The Jets can go in two completely different directions in 2022
With less than three weeks until the New York Jets start their summer training camp and following a universally celebrated offseason, fans of Gang Green are brimming with excitement and optimism ahead of the 2022 season.
General manager Joe Douglas used every tool at his disposal to add fresh, highly regarded talent to a roster desperately in need of a spark.
Through a combination of free agency, the draft, and the undrafted player market, Douglas added new faces at every position except quarterback, fullback, punter, and long snapper.
Second-year passer Zach Wilson has been set up for success with a plethora of new weapons, including rookies such as WR Garrett Wilson and RB Breece Hall, and two proven free-agent tight ends in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin.
On top of the new skill position talent, Wilson’s pass protection should also improve with the addition of free-agent guard Laken Tomlinson and the return of tackle Mekhi Becton.
The defense, which ranked 32nd in both yards and points allowed in 2021, has seen a massive overhaul.
Three new starters have been added to the secondary: free-agent cornerback D.J. Reed, first-round cornerback Sauce Gardner, and free-agent safety Jordan Whitehead.
In the trenches, New York will finally see 2021 free-agent edge rusher Carl Lawson in action after an Achilles’ injury ended his first year in Florham Park during training camp. Getting Lawson back is big by itself, but the Jets weren’t satisfied with that lone addition to their pass rush. They also drafted two defensive ends, Jermaine Johnson II in the first round and Micheal Clemons in the fourth round. They made an underrated signing at EDGE in Jacob Martin and added DT Solomon Thomas.
On paper, the 2022 Jets should vastly outperform their 2021 record of 4-13. However, the NFL rarely plays out in the fall how it looks on paper in the summer.
With that said, just how good, and potentially how bad, could the New York Jets be in 2022?
Best Case Scenario: 12-5 record and a playoff appearance
If everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, works out as planned for the Jets in 2022, the NFL’s current longest playoff drought will finally come to an end.
In this scenario, the Jets start the season on fire with five straight wins to open the year, sweeping the AFC North before beating the Dolphins in New York to secure their first division win since December of 2019.
Zach Wilson makes a pole-vault-sized second-year leap and explodes onto the scene as one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, throwing 13 touchdowns against four interceptions, while averaging 285 yards per game across his first five contests.
The rest of the offense takes off along with Wilson, as the Jets rank eighth in the NFL in rushing through five weeks, averaging 120 rushing yards per game.
Garrett Wilson quickly takes to his new offensive scheme and wins Rookie Of The Week honors with a seven-catch, 143-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Steelers in Week 4.
With another year of experience in Robert Saleh‘s defense, and with reinforcements coming in the form of offseason additions, the Jets’ defense pulls off a complete one-eighty, improving from their dead-last status in 2021 to rank 12th in yards allowed and ninth in points through five games.
Carl Lawson and Jermaine Johnson II combine to immediately form a dominant edge rush tandem, as Lawson notches four sacks and Johnson II adds two-and-a-half of his own. In total, the Jets defense collects 14 sacks through Week 5, leading the entire NFL.
After flying high through the first month of the year, the Jets hit some turbulence by dropping three of their next four games, at Green Bay, at Denver, and home against Buffalo. New York manages to sneak out a second division win with a walk-off field goal to beat New England at home and sits at 6-3 entering their bye week.
After the bye, the Jets lose a heartbreaker in Foxborough, before winning their next two games, home against Chicago and at Minnesota.
Entering Week 14 at 8-4, the Jets face their most important matchup of the season so far, a trip to Buffalo to take on the 10-2 Bills. Unfortunately, Gang Green isn’t able to slow down the Big Blue Juggernaut, losing 24-10 in a one-sided affair.
On the bright side, the loss in Buffalo turns out to be a wake-up call for New York, as they rebound strong and end the year with four straight wins, home against Detroit and Jacksonville, and at Seattle and Miami.
The Jets end the year with a 12-5 record and secure the top wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs.
Zach Wilson finishes the regular season with 4,420 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, making his first Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Garrett Wilson ends his rookie year with 73 catches, 1,105 yards, and eight touchdowns, while Breece Hall leads all rookies in rushing with 1,075 yards on 268 carries.
New York ends the year with the ninth overall offense in the NFL, 10th in passing and seventh in rushing.
On defense, the pass rush continues to be a force throughout the year, racking up 50 total sacks to rank third in the league. The new additions in the secondary quickly make a difference, with D.J. Reed earning a Pro Bowl appearance after snatching six interceptions, good for fourth in the NFL.
As a whole, the defense ends the year ranked 14th in yards allowed, and eighth in points allowed.
Worst Case Scenario: 3-14 record, and more questions than answers
If the Jets end the year at 12-5, it will mean their plan worked flawlessly. If they end the year at 3-14, however, it will mean nothing went according to plan.
In this scenario, the Jets never manage to get off the ground, going without a win for the first 11 weeks of the season before finally ending the free-fall with a win against the lowly Bears.
Zach Wilson doesn’t make the second-year leap and instead takes a complete nosedive, leading the league in interceptions through 11 weeks. With no threat of the passing game, the Jets’ run game also suffers, ranking a measly 25th in the NFL over the same period of time.
The new faces on defense fail to improve their prior output, and with the offense stuck in quicksand, Gang Green’s defense is repeatedly left out to dry.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley finally hits the age wall and becomes a liability in coverage. Carl Lawson’s Achilles’ injury stalemates his progress, as Lawson never reaches his pre-injury form. The new members of the secondary struggle to get on the same page, leading to blown coverages throughout the year. Through 11 weeks, the Jets defense ranks 31st in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed.
New York sees their next, and final, two wins of the season in Week 15 and Week 16, home contests against the Lions and Jaguars.
With only three wins on the year, no development from Zach Wilson, and another season of putrid defense, the Jets end 2022 with more questions than they had when it began, with seemingly no way to answer them.
After compiling a 13-53 record over four years as general manager, Joe Douglas has lost the trust of ownership and is given an ultimatum for 2023: make the playoffs, or hit the bricks.
While it can be fun (and also terrifying) to speculate about the Jets’ future, the reality of the team will likely fall somewhere between both extremes.
New York will very likely be better than their 2021 record of 4-13. The sheer amount of talent added by Douglas all but ensures it. However, that talent may not be enough to overcome a daunting schedule and turn the Jets into playoff contenders right away.
Zach Wilson is likely to improve with more time to master the offense and a much improved supporting cast, but expecting him to become one of the best quarterbacks in the league overnight would be unrealistic and unfair to Wilson himself.
The BYU product has yet to play a full season’s worth of starts after missing four games as a rookie with a knee injury and could struggle early in the year as he regains his footing.
The defense should see improvement as well, especially in the back end. However, New York could continue to struggle with plays like trap runs and screen passes that are designed to beat their defensive scheme.
All in all, the story of the 2022 Jets should be positive, with young players progressing at a steady pace and new veterans leading those youngsters on and off the field.
Even if the Jets fail to make the playoffs in 2022, just remember, Adam Gase survivors: it could always be worse.