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2021 Team Report: New York Jets

Last updated: Mon, Jun 14

Offensive Philosophy

Former head coach Adam Gase's impact on the offenses he coordinated was so bad as to become a meme, with seemingly every player to leave his team going on to have a breakout season somewhere else. So Jets fans have to be excited about new head coach Robert Saleh and his "All Gas, No Brake" motto. Saleh hired offensive Mike LaFleur from the San Francisco 49ers and hopes to mimic Kyle Shanahan's modified West Coast Offense. The system is built around using misdirection to create mismatches, including (especially!) in the run game. Shanahan's offense relies heavily on acquiring players who excel in the open field and finding ways to get them the ball in space, and often doesn't feature a true #1 running back or receiver, using a rotating cast of players to attack different weaknesses.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Zach Wilson (R)
Backup(s): James Morgan, Mike White

Starting QB: There was some chatter that Justin Fields could be the guy with the No. 2 overall pick, but ultimately Zach Wilson is arguably the best fit for Mike LaFluer's scheme. Wilson is really mobile, does well with the play-action and is really efficient. He protected the ball well last season, turning it over just three times last season, and he completed just over 73 percent of his passes. They weren't all dinks and dunks either - his passes traveled an average of 6.8 yards per attempt and his long throws (30 yards or more) were completed 74.1 percent of the time according to ESPN's Field Yates. Some of that was the level of the competition - schools like Navy, Louisiana Tech, and San Diego State don't impress anyone - but he decimated Boise State (at the time No. 21 in the country) to the tune of 22 of 28 for 360 yards and three touchdowns. He struggled at times two weeks later in a loss to No. 18 Coastal Carolina, however led his team on several big drives including one which stalled due to a fumble, though another died because of an interception. The Jets hope they have added the playmakers they wanted to in order to help their new quarterback, and if they did Wilson has the tools to take advantage.

Backup QB: Neither of these two quarterbacks were ever going to be starters, and there's a strong chance one isn't on the opening day roster. Chosen with the No. 125 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Morgan came from Florida International with no real velocity other than "high" and a penchant for risk taking. White was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys but was cut then eventually snapped up by the Jets and placed on the practice squad. He was elevated several times to active but never saw the field.

Running Backs

Starter: Tevin Coleman
Backup(s): Michael Carter [R], Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, Pete Guerriero, La'Mical Perine
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: The Jets don't have much in the way of talent in the backfield, so expect them to add someone in the upcoming NFL Draft. Right now, Tevin Coleman is likely "the man" after signing a $2million contract in March, especially given his familiarity with head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Coleman is a dynamic player with speed but he cannot stay off the trainers table, so he is by no means a sure thing even if he wins a bell cow job here.

Backup RBs: Michael Carter out of North Carolina was the Jets' fourth round pick in the 2021 draft, a runner with good instincts, sharp vision, and elusiveness, though his biggest strength seems to be as a receiver. His size will make it hard for him to be a starter, however his prowess catching the ball could snag him a third down role. The Jets claimed Ty Johnson off of the waiver wire in early October and he had some success in the few moments he saw any real field time. Johnson has good straight-line speed and can catch the ball, which makes him more likely to be in the mix as a third-down back than an every down player. Josh Adams had a nice season with the Eagles amassing 511 yards on 120 carries, but he has carried the ball less than 50 times since. At Notre Dame, Adams was a tough back who was difficult to bring down, and he has shown some versatility in the pros, but the Jets didn't bother to tender him as a Restricted Free Agent, so it's unlikely they envision him as having much of a role this year. Monmouth New Jerseys own Pete Guerriero was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jets, cut, signed by Carolina, cut and then added to the Jets practice squad. A former track athlete, Guerriero has good speed, great acceleration and can break away from a pack, and can line up in the slot or outside. He is a bit undersized for pass protection, which is an issue since an attractive attribute is his pass catching, and he probably projects as more of a special teams player than anything else. Lamical Perine is coming off of a COVID list from back in December, and some of his value will depend on what shape he's in during camp. Perine is a good pass-catcher and a willing (and able) pass-blocker so if he can stay healthy, he may take that third-down spot.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims
Backups: Elijah Moore [R], Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Jeff Smith, Lawrence Cager, Josh Malone, D.J. Montgomery, Manasseh Bailey, Matt Cole

