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The Jets’ turnaround can start now that they’ve given Sam Darnold more weapons this offseason

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Offensive line and wide receiver were two major needs for the New York Jets this spring.

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Adam Gase and Le’Veon Bell couldn’t restore the Jets to glory in their first years in New York, but 2019 held some high notes for the team. Victories over the Cowboys, Steelers, and Bills helped showcase the Jets’ defensive talent. Leveling up Sam Darnold to meet his first-round potential would go a long way in pairing a lackluster offense with a rising D.

The question is whether Gase and a handful of new additions can upgrade the offense and get the Jets back to the postseason for the first time since 2010.

New York Jets (7-9), missed playoffs

New York gutted out some surprising wins last season. This was tempered by losses to formerly winless teams like the Dolphins and Bengals that made 2019 seem so much worse than 7-9 suggests. Here’s what the Jets can improve to avoid another underwhelming slog through the regular season.

Before free agency:

  1. Offensive line: Jets quarterbacks were sacked on more than nine percent of their dropbacks last season. Bell averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per rush. There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to the team’s blocking.
  2. Wide receiver: Robby Anderson was the team’s second-most targeted player in 2019, behind Jamison Crowder. He’s a free agent, and team would benefit from adding some extra playmakers to Darnold’s arsenal anyway
  3. Edge rusher: Only two Jets had more than three sacks last fall; one was safety Jamal Adams. The good news is that leaves plenty of opportunities for growth along the club’s front seven. New linebackers to bookend the 3-4 lineup would also provide a major boost for a defense that could make a major leap in 2020.

What Gang Green Nation wants most this offseason: The Jets desperately need to upgrade their offensive line. The 2019 Jets couldn’t establish a run game and left Darnold to fend for himself against a consistently collapsing pocket non-stop. This team has a lot of glaring holes, but the offensive line needs to be the first, second, and third priorities. — John Butchko

After free agency:

New York was an active player in free agency, making it clear 2020 was all about giving Darnold a better chance to reach his potential. Rather than wait for the draft, New York signed Connor McGovern, George Fant, and Greg Van Roten to overhaul its OL. That’s helped upgrade a limited offense, but left some work for the defense in the draft.

  1. Cornerback: Trumaine Johnson was a bad signing who lasted only two years with the team. Darryl Roberts was also released. Picking up former Colt Pierre Desir is a step in the right direction, but the Jets need more bodies at corner so that a strong safety combination can truly shine.
  2. Edge rusher: Patrick Onwuasor is a solid rotational piece with the potential to overachieve, but New York needs to add more pass rushing threats to slow down the AFC’s top quarterbacks.
  3. Tight end/WR: Breshad Perriman brings another talented-but-inconsistent deep threat to Darnold’s huddle. Perriman looked like a WR1 in stretches last year, but he’s never had more than 36 receptions in a season. Perhaps 2020 could be the year he realizes his first-round potential. Adding another impact target — maybe that’s just a healthy Chris Herndon — would help create space for him to make plays downfield.

After the draft:

The Jets continued to give Darnold more protection and weapons in the draft. With their first-round pick, they took massive left tackle Mekhi Becton. In the second round, they lucked into wide receiver Denzel Mims, who some projected to be a first-round pick. La’Mical Perine is a bruiser who can complement Le’Veon Bell in the ground game.

They waited a little later to get help at edge rusher (Jabari Zuniga, third round) and cornerback (Bryce Hall, fifth round). Both come with risks, though they also have potential to be impact players.

Dan Kadar’s draft grade: B+