The Jets’ offense is better at QB, but what about the other positions? – ESPN – New York Jets Blog

Rich CiminiESPN staff writer19 June 2023 at 6:00 a.m. ET7 minutes of reading

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FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Although he missed some practice time with a strained right calf, quarterback Aaron Rodgers made enough impressive throws in OTA practice to fuel the New York Jets’ exuberant optimism. It wasn’t just his arm strength or accuracy that caught their attention; it was more nuanced than that.

It was the way he used his eyes to manipulate defenders, the way he anticipated open receivers because he recognized the coverage and the leverage. The man has played approximately 14,000 snaps in his career, so those eyes have seen a lot. He gave his new team a glimpse of what high-level quarterback play really looks like.

“It’s a different vibe,” linebacker CJ Mosley said of Rodgers’ influence. “He sets the bar. He sets the expectations with his resume, with his name and the way he approaches the game every single day.”

Rodgers’ mere presence makes the attack better than last season, which ended with an embarrassing string of inept performances. The Jets scored just 15 points combined over the last three games, resulting in big changes. Out went offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, in came Nathaniel Hackett, whose hiring was a turning point because it helped lure Rodgers out of possible retirement and set up the eventual Jets-Green Bay Packers trade.

The question is, can the addition of Rodgers turn the Jets — 29th in scoring last season — into a high-functioning offense?

“[We’re] far away. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Hackett, who assessed the state of the offense after the last practice. “I think the guys have gotten the nuts and bolts of it this offseason. There’s a lot of guys that haven’t been out there that we need to see and be able to evaluate and see how they fit in, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Let’s compare the 2022 offense to the projected 2023 unit:

After acquiring Aaron Rodgers, the Jets have been busy adding to his supporting cast.Seth Wenig/Associated Press


Returned: Zach Wilson, Chris Streveler

Loss: Mike White, Joe Flacco

Additions: Rodgers, Tim Boyle

Better, worse or the same: Much better

You’d be hard-pressed to find a position group across the NFL that improved as much as this one. The Jets went from an overwhelmed Wilson, who has 15 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions in 22 career starts, to a future Pro Football Hall of Famer. That said, Rodgers still has some questions to answer.

He is coming off his worst season – a career-low 39.3 QBR. A broken right thumb and an inexperienced casting of receivers probably had a lot to do with it. There’s also the health question: Is the calf injury suffered during pre-practice warmups on May 23 an outlier or an ominous omen? When healthy, Rodgers takes the Jets to a level at quarterback they haven’t reached since Brett Favre in 2008.

From all indications, Wilson has embraced his demotion and said the opportunity to learn from Rodgers will benefit his career. There’s no reason to doubt it, but what happens if Wilson is forced into action, like now? His footwork has improved and he is “much more accurate” than last season, according to coach Robert Saleh. The key, of course, is how he reacts to a pass rush — something that can’t be answered until he’s in a game. When under pressure, his career QBR is a historically poor 3.4 — 34th out of 34 qualified passers over the past two years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Running back

Returned: Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Zonovan Knight, Nick Bawden (FB)

Loss: Ty Johnson, James Robinson

Additions: Israel Abanikanda (H), Travis Dye (H)

Better, worse or the same: Same

They would be in the “better” category if there was more certainty with Hall’s surgically repaired left knee. Saleh said Hall is already hitting 22 mph on GPS tracking, creating optimism he’ll be ready for Week 1, but ACL injuries can be difficult to predict. While Hall has regained his pre-injury top speed, the metric we don’t know is his acceleration rate — one of the keys to a full recovery. When Hall is right – he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. carry in limited action – is he a playmaker.

The RB2 position is up for grabs between Carter, Knight and Abanikanda, a fifth-round pick with Hall-like speed. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as an early factor because of his home run ability; he averaged 6.0 yards per carry. carry for Pitt last season. Can the Jets count on Carter and Knight for important roles? Consider: In a key metric — rushing yards above expectation per carry — Carter and Knight ranked 50th and 51st, respectively, out of 52 running backs last season (minimum: 80 attempts), per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Wide receiver

Returned: Garrett Wilson, Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, Irvin Charles, Malik Taylor, Diontae Spencer

Loss: Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios, Jeff Smith

Additions: Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Mecole Hardman Jr., Jason Brownlee (H), Xavier Gipson (H), Jerome Kapp (H), TJ Luther (H)

Better, worse or the same: Better

They are bigger, more explosive and more experienced than last season. Basically, the Jets added a starter on the outside in Lazard and traded slot receivers Moore and Berrios for Cobb and Hardman. With Wilson, Lazard and Davis on the outside, and Cobb or Hardman on the inside, they have the makings of a very good receiving corps. One stat to watch is yards after the catch. When Hackett was the Packers’ coordinator from 2019 to 2021, they ranked second in YAC per. reception (6.0).

Of course, the star is Wilson, the 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has already impressed Rodgers, who said: “I love Garrett. [He’s an] great, great young lad. Worldwide [is] infront of him. He has all the talent and ability.”

Neither Cobb nor Hardman practiced in the spring as they recovered from injuries, so their health bears watching. Other questions: What kind of role will Davis have? Is there room for Mims?

Close end

Returned: Tyler Conklin, CJ Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, Kenny Yeboah

Loss: None

Additions: Zack Kuntz, (H) EJ Jenkins (H), Izaiah Gathings (H)

Better, worse or the same: Better

The top four hasn’t changed, but we’re leaning toward “better” over “same” because of Ruckert’s expected improvement. Slowed by plantar fasciitis, he was a non-factor as a freshman (one reception). He moved better and looked more confident in OTA drills, sparking optimism that he’s ready for a jump in Year 2. The Jets could use more big plays out of the entire group; the tight ends combined for just four red zone receptions in 2022.

Offensive line

Returned: Duane Brown, Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Mekhi Becton, Max Mitchell, Adam Pankey, Chris Glaser, Greg Senat

Loss: George Fant, Nate Herbig, Dan Feeney, Cedric Ogbuehi, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mike Remmers

Additions: Joe Tippmann (R), Carter Warren (R), Wes Schweitzer, Billy Turner, Trystan Colon, Yodny Cajuste, Brent Laing (R)

Better, worse or the same: Same

This group has the potential to be better than last year, but it’s hard to make that leap right now because there are so many questions. Three spots are up in the air — left tackle (Brown vs. Becton), center (McGovern vs. Tippmann) and right tackle (Mitchell vs. Turner). Becton has made it clear he wants to play left tackle, but there is little chance he can unseat Brown.

Best-case scenario: Becton embraces right tackle, stays healthy and wins the job; Tippmann outplays McGovern and secures the pivot. Tippmann and Becton would add youth and much needed strength to the line. McGovern was the team’s lowest-rated lineman in ’22, based on ESPN’s run and pass block win rates against each position.

Becton, a 2020 first-round pick, is the biggest wild card. He’s lost about 50 pounds, but durability is an issue. He has missed 33 of the last 34 games due to knee injuries.

“I think from what I’ve seen of him, he’s shown really good maturity,” line coach Keith Carter said. “He’s made some really good decisions outside of football to get where he is right now. It’s exciting to see where it goes.”

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