Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What are the Jets' biggest needs heading into the offseason?
EA: If you're a follower of the Jets, I think the Bengals' side of this matchup should resonate a lot more than the Rams' side. From 2016-20, the Bengals posted a 25-53-2 record, which equates to a win rate of 31%. In the 2019 and '20 seasons, Cinci went 2-14 and 4-11-1. The trajectory of the Bengals' franchise changed when they took LSU QB Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow was impressive as a rookie before tearing his ACL and MCL. He followed that with a super sophomore campaign as the Bengals claimed the AFC North with a 10-7 mark. He's the centerpiece of a club that has caught lightning in a battle this postseason. In Week 7 at MetLife Stadium, Jets backup QB Mike White had the game of his life while throwing for 405 yards and 3 TDs in the Jets' 34-31 win over the Bengals. That outcome was another example of anything can happen on a Sunday in the NFL and this Bengals' run is an example of how quickly things can flip. Burrow has done special things early in his career and the Jets believe Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, will take a significant step forward in Year 2. Nobody should compare the two, but the Jets will continue to build in front of and around Wilson this offseason while adding pieces on defense. From a system standpoint, the team the Jets most align with is the 49ers and that's a club that advanced to the Super Bowl (2019) and NFC Championship game (2021) in two of the past three seasons with Jimmy Garoppolo at QB. Garoppolo is not the star Burrow is, but the Niners have won with a dominant defensive line, a fantastic linebacker, an evolving secondary and a punishing ground attack that complemented the pass game.
EG: I think the Jets know things quickly change in the NFL and the teams in the Super Bowl are proof. The Bengals were 4-11-1 in 2020 before going 10-7 this past season in 2022. The Rams were 4-12 in 2016 before going 11-5 in 2017 and haven't finished worse than 9-7 since. L.A. represented the NFC in the Super Bowl in the 2018 season. The Jets have what they believe to be their franchise quarterback and the Bengals have their signal-caller in Joe Burrow. Both teams have their head coach in place, with Robert Saleh leading a cultural change in Florham Park. The Super Bowl matchup also emphasizes the importance of December football -- Cincinnati went 2-2 in December and Los Angeles 4-0. Both teams also get after the quarterback, which is something Saleh preaches. Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson finished fifth in the NFL with 14 sacks and Rams DT Aaron Donald tied for seventh with 12.5. There are no guarantees, but the Bengals and Rams have presented a template that could work for the Green & White.
RL: My impression is that whatever the Jets can learn from Bengals-Rams are things they already know. GM Joe Douglas already knew the value of finding his QB in Zach Wilson, as does Cincy, which drafted Joe Burrow first overall in 2020, and LA, which grabbed Matthew Stafford in the trade with Detroit. Wilson, HC Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur already know the importance of surrounding their QB with top young talent like WR Elijah Moore and RB Michael Carter. So do the Bengals with the drafting of WRs Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins the past two years, and the All-Pro emergence of RB Joe Mixon; and the Rams with the monster production of Cooper Kupp, the drafting of Van Jefferson and — dare we say it? — the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. The urgency of getting a top pocket crusher? The Jets moved to sign Carl Lawson last year and he could be one of those difference-makers. The Horns, of course, have Aaron Donald, while the Stripes signed Trey Hendrickson. All teams know how vital good drafting and good free agency work is. But for the Jets it's not about learning from LVI, but rather applying what they already know to get it right this offseason. And maybe get just a little head start on scouting the Bengals, whom they beat at MetLife this past season and will play at home again in 2022.