It's an odd year in the NFL to be sure, but some things still proceed like clockwork. And with the Jets getting up to full speed Wednesday in preparing for their season opener Sunday at Buffalo, it was time for head coach Adam Gase, among other things, to name his captains, by the vote of his players, for the 2020 campaign.
Only two of last year's five captains are repeats — quarterback Sam Darnold and defensive lineman Steve McLendon. Also on offense, the "C" goes to recently arrived RT George Fant. Defensively, McLendon is joined by S Marcus Maye. On special teams, Matthias Farley gets the nod.
Offense — Sam Darnold, George Fant
Gase has had plenty of praise for Darnold's improved play and his leadership as the two enter their second season together guiding the Green & White's fortunes. During Wednesday's news conference, the coach said of his QB:
"Where we're at right now as far as our communication and things like that, we're excited to get going, we're excited to get this group headed in the right direction, finding ways to improve every week. My expectations and Sam's expectations are always going to be extremely high. That's why we do this. And we might not talk about it publicly, but when we're together, our expectations are probably going to be a lot higher than everybody else's."
The coach also had some observations about Fant, the fifth-year man who signed as an unrestricted free agent from Seattle in March, and in particular what he can bring to the O-line's process of building chemistry on the fly among five starters who were not Jets starters on opening day in 2019.
"When you watch George operate day in and day out, the way he practices — guys gravitate to him. He's a vocal guy in that offensive line room. There's something about George that's impressive, the way that he handles his business day in day out. He's very professional. He's learning a new offense, he asks great questions, he wants to understand the why behind so much really of everything we do. I've been super impressed with how he is, and I'm excited to get going and see how this line jells together."
Defense — Steve McLendon, Marcus Maye
Gase has loads of respect for his defensive captains, 11th-year man McLendon and how he's working with the Jets' still young defensive line and fourth-year safety Maye, stepping seamlessly into the shoes of Jamal Adams, traded to Seattle in July.
"I look at the leadership in that room," the coach said about McLendon working to get first-round rookie Quinnen Williams up to speed last season. "When you have a Steve McLendon, who was close with him especially, if he saw frustration, he was knocking that out before any of us ever saw it."
And a year ago in training camp, Gase said of No. 99: "His reputation around the league is outstanding. Everybody knows he is a worker, smart, tough, he's a culture guy, but he's a really good player. He doesn't look his age to me, the way he practices, the way he plays in a game."
As for Maye, Gase has lots of praise for the young man who came to the Jets in the first two rounds of the 2017 draft, just as Adams did.
"Marcus brings a lot of versatility and he's extremely smart, he's able to help get guys lined up and make things look like one thing and get to something else. You know he's one of those guys that there's nothing that you can say that he doesn't do well," Gase has said. "If you ask him to go play guard, he probably would do it just because he'll do whatever he needs to do to help the team win. He's one of those guys who says, "I can do it," and he goes back there and practices it, just in case it comes up in a game."
Special Teams — Matthias Farley
Farley came to the Jets from the Colts last season, put his head down and did the dirty work on special teams. He had only three plays on defense all season but put in 215 snaps on specials, fourth-most on the Jets despite missing three games with injury.
Coordinator Brant Boyer, who's assembled two straight years of NFL top-10 special teams play on the Jets, said this preseason, "I'm excited to work with the core group that I have with Farley, [Harvey] Langi, [Frankie] Luvu, Dan Brown and [Blake] Cashman and all those guys."