The 2020 season hasn’t been an easy one for Jets fans. The team has struggled to find any consistency on offense, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was fired 12 games in, and the team appears headed for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, restarting a rebuilding process that has been stuck in neutral.
But 2021 is a new year, and Jets fans can go into it hopeful that things will be different as the calendar turns over. The holiday season is a time for a hope, a time to be optimistic, and a good time to turn the page on a rough year.
So, with all that said, here’s what Jets fans should have on their holiday wish lists…
A long-term solution at quarterback
It’s the most important position in sports, and like all teams, the Jets have to get it right to build a winning team.
The most interesting aspect, of course, is that the Jets’ long-term QB solution may already be on the roster in the form of Sam Darnold. Darnold’s numbers have been up and down, yes, but perhaps Joe Douglas and the rest of the front office really do view Darnold, who is only 23 and was the third overall pick in 2018, as the face of the franchise who will continue to grow and improve. After year three is when teams typically commit to their first-round quarterbacks with long-term contracts, granted they believe in the direction the team is heading in. But let's be honest, the Jets will have some very good QB options at their fingertips in the upcoming draft.
One of those very good options is Trevor Lawrence. If the Jets do land the No. 1 pick in the draft, passing on a generational talent like Lawrence would likely be way too risky to pass up. The Clemson QB could be the player that Douglas stakes his reputation on as the face of the franchise and a potential new star in New York.
So whether it’s Darnold or Lawrence or anyone else, the Jets just need an answer at quarterback, and not just a stop-gap.
Mekhi Becton’s early success is no flash in the pan
The biggest silver lining of the Jets’ 2020 season has been the play of Mekhi Becton.
When the Jets selected Becton 11th overall in the draft, the thought was that the 6-foot-7, 364-pound physical specimen would be a bit of a raw prospect, but someone the Jets could work with and develop over time.
But as it turned out, Becton was thrown into the starting lineup right way, trusted with protecting Darnold’s blind side at the ever-important left tackle spot. Becton has not only proven he can play in the NFL, but he can do so at a Pro Bowl-caliber level. Becton has been called for just five penalties all season (four of them accepted) and has held down the fort at left tackle, protecting the quarterback and flattening defenders in the run game.
Becton has been a revelation for the Jets, and fans are wishing the impressive left tackle is more than just a one-year wonder.
A difference-maker on defense emerges
For three seasons, Jamal Adams was an electric presence on the back end of the Jets defense. With two interceptions, 12.0 sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and 273 total tackles, Adams did it all for the Jets, whether it was playing up in the box or back deep in the secondary.
But Adams was traded to Seattle before the start of the season, with the Jets receiving some valuable draft assets in return. And while Gang Green’s defense has had a decent year overall, it’s a unit that doesn’t have a true difference-maker right now.
Quinnen Williams has had a true breakout season, jumping his sack total up from 2.5 as a rookie to already 6.0 in 12 games in his second season. He’s an excellent run-stopper, and he’s proven he can get to the quarterback, but can he take over a game?
The Jets were reportedly in the running for a few of the pass rushers on the market this past offseason, like Jadeveon Clowney and Yannick Ngakoue, but they didn’t sign either player. This time around, players like Shaq Barrett, Melvin Ingram, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree, and even Von Miller (though Denver has a club option to keep him) could be available. Will the Jets be aggressive in landing a pass-rushing stud?
Another strong draft class
We highlighted Becton earlier, but really the 2020 draft class as a whole has been a plus for the Jets.
Aside from Becton locking down the blind side, Denzel Mims has shown some flashes of excellence after battling through hamstring injuries to start his NFL career. Mims could be the young playmaker on offense the Jets so desperately need.
Third-round pick Ashtyn Davis worked his way up into a starting role before his season ended due to injury, and La’Mical Perine has looked like he fits in at the NFL level, even if it isn’t as an every-down back. And while punter is not the most exciting position in the world, Braden Mann has been very good as a rookie, ranking near the top of the AFC in the early stages of Pro Bowl voting.
Normally it takes about three years before a draft class can truly be evaluated, but the early returns on the Jets’ 2020 draft class are good, and hopefully that means Douglas and his staff have a knack for finding young talent. Jets fans should be wishing for another good draft class to help build the roster.
The answer on the sidelines
Maybe more important than the quarterback, or the defensive playmaker, or getting the draft class right, or any of the other things on this list is making sure the right head coach is on the sidelines.
Given a healthy team and a roster that has higher quality players from top to bottom, maybe Adam Gase could do better in New York. But given the Jets have yet to win a game, it seems nearly impossible to make a case for him to stay. And moving in a different direction at head coach would allow Douglas to officially get “his guy” to go along with “his roster.”
Jets fans will be wishing that whoever is next up can try to lead the team to the Super Bowl and will have what it takes to get the job done.