the Jets deep into the playoff hunt.
So, I say there’s a lot to be hopeful for in 2020 if you’re a Jets fan. This team is not as bad as they want you to believe.