The 2020 conversation revolved around Trevor Lawrence. Ridiculous tanking narratives and savior speak dominated New York Jets land—if only to provide a rabid and deserving fanbase hope when little could be found.
In the end, Lawrence finds himself in Jacksonville, stuck in a disastrous situation that was easier to predict than Bill Belichick’s faster-than-lightning bro hug with Tom Brady Sunday night. Zach Wilson is the new Jets’ franchise quarterback and away we go. The Jets’ fortunes are undoubtedly tied to Wilson’s development and ultimate performance.
Everybody understands the deal.
What flies inexplicably under the radar, however, is the other big piece of the struggle that relates to turning around a football program.
Acquiring hidden gems is a task nearly as important as nailing down the obvious top picks in the NFL draft. It’s a necessary exercise for any organization with designs of long-lasting NFL success. And although the team that makes its professional home in Florham Park, NJ isn’t quite yet ready for primetime, interesting things are happening.
Suddenly, the Jets are subtly yet critically piling up the “they found one in this guy” players.
From John Franklin-Myers to Bryce Huff, Bryce Hall to Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry, the Jets are beginning to pile up one of these guys after another.
Take note of the subtle theme starting to materialize in New York #Jets land …
“They found one in this guy,” or “they really discovered something in this kid.”
JFM, Huff, Guidry, Hall, Echols, MC2, Berrios, MC, perhaps Quincy-Will.
A good early sign via franchise turnaround.
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) October 8, 2021
Speaking of Franklin-Myers, on Friday in London, he found himself overcome with emotion after signing his deserving four-year, $55 million deal ($30 million guaranteed).
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) October 8, 2021
Joe Douglas found one in this kid.
Not only is the Jets player the kids call “JFM” getting it done on the field—he finished tied for first in the NFL with nine pressures in Week 4—but he’s also a clear representation of what the Jets want via culture. The fourth-round selection out of Stephen F. Austin in 2018 had to scratch and claw his way to this point.
Now that he’s here, the model citizen represents everything Douglas wants in a hidden gem discovered by the Jets.
Think about the Jets’ defense for a moment. Jeff Ulbrich’s unit is currently without Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Marcus Maye, Lamarcus Joyner and Jarrad Davis. That’s five of the six projected starters heading into the season.
Yet this defense continues plugging away, week after week.
Now think defensive backs.
The likes of Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, Javelin Guidry and Brandin Echols are just four more examples of either mid-round, late-round or undrafted players making a clear impact in the league.
Hall has been the most impressive cornerback thus far. Against Tennessee, Hall logged five tackles (four solo), three pass deflections, a half a sack and two quarterback hits.
Usually, the Virginia product plays each situation to a perfectly executed point. The thing that makes this developing story special is that No. 37 is making all-world plays even when he finds himself out of position.
Down 9-7 early in the second half, Ulbrich dialed up a Cover 3 Buzz in a third-and-18 situation. Although it’s an interesting call (not calling quarters) in this spot, Hall doesn’t ensure that he stays over the top enough.
In the end, it didn’t matter.
Hall’s all-world recovery here is masterful. Perhaps a flag-anxious official could throw laundry in this situation, but the contact truly didn’t warrant yellow on the field.
Hall makes sure to get that inside arm up while timing it perfectly in a desperate attempt to defend.
Michael Carter II
Michael Carter II, otherwise known as MC2, has a chance to be a flat-out stud. The North Carolina product is currently manning down the slot in impressive fashion.
Similar to Hall, Carter II is also a fifth-round choice of Douglas. Also similar to Hall, he’s excelling within this simplistic yet responsible and situational-focused defensive scheme.
Trailing 24-17 with just two minutes to go, the Tennessee Titans came out in a 3×1 look offensively. New York responded with a Cover 6—a wildly popular look against a 3×1, no matter the level of football (NFL, collegiate, high school).
Carter’s eyes did most of the work en route to a responsibly impressive pass breakup.
Interestingly, Ulbrich dialed up a Cover 6 in each of the Titans’ first three pass attempts on this drive (as they lined up in a 3×1 each time). The simplicity of this defense allows coaching points to hit home that much clearer, but that’s a story for a different day.
At this stage, Carter not turning into a player for this team would be one of the top disappointments in quite some time.
Then there’s Javelin Guidry, the often forgotten about cornerback on the roster.
Soft-spoken and mild-mannered at times, Guidry is always willing to do what it takes to win. The undrafted kid Douglas scooped up prior to the 2020 NFL season is playing both inside and out for Ulbrich—something that’s not an easy feat to accomplish.
Guidry also made a big-time play against the Titans. When Derrick Henry busted loose on a double-crack toss sweep, Guidry, who was responsible for the field-side tight-split receiver in a single-high press look, had to save the day.
Other discovered gems: Bryce Huff, Braxton Berrios
Foley Fatukasi certainly qualifies as well, but he was a Mike Maccagnan discovery. Along with the suddenly wealthier John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff certainly represents another of Joe Douglas’s under-the-radar finds.
Offensively, don’t forget about Braxton Berrios. Although he might not be an ideal starting wide receiver, he’s an excellent fourth or fifth depth chart weapon who adds incredible versatility by way of punt and kick return duties.
Other possible or probable candidates: Brandin Echols, Isaiah Dunn, Michael Carter, Quincy Williams
Should a fourth-round pick count as a possible under-the-radar discovery? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Either way, if Michael Carter the running back starts busting out, Douglas’s 2021 NFL draft class will take on a special feel.
Brandin Echols is already a starter and Isaiah Dunn’s undrafted status places him in this category if he can string along quality outings.
Last but certainly not least, Quincy Williams, Quinnen Williams’s brother, is a guy the Jets have had an eye on for some time. He enjoyed a terrific outing against Tennessee.
While he’s still incredibly raw and often allows his aggression to get him into trouble, his football persona, aggressiveness and overall athleticism present the organization with another serious possibility of a discovered low-entry talent.
Remember: Most NFL general managers’ draft picks bust
Look around the NFL at draft pick success. What do you see?
If you looked at the last decade or so, what you saw were a lot of busts. Even the great general managers bust more often than they hit—and it’s been true for perennial winners such as Bill Belichick in New England, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers, or even the now-Kansas City Chiefs.
Joe Douglas’s draft picks will bust more often than not, as well. The key always comes down to culture—something that’s created via coaching, injury prevention/maintenance, development, and so much more.
Finding the under-the-radar players are usually a sign of a team’s culture turning around. Though nobody should expect the New York Jets to suddenly rip off nine-straight wins and qualify for the tournament this January, the idea that these hidden gems are starting to pile up is a positive and exciting sign that the football program at 1 Jets Drive is starting to turn for the better.