New York Jets
The New York Giants can make some noise last year. After years of searching, and years of disappointment, accentuated by the names of Mark Sanchez, Bruce Petty, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Christian Hackenberg, the New York Jets appear to have finally found their franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold.
Darnold is a quarterback with a laser arm who seems to be best under pressure, but his mechanics are a bit sloppy, and he could get off to a slow start in 2018. That shouldn’t matter, however, because the Jets competed for much of last year with Josh McCown at the helm.
Granted, McCown played his best season of football in 2017. But this team was good enough to help him succeed, and under Todd Bowles’ coaching, a Jets team that was predicted by many to go 0-16 before the 2017 season instead went 5-11. That may not sound like an accomplishment, but before a four-game losing streak to cap off the season, the Jets were 5-7, and fighting to steal the Bills’ wild card spot.
The Jets surprised a lot of people in 2017, and in 2018, they’ll have the opportunity to do the same thing. They were very active this offseason, in both free agency and the NFL Draft. In free agency, they bolstered their defense, signing players such as Trumaine Johnson, Kevin Minter, and Avery Williamson. Williamson’s signing, in particular, flew under the radar; He should immediately elevate a subpar linebacking corps, and Trumaine Johnson, joining a secondary with the likes of Morris Claiborne, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye, should be able to carry on his ballhawking ways, and a much-improved front seven should help him accomplish this.
On the offense, the Jets continued to make the most of their ample cap space, signing Spencer Long, Travis Swanson, and Antonio Garcia to strengthen the interior of their offensive line. The team’s skill position signings were underwhelming. Isaiah Crowell is limited running back, as is Thomas Rawls. Terrelle Pryor is coming off a disappointing season in D.C., and Clive Walford has never been more than a depth piece. But in the draft, they managed to pair a quarterback with Jeremy Bates who can elevate those players: Sam Darnold.
Darnold was the headliner of the New York Jets’ draft class, and with good reason. He has some development left to go, but his arm and game-changing ability were both evident in his time at USC. The Jets could do much worse than giving him Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and 2018 rookie Chris Herndon to throw the ball to, and with a restructured offensive line, he should be able to stay off the turf and help his team compete.
Darnold wasn’t the only impressive player in the Jets’ draft class, either. Mike Maccagnan managed to snag two high-upside defensive linemen in Nathan Shepherd and Folorunso Fatukasi. Those of you who read my pre-draft content know how high I was on both players. They will immediately make the Jets’ rotation, with Leonard Williams, Steve McClendon, and Mike Pennel, one of the stronger units in the league. In the trenches, the Jets are looking better and better, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They may have lost Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, but they have the potential to pick up close to where they left off.