Two days after the Jets’ season ended, general manager Joe Douglas laid out his vision for the team.
“What is our plan? The plan is to create the best culture in sports,” Douglas said. “What do I mean by that? I think the best culture, it’s a self-sustaining entity where professionalism, leadership, it’s transferred from one generation of players to the next. You see that in every great team. Every great team has that culture. That’s what we’re going to try to create here.”
Finding the players to fit that culture off the field and also elevate the level of play on the field really begins now. The first two college all-star games are Saturday, when the East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl are played. Then, everyone moves to Mobile, Ala., next week for the Senior Bowl.
Douglas and his staff will begin evaluating, interviewing and picking apart college prospects three months before the NFL draft begins. For the Jets to end their nine-year playoff drought in 2020, Douglas is going to have to hit some home runs in the draft.
The Jets will fill some holes in free agency, so this list may change by April, but here are their current four top draft priorities:
The Jets’ line was a mess all season. They had pieces that never really fit (Kelechi Osemele, Ryan Kalil), a rash of injuries that forced them to use nine different starting combinations and an overall lack of talent. They ended up allowing 52 sacks, the fourth-most in the NFL, and ranked No. 31 in rushing offense largely because the line could not open up holes.
On the day of his introductory press conference, Douglas stated the line on both sides of the ball would be his top priority. That has to only be reinforced by watching his team this season.
“Moving forward, the line of scrimmage is always going to be a priority here and so it’s definitely going to be something that we’re going to look to improve every year,” Douglas said after the season.
The Jets have not drafted an offensive lineman in the first two rounds since Vlad Ducasse in 2010. They have not taken one in the first round since 2006, when they selected D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
The top tackles may be off the board when the Jets pick at No. 11, but Douglas has to find a way to upgrade this line.
This is another position the Jets have failed to address for more than a decade. Vernon Gholston was the last true edge rusher the Jets drafted in the first round (No. 6 in 2008). That did not work out.
The Jets had 35 sacks in 2019, which was 23rd in the league. Many of those sacks came from creative blitzes by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. When your second-leading sacker is a safety (Jamal Adams, 6.5), that is a problem. The Jets need an edge rusher who can win one-on-one battles and register double-digit sacks.
Williams getting the most out of unexpected contributors like Arthur Maulet and Bless Austin at cornerback in 2019 was a nice story, but the Jets need a serious upgrade. Williams was forced to play more zone than he would have liked because he never truly trusted his corners.
The Jets have been a disaster at identifying talent at this position for a long time, no matter who the GM has been. Mike Tannenbaum (Kyle Wilson), John Idzik (Dee Milliner) and Mike Maccagnan (Trumaine Johnson) all whiffed mightily trying to find a shutdown corner.
Douglas must do better.
This is a position in flux for the Jets. Robby Anderson is a free agent and may find more money from another team. Quincy Enunwa may never play again or may just be cut. Douglas needs to find Sam Darnold some new weapons.
There have already been some mock drafts that have the Jets taking Alabama star Jerry Jeudy in the first round, but Douglas may need to address one of the above positions before taking a receiver. The draft gurus say this is a deep draft for receivers, so Douglas may be able to find a good one in the middle rounds.
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