This offseason has featured a ton of change for the green and white. They got rid of Adam Gase and brought in head coach Robert Saleh. They’ve invested over 10 selections in the 2021 NFL draft and spent over $75 million in guaranteed dollars during free agency.
Although the first person they decided to hand a fistful of cash to was former first-round pick Jarrad Davis formerly of the Detroit Lions. On the very first day of free agency, Joe Douglas targeted Davis and signed him to a one-year deal for $5.5 million.
That is significant.
Skepticism Is Rampant
Minutes after Davis reportedly agreed to his contract with the Jets, fans and media started sharing their immediate skepticism.
The former Lions stud was an utter disappointment as a first-round pick during his four professional seasons. In the middle of his career, Detroit switched regimes which didn’t help as his career was sent into a tailspin.
One of the weakest points of his game that has routinely been picked apart is Davis’ ability in coverage.
“From 2017-2019, Davis allowed 8.5 yards per target while in pass coverage. Pro Football Focus had his coverage grade at 46.8 during those years.”
Gang Green taking this risk in free agency has inspired some ‘George Fant’ vibes from 2020.
Last year, the Jets had multiple opportunities to improve their vacancy at right tackle. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that they’d end up with former All-Pro Jack Conklin. Instead, the green and white passed on the proven commodity and opted for traits.
The Jets ended up signing former Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman George Fant. That move was also met initially with a lot of clapback.
The former basketball star and tight end had only 24 previous starts prior to joining the green and white. Despite the lack of experience, general manager Joe Douglas believed in the player even when no one else did.
It ended up paying off in a major way.
The 28-year-old only allowed three sacks last season and was a steadying presence in the trenches.
Fast forward a year later and the Jets are in a very familiar position. They had multiple opportunities to improve the linebacking core during the draft (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah), in the trade market, or even in free agency. Yet they passed on all of those options.
They aren’t betting on proven production, the front office is once again betting on some intriguing traits.
While the Davis signing was met with some skepticism, maybe we should all give Douglas the benefit of the doubt after his successful Fant experiment in 2020.
Reasons To Believe
The Jets will be playing out of a 4-3 defense led by coach Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. That is welcome news for Jarrad Davis.
The former Florida Gator is familiar with that defense from his time in college. While he hasn’t played in that scheme for years Davis said it’ll come back to him and compared the experience to, “getting back on the bike.”
The former first-rounder isn’t the only believer in this scheme, so is his coach. Ulbrich is super excited to get his hands on the talented linebacker.
“I’ve been super hungry to get him in this system,” new Jets defensive coordinator on working with Jarrad Davis. “We’re breathing new life into him every day. I’ve always been excited about how he can fit in this defense.”
The truth of the matter is the Jets linebacker group lacks star power and depth. By default, Davis is going to get every opportunity to prove himself not only to Gang Green but also to the fan base.
CJ Mosley is the only other roster lock for one of the starting positions in the 4-3 scheme.
The beneficiary of a phenomenal front four
The key to a 4-3 defense is a terrific pass rush. We don’t know how everything is going to turn out in 2021, but on paper, the Jets have a deep and tantalizing stable of defensive linemen upfront.
That should open up the red sea for Gang Green’s linebackers this season. Left and right there should be open lanes for the second-level defenders to penetrate through to make plays. This will make life a lot easier for Davis.
When you list all of these factors: schematics, opportunity, and talent around him that’s a perfect storm for a breakthrough campaign next year.