New York Jets fans, you’ve been waiting for this moment for over eight months, it’s finally game week!
The last two years have been painful for a lot of obvious reasons and the team has been hard to root for. Heading into 2021 there is a new energy on 1 Jets Drive led by a lot of fresh new faces.
We continue our weekly Monday mailbag with some season predictions featuring our two Jets Digital Reporters, Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden Jr and Michael Obermuller.
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Prediction Time, Playoffs?
1. With it finally being game week for the New York Jets 2021 season, it’s prediction time! What is your overall record prediction for Gang Green this year?
8-9. This is lofty, especially after the preseason injuries that the Jets have suffered. At the same time, I think this is the easiest schedule the team has had in years and I do think they’ll surprise some teams with their tenacious spirit that will stem from Robert Saleh. I also think Zach Wilson is the real deal, and I’m actually much more worried about the defense than the offense.
For those keeping track, I have Gang Green splitting against the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, but losing both to the Buffalo Bills. Other teams I have the Jets beating are the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and Jacksonville Jaguars. The rest I have down as losses, although games can always flip one way or the other based on injuries and upsets.
P.S. Let’s say the Green & White have eight wins heading into Week 18, they might have a chance to upset Buffalo for win number nine if the Bills have clinched and decide to rest their starters.
I’m still not used to the new 17 game NFL schedule, but I digress. This is what I believe the ceiling is for the Jets in 2021 and this will likely draw eye rolls from across the NFL landscape.
The loss of Carl Lawson is a brutal blow, but why I feel so confident is because I believe the offense is going to be way better than people are giving it credit for.
You have a proven offensive system that has worked in countless other places: Green Bay and San Francisco. The Jets will be as good as their rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. If he has a Justin Herbert-like ascension, the ceiling is the roof as Michael Jordan once said.
If the jump to the NFL level is to big for the former BYU stud, this Jets team will bottom out and be a five to six win team. I claim to be the most optimistic Jets fan on planet Earth, I always see the glass half full and that’s a great way to enjoy life.
Let’s sit back and enjoy some Jets football this season! At the very least games should be a lot more competitive than they’ve been the last couple of years!
Winnable games: Carolina, New England, Denver, Philadelphia, Houston, New Orleans, Cincinnati
Impossible or really tough games: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Buffalo, Miami, Indianapolis, Atlanta
Everything is subjective, but even some of the tough games listed I could talk myself putting into the winnable category.
2. What game do you have circled in permanent marker on the calendar and why?
The divisional games are always fun and the Patriots rivalry runs deep for me being that I went to college in New England and I have a lot of close friends from Boston. Those are circled, make no mistake, but for many reasons the game that I’m most amped for is Week 1.
In part, I just can’t wait to finally see these young players in a game that matters. I can’t wait to see C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams back on the field all game, but I also can’t wait to see how the Jets hold up against another NFL franchise. The piece that pushes it over the edge is Sam Darnold. No offense to the truthers out there, but I never was one. Darnold was a guy that I didn’t want to draft that I had to convince myself was talented. Wilson is the opposite.
In the end, I realized Darnold was average or worse. I can’t wait to finally put this narrative that he’s going to turn into a superstar with the Panthers to rest. It would have been circled if it wasn’t Week 1 but since it is, it’s become the most anticipated game of the season.
OH MY GOODNESS THE SEASON IS ALMOST HERE LET’S GOOOOOOO!
Okay now that I got that off my chest, back to business.
There are so many juicy storylines and games that intrigue me on the calendar:
- Week 2: Jets vs Patriots always has extra juice and this will be the first time in the history of this rivalry we’ll have two rookie quarterbacks facing off.
- Week 16: No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence (the guy every Jets fan originally wanted) vs the No. 2 pick Zach Wilson (the guy nearly every Jets fan is enamored with).
- Week 17: Tom Brady returns to MetLife to face off against the green and white.
Although the game I’ve had circled since before the schedule was even put together is Jets vs Carolina.
This game is overflowing with storylines (I documented them here for your viewing pleasure) but to highlight a few key points: Sam Darnold (ex-girlfriend) vs Wilson (new girlfriend), the feel of a Week 1 game (with fans returning in full flower for the first time in over two years), and this will unfairly set the tone for the year.
If the Jets and Wilson look great in a win the overflowing energy and optimism won’t be able to be stopped. While on the other side, if Darnold dominates an inexperienced Jets cornerback group and wins, the Jets season will already be off the tracks.
It’s unfair either way, but that’s the NFL for you.
Handing out Some Hardware
3. Who will be the team MVP and why?
The offense will surprise teams in a methodical way (solid rushing attack with an accurate play-action QB), but the defense is going to have to come together if this team wants to win eight games or more. There’s one player in particular that I find to be crucial on the defensive side — Mosley.
