10 Reasons for Optimism
☀️ Good morning!
I hope everyone has managed to get through the Flight 2022 series over the weekend, it was a superb production from start to finish and it left me feeling as though multiple super bowls are on the horizon. I try to avoid negativity around the team if I can help it, but It seems some fans are determined to throw cold water on the optimism surrounding the team, so today I’m focusing on all things positive.
🙇♂️ PFF did a really interesting study on how much a QB’s supporting cast detrimentally affected their performance, it included straightforward drops but many other categories as well. Zach Wilson came out on top with 9.7% of his passes falling incomplete due in some way to other players, which was 1.9% higher than any other QB in the league which is huge.
⌛ Something I missed from Jeff Ulbrich’s talk with the media was the comment that the Jets have already started preparing for the Ravens with the defense having faced 25-30 Baltimore running plays during OTA’s. It’s all watered down during OTA’s, but it’s never too early to start taking a look at what you’ll face in week one.
Every single year I say to my wife “this is our year”, in relation to the Jets and the playoffs. While I was watching Flight 2022 she turned to me and said “let me guess, this is their year” and for the first time in a long time I actually had faith that it might just be.
For this Monday morning edition, I’m going to go through all the reasons we have as Jets fans to be optimistic and start the week with some positivity.
1) Joe Douglas is our GM
If there is one thing I took from Flight 2022, it’s that we have the right man calling the shots. His philosophy around how to build sustained success is so logical that it’s mind-boggling that our previous GM’s just couldn’t see it. His trade record is good and I have faith in the players he selected in the draft, in the end his legacy will likely be tied to Zach Wilson’s performance and development but he’s setting the team up in a way that if Zach isn’t the one, the roster will be foundationally strong for the next QB…but for all our sakes let’s hope Wilson is the real deal.
2) Robert Saleh is our coach
This is a little bit of a leap of faith because we still don’t absolutely know what kind of coach Saleh is yet in terms of performance because at the end of the day the coach gets evaluated based on wins and losses. Saleh couldn’t have done much more with the roster in 2021, so 2022 will be key. Whatever happens this year he’ll get a third season as he should, it’s my personal opinion that unless Joe Douglas says otherwise…this combination should have the chance to work through this entire rebuild. What we do know is that he’s a true leader and players gravitate towards him, that’s a huge part of leading a group of 53 players.
3) Staff unity
This is one of the key takeaways this off-season, and it’s based on the culture that the Jets are building within the organization. Everyone within the building seems to share the same vision and everyone seems to have bought into that. That kind of level of buy-in is special and a lot of that will be based on everyone feeling as though their contributions are valued. I’ve spoken with several people who said that what we saw on Flight 2022 is exactly how it feels within the walls, people feel valued. Credit to Joe Douglas and everyone for creating that culture.
4) Offensive Line
I genuinely think this offensive line has top 5 talent and if the Jets were to be ranked within that top 5 at the end of the 2022 season…I wouldn’t be surprised. Some have given up on Becton but it’s far too early to give up on someone who’s only entering his 3rd year and already has a good year on his resume. I wrote recently about how Connor McGovern could improve this year based on extra experience and the players to his right and left. AVT is already a good run blocker but the 2nd year should see him make the leap in terms of his pass protection, Laken is a pro-bowl-level guard and George’s best years are ahead of him. The only thing that could slow the offensive line down is injuries.
We’ll see how this plays out as the season progresses, but a consistent theme we’ve heard this off-season revolves around the Jets locker room culture, multiple leaders, and no assholes. NFL is an interesting game because you play as an individual, a position group, and a unit so you need a lot of leaders scattered throughout. If you need a leader in every positional group meeting, you need multiple leaders on each side of the ball. According to the coaching staff, we have leaders throughout the roster and some of the new additions have taken on key roles in that department, Whitehead, Uzomah, and Laken have all been mentioned in that regard.
We have a number of playmakers on each side of the ball, but here I just want to highlight the Jet’s focus on surrounding Zach Wilson. When you think playmakers you’ll instantly think of guys like Michael Carter, Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and Corey Davis. But the Jets have given Zach the protection he needs on the offensive line and the reliability that will serve him well with the additions of Conklin and Uzomah, not to mention the readdition of Braxton Berrios. Zach Wilson is a playmaker himself, if he doesn’t succeed it won’t be due to the Jets not doing enough to support him.
7) Personnel Cohesion
This is largely an obvious one for the majority of the league, but under John Idzik and Mike Maccagnan, it never felt as though the players we brought in fit with the personnel needed to run the coach’s schemes. Mike Tannenbaum did a good job of this when he was working with Rex but that was a decade ago. Now, there is absolute cohesion between the players provided and the scheme run. Like Saleh said on the drafting of Jermaine Johnson, he is made for this system. Again, this is quite a straightforward one for most of the league, but as we haven’t seen it in a while it gives me a reason for optimism.
8) Booth LaFleur
It was a bit of a tricky start for MLF last season, but like rookies on the field it takes some time to get into your flow. He stayed on the sideline because Zach wanted him there, even though his preference was to be up in the booth. Once he made the move upstairs after the Jets brought in some sideline help for Zach, the offense started to take off. Let’s not forget that this Shanahan-type offense is notoriously very difficult to teach (especially for offensive linemen who are new to the scheme), so some of the struggles were on MLF as he adapted the San Francisco system to make it his own, and some of it just came down to execution or a lack thereof. We saw his ability to scheme people open and provide receivers the space to generate YAC, and that’s key to this offensive philosophy. Year two is going to be a lot of fun, especially with more weapons at his disposal.
Just like the offensive philosophy is built on YAC, the defensive philosophy is built on pressure. The Jets started to add the pieces last year with the Carl Lawson signing, but we never got to see it in action and the defense struggled. This year as long as we stay healthy we’re going to see the defense work how it’s designed to work. Carl Lawson is back and he’s being joined by Jermaine Johnson, Micheal Clemons and Jacob Martin…not to mention Vinny Curry who is still a productive pass-rusher and who also missed the entire 2021 season through injury. This comes back to the personnel cohesion, this defense needs pressure generators on that defensive line and Joe Douglas went out and got one.
10) Zach Wilson
I was unsure whether to put Zach Wilson on this list as statistically, he was bad last year, and even in the second half where he made improvements, his game was still somewhat limited. I’ve always said that the perfect Zach Wilson is the balance between the aggressive first half of 2021 Zach and the controlled second half of 2021 Zach. We can’t make him a game manager, but he can’t be as cavalier with the football as he was to start his rookie campaign. But here’s why I believe in him, talk to anyone around the Jets and you’ll hear the same thing over and over again, he’s one of if not the hardest working player on that roster, mentally he’s in a better place with the system and physically he’s more suited to being able to sustain some hits…this offense is QB friendly, but it’s not easy to learn…that’s what people need to appreciate. Zach in year two could be a top 15 QB in the league with his weapons in 2022, and if he finished the season around that 15th-20th spot, I’d be a happy fan.
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