Why the Jets Are the Most Mysterious Team in the AFC

By: Tayyib Abu

The New York Jets endured a miserable 2020 season. The team staggered and stumbled their way to the second-worst record in the NFL. The season signalled the end for hapless head coach Adam Gase, coordinator Gregg Williams and quarterback Sam Darnold.

General manager Joe Douglas wielded the axe throughout the organization. Robert Saleh got named as the new head coach, the former 49ers defensive coordinator replaces Gase.

Furthermore, there was a seismic change at quarterback. Sam Darnold got traded to Carolina; the Jets subsequently drafted BYU signal-caller Zack Wilson to step into Darnold’s shoes.

Those profound changes make the Jets a mysterious proposition. The changes were the tip of the iceberg. The Jets are arguably the most perplexing team in the AFC.

Is Mr Intensity the Right Man to Change Things?

Robert Saleh is a cyborg disguised as a head coach. The Dearborn native has travelled cross-country for his first head coaching job. Saleh forged an intense, emotional and aggressive reputation.

That yin meshed well with Kyle Shanahan’s yang. Now Saleh is in the hot seat. Can he lead a franchise with that mindset? On the field, Saleh will deploy a base 4-3 defence that will attempt to mimic what he did in San Francisco.

The Jets defence ranked 26th in scoring defence last year; it was a lousy unit. And despite some innovative additions like Lamarcus Joyner, the Jets are still short of game-wrecking talent on defence, despite the presence of Quinnen Williams.

The Jets are relying on Saleh’s skill to build an elite defence. The 49ers were a top unit in 2019 and 2020 despite a spate of significant injuries. Saleh’s coaching job in 2020 is what made him one of the hottest candidates in the recent hiring round.

Saleh must coach up the defence as New York made major additions on the offensive side this offseason. The defence is a massive mystery in New Jersey for 2021. They’ve hired the hottest coordinator candidate to turn a terrible unit around. Is that enough?

Only time will tell. One player that may benefit is the athletic linebacker Jamien Sherwood. The Saleh style may coax the best out of the dynamic playmaker.

A Change at Quarterback: It’s Time for the Mormon Manziel

After moving on from Sam Darnold, the Jets drafted BYU quarterback Zach Wilson to be the next star in New York. Wilson is a dazzling talent with the skill to make highlight-reel plays. The rookie heads east from BYU with a booming arm and a penchant for making things happen. Wilson is a raw talent with a high ceiling; however, he isn’t the finished product.

New offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur comes from San Francisco to work with Wilson. Lafleur is a Shanahan/McVay coaching tree product; therefore, the offence should be a well-designed, well-planned unit.

That style of offence is an intelligent, quick-hitting offence that utilizes a ton of pre-snap movement, misdirections and shrunk personnel packages. Jimmy Garropollo, Jared Goff and Matt Ryan all benefited from this offensive style.

These quarterbacks played reliably and competently; they allowed the system to beat the defence. Wilson is a gunslinging playmaker; the big mystery is how will his style mesh with Lafleur.

Moreover, Wilson will benefit from additional help on the offensive line and in the wideout room. Mekhi Becton returns for year two, and he’ll line up alongside first-round draft pick from 2021 Alijah Vera-Tucker.

The Jets also signed guard Pat Elflein in free agency, so Wilson and Lafleur should own protection and time to scheme up plays. The Jets also bolstered the receiver room.

They already had Denzel Mims; they added Corey Davis in free agency and drafted speedster Elijah Moore in round two of the 2021 draft. The Jets prioritized helping their new rookie quarterback.

The pieces are there for the offence to play at a high level; the question and concern are, can Wilson step up to the NFL and play within a structure. He is an excellent scrambler, but that will only carry him so far in the NFL. Wilson is raw and exciting; however, there is a risk of him flaming out. The Mormon Manziel must start well.

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