2023 New York Jets Offseason Preview
Year One of the Zach Wilson era didn't go so well, but it can't get any worse the second time around…right? Not right. Disaster struck before the season even started as Wilson went down with a knee injury in the preseason that required surgery. He reclaimed his starting role in Week 5 and won four straight games, but it was the New York defense that deserves the bulk of the credit for those victories. Wilson tossed one touchdown and two interceptions during the winning streak. After a pair of losses to the Patriots in a three-game span, Wilson was benched for Mike White, who instantly looked like a better option. The Jets would get one more chance to bench Wilson after White suffered a rib injury later in the year. They took their shot and pulled Wilson for No. 4 quarterback Chris Streveler late in a Week 16 loss to the Jags. New York was bounced from the playoff race amidst a six-game losing streak to close out the year.
Key Offensive Stats
Points per game: 17.4 (29th)
EPA per play: -0.09 (30th)
Dropback EPA per play: -0.08 (29th)
Passing yards per game: 219 (15th)
Rush EPA per play: -0.09 (24th)
Rush yards per game: 99.2 (25th)
With Wilson dealing with the yips, White was clearly the team's best quarterback, though that isn't saying much. He ranked 32nd in EPA per play while Wilson and Joe Flacco ranked 42nd and 43rd. White was far from elite, but he was competent enough to showcase the Jets' young talent at receiver. Garrett Wilson crushed with White, averaging 5.5 catches for 88 yards when the Jets started their top passer. Also overshadowed by the quarterback drama was Breece Hall's dominant debut. In seven games, Hall dropped 658 yards and five scores. His season was ultimately cut short by a torn ACL.
Key Defensive Stats
Points per game: 18.6 (4th)
EPA per play: -0.05 (6th)
Dropback EPA per play: -0.03 (6th)
Passing yards per game: 189.4 (3rd)
Rush EPA per play: -0.07 (17th)
Rush yards per game: 121.6 (16th)
The Jets didn't have a flawless defense, but it seemed that way at times. Their recent free agent classes yielded strong contributors in D.J. Reed and Carl Lawson. Reed missed two defensive snaps all year and was credited with 12 passes defended. Lawson returned from a torn Achilles' tendon to record seven sacks. The star of the show, however, was rookie sensation Sauce Gardner. The No. 4 overall pick led the NFL with 20 passes defended and allowed just 5.3 yards per target. Pro Football Focus graded him as their top overall corner. Gang Green's run defense was average by most metrics, but that's a fine tradeoff to make for an elite secondary.
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Draft Picks (Top-150)
13th, 43rd, 74th, 112th, and 145th
Notable Free Agents
LT George Fant, C Connor McGovern, DT Sheldon Rankings, QB Mike White, LB Quincy Williams, S Lamarcus Joyner, OG Nate Herbig, and LB Kwon Alexander
EDGE Carl Lawson ($15.4 million in savings), OT Duane Brown ($5 million), WR Corey Davis ($10.5 million), S Jordan Whitehead ($7.3 million), WR Braxton Berrios ($5 million)
The Jets don't need to make all of these cuts. Veterans like Lawson and Davis are still solid contributors for the team. However, they have been taking shots at those positions in recent draft classes and are in the market for a quarterback who will come with a hefty cap hit. Should Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr land in New York, the Jets will need some extra cap space.
Many teams claim to be a quarterback away from contending, but the Jets might be the only fanbase capable of saying that with a straight face. Entering his third season, Robert Saleh needs better results, and a new passer is the easiest path to achieve that.
The Jets had six tackles land on injured reserve and four of their tackles will depart in free agency. Alijah Vera-Tucker has become a queen chess piece, able to play anywhere on the line, but the uncertainty with Mekhi Becton's future makes tackle a need.
Free safety Lamarcus Joyner is a free agent and just turned 32 years old. Instead of re-signing him, the Jets could look to add another coverage-specialist safety via the draft.
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After the offensive debacle that was the Jets' quarterback situation in 2022, the team parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Offensive line coach John Benton and wide receivers coach Miles Austin were both let go as well. Former Broncos head coach and Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was brought in to replace LaFleur. After Hackett's faceplant in Denver, the move is a strange one to say the least. Though Hackett also deserves some credit for Green Bay's success while he was there, even that shine has since worn off his resume.
While pursuing a new quarterback, the Jets hired Rodgers' former offensive coordinator coming off a comically bad season in Denver. The puzzle pieces fit too perfectly not to put them together. Though trading for a 39-year-old quarterback may not be a long-term strategy, both Saleh and GM Joe Douglas are on the hot seat. The Jets also have all of the pieces in place to be a Super Bowl hopeful if Rodgers still has another MVP season in the tank. If that falls through, Douglas could pivot to Carr, whom the team has already held a visit with. There aren't many other quarterbacks of note available before the draft, so the Jets need to lock down a big name before they are left without a seat in this game of musical chairs.