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These players’ breakouts would help NY Jets the most

Joe Tippmann, NY Jets, Center
Joe Tippmann, New York Jets, Getty Images

These players could bring the New York Jets to a new level if they break out

In 2023, the New York Jets’ breakout players were Quincy Williams and Jermaine Johnson. Both took major leaps from where they had been in 2022, earning Williams a first-team All-Pro and Johnson a Pro Bowl nod. That allowed the Jets’ defense to rank third in the NFL in defensive DVOA despite Carl Lawson’s wasted season and inferior safety play.

The Jets’ most likely breakout candidates in 2024 are their youngest non-rookies — Will McDonald, Joe Tippmann, and Tony Adams. Any player breaking out helps a team tremendously. However, which players would help the Jets the most if they elevate their level of play?

WR Xavier Gipson or Malachi Corley

The Jets are heavily relying on Mike Williams to be the same stud receiver of old in 2024. However, a torn ACL at age 30 is not a great recipe for continued excellent play. Though Allen Lazard is Williams’ natural replacement on the outside, Lazard is not a serious candidate for a breakout due to his age (29), poor route-running, and porous hands. Therefore, the player to take the most pressure off both Garrett Wilson and Williams will be Xavier Gipson or Malachi Corley.

I ordinarily wouldn’t have included Corley or Gipson on this list. Corley is a rookie, making the term “breakout” odd, and I thought Gipson would be a fringe roster player at best. Surprisingly, early returns from OTAs indicate that Gipson seems penciled in as the Jets’ starting slot receiver.

If one of these two players can become a quality slot receiver, it would make a tremendous difference in the Jets’ offense. It’s too top-heavy and too age-dependent right now. Having a third legitimate weapon in the receiving corps will help spread out targets and prevent as much double coverage against Wilson, who was double-teamed at the highest rate in the NFL in 2023.

A breakout for either of these players would simply be a campaign where they put up quality No. 3 receiver numbers. There’s no expectation of a 1,000-yard season, but if they could get into the 500-600-yard range (as opposed to the 361 yards I predicted for Corley) and pick up meaningful first downs, it could take the Jets’ offense to a higher level.

IOL John Simpson or Joe Tippmann

While Joe Tippmann is the more obvious pick here — and I chose him in my original breakout articleJohn Simpson is just as good a candidate to raise the floor of the Jets’ offensive line. While Simpson’s contract would indicate that he’s a fringe starter at best, his film and analytics indicate that he could be a steal at a $6 million average annual value.

Alijah Vera-Tucker is already an above-average player with All-Pro potential. If the Jets had a second interior offensive lineman elevate their level of play from average to above average, that could elevate the Jets’ whole offense. In particular, it could spell dominance for Breece Hall up the middle.

DT Javon Kinlaw

The Jets’ signing of Javon Kinlaw to a $7.25 million deal remains a mystery that reeks of nepotism. However, the consistent traits that show up on Kinlaw’s film are athleticism and pure power. At his current level, Kinlaw will be a net negative for the Jets’ defense as a well below-average run defender (31.3 Pro Football Focus run defense grade) and a slightly above-average pass rusher (9.6% pressure rate ranked 24th/66 qualified DTs). He will be a downgrade from Quinton Jefferson’s 38.7 run defense grade and 12.1% pressure rate.

If Kinlaw can learn to harness his athletic traits, it would make a tremendous difference for the Jets’ defense. Right now, their only good pass rusher from the interior is Quinnen Williams, as they lost Jefferson and John Franklin-Myers. If Kinlaw gives them a second option, the Jets’ pass rush will have a better chance to match or exceed its 2023 production.

EDGE Will McDonald

Like Kinlaw, Will McDonald is replacing a highly productive player from the 2023 Jets defense. Asking McDonald to match Bryce Huff’s efficiency numbers is practically impossible, as Huff ranked in the top three among edge defenders in pressure rate and pass rush win rate. Still, McDonald’s performance may be the single biggest key in the Jets’ pass rush. Haason Reddick is a good finisher, and Jermaine Johnson brings a consistently high motor. However, it’s McDonald whom they’ll turn to in obvious pass-rushing situations, and they’ll need him to wreak havoc as often as possible.

If McDonald comes close to fulfilling his potential in Year 2, the Jets could have an even better pass rush than they did in 2023. McDonald’s 34⅞-inch arms give him the potential to be a sack artist, as opposed to Huff’s 31¾-inch ones. He also forced 11 fumbles in college, and bringing that threat around the edge could help the Jets’ defense get off the field.

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mlesko73
29 days ago

No argument with those mentioned. Conklin comes to mind, although, given the QB play he endured, one could say that he’s already excelling.

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