Starting WRs: The Jets signed Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million contract, and Davis was told Sam Darnold was his quarterback. Surprise! Darnold is gone and there will be a rookie throwing to Davis. He isn't quite a top-shelf No. 1 option, but isn't a great No. 2 fit either. He will play between second-year receiver Denzel Mims, who is likely going to be in the X or widest spot on the line and Jamison Crowder in the slot. Mims' rookie season was waylaid by injury but if he can stay healthy, his versatility with the route tree, his vertical game and his ability to win contested balls should keep him busy. Crowder is best as a slot man, and this year it looks like the Jets will actually be able to let him focus on that now that he has restructured his deal to stay with the team.

Backup WRs: After Crowder, there are a lot of question marks. The Jets selected Ole Miss' Elijah Moore with their second round pick, a guy who can line up anywhere on the field and led the country in receiving yards per game last year. He's got sure hands - just two drops last year while catching 86 balls - and is good with contested balls as well. Keelan Cole is a slot guy, and could push Crowder for time, as might Braxton Berrios, though in terms of that group, Berrios is the most likely to see the Grim Reaper come cutdown day. Vyncint Smith is mostly a special teamer, but a favorite of Adam Gase's staff, and now lacks a voice to advocate for him. Jeff Smith was a "break glass in case of emergency" player last year for New York and it is unlikely his role will grow under Saleh. Lawrence Cager has size and decent hands but was never much more than a "practice squad flier" while Josh Malone is a journeyman version of that role. D.J. Montgomery, Matt Cole and Manasseh Bailey are all glorified camp bodies, though Cole has special teams skills.

Tight Ends

Starters: Chris Herndon
Backups: Ryan Griffin, Tyler Kroft, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco, Kenny Yeboah

Covid-19 or not, last season was supposed to be Chris Herndon's break out year but he was just this side of awful. Maybe new head coach Robert Saleh will see something and be able to get Herndon to reach his potential, but there's a better chance the Jets find a replacement for him. Even if the Jets don't add someone Herndon might see his snaps drift away top Ryan Griffin. While Griffin didn't do well last season, but did step up when Herndon struggled in 2019. He might see another increase in targets since the Jets didn't supplement Herndon with a higher draft pick. Tyler Kroft was a veteran depth pickup, Daniel Brown is a special teams player, Trevon Wesco is a blocker only and Kenny Yeboah is a camp body.

Place Kicker

Sam Ficken, Chris Naggar [R]: Ficken is the incumbent, emerging from a cloudy kicker situation last year to make 13-of-15 field goal attempts, missing only from 50+ yards. He did miss three extra point attempts (out of 15), so he is far from a sure thing. The Jets decided to release Chase McLaughlin after the draft (the Browns claimed him), and instead signed UDFA Chris Naggar out of SMU. Naggar can also punt and hit two game-winning field goals for SMU last year, so he shouldn't be counted out of this competition. Either way, this team is highly unlikely to produce a fantasy relevant kicker.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Corey Ballentine, Braxton Berrios

Corey Ballentine and Braxton Berrios split kickoff return duties last year, but Ballentine made much more of his limited opportunities, taking over the job over the last six games of the year from a much more ineffective Berrios.

Punt Returners: Braxton Berrios

Receiver Braxton Berrios finds himself in a suddenly-crowded receiver depth chart, but special teams play might be a way for him to earn a roster spot despite the competition. If he hopes to, he'll likely need to perform better than last year to hold off all challengers.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Mekhi Becton, LG Alijah Vera-Tucker, C Connor McGovern, RG Greg Van Roten, RT George Fant
Key Backups: OL Cameron Clark, OL Dan Feeney, OL Alex Lewis, OL Chuma Edoga

Left tackle Mekhi Becton is a dominant run blocker, and the team drafted left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker to build on this strength. The rest of the line has below-average starters: center Connor McGovern, right guard Greg Van Roten, and right tackle George Fant. Cam Clark and Dan Feeney provide depth and look for Feeney to push Van Roten at guard. But until the right side matches the left, this line remains in the bottom of the rankings.

