The New York Jets were actually somewhat of a disappointment in 2019, going 7-9 and never truly competing for a playoff spot. But going into 2020, things are looking up for Gang Green.
Why? Because Tom Brady is no longer in the AFC East, the door has been opened to the Jets and every other competitor in the division for the first time in two decades.
That doesn’t necessarily mean New York will take advantage of the opportunity, but the Jets can’t say they didn’t have a chance this time around.
Here are the three biggest questions for Adam Gase’s club heading into next season:
3. How will the Jets use Le’Veon Bell?
The Jets signed Le’Veon Bell to a lucrative four-year deal last offseason, so the fact that Gase was so against using him in his debut season was kind of weird.
Of course, it turned out that Mike Maccagnan (who Gase ran out of town) was more responsible for the Bell signing, so Gase never really wanted him to begin with.
But Gase insists that he has a plan for Bell in 2020 (whatever that may be), and Bell seems comfortable with it.
A bigger question may be, however, whether Bell’s struggles were due to his improper usage and shoddy offensive line (more on that in a second) or the fact that he took a year off from football in 2018.
Also, keep this in mind: Bell is 28 years old, which is old for a running back. He also had a massive workload in Pittsburgh, so it’s entirely possible he is declining.
2. How will the new offensive line gel?
When I say “new,” I mean entirely new.
The Jets’ offensive line is not returning a single starter from 2019, as New York will be employing an assortment of draft picks and free-agent signings to provide protection for Sam Darnold and Bell up front.
But the thing is, even if there is more talent here, these guys still have to gel.
Offensive linemen need time to learn one another’s tendencies and how to communicate with one another on the field, so having five brand new guys could cause problems.
That being said, the risk is worth the potential reward, especially given how poor the Jets’ offensive line was in 2019.
1. Can Sam Darnold take a step forward?
The Jets used their third overall pick on Darnold in 2017, but he has yet to play a full season under center.
This past year, a bout with mono sidelined the youngster for three games, and when he was actually out there, he was rather inconsistent.
Darnold has certainly shown flashes, but he has yet to convince most Jets fans that he is “the guy” moving forward. But in fairness to the University of Southern California product, New York’s front office hasn’t exactly made things easy for him.
The Jets allowed Darnold’s top receiver in Robby Anderson to walk in free agency, and their answer was signing journeyman Breshad Perriman, who had a “breakout” year with 36 catches in Tampa Bay in 2019.
Otherwise, New York has a reliable slot guy in Jamison Crowder, and it did draft Denzel Mims, but obviously, Darnold doesn’t have a whole lot of reliability at his disposal in the aerial attack.
Still, that won’t stop the media from crushing Darnold if he fails to progress in his pivotal third season.