Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Olivia Landis and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: Where has the Jets roster most improved since January?
EA: Joe Douglas has significantly improved the roster in a number of areas but none more substantially than the offensive line. He delivered with more speed and playmakers around QB Sam Darnold with WRs Breshad Perriman in free agency and Denzel Mims in the draft. He gave Gregg Williams more chess pieces on defense with S Ashtyn Davis and DL Jabari Zuniga after re-signing DE/OLB Jordan Jenkins and nickel CB Brian Poole. Brant Boyer's special teams units take a back seat to no club in the NFL and they're only going to get better with P Braden Mann, the aforementioned Davis and RB La'Mical Perine. But the O-line transformation has been dramatic. The Jets will play the best five and they potentially could have new four starters. Alex Lewis, Brian Winters and Greg Van Roten figure to battle it out at guard while Connor McGovern joins Jonotthan Harrison as quality options at the pivot. Then Douglas, after signing former Seahawks T George Fant in free agency, landed 6-7, 364-pound Mekhi Becton with his first draft pick as GM. Becton has one of the highest ceilings in the entire draft class and he could be a foundational block for the line. Darnold has plenty to smile about this spring as does RB Le'Veon Bell.
EG: I think the obvious answer is the offensive line. Joe Douglas said he was going to place an emphasis up front and he did so both in free agency and in the draft. Douglas added a total of seven new OL, most recently Mekhi Becton and Cameron Clark via the NFL Draft. All seven players offer position versatility and make for a deep group after the unit was derailed by injury last season. I believe Douglas and Jets have improved their depth across the board, not just along the O-line. The Jets lost Robby Anderson in free agency and added two former first-round picks in Breshad Perriman and Josh Doctson, and drafted Denzel Mims in the second round. Defensively, the Jets added to their secondary with a pair of former Colts — CBs Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson — and drafted S Ashtyn Davis, who can be used in a number of ways behind Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Douglas brought back key pieces from 2019 e.g. Brian Poole and Jordan Jenkins and has added to almost every position group to make each as competitive as possible. The offensive line may have received the biggest makeover, but the Jets roster will look different in 2020 at a number of positions.
RL: The natural answer to this question would be O-line, but I'll set that aside and say I'm interested to see just how much the Jets' special teams have improved. Exhibit A is P Braden Mann replacing Lachlan Edwards. Lach was a good pro who improved each year, but Mann, who only punted his last 2 years at Texas A&M, comes in with better numbers than Lach in his last 2 years at Sam Houston State in gross (48.9 to 42.9), net (42.6 to 38.3) and I-20 rate (42.1 to 37.9). Mann said he had some outkicking-the-coverage issues as a junior but cut his TB rate in half as a senior. At K, I'd like to see Sam Ficken take off in Year 2 like he did at Penn State but he'll be pressed by Brett Maher (technically signed to a reserve/future deal Dec. 31), who had a good year with Dallas in '18, not as strong in '19. LB Patrick Onwuasor did a good job on the Ravens' teams from 2016-18. As far as the draft, Jabari Zuniga has shown blocked-kick skills while Ashtyn Davis and Bryce Hall have ST dimensions as well. So for me there are no guarantees but the new specialists look promising.
OL: Since January, the Jets roster has improved the most along the offensive line. We've talked in depth about general manager Joe Douglas' main priority this offseason was building protection in front of QB Sam Darnold and adding valuable weapons around him. Starting in free agency, Douglas brought in four new players and re-signed Alex Lewis, making a total of five additions to the offensive line in just a few weeks. More improvements came a month later during the 2020 NFL Draft when he drafted Louisville's Mekhi Becton in the first round, known as "Mount Becton" for his 6'7", 364-pound frame. Douglas also drafted Charlotte's Cameron Clark, bringing the total of new offensive line additions to seven this offseason — far more additions than any other position group in the past three months. While there have been other improvements on the offensive side of the ball (RB La'Mical Perine, WR Denzel Mims, WR Breshad Perriman and WR Josh Doctson), as a whole, the Jets will be better equipped this season to provide Darnold with great protection.