Team Defense

The Jets D/ST wasn't the worst performer in fantasy football last year, but they also didn't do much to help fantasy teams. They did gain a defensive head coach in Robert Saleh, and the team spent big in free agent to land Carl Lawson to finally give them a legitimate edge rusher. Sheldon Rankins was also added, and he and Quinnen Williams can become a frustrating interior defensive line duo if they can stay healthy. CJ Mosley will hopefully be a significant contributor for the first time even though it is his third year with the team. There are reasons for hope and the Jets do open with a matchup against their old quarterback Sam Darnold, but chances are their D/ST will remain a nonfactor again this year.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Vinny Curry, DT Quinnen Williams, DT Sheldon Rankins, DE Carl Lawson
Backups: DE Bryce Huff, DE Jabari Zuniga, DE Kyle Phillips, DT Folorunso Fatukasi, DT John Franklin-Meyers, DT Nathan Shepherd

Starting DL: For the first time since 2005, the Jets will use a 4-3 base defensive formation this year under new coach Robert Saleh. They hope to improve the transition with a couple of experienced defensive end additions in Vinny Curry and Carl Lawson. Curry is capable of generating pressure but doesn't help much against the run and hasn't come close to matching his 9 sacks from 2014. Lawson is a strong 2-way defender who could emerge with a clear full-time role on his new team. The focal point of this group will likely be Quinnen Wiliams, the former 3rd overall pick who started to emerge as a force last year with 7 sacks. Sheldon Rankins is also capable of creating pressure as we saw in 2018 when he recorded 8 sacks before struggling with injuries the past two seasons.

Backup DL: Two of the players to watch here are Bryce Huff and Jabari Zuniga. Huff flashed some potential as a rookie last year while Zuniga was a 3rd round pick who didn't show much yet but could be a better fit in this new scheme. John Franklin-Meyers picked up 3.5 sacks last year and should be part of the rotation as well. The remaining options are mostly provide added depth.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Blake Cashman, MLB C.J. Mosley, SLB Jarrad Davis
Backups: LB Jamien Sherwood [R], LB Hamsah Nasirildeen [R], LB Sharif Finch, LB Noah Dawkins, LB DelShawn Phillips

Starting LBs: This position group is undergoing a transition as they arguably have three inside linebackers in their starting lineup. Blake Cashman started 6 games in 2019 but only played 47 snaps last year due to injuries so he's likely just a placeholder until they can find an upgrade. C.J. Mosley is the clear focal point of this defensive group and will be a huge addition after missing most of 2019 to injury and opting out of the 2020 season. He was an elite fantasy linebacker early in his career with the Ravens and should return as one of the only proven players in the back seven. Jarrad Davis never really lived up to expectations during his time in Detroit and has limitations in coverage that may prevent him from playing a 3-down role, but he can be a strong run defender on early downs.

Backup LBs: This group remains in need of an upgrade, although they added a couple developmental players in the draft. Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen are both former safeties who have the athletic traits to play in nickel packages with a chance to grow into a 3-down player. The other backups are unproven and likely best suited to a role on special teams.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Blessuan Austin, FS Marcus Maye, CB Bryce Hall, SS Ashtyn Davis
Backups: S Lamarcus Joyner, S Saquan Hampton, CB Corey Ballentine, CB Justin Hardee, CB Javelin Guidry, CB Kyron Brown, CB Lamar Jackson, CB Michael Carter [R], CB Jason Pinnock [R], CB Brandin Echols [R]

Starting DBs: The cornerbacks here may be the worst group in the league. Blessuan Austin saw extensive playing time last year and showed some flashes but is probably not starter caliber. Bryce Hall was a late-round pick who looked good during his rookie season and could turn out to be a steal. At safety, they no longer have Jamal Adams or even Bradley McDougald so may turn over the strong safety job to Ashtyn Davis. He figures to play up in the box quite often and should see plenty of tackle opportunities as a result. Marcus Maye could also line up at strong safety after the team gave him a franchise tag, but his cover skills and playmaking make him a better fit at free safety.

Backup DBs: Lamarcus Joyner was signed to provide some much-needed experience to this group and he figures to see regular playing time as part of a 3-safety formation even if he isn't named a starter. The rest of the backups here do not inspire much confidence so there is certainly a chance for a rookie or two to quickly climb the depth chart.