By Jeff Moeller., The New York Extra/Thenyextra.com
The table is set, and the Jets will begin to work toward the main course.
GM Joe Douglas finished his first crafting of assembling a roster, and its effects soon will surface during the season.
The big question is this Jets’ roster better than last year’s 7-9 club? On paper, it is a good mix of youth and experience. The team’s entire daft made the cut.
Questions abound, and Adam Gase’s job may depend on it.
Along with the COVID-19 issues, there was a soap opera in camp between Gase and Le’Veon Bell about their on-off again relationship, as each stated how much they respected each other even though some of their actions really didn’t reflect it.
Bell reported to camp lighter than his average playing weight and showed same flashes of his previous productive days in Pittsburgh.
When running backs Leonard Fournette and Alvin Kamara both were reportedly on the market, the rumors circulated that the Jets would acquire one and possibly dump Bell ahead of his apparent exodus after this season due to his contract. (Bell will only have $4 million worth of guarantees of he is released after 2020, and the Jets could save approximately $11.5 million for the cap if he is gone by June 1).
But Fournette ended up in Tampa with Tom Brady and Kamara was back in camp with New Orleans after a brief holdout.
The Jets have discussed a plan to maximize Bell, getting him more involved with the passing game. They will have to follow that route as their current roster has just two more running backs (Frank Gore and La’Mical Perine).
Bell’s endurance will be a key especially since their receiving crops still has some questions. Highly touted second-round pick Denzel Mims was injured throughout training camp. Veteran Chris Hogan could play a major role as a third receiver with newcomer Breshad Perriman and returnee Jamison Crowder.
Quarterback Sam Darnold has reached his pivotal third year and he has checked all the boxes this summer. Will he progress and can he stay healthy? Vet Joe Flacco has been activated and is a great insurance policy.
The real measure for the offense will be the line.
Top pick Mekhi Becton has been impressive, and the “Big Ticket” is ready to handle left tackle. Besides left guard Alex Lewis, the rest of the line is the quandary here.
Center Connor McGovern was brought in from Denver and right guard Alex Van Roten came from Carolina. Both are battle tested and started a good share of games the past two season. George Fant basically was a backup and rotation player in Seattle, but his mammoth frame could help.
Did they mesh well enough without any preseason games?
The other side of the ball looks pretty solid.
Up front, Quinnen Williams is recommitted and there is plenty of depth. Draft choice Jabari Zuniga could develop as a pass rusher.
Depth also is a plus at linebacker, but the cornerback issue will be under scrutiny to see if it can develop. Quincy Wilson appears to be a nice addition, and Bless Austin and Arthur Maulet will need to take the next step.
Rookie safety Ashtyn Davis is regarded as the new gem who will be involved in various schemes.
The Jets decided to keep inconsistent kicker Sam Ficken, but that situation could change before kickoff in Buffalo. Rookie Brandon Mann has been working through the usual first-year woes.
How do the Jets stack up? Health, offense, and the kicking game are the current concerns.
Then there is Gase? Does he make the right calls and full utilize Bell as well as mentor Darnold to the next level?
Buffalo and San Francisco in the first two weeks will be an early litmus test.
The Jets have filled most of the gaps, and the deciding factor will be chemistry with the offensive line and with Darnold and his receivers.
If the Jets can get successfully navigate through the first half of the season, they will be in the hunt for the postseason.
If not, Gase and his crew will be headed into some turbulent offseason waters.