Jets Could Contend in Wildcard After ‘Terrific Offseason’: Analyst

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets HC Robert Saleh coaching with the San Francisco 49ers during the Super Bowl on February 2, 2020.

After a 2-14 season in 2020, most New York Jets fans just want to see their team show signs of improvement this year.

Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan and CBS Sports believes they can exceed those expectations with flying colors.

In a full team breakdown and training camp preview for the Jets, Hunt explained why Gang Green is being slept on and how that may play to their advantage in 2021.

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A+ Draft Fuels Incredible Offseason

Football Gameplan's 2021 NFL Team Preview: New York JetsFootball Gameplan's 2021 #NFL Team Preview: New York Jets 01:00 – 4-Minute Offense 03:16 – Offensive Positional Breakdowns 07:32 – Defensive Positional Breakdowns 11:41 – Reasons for Optimism 12:47 – Causes for Concern 13:27 – Training Camp Quick Hits 15:29 – Road to the Super Bowl2021-07-03T15:42:53Z

This new beginning for the Jets franchise seemed to take shape the moment general manager Joe Douglas hired head coach Robert Saleh.

Hunt highlighted Saleh’s reputation of “being able to both relate and develop players,” which he called the “two most important and underrated necessities to be a successful coach at any level.”

Aside from Zach Wilson, who will shoulder the pressure to perform in New York, Hunt really loved this Jets draft class. He graded it an A+ when also taking into account the undrafted free agents that Douglas was able to secure.

A couple of players the analyst featured were “dominant” guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and running back Michael Carter, two young men that Hunt believed will have an immediate rookie impact.

He noted that Carter in particular was his number two ranked running back in the entire draft class because of his “vision, wiggle and burst”, which tells you how much of a steal he could end up being in the fourth round.

Hunt also called cornerback Jason Pinnock one of his “underrated draft prospects in the class,” noting his length and athleticism as a press-corner that could fit in Saleh’s scheme and “factor in early” within the Jets secondary.

One undrafted free agent played a prominent role in Hunt’s Jets preview as well and no it wasn’t cornerback Isaiah Dunn or tight end Kenny Yeboah.

The analyst couldn’t get enough of Tristen Hoge out of BYU, his second-ranked offensive guard in the draft class. He didn’t necessarily expect Wilson’s college teammate to start but he did name him as a training camp standout that should make the roster.

Factoring in all the budding free agent signings that Douglas made this spring, from Carl Lawson, Lamarcus Joyner and Sheldon Rankins to Corey Davis, Keelan Cole and Morgan Moses among others, Hunt labeled this as a tremendous offseason for the green and white.

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X-Factors & Keys to Jets Success

One of the interesting points Hunt made that I have not heard as much was that the Jets could have won a lot more football games last season if one or two minor details were corrected.

“The Jets should have won six or seven games last year, just off talent alone,” Hunt reasoned, explaining that they blew multiple games late in the second half. Better coaching can easily flip some of those into wins, not to mention the influx of skill.

Remember this play against the Las Vegas Raiders? I know, it’s hard to forget.

Gang Green also suffered heartbreaking defeats to the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers.

Hunt sees Wilson and Lawson as the two biggest X-factors in 2021, two fresh faces.

It’s obvious that the play of the rookie quarterback will determine how far the Jets go this year, but the edge rusher maybe even more key at times as his pass-rushing can elevate this secondary and make this defense better as a whole.

A couple of other quick-hitters were Denzel Mims and Blessuan Austin, who the analyst marked as breakout candidates in their respective new schemes. Hunt wouldn’t be the first to see Mims in this regard but Austin took me more by surprise.

Some think the cornerback could be fighting for his job in training camp so if he could turn things around and become a productive starter for Jeff Ulbrich, that would be an unexpected reversal of fortune for the Jets.

At the end of the day, Hunt thought the three most crucial components of a possible NYJ playoff berth were becoming a top 10 defense and run game under Saleh and Mike LaFleur. The third was the continued development of Wilson at QB.

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Hunt’s Prediction

While he does expect the Jets to be a “seven or eight-win team,” Hunt still projected them to finish fourth in the tough AFC East division as of now.

The analyst mentioned that he almost moved them up to third in the division as a team that he feels is up-and-coming. If Saleh and the Jets can put it all together in 2021, Hunt predicted that they could take some opponents off guard and “flirt with that seventh wildcard spot.”

Check out the full Jets 2021 preview on YouTube, Spotify or iTunes for even more information like Hunt’s positional grades and spotlighted players.

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