The New York Jets are entering 2019 with somewhat high expectations for a change thanks to a busy offseason in which they added talent on both sides of the ball.
Those additions will be on display this Thursday night, when the Jets open up their preseason against the New York Giants.
Of course, most eyes will be on running back Le’Veon Bell, who signed a four-year deal with New York earlier this offseason after sitting out the entire 2018 campaign due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But, Bell is not the only not the only player to look out for in this game.
Here are three things to watch in the Jets’ first preseason contest.
3. The Effect C.J. Mosley Will Have on the Defense
The Jets’ defense was unspectacular this past season, ranking 25th in the NFL in total defense and 29th in points allowed.
But there is no denying that there is some talent on defense for this club, and offseason addition C.J. Mosley could bring all of that to light this year.
Mosley was the biggest non-Bell signing of New York’s this offseason, as the stud linebacker has made the Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons, with all of that time coming with the Baltimore Ravens.
One thing the Jets have lacked defensively is maturity and a true leader, and Mosley should bring that to the table along with his incredible ability. It will be interesting to see how much of an effect he has on this defense on Thursday evening.
2. Is the Offensive Line Better?
The Jets’ offensive line was not good this past year, as Pro Football Focus ranked the unit 25th in the league. But New York made a couple of big additions to its line this offseason, first trading for Kelechi Osemele and then recently signing Ryan Kalil.
Now, whether or not Kalil actually plays on Thursday remains to be seen, as the man actually retired after the 2018 campaign before deciding to come back and join the Jets last week, but Osemele will be on the field, so we will get to see how much better he will make the line.
For the Jets’ offense to have any chance of being good, the offensive line is going to have to be above average, as Sam Darnold desperately needs protection in his second season, and the entire offense may be centered around what Bell can do out of the backfield.
We may get a general idea of just how much better the Jets’ offensive line is on Thursday.
1. Has Sam Darnold Taken the Next Step?
Generally, quarterbacks don’t take a big step in Year 2. It’s usually Year 3 that represents the year they take a big jump, but if New York wants to compete for a playoff spot this season, make no mistake: Darnold has to show significant improvement.
While he showed flashes of brilliance during the second half of 2018, Darnold was middling overall during his rookie year, throwing 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That’s fine for a rookie, but that’s not fine for a team with playoff aspirations.
Darnold has some weapons in the form of Bell, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, and even tight end Chris Herndon (when was the last time the Jets actually had an impact tight end?), so the pieces are there.
It’s just a matter of whether or not Darnold can put it all together during his second year, and a good showing on Thursday night would be a great start.