Joe Douglas’ fingerprints are all over this New York Jets team
Every general manager bets. Gambling is the only way to properly conduct a franchise in a league with limited resources.
Carefully choosing which spots on the roster should be invested in is key, especially on a rebuilding team like the New York Jets. Overspending to improve the roster with a short-term approach would quickly replace New York into salary cap hell.
As a general manager of a so-called “rebuilding team”, Joe Douglas made plenty of bets during the 2021 offseason.
He carefully picked which positions he was going to invest most of his resources in, betting on lesser solutions for other spots on the roster.
For instance, while Douglas traded valuable draft picks for guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, he decided to get his starting WILL linebacker in the last three rounds of the 2021 draft. It’s OL over LB for the man, and he has good reasons to think like that.
As a general manager, it’s all about knowing that the resources are limited, and deciding where to allocate them. It’s not an easy job, by any means.
At the heart of any good general manager is the ability to make sound decisions with little to work with.
Still, even knowing the limitations that the NFL draft and the NFL salary cap impose, it’s fair to say Douglas had his misses this past offseason.
Douglas hit some of his bets, too. Two of Douglas’ hits are highly impacting the small success the Jets have had thus far.
And that’s the middle of the ground truth as things stand right now: Douglas has been “OK”. Not the best, nor the worst.
Let’s examine Douglas’ two worst and two best moves of the 2021 offseason as things stand eight games into the 2021 regular season.
Mistake #1: Linebacker approach
Joe Douglas’ linebacker approach was his most questionable bet.
It’s fair to say that C.J. Mosley was the only legitimately good player that the Jets entered the season with at a position that would play a key role in the Jets’ attacking 4-3 scheme.
Jarrad Davis, coming from the Lions, was coming off of a season in which he was benched while playing for one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Jets thrust him into a starting spot.
Hamsah Nasilrideen, a late-round rookie who played safety in college, was thrust into the weakside linebacker spot – a key position against the run in Robert Saleh’s scheme.
Trusting Saleh to fix talented young players hasn’t worked thus far when thinking about the Jets’ linebackers.
The group is arguably the Jets’ weakest position crew, and none of Douglas’ players have shown much promise.
Davis has missed most of this season, but in his second game after returning, he played a big role in the Colts’ dominance on the ground (260 rushing yards) on Thursday Night Football.
Below is an example of his inability to fill in the gap on Jonathan Taylor’s long touchdown.
Just fill the c gap ss has to widen with Jet .. Davis c gap .. mosely A gap… this is just not good football where is Davis going @NewEraNYJets pic.twitter.com/bYerRKtvCy
— coachkou (@coachkou) November 5, 2021
Nasilrideen and Jamien Sherwood, both Douglas’ draft picks, haven’t looked great when healthy. Both guys played safety in college and are having a hard time transitioning to the physicality of the linebacker position in the NFL.
Considering that, as of now, it appears the Jets still need two new starters alongside Mosley for the 2022 season, it’s clear that Douglas’ approach at the linebacker position was a failure.
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Mistake #2: Tight end approach
The problem with Douglas’ approach at the tight end position was not about adding bad players. Rather, it was the fact that he did not add enough players.
Douglas got Tyler Kroft (solid) on a one-year deal, and that’s it. He trusted the Jets’ depth (Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, and, at the time, Chris Herndon) to take care of business.
This approach made even less sense when Douglas traded Herndon (a good value trade, for what it is worth) before the season. It becomes more baffling when you consider the high amount of 12 personnel (2 tight end sets) that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur likes to use.
While LaFleur has indeed been using more 10 personnel (0 TE) and 11 personnel (1 TE) as of late, he has done it while ditching the run quite a bit, which hurts the ceiling of this offense.
The Jets’ offense is improving, but it will only hit its ceiling when a deadly running game is deployed.
In this scheme, which is built upon outside running plays, multiple tight end sets are a must.
It’s not like LaFleur needs to use it on every play, but the Jets’ play-caller would benefit from having better human material to work with at the tight end position. It would also help make the Jets’ offense less predictable when they switch personnel.
As Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania perfectly broke down in September, there were plenty of talented players in the offseason for Douglas to pursue. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Kyle Rudolph, Dan Arnold, Gerald Everett, and Jared Cook were all there to be had.
