2020 NFL Team Previews: New York Jets

2020 NFL Team Previews

By Professor MJ

New York Jets



1. Introduction

The Jets have had just one winning season over the past nine years and didn’t make the playoffs once during this time frame.

Their fans had high hopes prior to the 2019 season following a promising rookie season by QB Sam Darnold.

However, things unraveled quickly when they blew a 16-0 lead in their season opener against the Bills, before losing the next three matchups while Darnold was out with a mononucleosis. Overcoming an 0-4 start is almost impossible.

New York ended the season on a high note; they won six of their last eight bouts. Can they carry that momentum into the 2020 season?

2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)

Was Sam Darnold’s second year as a pro more productive than his rookie season? The answer is: yes, but slightly.

In both years, he played 13 games. His passing yards went from 2,865 to 3,024. His completion percentage jumped from 57.7% to 61.9%. The number of TD passes raised from 17 to 19, while the number of picks decreased from 15 to 13.

He missed three games because of mono, and he had to play through a toe and non-throwing thumb injuries. The former #3 overall pick from the 2018 draft out of USC has to show more progress in year 3.

The current backup QB is David Fales. He is a former sixth-round pick that has attempted just 48 passes in six years. He’s got to be one of the worst #2 QB in the league. With Darnold getting nicked up a few times so far in his pro career, the Jets would be wise to start looking for a better alternative.

2.2 Running Backs (RBs)

The relationship between head coach Adam Gase and running back Le’Veon Bell does not appear to be very good. Gase even said he wouldn’t mind if Bell got traded.

After spending his entire career with the Steelers and holding out the 2018 season, Bell struggled big time in his first year in the Big Apple. Only Tampa Bay’s Peyton Barber had a weaker yards-per-rush average. It was truly an awful season for Bell.

It’s worth asking whether Bell was the main beneficiary of a good OL in Pittsburgh, or if he was truly a good back. Perhaps he gained too much weight, which affected his explosiveness? Whatever the answer, it will be interesting to see how he responds in 2020. I expect a better year from him, but he won’t come close to his old form, in my opinion.

Bilal Powell also had a down year and he is now on the wrong side of 30. Ty Montgomery also didn’t touch the ball often. Both guys have yet to sign with any NFL team. The backup job in the backfield is open.

2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)

Jamison Crowder was one of the bright spots on offense for the Jets last year. He had a career-high in receptions with 78, six of which went for a touchdown. He also picked up 833 receiving yards. He’s been a serviceable guy thus far in his career, who I believe can be an excellent number 2 receiver, but the team may look for a true #1 guy.

Robby Anderson is comparable to Crowder, in the sense that he can be a good #2 WR. He enjoyed four nice seasons as a Jet, but packed his bags for Carolina to reunite with coach Matt Rhule.

The third receiver in the passing game was Demaryius Thomas. His play took a hit last year and entering his age-32 season, you have to wonder if he can still be effective. His receptions and receiving yards have declined four straight years. He won’t be back in New York next year.

Replacing Anderson and Thomas was done via the acquisition of Breshad Perriman. He shined late in the year with the Bucs, averaging 5 catches for 101 yards and 1 TD per game over his final five meetings.

The main question about him is whether he really is a good receiver, or if he was the product of Jameis Winston’s gunslinger mentality? The Jets seem to think the first option is the right one after awarding Perriman an $8 million dollar contract.

One more body was added to the mix when the Jets took Denzel Mims late in the second round of this year’s draft. He high points the ball well and is deadly in the red zone. He was the only guy to catch at least 8 TD passes in each of the past three years in the NCAA.

Mims has an outstanding catch radius with a good mix of size and speed. He tends to struggle against physical press cornerbacks, though. He’s very likely to start opposite Perriman, while Crowder plays the slot.

2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)

Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon will battle it out for the number 1 tight end duties.

It’s hard to figure out Ryan Griffin. He was taken in the 6th round of the 2013 draft and he didn’t catch more than 20 balls until he had a breakout season in 2016. During that year, he posted a nice 50-442-2 receiving stat line with the Texans.

He went back to his usual pedestrian numbers the next two seasons; he hauled in just 13 and 24 passes.

Then, he joined the Jets and had a slow start. However, in his final seven matchups he averaged 3.6 receptions for 39 yards and 0.6 TD. That probably represents his ceiling.

Chris Herndon seemed to be an up-and-coming tight end after a promising rookie campaign where he caught 39 passes for 502 receiving yards and four scores. However, a suspension coupled with hamstring and rib injuries wiped out his entire 2019 season. The team has high hopes with their former fourth-rounder out of Miami.

2.5 Offensive Line (OL)

The team allowed the fourth-highest number of sacks last year, so needless to say they felt like they needed to upgrade the position.

At center, Jonotthan Harrison’s best PFF grade over the past four years has been 54.1, which is very bad. Therefore, replacing him with free agent Connor McGovern was a good first step in order to improve the position. He obtained a nice 71.9 mark from PFF last year, after getting 58.3 and 49.2 grades the previous couple of seasons. I’m not sure the former fifth-rounder will keep playing at his 2019 level, though.

