The Future Is Now: Jets need to start giving young players more reps over veterans

Ralph Vacchiano
·5 min read
Denzel Mims
Denzel Mims

Frank Gore rushed 10 times for the Jets on Sunday, which is absolutely pointless. Braxton Berrios was targeted 11 times by Sam Darnold, which is crazy considering he threw only three times towards rookie receiver Denzel Mims.

Pierre Desir is still seeing too many snaps at cornerback. Henry Anderson is too big a part of the rotation along the defensive line. Avery Williamson is playing far too much at middle linebacker.

It’s almost as if they think they have something to play for, when they very clearly don’t.

The Jets are 0-8, following their 35-9 loss in Kansas City on Sunday. This season is lost. It’s not getting better. And really, it wouldn’t matter if it did. There’s nothing to salvage, which is why the Jets need to focus their attention on playing all of their youngest players. Any player who clearly won’t be back next season needs to take a seat for the final eight games of the season.

The Jets’ mantra the rest of the way needs to be: The future is now.

Really, what else is there, except for the future? That’s the sad truth about the 2020 Jets. It’s been evident for a while, but it should have been drummed home by now. There is no point to a strong second-half finish when they’re almost certainly heading towards a coaching change, and perhaps a quarterback change, too. So before they head into another offseason of uncertainty and activity, GM Joe Douglas needs to be able to see what he has.

In particular, he needs to get a good, clear look at his first class of draft picks. So far the only ones he’s gotten a really good look at are left tackle Mekhi Becton, his first-round pick, and sixth-round punter Braden Mann. Those two look like keepers. He’s got a few others who could be keepers, too.

But Gase needs to be told to play them. Now. And it doesn’t matter if other players will give him a better chance to pad his resume with a couple more meaningless wins.

Take La'Mical Perine, for example. The 22-year-old, fourth-round pick out of Florida figures to be the Jets’ starting running back next season, considering Gore will be 38 by next summer and the Jets cut Le’Veon Bell. And the Jets like Perine, based mostly on what they saw in training camp this summer, where he consistently flashed impressive moves and speed.

Considering he’s the future, why are the Jets stuck in the past? What’s the possible rationale for giving Gore 10 of the 21 carries given to Jets running backs against the Chiefs? Why bother with a split backfield at this point in the season? It’s not even like Gore is more effective, since he had 30 yards on 10 carries while Perine rushed eight times for 27 yards. And even if he was, who cares?

Perine needs the reps and experience. He needs targets out of the backfield, too, since he’s supposed to be a good receiver. The Jets only threw his way twice on Sunday, even though offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains seems to really love screens. Most of those went to Berrios, who might not even be the Jets’ fourth receiver in 2021 if they play their offseason hand right. He was targeted a ridiculous 11 times.

And sure, that makes some sense because he was replacing slot receiver Jamison Crowder, and the slot receiver is everything in the Gase offense. But again, who cares? This isn’t about Gase anymore, it’s about the Jets’ future. And their possible No. 1 receiver of the future – Mims – was targeted just three times.

There’s more. Rookie safety Ashtyn Davis had a rough game against the Chiefs, replacing the injured Bradley McDougald. And he’ll have two more games to fix his issues before McDougald comes back from injured reserve. But even when McDougald returns, Davis should remain the starter. He’s much more likely to be the one playing next to Marcus Maye next season. McDougald most likely will be gone.

The same goes for defensive end Jabari Zuniga, who should be taking plenty of playing time on the edge from Jordan Jenkins when he’s fully healthy. Once Cameron Clark returns, he should be put into the starting lineup in place of right tackle George Fant, the same way Blake Cashman needs to take over for Williamson as soon as he’s healthy. And really, Anderson should already be taking a backseat to two young players that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves – John Franklin-Myers and rookie Bryce Huff.

Yes, with more youth in the lineup – particularly rookies – things could definitely get worse. But who cares? The Jets haven’t been within a touchdown of winning any of their games this season. They’ve lost six of their eight games by at least 10 points. How much worse could it possibly get?

Besides, if it does get worse, at least it will help the Jets in their quest for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft – a pick that could be a huge help, whether they take the plunge for quarterback Trevor Lawrence or not. Also, if the Jets are going to lose and continue to be embarrassing, wouldn’t it be better if they were doing that while developing some young players? What good does it do to lose with a bunch of veterans on their way out?

They should know that at this point, which is why the focus on veterans on Sunday against the Chiefs was so maddening. It can’t possibly be that Gase believes that a few wins could salvage his job. Even if he does, it shouldn’t be his call anymore. This is where Douglas should step in and demand that Gase play the young players.

That’s the best thing for the Jets franchise. It’s the best thing for the future. And that future is the only thing that matters anymore.