Once again, it’s easy to see how poor Douglas’ approach was when the future is in mind.
For 2022 and beyond, the Jets will probably need to change their entire tight-end room.
Zach Wilson (or Mike White) will be greatly appreciative once it happens.
Success #1: Betting on youth at cornerback
Raise your hand if you begged for the Jets to sign a veteran cornerback in August. (I proceed to raise one hand while writing with the other, thinking of angry “sign Steven Nelson” tweets).
The cornerback position was a hot debate in training camp.
Jets fans were so worried about the excessive youth that most of the fanbase got mad when the team released Blessuan Austin, a well-below-average player.
Bryce Hall (second year), Michael Carter II (rookie), and Brandin Echols (rookie) entered the season as starters, making up one of the most inexperienced starting units of any positional group in the league.
One of the most important positions in today’s pass-happy league, the cornerback spot was considered the weakest link on the Jets’ defense before things kicked off in September.
It turned out to be the opposite.
Surprisingly, the youthful approach has worked. The Jets’ cornerback trio has ranged from decent to good throughout the season.
Props are due to Joe Douglas for playing his cards correctly.
In the Jets’ zone scheme, a lot of the success is about coaching and discipline. (Also, talent, which Joe Douglas was able to find in these three late-round gems that now lead the Jets’ secondary.)
Not paying big-bucks for veteran cornerbacks on the market was a smart move, especially for the rebuilding Jets. It allowed the team to build for the future without handicapping the present, since the youngsters are playing well.
Once again, looking to the future opens wide how great of a bet it was by Joe Douglas. The top-four dogs (Javelin Guidry included) in the Jets’ cornerback room could continue to be the team’s top-four next season and few would complain about it.
Finding starters in the fifth (Carter, Hall) and sixth (Echols) rounds of the NFL draft is an accomplishment that can’t get enough praise.
Success #2: Going all offense in the first four rounds of the draft
Another move that was highly contested in the offseason was Joe Douglas’ offense-first draft strategy.
The Jets, a team with many holes throughout the roster, couldn’t afford to draft four offensive players with their first four picks in the 2021 NFL draft. That was considered common sense at the time.
Still, Douglas selected Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter on the first two days of the 2021 NFL draft – all offensive players.
In May, it seemed like too much. But right now, it’s hard to imagine the Jets’ offensive future without any of those guys.
Carter has been arguably the team’s best player over the past two weeks, while Vera-Tucker is playing at a Pro Bowl level at LG.
Moore, the most hyped player in the class, is finally showing how well he fits the modern NFL as a do-it-all type receiver.
Long-term perspective is everything when thinking of Douglas’ offense-first draft strategy.
Douglas knew he couldn’t fill in every roster hole in one draft. So, he decided to prioritize his young quarterback and surround him with the most talent possible.
When Wilson gets back, he will have the trio of AVT, Carter, and Moore around him playing at a very high level.
Douglas fearlessly went all-offense with his premium picks.
That kind of aggressiveness in the roster construction is something that deserves praise. It shows the man has a plan and is not afraid to go after it.
As the Jets continue to move forward, Douglas’ fingerprints on the roster will become more visible. While being critical of him is possible and necessary, it is important to keep in mind that the Jets’ general manager thinks long-term.
Sorry, but this article is exactly what’s wrong with so much discussion, not only about football but about everything. Let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go. YOU CAN’T FIX EVERYTHING IN ONE YEAR! Second thing – NOT EVERY DFAFT PICK SHOWS HIS FULL POTENTIAL HIS FIRST YEAR!
You credit that JD spent his top 4 picks on offense, but complain that he didn’t address TE. So, if he had drafted a TE in the 1st instead of AVT would you be happy? Obviously not. Would you have been happy if he had picked a LB instead of Elijah Moore? No way! Right now it’s pretty clear the O is ahead of the D, although the D hasn’t had a chance to show it’s stuff with all the injuries.
You praise him for fixing the CB room with 5th round and 6th round picks and undrafted free agents, but you complain the he failed to fix LB with a 5th and a 6th and signing a former 1st round pick. Sherwood and Nasrildeen are projects that JD and everyone else expected it would take a couple of years to develop. The fact that both have been injured, along with Jarrad Davis, hasn’t helped. But if Sherwood and Nas mature the way JD expects and Davis returns to his 1st round pick form this position way already be fixed long-term.
