FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Outside looking in: For months you’ve been reading about what the Jets think of the Jets. Trying to get outside opinions, I promised anonymity to three opposing scouts, who shared their thoughts on the team. Here’s a sampling of the comments on various players and units:
Running back Le’Veon Bell: “He has such unique running ability. At times, he’s really too patient. You wonder how that fits with how they’re trying to run block. It worked in Pittsburgh. Some coaches want you to see it and go, so we’ll see how that style fits their scheme. … I think Le’Veon will have a good year. He’ll be productive because Sam [Darnold] will throw a lot of checkdowns to him. … I wouldn’t call him elite, but he’s a marked improvement over what they had. They paid ‘A’ money for a ‘B’ player — and that’s OK.”
Quarterback Sam Darnold and the offense: “I love his makeup and his mindset. Obviously, he has the physical skill. I wouldn’t mind having him. … [Jamison] Crowder and Bell will help him be a better quarterback. Those short passes will be like long handoffs. He has to cut down on the interceptions. … Robby Anderson needs to be healthy and productive, and he needs to keep his s— in check. Darnold has a bright future and [Chris] Herndon is legit. I think they’ll be coached well from a scheme standpoint. If Darnold takes care of the ball, they should be OK. … [Ryan] Kalil and Bell are going to be rusty, and I think it’s going to take a little time before they get comfortable. That’s why we have an offseason and OTAs.”
Cornerback Trumaine Johnson and the secondary: “He’s a good player, not a great player. Just because you pay a guy doesn’t make him better. … He’ll be able to survive because of what [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams can do from a coverage standpoint, but they’re really thin at corner. Teams are going to throw at them. They’ll need to generate a pass rush or else it could be a long season. … I really like Marcus Maye. He’s a hell of a player. You can do so many things with him and Jamal Adams. They have a good situation at safety.”
Quinnen Williams and the defensive line: “This kid has unbelievable quickness and he keeps getting better. He can be very disruptive inside. It’s hard for me to imagine there are too many overachieving guards who will be able to take him one-on-one. … One guy I liked in the preseason was (Folorunso) Fatukasi. He did a good job, especially against the run. … The defensive line is the strength of the team.”
General manager Joe Douglas: “I’m a huge fan of Joe Douglas. They got that one right, and that might be as important as anything. … I’m not surprised [they cut Jachai Polite] because Joe Douglas is running the show. [Polite] is a lazy guy and Joe doesn’t tolerate guys like that.”
Overall: “They’re improved, but I have concerns about their depth at corner, tackle and receiver. They’re going in the right direction, but they have a ways to go. If everything fell right, they could contend [for a wild card]. … They have some good players, but none of them can get hurt, especially on offense. The depth is a big concern.”
2. Did you know? Polite, drafted in the third round (68th overall), was the only player in the first four rounds to be released by his team. The next-highest pick to get cut was Dallas Cowboys cornerback Michael Jackson (fifth round, 158), per overthecap.com.
3. Spotlight on coach: When CEO Christopher Johnson introduced coach Adam Gase in January, he paraphrased an old Wayne Gretzky quote, saying, “He’s coaching to where football is going.” Football is about offense and scoring points, and Gase — their first offensive-minded head coach since Rich Kotite in 1996 — needs to validate his reputation as an offensive guru for the Jets to have any shot in 2019. It’s time for offense to carry the day. The last time the offense finished higher than the defense in the league rankings (based on yardage) was 2003.
Darnold said the offense will be “electric,” and I don’t disagree with him because they will play an up-tempo style, using the no-huddle for stretches. The objective is to play fast, which forces defenses to simplify their coverages. What else can you expect from Gase?
Look for him to use Bell in multiple spots. Don’t be surprised if he uses Bell and Ty Montgomery at the same time. On passing downs, Gase wants five capable pass-catchers on the field and, without Herndon (who is suspended), he could deploy Montgomery as the fifth. It wouldn’t shock me if Gase throws in a few RPOs (run-pass options).
He was vanilla in the preseason, sticking with “11” personnel (one RB, one TE, three WRs) and rarely substituting with the first unit. Maybe he was holding back. Or maybe it was a harbinger. There’s something to be said for staying simple and playing fast.
4. Boss Chris: Say this for CEO Christopher Johnson: He definitely put his stamp on the team, changing the head coach, the GM and the president in a span of nine months. In 2017, he inherited a tough situation from older brother Woody Johnson — a stripped-down roster with a coach-GM tandem that couldn’t get it fixed. He stayed too long with Mike Maccagnan, but the Douglas hire and this week’s promotion of Hymie Elhai to president seem to have galvanized the building. The organization could use some harmony after an ugly offseason.
5. Did you know, part II? For the first time in 14 years, the Jets will open the season with a kicker who has no regular-season experience. (Mike Nugent, a second-round pick, did it as a rookie in 2005.) The new man on the hot seat is Kaare Vedvik, who went from preseason star (Baltimore Ravens) to bust (Minnesota Vikings) in two weeks.
How important is a good kicker? Nearly 30% of the games last season were decided by three or fewer points.
Privately, the Jets believe they can fix Vedvik by having him focus on only one job — kicking. The Vikings used him as a punter, too, which may have messed with his head. The Jets need to get him right — quickly — because the fans will be out with their pitch forks if Vedvik blows a game, especially in light of the Jason Myers departure in free agency.
6. Massive turnover: The 53-man roster includes 26 new players. The NFL norm is about a 30% turnover, but it’s usually higher with a new coaching staff. Here’s a breakdown of the roster by GM:
Douglas: Ten players. Maccagnan: Forty. John Idzik: Two. Mike Tannenbaum: One.
7. Ringing the Bell: Bell is fired up for his Jets debut. So is Gary Vaynerchuk, the entrepreneur and social-media star.
Vaynerchuk, who describes himself as “a ridiculous Jets fan,” recruited Bell during free agency. In fact, Bell acknowledged Vaynerchuk in a Sports Illustrated interview after signing in March.
Vaynerchuk doesn’t want to overstate his role in the process — he acted in an unofficial capacity — but he went after Bell “in a very real way,” emphasizing the benefits of the New York market. He believes athletes are drawn to him because of their growing interest in entrepreneurship. Vaynerchuk, a guest on ESPN’s Jets podcast “Flight Deck,” recalled the night Bell made his announcement.
“The text I got from Le’Veon before everybody broke the news … my face is hurting right now because I’m smiling so much,” he said.
He made a screenshot of the text and called it “one of my prized possessions.”
8. The last word: “I don’t put pressure on myself. My rookie year I did. I thought it was the craziest thing I ever did as far as playing football. I will never put pressure on myself again. … I just had expectations, not knowing any better. I was a little skinny kid. I think I had a light Mohawk kind of look. I was ugly, young and just kind of dumb. I didn’t know a lot, but I obviously learned.” — Jamal Adams