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum had a couple of good seasons in Pittsburgh a few years ago, but that was about it. Now entering his age-31 campaign, he won’t re-sign with the team.

Prior to last April’s draft, the most likely candidate to protect Darnold’s blindside was newly acquired George Fant, formerly of the Seahawks. He actually received weaker marks from PFF than Beachum last year, but he is younger and could return to his nice 2018 form.

With the 11th overall selection, the Jets took Mekhi Becton out of Louisville. All signs point towards him getting the LT spot, while Fant would slide to RT. Becton has a huge frame; he is one of the most imposing guys. He is clearly athletically gifted, but needs to be polished.

Speaking of the right tackle position, Chuma Edoga had a very rough rookie season. He was taken in the third round last year, and he finished as the number 79 tackle out of 81 players. That says it all. He looked like the favorite to land the job following Brandon Shell’s departure to Seattle, but adding Becton changed the plans.

Alex Lewis was another failed experiment last year. Acquired from Baltimore, he posted bad PFF marks for a third straight year. The Jets re-signed him to a three-year contract so they seem to believe he can improve, but I don’t.

There are two more guys that will be involved in the mix. Brian Winters has never been particularly effective. He’s not 100% sure to be back because of contract issues. He’s a decent player and it wouldn’t hurt if he came back in 2020.

Finally, Gang Green signed free agent Greg Van Roten. Grading as the 23rd-best guard in the league, out of 81 qualifiers, isn’t bad! It was his best season of a four-year career, so hopefully he won’t regress to the mean. I believe he wins the right guard battle.

2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE

How does the 2020 roster fare against last year’s?

At QB, Sam Darnold is obviously more likely to improve than to regress. Having two years of experience and a clean bill of health will help.

Le’Veon Bell is a question mark. It’s hard to tell what to expect from him. One thing’s for sure, the depth took a hit with Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery now off the team.

At WR, acquiring Perriman while losing Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas seems like a negative to me. I trust Anderson more than Perriman, given both guys’ track record. Can second-round rookie Denzel Mims do damage in his first year as a pro?

The tight end situation is a plus with the return of Chris Herndon, who missed the entire 2019 season.

Finally, will all the shuffling on the offensive line prove to be fruitful? To me, the overall talent improved, but not in a big way. The Jets couldn’t put their hands on the most coveted players on the free agent market, including Jack Conklin. Continuity is key in OL play, so having possibly four new faces will take time to gel.

In 2019, the Jets scored the second-fewest points in the league. They were atrocious when Darnold missed some games. I’m not sure the talent level has improved after offseason moves, but I’ll tag them with a small upgrade over 2019. Darnold and OL play will go a long way towards this unit’s success in 2020.

Final call (2020 vs 2019):

Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade

3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown

3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)

The three guys receiving the most playing time in 2019 on the interior of the line were Quinnen Williams, Steve McLendon and Folorunso Fatukasi.

The Jets allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in the league last year, and these guys deserve a lot of credit.

Quinnen Williams was taken as the third overall pick in the 2019 draft. He did show some promise, but wasn’t spectacular either. He must elevate his game in 2020. He was above-average defending the run, but picked up just 2.5 sacks.

Neither McLendon nor Fatukasi are going to do much as pass rushers, but they did an outstanding job against the run last year. It was a bit of a surprise for Fatukasi who was an unproven guy, while McLendon has been a perennial run stuffer. He didn’t show signs of slowing down, but his age worries me (he is 34 years old).

3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)

New York finished 23rd in terms of sacks and this unit was responsible for this disappointing ranking.

Tarell Basham played 54% of the snaps and surprised many with his play. His PFF grades have improved in each of his three seasons; he finished as the 33rd-best edge defenders out of 107. He only got two sacks though.

Jordan Jenkins led the team with 8 sacks after racking up 7 the year before. That’s a nice improvement over his first two seasons where he picked up 2.5 and 3. He should be viewed as an average edge defender.

Kyle Phillips was an undrafted rookie who eventually played half of the defensive snaps. Except in the pass rushing department, he did a respectable job. It’s unclear what he can bring to the team in the long run; 2020 should give us a clearer view.

Henry Anderson was one of the biggest disappointments last year. After logging seven sacks in his first year as a Jet, he only recorded one in 2019. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t particularly good in any aspects of the game.

Anderson had received 73.9 and 74.8 grades from PFF in 2017 and 2018, respectively. To give you a rough idea, that would have been good for the #28 spot out of 107 edge defenders last year. He dropped to a meager 55.8 mark in 2019. At age 29, unlike other guys mentioned earlier, I do believe he’s a good candidate to rebound nicely in 2020.

3.3 Linebackers (LBs)

Having C.J. Mosley back is probably the best news this unit got. He is constantly disrupting plays.

