With a promising young roster, the New York Jets entered the 2019 season with high expectations. They had an expensive off-season that was highlighted with the signing of former All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, who was coming off of a gap year as a result of contract disputes with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Along with Bell, the Jets added RB Ty Montgomery, WR Jamison Crowder, and 4x Pro-Bowl ILB C.J. Mosley. The Jets also secured the third pick in the 2019 draft and took DE Quinnen Williams, and after a strong finish to his rookie campaign, Sam Darnold looked to be ready to take over the offense under center and lead the team to the next level.
However, despite some fantastic off-season additions, the first half of the Jets 2019 season was a train wreck. Before the season even started, LB Avery Williamson, who had a career year in 2018, tore his ACL effectively ending his season.
Week 1 had New York leading the Buffalo Bills 16-0 with newcomer C.J. Mosley even recording a pick six in the first quarter before Mosley hurt his groin in the 3rd quarter. Offensive struggles and numerous missed kicks by kicker Kaare Vedvik had the team collapse in the second half and ultimately resulted in a 17-16 loss.
This loss received major backlash from fans, as in the previous season, the Jets had Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers, but they opted not to re-sign him.
After the dismal game, bad news kept coming for the Jets as Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis. This would result in him missing three games, all of which they lost, and if losing your franchise quarterback was not bad enough, they also found out that their first-round pick Quinnen Williams suffered an ankle injury, while Mosley’s groin injury was more serious than initially speculated.
Their entire first half of the season was disastrous as it was injury riddled, full of under-performances from key players, and really just a circus to watch.
Their season was summed up in a nutshell during a Monday Night Football slaughter at the hand of the New England Patriots, where Darnold had four interceptions and a fumble while being so discombobulated that he supposedly saw “ghosts” on the field. The final score ended up being a 33-0 shutout.
The Jets were able to pick it up later in the season by finishing 6-2 in the latter half of the year; however, because of such an abysmal first half, they were on the outside looking in when it came to the postseason.
One glaring problem that the Jets had in 2019 was their offensive line that was injury prone, constantly changing, and never consistent enough to keep the offense running strongly. That is why this off-season lots of the team’s available cap space went towards defending the backfield.
New York did not make as much of a splash this off-season in terms of big-name acquisitions; however, one of the pricier players they added in free agency was OT George Fant on a 3yr/$30 million contract. Fant was a key factor in helping the Seattle Seahawks achieve the number one ranked rushing offense in 2018, and he continued to play a vital role for the team as he played a hybrid offensive tackle/tight end position in 2019.
Another solid pickup was guard Greg Van Roten. He signed a 3yr/$10.5 million contract, as he had been a full-time starter with the Carolina Panthers for the last two seasons before dislocating his toe in Week 12 of last season. Though despite this, Van Roten has proved his durability by playing in all 16 games for the Panthers in 2018 at left guard and not missing a single offensive snap.
Consistency like this is what the Jets expect from him in 2020. New York is hoping for some major improvement from the offensive line this season with all the money they invested in it. They showed some promise towards the end of last season, but it is lasting the full sixteen game schedule that will be the true test.
Along with shoring up the offensive line, the Jets needed to make improvements on the defensive side of the ball. They added established linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, who was a major part of the Baltimore Ravens defensive success in 2019. With this addition, the Jets have the potential to have one of the strongest linebacker cores in football highlighted by Mosley and Williamson.
Another great pickup was cornerback Pierre Desir, who was released by the Colts in March. He had an excellent 2018 but struggled in 2019 in part due to injuries. Desir still was productive when healthy though, as over the last two seasons, he has combined for 129 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 19 passes deflected. He is a great fit for a team that struggled with their secondary last season.
Not everything came through free agency though, as the Jets had some important re-signings too. The Jets were able to retain Neville Hewitt on a very team friendly deal considering his value. For only a 1yr/$2 million price, the Jets were able to keep a player that provided them with 75 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 5 passes deflected last season.
Another phenomenal re-sign that the Jets were able to pull off for cheap was linebacker Jordan Jenkins for 1yr/$5 million. The former third-round draft pick of New York has been a stallion for the team ever since he joined the roster leading the team in sacks each of the last two seasons.
Keeping the pieces that helped the team find success towards the end of last season was a very important goal for them entering free agency.
This off-season has seen Jets GM Joe Douglas make some very impressive moves to improve the roster, but there are still some hardships that the team needs to overcome. One of the biggest losses that the Jets suffered was losing one of their best receivers in Robby Anderson to the Carolina Panthers.
He was their best deep threat with his lightning speed; however, the addition of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Breshad Perriman will hopefully replace Anderson’s void down the field.
Last year’s first round pick also has lots of question marks entering next season. Quinnen Williams did not produce the way a third overall pick typically is expected; however, it was an injury driven season, and he still has room to grow with high potential. His main issue is that he was caught with a firearm at an airport, and the team needs to wait to see if there are any legal ramifications for his actions.
The Jets have far from a perfect roster, but they have polished off some of their weak spots through free agency and hope to improve some more through the upcoming draft. After last season, the Jets needed to take a look in the mirror and rethink their strategy. They decided to focus on going after a multitude of quality players to complement their roster compared to targeting the huge free agents.
Securing top-tier free agents is not a bad strategy, but it can leave a team without depth, which is an issue the Jets are trying to avoid in 2020. Logistically, the moves made look good, but only time will tell if they pay off.