In moments like these — at the start of a journey — the word expectation is often important. Depending on your perspective and expectation for this season, the same result can produce two completely different reactions.
For Jets fans, there is one result that would produce a similar amount of jubilation, however, playoffs. Gang Green has not reached the postseason since the 2010 campaign. That 11-year drought is the longest active streak in the NFL and it’s not even close (Denver’s six-year stretch is next).
Having said that, there is definitely an optimistic feel around One Jets Drive, despite Zach Wilson’s preseason knee injury and the franchise’s position in a tough AFC. Some around the NFL community even feel confident in labeling them a “sleeper team.”
Jets Voted ‘Sleeper Team That Will Defy Expectations’
Heavy’s football insider Matt Lombardo polled “a dozen current NFL players, coaches, scouts and executives” to put together a 2022 preview of sorts — including surprise MVP predictions, Super Bowl picks, and dark horse teams that aren’t getting enough credit.
The Jets came into the conversation during that last subject — sorry fans, not in that championship discussion yet. Still, being called a sleeper “that will defy expectations” by your peers is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it’s exactly what most NYJ fans are hoping for out of head coach Robert Saleh’s second season building his program, improvement and excitement.
Out of 13 total votes, the Jets received two in this category, an amount that tied for second behind the Houston Texans (three votes). Here was Lombardo’s full list of sleeper candidates receiving tallies from NFL competitors:
- Houston Texans (3)
- New York Jets (2)
- Miami Dolphins (2)
- Baltimore Ravens (2)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (1)
- Indianapolis Colts (1)
- Carolina Panthers (1)
- Minnesota Vikings (1)
The House of Douglas & Saleh — Built Brick by Brick
This is a huge year for general manager Joe Douglas, who enters his fourth regular season on the job (2022 was his third full offseason). The roster has added talent, there’s no doubt about it, but the team must begin showing tangible results.
Douglas’ record is 13-36 with the Jets, Saleh’s is 4-13. Zach Wilson, the quarterback they entrusted with the future of their regime, is 3-10.
These are just the facts and fans have heard them before. The past few years have grown monotonous at times, waiting for something to change, and every person within the NYJ community is ready for this unfamiliar feeling of winning football.
Is the NFL competition correct? Is 2022 the campaign that a hungry Jets team that defies expectations?
Aside from the two black clouds that have hung over training camp — injuries to Mekhi Becton and Wilson — the vibe has been overwhelmingly positive. This defense looks sturdy on all three levels, with a ferocious rotation of pass rushers that should rival any NFL roster.
The offense has reliable playmakers in place at running back, wide receiver and tight end, just waiting for a quarterback to step up and seize the moment. Even the starting offensive line looks the strongest it’s been since the days of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
There are areas of concern, don’t get me wrong. The O-line depth is still thin at tackle and the Jets’ run defense must prove it can hold up after getting pulverized in 2021. There’s also plenty of youth and inexperience at key positions, as well as the uncertainty of Wilson and the QB position — but there’s no denying that this organization feels ready to take the next step.
So figure out your 2022 expectations, buckle in, and bask in the potential of something new. You never know what’s going to happen in the NFL.