Culture is key in the construction of the New York Jets
Character, high-motor, nasty, culture changer, football lover, captain, leader – these are just a few words used to describe the players that New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas has targeted in free agency so far.
It’s a continuation of the trend shown by Douglas in past years. When not gambling on a reclamation project, Douglas has consistently emphasized character.
This extends into the draft as well, where almost every player Douglas has picked was a team captain or described as a football junkie. His most important pick, quarterback Zach Wilson, is obsessed, even practicing while on vacation.
When Douglas took over the Jets in late 2019, he was given a roster devoid of talent and leadership. That’s why Douglas has made it an emphasis to improve the team’s culture through free agency and the draft.
This was again clear in Douglas’ top signings at the start of the 2022 free agency period. The reactions of teammates and fans to the departures of the Jets’ new acquisitions tell you about the kind of people they are. Douglas brought in players that lead by example and will do anything to win.
Veteran leadership on offense
The Jets signed two veterans coming off deep playoff runs in tight end C.J. Uzomah and guard Laken Tomlinson. They fill two of the Jets’ biggest needs on offense, but their impact off the field is just as valuable.
Uzomah will immediately become a fan favorite in New York. He’s a player that loves football and will do anything to help his team win. This was never more evident than in the playoffs.
8 days after hurting his knee in the AFC Championship game — @cj_uzomah ripped-off his knee brace & threw it, in front of 30,000 #Bengals fans. pic.twitter.com/Lq14NNLkZE
— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) February 8, 2022
Uzomah sprained his MCL in the AFC Championship Game but rehabbed his knee in a mere two weeks to play in the Super Bowl.
His enthusiasm and passion are infectious. From his pre-game speeches to the practice field, Uzomah motivates and elevates his teammates. He also has experience helping a young quarterback turn around a franchise.
Forever a part of our history. Best of luck in New York, @cj_uzomah. pic.twitter.com/pslHuufpw8
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) March 17, 2022
Tomlinson brings nastiness the Jets need in the offensive line. There were times when the line didn’t protect Zach Wilson well enough or finish the play. That won’t be a problem anymore.
Laken Tomlinson pancaking Von Miller in pass pro pic.twitter.com/NX41IoGqWb
— Mike (@bengals_sans) February 22, 2022
Tomlinson also had a great relationship with his teammates. It’s encouraging when two of the best players in the NFL, tackle Trent Williams and wide receiver Deebo Samuel, were upset by his departure.
@laken77 congrats brother hate to see you leave 🥺 https://t.co/NGJWZwIFxz
— Deebo (@19problemz) March 14, 2022
49ers Trent Williams just posted this on my recent post of Laken Tomlinson 🥺 pic.twitter.com/7KxTNqGCli
— Brad (@Graham_SFN) March 14, 2022
Defensive physicality and toughness
Cornerback D.J. Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead are two young and ascending players who address a couple of the Jets’ biggest defensive needs. While both are very talented, their mindsets are likely what attracted Douglas.
Reed wasn’t highly touted coming into the NFL and unfortunately little has changed – some people only see him for his height. However, Reed had a dominant 2021 season as Michael Nania broke down here. He plays with a physicality and intensity few corners can match.
Another excellent rep by DJ Reed against D. Adams pic.twitter.com/c9yCgR0n4S
— DJ Bien-Aime (@Djbienaime) March 15, 2022
Meanwhile, Whitehead brings desperately needed physicality to the Jets secondary. Whitehead is a hard hitter who makes more plays in the box than nearly any safety in football.
Whitehead’s pinned tweet, seen below, tells you all you need to know about him and his playstyle.
Nah I just hit hard https://t.co/Qb4BeAgHmM
— jordan whitehead (@jwhite_333) January 18, 2021
These aren’t the same old Jets
The Jets have been a bad team for a long time. Few if any teams have experienced the amount of roster turnover the Jets have in the last several years. Long snapper Thomas Hennessy and defensive end Nathan Shepherd are the longest-tenured players on the roster.
While the results haven’t been there yet, Joe Douglas has done all he could to bring in players who can change the culture in New York.
New York is hoping the wins will start coming. For now, Douglas is doing everything he can to bring leaders, football junkies, and winners into the building.
We felt the team’s culture begin to change in 2021. That shift has continued into this offseason. But now, it’s time to start winning games.