by Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Jets’ cornerback Michael Carter II isn’t worried about quarterback Zach Wilson.
“He’s the perfect QB for the New York market,” said Carter via his Twitter account recently. “He doesn’t hear any noise. “It’s so cool. No matter what anyone writes about him, it doesn’t matter to him.”
Hearing that, and waiting for Wilson to enter Year Two is a comforting thought. Wilson isn’t alone, though. Carter II, running back Michael Carter, and wide receiver Elijah Moore are part of a budding cast that once again has raised expectations. The rising hype surrounding the Jets is on the same level that it was before the 2020 season.
You remember it, don’t you? The then Adam-Gase led Jets won six of their last eight games to finish 7-9 and visions of future playoff football danced in fans’ heads around the holidays.
Unfortunately, those visions developed into nightmares the next season. Gase was gone, so was the Sam Darnold-franchise quarterback dream.
That flung the door open to our current Jets’ state with Wilson. He is the pick the Jets banked their future. He can be the leader of a young band of upstarts that has the potential to bring the franchise back to its Namath days. These Jets had more rookie starters than any other team in the league.
If you look purely at Wilson’s numbers, you may want Darnold back. Wilso finished the year with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions for 2,334 yards, a 55.6 completion rating, and a 69.7 quarterback rating. Those stats can keep the Mike White crowd yelling for him.
But, down the stretch, Wilson showed the confidence and gumption the Jets knew he had. He didn’t throw an interception in the last five weeks and had five touchdowns and one pick over the last six games. He also proved he could be an effective weapon running the ball.
Don’t lose sight that this was primarily a rookie cast under the Broadway lights, led by their first-year head coach Robert Saleh, who made his share of mistakes. Still, GM Joe Douglas’ 2021 group outperformed the 2020 group.
Up front , rookie guard Alijah Vera-Tucker showed enough signs of a worthy fourth-round pick. Vera-Tucker made some mistakes, but he allowed just two sacks and arguably was the team’s most consistent lineman.
Carter II, corners Brandin Echols, Isaiah Dunn, and safetyJason Pinnock all were plunged into service in the Jets’ revolving door of a unit mainly due to injuries. Like their peers, they made some rookie miscues, but worked through them.
Second-year punter Branden Mann has secured his spot, and the Jets appear to finally have found a kicker in Eddy Pineiro.
When you tie it all together, the Jets will enter 2022 with higher expectations from their 4-13 season from a year ago. It may not be much higher, but the thoughts of the cusp of or an actual. .500 season should be able to be seen in the near distance.
Douglas once again will need to wave his wand with the fourth and 10th pick and four selections through the top 38. He also will have around $50 million in cap space, and have to wrestle with the thoughts of keeping free agents wide receiver/returner Braxton Berrios, safety Marcus Maye, and tackle Morgan Moses.
Berrios should be a top priority for his second-half showing last year, and Moses nicely filled a hole. Maye’s negotiations have been sketchy, and he could hit the highway.
Like it always does, it will come down to execution and development from Saleh on down.
Success on a small or large scale is a priority, and the remnants of a Gase-like season have to be gone.