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These 5 NY Jets players have the most to prove in 2024

Allen Lazard, NY Jets, WR, Prove, 2024
Allen Lazard, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets have some players who may come into 2024 with a chip on their shoulder

As a franchise, the New York Jets have a lot to prove to the NFL. They’re sporting a 14-year postseason drought, the longest in the four major American sports. The “Same Old Jets” moniker is alive and kicking. The rest of the league is just waiting for the team to fall apart.

On an individual level, though, there are five Jets players with a particular chip on the shoulder. They’re dealing with widespread doubt and naysayers, whether from Jets fans or the national media at large. For the Jets to succeed in 2024, these players will need to step up their game and answer those questions.

Aaron Rodgers

Is Aaron Rodgers still an elite quarterback, or was 2022 a true sign of decline? If anyone is motivated to prove the NFL wrong, it’s Rodgers. The quarterback has talked about playing for multiple seasons, but 2024 will be the litmus test for whether he can even play.

If Rodgers plays like this quarterback in 2024, the Jets will likely make the playoffs, but they won’t sniff a championship.

  • 64.6% completion percentage (20th/35)
  • 6.8 yards per attempt (23rd)
  • 4.8% touchdown rate (12th)
  • 2.21% interception rate (19th)
  • 2.17 touchdown-to-interception ratio (T-14th)
  • 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate (T-14th)
  • 75.8% adjusted completion percentage (14th)
  • 91.1 passer rating (T-15th)

This was Rodgers’ 2022 level. If he wants to prove something to the league, these rankings will need to crack the top 10, if not the top five in the league. He’ll certainly face adversity coming off the torn Achilles, as his game was largely predicated on maneuvering in and out of the pocket.

It’s easy to point to Rodgers’ broken finger and lack of a No. 1 receiver in 2022 as the reasons for his decline. It’s worth noting that he didn’t play particularly well in Weeks 1-5 before breaking his finger, either. The Jets’ weaponry is a step up from the Packers’ but dependent on good health. Can Rodgers still be a top passer?

Will McDonald

The Jets’ 2023 first-round pick had a lot to prove the second he was shockingly selected at No. 15 overall. With Bryce Huff gone, Will McDonald has massive shoes to fill. For some Jets fans, only Huff-like production will endear McDonald to them. The Jets may not need quite that level of production for their defense to thrive, but they do need well above-average production from the second-year player.

The Jets took McDonald because of his bend, elite pass rush win rate, and ability to wreak havoc via sacks and forced fumbles. He is unlikely to see more than 35-40% of the Jets’ defensive snaps in 2024, but those will come mostly in ideal pass-rushing situations (Huff’s 60.2% true pass set rate in 2023 was the highest among qualified edge defenders). Can he make an impact?

The Jets likely need at least 75th-percentile production from McDonald for their pass rush to maintain its 2023 level. Huff played 334 pass rush snaps in 2023, 201 of which were in true pass sets. Assume McDonald has 300 pass rush snaps in 2024 with 180 true pass sets. For 75th-percentile production, McDonald would need to post 46 pressures (15.3% total pressure rate) and 8.7 sacks. Those are very lofty expectations for a player who had three sacks in 2023, albeit in a very small sample size.

If the Jets don’t extend Haason Reddick, they could look to McDonald to be his replacement in 2025. How McDonald acquits himself in 2024 will be critical for both his future and the Jets’ defensive fate.

Mike Williams

They say Mike Williams can’t stay healthy. They say he’s washed up at 30 years old. It’s up to Williams to prove “them” wrong.

Williams’ health and production may be the biggest X-factor for the Jets in 2024 outside of Rodgers’ health. If Williams stays mostly healthy and plays mostly as he has over the past few seasons, the Jets’ receiving corps will be strong. If he misses a bunch of games and/or falls off a cliff, the Jets’ receiving corps is in big trouble.

The Jets don’t need Williams to post a 1,000-yard season. Garrett Wilson is their clear No. 1. Still, they probably need at least 800 yards from him, as well as continued deep-threat ability.

Will Williams live up to his name or his contract, which shows that teams didn’t believe in him?

Allen Lazard

The reason the Jets need so much from Williams is Allen Lazard. While Lazard was never worth his $11 million-per-year salary, the Jets expected him to play at least as a competent No. 3 receiver when they signed him. Instead, he played below replacement level, ranking last among receivers with 0.68 yards per route run.

If there’s one thing you can bet on, it’s that Lazard will not be back with the Jets in 2025 at his current contract number ($11 million non-guaranteed salary, $13.2 million cap number, $8.8 million saved with a pre-June 1 release). Still, he’s playing for his NFL life in 2024 with his buddy Rodgers back.

Can Lazard return to his 2019-21 form? In those three seasons as the Packers’ No. 3/4 receiver, he averaged 52 targets, 36 receptions, 480 yards, and 4.7 touchdowns per season while producing 1.47 yards per route run. If the Jets got that kind of production from Lazard in 2024, their offense would be in good shape. That’s obviously nowhere near his contract value, but it’s what the Jets need from him.

If Lazard can’t even post those kinds of numbers, there’s a decent chance he’ll be out of a secure NFL job in 2025. There’s a lot on the line for him.

Javon Kinlaw

The Jets inexplicably gave Javon Kinlaw a one-year, $7.25 million deal this offseason. For a player largely considered a first-round bust who played 44% of his team’s defensive snaps in 2023, it was quite an overpay. It will be up to Kinlaw to prove that he can elevate his 2024 play to a new level.

Kinlaw was a decent pass rusher in 2023, ranking 32nd out of 81 qualified interior defensive linemen (min. 240 pass rush snaps) with a 9.6% pressure rate. However, he’s replacing Quinton Jefferson, who ranked ninth-best with a 12.1% rate. Kinlaw will need to hit another gear to help the Jets’ pass rush maintain its lofty 2023 status.

Furthermore, Kinlaw was one of the worst interior run defenders in the NFL in 2023, ranking 99th out of 103 qualifiers (min. 150 run defense snaps) with a 31.3 Pro Football Focus run defense grade. The Jets can try to keep him off the field on running plays, but he’ll still have to face the run fairly often; 42% of Jefferson’s 2023 snaps were on run defense before Al Woods went down for the season.

The Jets need a big jump from Kinlaw in 2024. As a first-round pick who never lived up to his draft billing, he has a lot to show the league.

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Harlan Lachman
Harlan Lachman
23 days ago

I think Will McDonald’s and Allen Lazard’s 2024 performance says a lot more about Joe Douglas who should already be walking a tightrope for his suspect draft picks and trades than it does about them. Lazard was a valuable player in the past. Our GM should know whether the past is the past or a prelude to a positive future. And to take McDonald with the DL we had only to see him fail with a valuable #1 pick would be a disgrace. Why more Jet fans are not already questioning Douglas’ ability is beyond me.

21 days ago
Reply to  Harlan Lachman

This team is FAR better than it was when Douglas got here, that’s a fact. Yes, you have some bad picks, please tell me the GM you’d replace him with that has ZERO bad picks?

Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, MCIII, Jermaine Johnson, AVT, Joe Tippmann, Ashtyn Davis, added Quincy Williams, Tony Adams, the Jamal Adams trade was one of the biggest trade theft’s in the NFL. He got great value for Darnold in trade. Conklin was a solid signing, DJ Reed full on stud.

If you look at his misses he’ll look bad, if you look at Joe’s body of work compared to other GM’s I’ll bet you’ll find he’s in the top 10.