2018 NFL season preview: New York Jets

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The main buzz in Jets camp has been around first round rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets selected the former USC quarterback with the number three overall pick in the draft, with the hopes that he becomes the team’s franchise quarterback of the future. It has been a long time since the Jets have had consistent play at the game’s most important position. If Darnold materializes into the player the team envisioned when drafting him, they will be in a great spot for years to come, especially as the division rival Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s career is coming to an end.

In the first preseason game, Darnold showed exactly what he is capable of bringing to the Jets’ offense, as he completed 13 of his 18 pass attempts for 96 yards and a touchdown. Following that great performance in his debut, Darnold appears ready to take the next step, and the coaching staff seems to feel the same way. That’s why he is now taking first-team reps in practice, which could lead to him getting the start in the team’s second preseason game.

The Jets had some solid options at the receiver position to help Darnold make the most of his rookie year (assuming he starts). Wide receiver Robby Anderson leads the group, after having a semi-breakout season in 2017, despite lackluster quarterback play. Anderson totaled 63 catches for 941 yards and seven touchdowns on the year. Now Darnold’s number one option in the passing game, the Jets are counting on Anderson to help provide the young quarterback with a smooth transition to the NFL. Quincy Enunwa also had a good season, putting up 857 yards and four touchdowns on 58 receptions. Jermaine Kearse will also get plenty of chances to contribute to the Jets’ offensive production this year, as he rounds out the team’s three-wide sets, and will be the first option off the bench in two-wide formations.

As far as the running game is concerned, the Jets have some new faces on the team. Bilal Powell is still in New York, but he projects as the backup behind assumed starter Isaiah Crowell. Crowell has flashed some big play ability during his time in Cleveland, and he will get the first crack at the starting job. But Powell is a player who won’t ride the bench completely, and we should expect the team to sprinkle him in more often than not. There is a solid chance that this situation will develop into a shared backfield, rather than featuring just one guy as the workhorse back. Thomas Rawls is currently on the roster as well, but he will need to play well in training camp and preseason games in order to absolutely assure his spot on the 53-man roster.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets were among the worst defenses in the league last year. The draft did provide some infusion of young talent, including defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd, who was selected in the third round. Later in the draft, the Jets used their two sixth round picks on Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson, as well as defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi from the University of Connecticut.

The Jets were tied for second to last in the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed, giving up a whopping 30 touchdown tosses on the year. The front office hopes that the free agency signing of Rams castoff  Trumaine Johnson will boost the secondary, and help to limit the damage that was so detrimental in 2017. They also signed cornerback Morris Claiborne to team with Johnson, and he can help to shore up the backend of the defense as well. Finally, the Jets also signed linebacker Avery Williamson, who plays better against the run than the pass. Still, this team ranked 24th in the league in run defense, and any capable run stoppers are welcome on this roster to help clog the leaks up front.

Things in Jets headquarters are certainly looking up. The presence of quarterback Sam Darnold is a major boost to a team that has lacked any semblance of a franchise quarterback for such a long time. If his first preseason action is any indication of things to come, Jets fans should be excited about this year as well as the future.