The way the NY Jets ended their season will leave an undeniable cloud of negativity over the team heading into the offseason. As fans gain some distance from the season, however, it will be easier to take a look a the many positives that came from the 2022 season.
The number one positive was the rookie class for New York. In a season in which the Jets looked to build an identity and determine who the core pieces of the team would be, both answers came from the budding stars that made up the 2022 NFL Draft class.
Sauce Gardner quickly became a name that many around the league recognized, while Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall both flashed as one of the best young weapons at their respective positions.
The goal of the organization will now be to build around this core group of players as they ascend even further than their outsized performances in year one.
Sauce Gardner, CB, NY Jets ($SAUCE)
- Stats: 17 games, 70 tackles, 20 passes defended, 2 interceptions
When a team takes a player at a position like cornerback in the top five of a draft, the expectation is that they should eventually become one of the best at their positions and a tone-setter on defense.
Both of those things happened from day one with Sauce Gardner.
Gardner is a perfect mix of cocky and authentic, which is just what is needed at the cornerback position. His play alongside D.J. Reed helped to turn the Jets from one of the worst secondaries in the league to one of the best.
Not only did Gardner lead the NFL with 20 passes defended during the season, but he always seemed to come up big during the most important plays of the game.
Gardner went up against talented receivers such as Tyreek Hill (twice), Stefon Diggs (twice), Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, and others while not allowing any of them to have much success against him.
Outside of one game where Diggs had 93 yards, no other receiver on that list got to 50 receiving yards against the formidable cornerback group on the Jets.
Gardner is already near or at the top of the list of all cornerbacks in the league. He is likely to take home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and will look to build upon his impressive rookie season by retaining the unequivocal No. 1 cornerback role in the NFL next year.
Garrett Wilson, WR, NY Jets ($GDUB)
- Stats: 17 games, 83 catches for 1,103 yards, 4 receiving touchdowns
Garrett Wilson set multiple franchise records for Jets wide receivers — that is a great starting point to describe just how great of a season the 10th overall pick had.
He passed Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet for most receiving yards and receptions, respectively. When factoring in that there was terrible quarterback play throughout the year, it makes those numbers even more eye-popping.
Wilson will be in an intense battle for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, with Kenneth Walker and Brock Purdy as his main competition. If the Jets were to sweep the Rookie of the Year awards, it would be a historic feat that has only happened twice in league history.
The idea before the season is that, from a pass catcher standpoint, things would likely run through Elijah Moore and Corey Davis while feeding the tight ends with the goal of having Garrett Wilson come along slowly.
None of this happened as the talent of Wilson was too apparent, and very quickly, he became the number one option on the team.
In addition to being the focal point of the offense (especially once Breece Hall went down), Wilson also played a crucial role in providing proper emotion after games in key moments.
At the wide receiver position, players can run into dangerous territory of being labeled a diva. Wilson, however, did a great job of being genuine after losses that were not acceptable by holding himself, and the entire offense, accountable.
It was a breath of fresh air for a fan base that is used to having players get used to losing ways and accept it in a Jets uniform. Wilson showed that he is a leader on and off the field with the support of his teammates while also showing a sense of urgency.
Jermaine Johnson, DE, NY Jets ($JJ)
- Stats: 14 games, 25 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 safety
Jermaine Johnson was effective in a somewhat limited role during his rookie season, and if it was not for all of the attention paid towards a number of rookies that blossomed quickly, there would have been more attention paid towards the third first-round pick of the 2022 class.
It's important to note that Johnson went into a position group that had the most depth on the team as well as a strategy where players are cycled in and out of the rotation often in the defensive line.
With the relatively limited opportunities that he had, Johnson provided a spark for the team in terms of rush defense. It was one of the reasons the Jets liked him so much coming out of the draft as he had the ability to be versatile coming off the edge.
Johnson also made big plays in key wins, none bigger than his sack against Josh Allen in the Jets' Week 9 win against the Buffalo Bills.
Of all of the players in this rookie class, the Jets might be expecting the biggest leap from Johnson in his second year.
The team might part ways with Carl Lawson due to salary cap implications which would set the stage for the defensive end out of Florida State to take on a key role as a pass rusher next season.
Breece Hall, RB, NY Jets ($BREECE)
- Stats: 7 games, 80 rushes for 463 yards, 4 rushing touchdowns, 19 catches for 218 yards, 1 receiving touchdown
When the discussion on Most Valuable Player happens throughout sports, the question is posed: What would the team look like if you removed a player?
Jets fans and the organization got a glimpse at what the offense could be with Breece Hall as the RB1 and then, unfortunately, saw what happened when he was not on the field.
For all of the slander about the Jets taking a running back so early in the draft, Hall was playing at as high of a level as any other running back in the leagues once he got the majority of snaps out of the backfield.
While it could be argued that the team shouldn't have been so dependent on one or two players on offense, Hall's injury undoubtedly changed the course of the Jets' season.
During the Jets' four-game win streak, Hall averaged 117 yards per game with four rushing touchdowns. He was on his way to becoming the favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year while being the focal point of the Jets' offense.
Without him, the Jets' offense never regained the same explosiveness. So much so that Hall remained the leading rusher on the team by the season's end despite playing only seven games.
Hall's rookie season will always be remembered as what could have been. Meanwhile, the Jets will look to have him healthy for the 2023 season although expectations should be tempered for his season following his ACL injury.
Hall should play a key role out of the backfield but the same level of home-run-hitting ability might not be seen until 2024.
Jeremy Ruckert, TE, NY Jets ($LIJR)
- Stats: 9 games, 1 catch for 8 yards
The developmental tight end drafted in the third round made the least impact of any rookies in a historic class. Not every draft pick can be expected to play right away and this selection was intended to be about beyond 2022.
With the inconsistent play of the two tight ends for the Jets, if Ruckert has a good offseason, he could carve out a sizable role for himself.
In Week 18, Ruckert got the most playing time of his rookie season and made an impact in the blocking game. A lifelong Jets fan himself, Ruckert will look to climb the depth chart at the tight end position by the start of the 2023 season.
Max Mitchell, OT, NY Jets ($MM)
- Stats: 5 games started
Max Mitchell was never expected to play a substantial role when he was selected in the fourth round. Those plans changed when the Jets dealt with one blow after another to the depth of the offensive line.
Mitchell ended up starting the first four games of the season, filling in admirably before being put on the IR himself. In a limited sample size, Mitchell showed that at the very least he could be a serviceable backup tackle with the potential to grow into a long-term starting option.
Later in the season, he was unfortunately diagnosed with a scary medical issue that ended his year. If Mitchell can get back to full health, he could be in the mix for the right tackle position as the Jets desperately need to solidify their offensive line.
Micheal Clemons, DE, NY Jets ($DEEBO)
- Stats: 17 games played, 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 blocked kick
The Jets got a ton of production out of a fourth-round pass rusher who fit exactly the role they needed in 2022. Micheal Clemons was dependable throughout the year in the middle of the defensive line. He was effective both as a run stuffer and a pass rusher and made a few key plays during Jets wins.
None were bigger than the effort he showed against the Green Bay Packers, forcing a blocked punt to help seal a victory that put the team in the national conversation.
Feeling confident that a fourth-round pick will be a consistent role player is more than you could ask for as Jets fans.