Fifth of a five-part series — a Jets trio of note.
There is plenty of pressure to go around the Jets in 2020. It has been 10 years since their last trip to the playoffs and five years since their last winning season.
Fans ran out of patience long ago. With an additional team from each conference now making the playoffs, fans want a return to the postseason this year. Is that realistic? We’ll find out. But if the Jets have a fifth straight losing season, it will be a disappointment.
While there is pressure on many members of the organization, here are the three that are under the most pressure in 2020:
Sam Darnold, quarterback
Darnold is entering his third season with the Jets with plenty of questions still unanswered. Between injuries, illness and a poor supporting cast, the variables around Darnold have made it hard to get a true read on what he is as a quarterback. There are throws that convince you he is the long-term answer. Those are sometimes followed by throws that make you question whether he ever will become what the Jets believed he could be when he was drafted No. 3-overall in 2018.
The Jets spent this offseason attempting to upgrade their offensive line and wide receiver group. We’ll find out when the games start if they were successful. GM Joe Douglas did not throw around big money on free agents, but did use his first two picks to give Darnold better protection (tackle Mekhi Becton) and a new target (Denzel Mims).
The Jets are hopeful that Darnold will progress in his second season under Adam Gase and can play 16 games for the first time. It is too soon to call this season make or break for Darnold. He will be here in 2021. But the Jets will have a decision to make on his contract after the season, when he is eligible for an extension for the first time.
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Adam Gase, head coach
Patience no longer exists for NFL head coaches. Just take a look at the Giants who have fired their last two coaches after two seasons each. Gase managed to keep the team together last year after a 1-7 start to go 6-2 in the second half of the season and finish 7-9, the team’s best record since 2015.
Still, there were issues. Hired partly because of his offensive acumen, Gase oversaw an offense that finished last or near last in most categories. He is unpopular with fans and is going to have to navigate a tricky situation with an unhappy Jamal Adams.
Many fans ask how many wins Gase needs to keep his job, but it is not that simple. Gase’s future will hinge not just on how many games the Jets win this year but also how Darnold develops. If the quarterback does not show progress and the team has another losing year, Gase could be in trouble.
Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle
This one may not be fair, but it is the way it is. There is always a microscope on you when you are a first-round pick. Becton will be expected to come in and open holes for Le’Veon Bell and protect Darnold immediately. This could be one of the hardest seasons ever for rookies due to the lack of an offseason program and possibly having no preseason games. It will be hard to expect Becton to play at a high level immediately in September if he does not get to even play a preseason game.
Despite that, the expectations are high. Becton is expected to be the starter at left tackle, but the Jets may decide to move him to right and play George Fant at left tackle if they believe he is not ready to protect Darnold’s blindside. The 6-foot-7, 360-pound Becton was a mauler in college. Now, we’ll see if he can do it in the NFL. The Jets are counting on him to give their line a boost.
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