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Should NY Jets fans temper expectations this season?

NY Jets, Aaron Rodgers, Robert Saleh, HC
Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets, Getty Images

Perhaps New York Jets fans should remain cautious in their optimism

It goes without saying that in the offseason, most NFL fans think their team has a chance to compete for a championship. At least, on paper. For New York Jets fans, it’s no different. Gang Green’s starting quarterback is a former four-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl winner. There are sufficient offensive weapons surrounding him. The team has an elite defense by any standard.

Yet, there are still plenty of reasons why fans should temper expectations for the team going into 2024.

Injuries

I’ll spare every Jets fan the long spiel, especially since we saw this exact situation play out in 2023. Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles in Week 1 and the season was all but over. It didn’t help that the offensive line had injuries as well. And, going into 2024, there are a few position groups the Jets can’t afford to have injured.

Given the scary lack of depth on the offensive line, any injury (except maybe tackle) would lead to catastrophe for the Jets offense. The Jets can’t afford to play with a poor offensive line, especially with a 40-year-old quarterback who is coming off of a torn Achilles.

On defense, any injury to the linebacker group or the cornerback group could also spell serious trouble. While one of the Jets’ three main cornerbacks could fill in for another, it isn’t an ideal situation to be in.

And as for the linebacker group, the depth just isn’t there for the team to suffer an injury. Of course, injuries are obvious and can derail even the greatest teams. However, there are other potential causes for concern.

Is the wide receiver room really set?

To be frank, outside of Garrett Wilson, the entire receiving room is a giant question mark.

Mike Williams is coming off of a torn ACL and entering his age-30 season. Most wide receivers coming off an ACL tear need a year before returning to their old form. Combining his age and injury concern, there are more questions than answers for the free agent acquisition.

Allen Lazard played so poorly last year that coaches weren’t acknowledging him to the media heading into this offseason. Now, I do expect Lazard to perform better than he did last season – but to what end remains to be seen. Given his contract, the Jets are stuck with him regardless, so the onus is on him to play like Rodgers’ WR2.

Meanwhile, rookie Malachi Corley is a non-early-declare prospect (a negative sign for WRs) who has shown little ability to be more than a YAC machine against poor competition. And while Xavier Gipson was a great story for the Jets last season, there’s little evidence pointing to a potential breakout.

If everything clicks, this room could fly under the radar. However, signs point to a more pessimistic outlook than a positive one.

A hole at the Will?

The Jets opted not to sign a linebacker in free agency, which means the team will likely rely on Jamien Sherwood to fill in the Will linebacker spot.

Sherwood is essentially a complete wildcard in terms of expectations. He’s a sure tackler, with only a 5.8% missed tackle percentage. However, he’s a sieve in pass coverage.

Sherwood was one of only four linebackers in 2023 to cede a reception on every target he was responsible for. His 152.6 passer rating allowed is the second-highest among all linebackers (min. 100 snaps). Yet, while he surpasses a 75.0 grade by PFF in run defense, tackling, and pass rush, that could be due to the cast surrounding him rather than Sherwood’s ability itself. This position could be a clear mismatch that opposing offenses can exploit – especially in passing situations.

Coaching concerns

Whether it was the 30-person report highlighting the team’s dysfunction centered around head coach Robert Saleh or OC Nathaniel Hackett or the report that the team was actively trying to take Hackett out of a decision-making position, it’s obvious there’s a real issue here. Sure, fans can plug their ears and close their eyes with the thought of Rodgers saving literally everything, but that’s a lot of (unnecessary) pressure for a quarterback who could have retired and gone into politics.

Maybe Rodgers enjoys the challenge. Maybe the Jets will be able to overcome these obstacles that (on paper) look less frightening than their potential outcomes. Yet, while the Jets can (and should) have success this year, it’s best to approach the season with cautious optimism rather than setting a standard that may be unlikely to be achieved.

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