You could tell how valuable he is for this defense in last year’s opener. After he got hurt, the Bills rallied from a 16-0 deficit to win the game. They full took advantage of his absence.

He is a former first-round pick who will be entering his prime years at age 28. I expect big things from him in 2020.

Outside of Mosley, the Jets are loaded at the LB position in terms of quantity, but maybe not in quality.

Out of 89 linebackers, here is the final PFF ranking of the four most likely candidate to get a starting job in 2020: Patrick Onwuasor 73rd, Neville Hewitt 84th, James Burgess 60th and Blake Cashman 71st. Ouch.

Onwuasor was signed from the Ravens. He lost his starting job last year after grading as an above-average player. As an undrafted guy, can he rejuvenate his career in the Big Apple?

Unlike Onwuasor, there does not seem to be any kind of hope that Neville Hewitt ever becomes a good LB. His PFF grades have been disastrous in each of his five seasons in the NFL. He may help on special teams, but he’s a huge liability playing on defense.

You could pretty much copy-paste what I just said about Hewitt when talking about James Burgess. He was an enormous downgrade to Mosley as a middle linebacker last year. He should either be a backup, or simply out of the league.

Blake Cashman gets a pass because of his young age. Last year, he was a fifth-round rookie. Let’s give him more time to prove his worth.

3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)

Brian Poole was surprisingly good as a slot corner last year. He had his best career year, after three “okay” seasons with the Falcons. The team rewarded him by re-signing him for one more year as a “prove it” deal.

Darryl Roberts started most games last year, but he turned in a discouraging year. The team released him in the offseason and he signed with the Lions a few days later.

One of the candidates to start at CB is Pierre Desir, who was signed away from the Colts. He had a breakout 2018 season, but sputtered in 2019. Inconsistency has been his main problem. He’s had three fairly good years out of six. I do believe he can have success in New York in 2020.

Blessuan Austin could be darkhorse candidate to get a starting job. The rookie sixth-rounder surprised many with his coverage and run defending skills. He showed enough to deserve a shot.

Nate Hairston has been inept in each of his three years in the NFL. You clearly don’t him in your starting lineup.

3.5 Safeties (S)

Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye were both selected in the 2017 draft; Adams in the 1st round, Maye in the 2nd. Both are very good, especially Adams that has earned a couple of Pro Bowl appearances.

Maye has four career interceptions versus two for Adams, but the latter has accumulated an impressive 12 sacks, while also forcing six fumbles. The team is in good shape with these two guys patrolling the backend of the secondary.

The team added depth by drafting Ashtyn Davis early in the third round last April. He has good physical attributes, but needs to read plays more quickly. He’s unlikely to get a lot of playing time considering how good the starters are, but Gregg Williams has a tendency to put extra defensive backs on the field at times.

2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE

I do believe this unit will improve in 2020 versus what they did in 2019. I don’t think there’s any position where they are likely to suffer a downgrade.

At DL, Quinnen Williams could improve in his second year in the league (though McLendon’s play could drop off because of his age). At edge, Henry Anderson enjoyed an unexpected bad year and I do believe he has a good shot to rebound.

The biggest change comes from the return of C.J. Mosley, who missed all but two games last year. Acquiring Onwuasor is not a big deal, but he’s still an improvement over what the Jets had.

Finally, Pierre Desir, in my opinion, is an upgrade over Darryl Roberts.

For these reasons, I expect a moderate upgrade from this defense. They finished 16th in points allowed last year, and I can see them obtaining the 8th – 12th spot this year.

Final call (2020 vs 2019):

Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade

4. Regular Season Wins

According to sportsbooks, the New York Jets are expected to win 6.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?

I'll answer this question via two different methods.

4.1 Professor MJ's Prediction

I won't go into the mathematical details, but here is a summary of my own personal pick (based on my analysis above and my estimated spreads for the Jets' 16 games):

Tip: Bet UNDER 6.5 wins

4.2 Based on BetOnline's Point Spreads

Here is the methodology I used here:

  • Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
  • Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
  • Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
  • Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
  • Count the proportion of seasons where the Jets won more or less than 6.5 games.

Here are the results:

Tip: Bet UNDER 6.5 wins

In summary, both studies recommend betting the UNDER.

    Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Jets’ 16 regular season games:

    • HOME: -1 vs ARI, +2.5 vs BUF, 0 vs CLE, -2.5 vs DEN, -2 vs LV, -4 vs MIA, 0 vs NE, +5.5 vs SF.
    • ROAD: +5.5 @ BUF, +6.5 @ IND, +13 @ KC, +4 @ LAC, +7 @ LAR, +1.5 @ MIA, +7 @ NE, +8.5 @ SEA.

        Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.

        5. Mailing List

        Join numerous savvy sports investors who have joined my mailing list!

        By doing so, you won't miss any of my work:

        • NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA picks;
        • General betting advice;
        • Winning systems;
        • And much more!

        Sign up to my mailing list and see your bankroll grow! Go to bottom-right corner of this page.


        Professor MJ - sports investor logo