The New York Jets removed themselves Friday from the doubt and drama that typically comes with the NFL’s “Black Monday,” when pink slips run rampant across the league.
The Jets are not only retaining Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, they gave the regime an extension lasting through the 2020 season. Both men are safe, for now, but face the challenge of clarifying their cloudy vision for the franchise.
The Jets took strides in 2017 as a revamped roster overachieved amidst a mediocre league landscape. But here are some questions both men must answer to prove the franchise is finally headed in the proper direction.
1. Can a franchise QB be found and developed?
This is the question that has doomed many Jets regimes in the past. Bowles and Maccagnan have struck gold with finding veteran options, but they have yet to find a long-term solution.
The tandem has a tumultuous two years with Ryan Fitzpatrick and a solid season with Josh McCown on its resume. 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty has played, but hasn’t impressed. We all know the Christian Hackenberg situation by now. It’s likely he’ll be a bust, but Maccagnan will get a chance to make up for it.
New York’s success with veterans makes someone like Kirk Cousins seem appealing. He’s an established quarterback who won’t need too much tutoring. His ceiling might be capped, but he offers stability. With the Jets likely out of range to land either Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, Cousins might work.
2. Can young players keep progressing?
The 2017 season has been partially defined by the improvements made by young playmakers such as Robby Anderson, Eli McGuire, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Leonard Williams, Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams. The challenge for Bowles is to see that development continues.
The Jets have had inspiring youngsters on the roster before. Do Mark Sanchez, Lorenzo Mauldin, Calvin Pryor, Quinton Coples and heck, even Muhammad Wilkerson ring a bell?
These players all fell off after showing glimpses as rookies and second-year players. Bowles has to ensure his crop of kids doesn’t regress in a similar fashion.
3. Can the Jets finally find a pass rusher or two?
The Jets simply don’t get to the quarterback often enough. Bowles, a defensive tactician, is partially to blame. But Maccagnan also deserves blame for not addressing the edge well enough in the draft and free agency.
Don’t be surprised if the Jets dole out some money to an established free agent pass rusher this offseason.
4. Can they add more weaponry?
Anderson, Powell, McGuire, Seferian-Jenkins and Jermaine Kearse are nice pieces. But do any of them have true star potential? Probably not.
The Jets need a marquee pass catcher to help whomever is under center in 2018. A No. 1 target also will elevate Anderson and Kearse and force defenses to respect the aerial attack.
Some options this offseason include first-round prospects Calvin Ridley and Courtland Sutton and free agents Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson.
5. Can they replace departed Jets legends?
The Jets have said goodbye to eventual Ring of Honor inductees David Harris, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Maccagnan must’ve found Harris’ replacement in Demario Davis, but he’s been unable to replace Mangold and Ferguson.
Wesley Johnson’s audition has gone miserably and he’ll likely need to find a new team this winter. Kelvin Beachum isn’t bad, but he’s injury-prone and turns 29 next year. Again, the more the Jets can surround around their quarterback, the better.