The AFC East is an interesting division with a lot of competition. All teams have improved in some way, shape, or form through free agency, trades, and/or the draft. The Jets have done a complete 180 on their franchise, revitalizing both the roster and the coaching staff for the 2021 season.
Anyhow, it’s time to run down what the Jets have to work with and what can we expect from them once the Dolphins play them in Week 11 and Week 15.
To say the coaching staff was just improved is an understatement. The first good thing the Jets did this offseason was firing Adam Gase; I’m sure all Dolphins fans can feel some sort of pity for Jets fans for having to deal with the man that had his career carried by Peyton Manning. Even players thought of him as a “glorified offensive coordinator”.
The Jets went in on revamping their coaching staff with the terrific hiring of Robert Saleh, who was widely regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators with the 49ers. He earned this job outright. The Jets also hired Mike LaFleur as their offensive coordinator, who was the passing game coordinator for the 49ers, and Jeff Ulbrich, former Atlanta Falcons assistant head coach, as their defensive coordinator.
The offense added a fair share of firepower this past offseason. Their major move was the signing of WR Corey Davis on a three-year, $37.5 million deal. They signed another wide receiver in Kennan Cole, further boosting the receiving core, and signed Dan Feeney for a plausible starting role within the offensive line. They also signed Tevin Coleman on a one-year, $1.1 million deal, who will plausibly be the starting running back for the Jets.
In the draft, the Jets snagged their most exciting player with the second overall pick, drafting Zach Wilson from BYU. The Jets coaching staff, especially Saleh, are raving about how Wilson is ‘wired’. Wilson does have a lot of potential to be great in this league, but it’ll take some time; don’t expect greatness from the jump.
The Jets also drafted Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 18th pick to strengthen their interior offensive line. The Jets also drafted WR Elijah Moore and RB Michael Carter.
The Jets still have Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims as their starting receivers, and they still have a solid blindside blocker in Mekhi Becton.
The Jets also signed their fair share of talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. The Jets signed talents such as DE Carl Lawson and NT Sheldon Rankins to help with the run stuff and pass rush that was desperately needed last season. The Jets also signed DE/LB Vinny Curry, LB Jarrad Davis, CB Justin Hardee, and S Lamarcus Joyner.
The Jets also went defense-heavy in the later rounds of the draft, drafting a defensive player six straight times once the fifth round began. Their biggest picks on the defensive side included S Michael Carter II from Duke and CB Jason Pinnock from Florida St.
The Jets were also able to retain S Marcus Maye, signing him to the franchise tag. The Jets will also be getting back MLB CJ Mosley and will have Quinten Williams returning to the defensive line.
With an entirely fresh passing system, it seems like it’ll be one of the strengths of the 2021 season. Wilson will have a shot to show out with wide receivers like Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, and Jamison Crowder who could’ve shined if Adam Gase knew how to coach a football team. Another wide receiver making waves is Braxton Berrios, who is becoming one of Zach Wilson’s favorite targets this spring.
The tight end room is solid as well. Herndon has a great last three games of the 2020 season, tallying 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams, the Browns, and the Patriots. They also added Kyle Kroft from the Bills in free agency as their TE2. Coleman is a solid receiving back as well, totaling 117 receptions, 1,224 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns in his career. This passing attack looks solid in my eyes.
The Jets do have a good safety core. They were able to retain Marcus Maye, who has been solid in his four years in the league, along with starting all 16 games in three of his four seasons. As stated before, the Jets were also able to sign Lamarcus Joyner, who will be a solid starter heading into Week 1. The Jets also have solid depth at safety with Ashtyn Davis and Sharrod Neasman.
When you look at the Jets depth chart, no one truly stands out on there for the Jets at cornerback. Bless Austin is their #1, and he isn’t the best, allowing 48 catches, a 65.8 completion percentage, 478 yards, and three touchdowns with a 97.9 passer rating. Other names include Bryce Hall and Jason Pinnock, who could emerge as solid CBs, but at this moment, they are practically nobodies. In terms of talent, they don’t compare to a vast majority of the rest of the NFL’s CB cores.
Pass defense is a major knock to this Jets team. Last season, they had one of the worst, allowing 275.6 passing yards per game (29th), a 69.09 completion percentage (30th), and 2.1 passing touchdowns per game (28th). Their depth at cornerback isn’t doing them any favors either, as described above. While the Jets did sign Lamarcus Joyner and retain Marcus Maye, it will be tough to flip this pass defense around.
The rushing attack for the Jets, while not bad, doesn’t have a lot of solid depth to it. While Tevin Coleman was signed, he didn’t have a great year, having averaged 1.9 yards per rushing attempt, and he came of a Right Knee Patella Sprain that put him on IR and caused him to miss five games, added with him being inactive for Weeks 9-12. Ty Johnson has a decent year with the amount of playing time he had, averaging 4.7 yards per run, but no one else truly stands out amongst this running back group.
What We Can Expect
We can expect a pass-heavy Jets team that’ll also have a great defensive system, understanding that Saleh will have his piece of the pie in how the defense will play and the types of plays they run. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the defensive play-caller.
The Dolphins will have a tougher time beating them than did they did last season, where the Jets only scored a field goal in two games in 2020. However, the Dolphins will find a way to capitalize, especially in the passing game where the Jets have been weak in. It’ll be a gun-slinging showdown in Weeks 11 and 15.