At least to start the season, the veteran middle linebacker will have a rookie on either side of him, and I’m not talking about the cornerbacks. If this defense succeeds, it will be because Mosley acts as the glue that holds it all together. He’ll be a huge factor in the run game and in coverage but most of all, the MIKE will be that extra coach that’s on the field. If he can put these talented youngsters in the right position to succeed, watch out.
A fascinating question.
Quinnen Williams is my pick. With Lawson out for the season, all the pressure shifts to the former Alabam star to carry the torch for the defense. He had a great season in 2020, but in this new 4-3 scheme, Williams should be able to reach another level!
What people don’t really understand before they see this defense is everything is predicated on the front four. This is a simplistic defense in the sense that it’s up to the four rushers to create havoc which allows your corners to be less talented/experienced because they won’t have to cover as long.
If you’re unable to create that pressure up front, then it’s very easy for this defense to be picked apart by any opposing offense. Without some of the cogs (Lawson and Vinny Curry), defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is going to have to cook up some blitzes and stunts to create confusion.
Putting that window dressing aside for a moment, Williams is the straw that stirs the drink. He was one of the big reasons head coach Robert Saleh chose the Jets as a landing spot.
4. Give us the OROY, DROY, OPOY, DPOY (rookie of the year on both sides and player of the year on both sides)
The Jets’ offensive rookie of the year has to be Wilson, being that I think he has a shot at the NFL version of the honor. The BYU product won’t make as many flashy plays as people expect, but he’ll be incredibly efficient for a rookie. His greatest attribute is his ability to master a playbook, and he will master Mike LaFleur’s as time goes on.
On the defensive side for rookies, I’ll take Hamsah Nasirildeen. From the start, I thought Jamien Sherwood was the more pro-ready linebacker and this is no slight on the Auburn product, but Nasirildeen seems to have the full package. I like both prospects long-term but the Seminole has my vote for year one.
Non-rookie OPOY will be Corey Davis. The new WR1 has been Wilson’s safety net this summer, as well as his deep ball target. He literally catches everything and his route-running is sublime. THIS is the guy that the Tennesee Titans drafted No. 5 overall in 2017.
Non-rookie DPOY: Mosley (see above).
Zach Wilson is the obvious choice. It’s a quarterback’s award and Wilson is going to have plenty of opportunities to win the Jets’ version and the NFL one. With that said I’ll go outside the box with an Elijah Moore pick.
He was a star throughout the offseason and I think it’ll translate to the regular season. The stat line could look like 65 receptions for 850 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Due to necessity a lot of rookies are going to get playing time from Hamsah to Jamien, but I’ll once again go outside the box. Give me undrafted free agent Isaiah Dunn. The Jets’ just ditched their most experienced corner in Bless Austin which should completely open the door for the former UDFA to make an instant impact. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to earn this hardware.
Give me Mekhi Becton. Offensive linemen don’t get enough love and I’ll change that with this nomination. The Jets completely revamped the offense with Wilson at quarterback: new additions to the O-Line, weapons around him, and coaching. Becton’s development and ascension to an upper-tier star are paramount to protecting Wilson.
Already mentioned Williams earlier and thus he would be a likely candidate here as well, but once again I’ll go a different direction. Marcus Maye isn’t happy, he is playing on the franchise tag, but he is on a mission to prove he is worthy of a long-term deal. A new defense gives him a chance to once again put his talent on full display.
5. Who will be the breakout star of the 2021 New York Jets?
Generally, this is a player entering year two or year three and the Jets certainly have several candidates that fit the mold. However, I’m going to go off-track a bit and choose a guy that I’ve become a big fan of the past year or so, John Franklin-Myers.
The versatile defensive lineman was expected to be utilized both inside and outside this season but with all the injuries on the edge, he should start at defensive end. ‘JFM’ needs to improve as a run-defender but his pass-rushing ability is ridiculously underrated. Carl Lawson overshadowed him in practice this summer but Franklin-Myers was collapsing the pocket on a daily basis too.
With a starting opportunity for the first time in his career, I think JFM becomes an acronym that’s known around the sport.
When I hear the term breakout star, it says to me a player that has been in the league for a while, but it just hasn’t happened yet for whatever reason. Once I said that out loud, the answer to this question was very clear, running back Ty Johnson.
Every other running back has received hype from Tevin Coleman to Michael Carter, but Johnson is the one to watch. He brings explosiveness, vision, and a perfect skillset that is a puzzle piece fit to what this offense asks of its’ running backs.
Coleman will probably get the early nod, but it’s only a matter of time before Johnson grabs this backfield and takes it over. There will always be a committee cloud over this group, but TJ will eventually be the lead dog and that’s amazing. This guy started as a day three pick of the Detroit Lions and now he has a chance to be an RB1 for Gang Green, what a journey!
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