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Reasons why the New York Jets’ gloomy forecast is a bit misleading

Sam Darnold, Mekhi Becton
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

There are several reasons why the active gloomy forecast for the 2020 New York Jets is a bit misleading.

Sam Darnold is struggling, Adam Gase is the worst head coach in the world, and the injuries are just too much to overcome. On Aug. 31, 2020, the other shoe has already dropped. These are the New York Jets, after all; should anything else be expected?

In a word … yes. More should be expected.

This league is about front-office smarts under the rigorous salary cap. Joe Douglas has not yet provided a moment’s stench that would suggest he’s incapable (I cannot count Ryan Kalil since taking a home run swing during a desperate offensive line hour is worth the shot every time).

The doom and gloom narrative that’s already been written for this season—one that happens to transpire during one of mankind’s worst years, 2020—is a bit misleading.

As bad as the offense looks, and as injured as the Jets are, there are sneaky reasons the team’s already gloomy forecast should be taken with a grain of salt.

The Trenches Are Healthy

The so-called pundits can focus on the injuries all they want. The sheer numbers are overwhelming.

Breshad Perriman cannot miss time. Darnold needs him. Fans have yet to catch a glimpse of young Denzel Mims on the practice field. Absences from Vyncint Smith, Pierre Desir, and Bryce Hall hurt. A C.J. Mosley opt-out and a Jamal Adams trade that shook the NFL’s foundation has forced a familiar feeling into the soul of Jets fandom.

Forget all of that for a moment and instead remember what this season was initially about the moment Week 17 wrapped.

The offensive line.

Until that unit is fixed, Darnold cannot be the kid everybody wants him to be. Le’Veon Bell cannot be the guy the Jets envisioned when they signed him last offseason.

The NFL’s second-worst offensive line (according to our own Michael Nania’s rankings) needed a massive overhaul. It also needed a guy who understood the position. While nobody could have dreamed of Mike Maccagnan flipping even three starting spots in one offseason, Douglas pretty much flipped all five.

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As it stands right now, the O-line injuries are minimal. Cameron Clark struggled to hit the field, but he’s back. Greg Van Roten recently went down, but the depth is legit thanks to Douglas.

Defensively, the same can be said. A slimmer, meaner Quinnen Williams leads a front seven with minimal injuries. Jabari Zuniga and Tarell Basham represent the banged-up players up front—hardly a massive issue at the moment when considering the bigger picture.

The weapons will eventually come. The cornerbacks will eventually arrive and/or develop. First and foremost, the trenches must develop, and thus far, the injury bug has not prevented that from possibly becoming a reality.

Sam Darnold‘s Health

If you’re ready and willing to write off the season, call me only when Mr. Darnold misses time. This is the NFL in 2020—the quarterback is invaluable.

Darnold’s health and the subsequent 16-game season is the most crucial factor for 2020 success. And right now, he’s healthy while entering the second year of Gase’s system (while not frequenting bars—sorry, ladies).

Ignore the noise about the kid struggling in camp. Pay very little attention to “practice stats.” Feel, command, and execution are the crucial aspects of a Darnold progression this season. It’s been a rough go thus far in camp, but remember this: this is a brand-new offensive line. It will take some time.

The Depth Is Legitimate Compared To 2019

Ashtyn Davis or Rontez Miles? Darryl Roberts or Blessuan Austin? Tom Compton or Josh Andrews? Patrick Onwuasor or … nobody (since the Jets kept just three inside linebackers on the first 53-man roster).

While the injuries are clouding the issue a bit, the 2020 Jets are a much deeper team than the previous version.

Look at the starters as well. Mekhi Becton or Kelvin Beachum? George Fant or Brandon Shell? Connor McGovern or Ryan Kalil? Pierre Desir or Trumaine Johnson? Bless Austin or Darryl Roberts? Chris Herndon or Ryan Griffin? Denzel Mims (if healthy) or Demaryius Thomas?

Depth is a criminally underrated marker for good NFL teams. Employing guys who are not expected to do much only to see them bust out of nowhere is the key to player development and cap success.

With another so-so performance from the offense on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the negative reviews continue to pile up. That, along with the injuries, makes things look as bleak as ever.

Be careful, though; the key areas this team needs to first hit on (offensive line, the trenches, quarterback development) coupled with overall depth give the 2020 New York Jets a fighting chance in a year when that’s all anybody can ask for.

Give me a much-improved offensive line, a front-four that’s generating pressure and fitting run-support nicely, and a young quarterback making great strides, and I’ll take my chances.

The outer layers will be fine if the core pieces—those in the trenches—do its job first. With the current state of good health on the offensive and defensive lines, a successful season is still very much on the table even with the injuries at the outside positions.

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