No, you can’t fix everything in one draft or offseason.
But, yes, there are some position groups that shouldn’t look as bad as they are right now.
While Douglas decided to sign Jarrad Davis for 5.5M plus incentives, Jayon Brown and Nicholas Morrow – much better players – went back to their teams for less money than that. This is fair to be criticized.
On the young LBs, can’t the approach of betting on a S transitioning to LB be criticized as well? I never liked It, and If It pans out props to Saleh. I just think It was poor assessment of a very important position in this scheme. There were good, pure linebackers in the latter rounds of the draft (Jabril Cox, for example) that could help.
TEs: Yes, Kroft is fine. But hurt now – as has been the case in his career.
I would be more than fine with Kroft and Herndon, who, despite not producing, offers you some juice in space. I wanted to see him in this offense.
Once JD traded Herndon, he doubled down on a Kroft/Griffin tandem, which makes very little sense in a TE-heavy offense. There were names on the markert besides the one listed in this article who could’ve been better hold the fort players than Griffin and Brown (Demetrius Harris and Mercedes Lewis would be good vets to have around.)
I think it’s time to let it go with Herndon. He’s not good, and quite honestly, I don’t think there is much talent difference between any of the TE’s. This idea that Herndon “can be good” has lasted far too long. He’s played with 4 different offenses now, if he was any good it would show. He hasn’t offered any “juice” since his rookie season and just doesn’t have it. That said, I’m all in on Mike Gesicki this off season.
Davis was a boom or bust acquisition, looks like a bust right now
Overall, you make a good assessment, the LB’s are trash after Mosely and trying to convert college safeties who weight about 215lbs to play major roles was foolish. I understand what you are saying about the TE’s but knowing you can’t have everything, leaving this group makes the most sense considering what they have at WR. I put more blame on LaFleur for sticking with so many 12 sets knowing the talent is at the WR position. Yes, they need better in the TE group but it could have been “masked” a bit better by the OC.
I like the young corners and I think they have some good players but at some point we have to begin to wonder how limited that group is overall. They are giving up over 500 yards a game in 2 out of the last 3 and I wouldn’t exactly call that Cincy game a thing of beauty. Hall shows talent but he also gives up slants like it’s his job. I’m not saying I don’t like the group just that I still have some big questions.
AVT is clearly worth the picks, and the OL has been improving lately but keeping McGovern AND Van Roten together was another HUGE miscalculation. He should have upgraded the right side knowing they were rolling with Zach. The thing I DO like about Douglas, is that he seems to be bringing in some high quality guys. That will go a long way in building the team.
It’s only foolish if your only criteria are how they look their rookie years? Give Nas and Sherwood a year or two in and NFL strength training program and then tell me how he did.
I agree they may be good players in the future, I’m not saying they were foolish draft picks, I’m saying expecting them to play a major role without the proper time to develop is foolish. I’m saying it’s foolish to put this team as a whole is so much harm’s way, they could have taken some burden off of them and given them time to develop before putting them out there against NE to get blasted.
Well done, what I find curious is the lack of activity in trying to improve the TE group. With the linebackers , there has been a little churn, with Quincey Williams offering a ray of hope. On the TE side Yeboah has been anchored on the PS, and their have been no additions to either the 53 or the Practice Squad. Douglas gets points for the creative trade for Offensive Guard, LDT, a big need, but their has been no creativity towards resolving the TE problem.
He added Kroft, who has played well when not hurt.
Agree, would you sign Kroft next year ? He seems to be the right type of TE for this Offense, but a real china doll, with a significant injury history
It’s a big IF, but if they can coach Quincy Williams up to more disciplined he has starter potential.
Sadly Blake Cashman is done, had high hopes. The relevance here , was that I thought Blake would give Sherwood & Nasrildeen time to develop. Quincy is a nice story, and brings some excellent physical traits to the table, speed and hitting ability. But there are reasons why a third round pick gets cut, Jags felt Quincy couldn’t learn or play. Quincey has been a force on ST, which buys him time , and gives him more opportunities, Moseley is a great mentor, but Williams needs to learn the position. Hope.