Second in a series on the Patriots’ competition in the AFC East:
For the umpteenth time in recent memory the Jets drafted the quarterback of their future, trading three second-round picks to grab Sam Darnold with the third overall selection.
There’s a lot of pressure on Darnold not to be another Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty, Geno Smith, or Mark Sanchez. Darnold won’t be asked to be Namath 2.0 right away, however. For now, he’ll learn from 16-year veteran Josh McCown, who was very good last season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns before getting hurt. McCown isn’t flashy but he’s a solid leader with a good arm and underrated athleticism.
McCown has some decent receiving options, including Jermaine Kearse (he’s slippery), Quincy Enunwa (he’s huge), Terrelle Pryor (he’s athletic), and Robby Anderson (he’s a tease).
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’s departure leaves a big void at tight end. A couple of young guys — Jordan Leggett (he missed his rookie season with an injury) and rookie Christopher Herndon IV (a fourth-rounder) will battle for spots and snaps.
This is an interesting and versatile running back group, led by the rugged Bilal Powell, who rumbled for a team-high 772 yards last season. Isaiah Crowell comes aboard after scoring 22 touchdowns in four seasons in Cleveland. Elijah McGuire is a scatback-type with excellent hands and shifty moves in the open field. Don’t ask him to push the pile. Thomas Rawls is a bull in a china shop — he’ll definitely be asked to push the pile. Will be keeping an eye on Trenton Cannon, the sixth-rounder out of the football hotbed of Virginia State (go Trojans!), to see if he can secure a spot. He has a shot to be an impact return man.
The offensive line gave up 47 sacks a year ago and the hope is that new center Spencer Long, a former Redskins standout, can pull this unit together.
There are problems throughout the front seven of the Jets’ defense. Leonard Williams is a force off the edge, but his former running mate, Muhammad Wilkerson, is in Green Bay and his likely replacement, rookie Nathan Shepherd, is making a huge leap from Fort Hays State (go Tigers!) to the NFL.
Avery Williamson will be asked to lead the linebacking corps after signing a two-year deal to, in essence, replace longtime stalwart Demario Davis, who had 97 tackles and five sacks last season.
The secondary should be a strength. Sophomore safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye are heavy hitters. They’re prone to lapses in pass coverage, but with a year under their belts they’ll be better.
Cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (he’s elite), Morris Claiborne (he’s getting there), and Buster Skrine (he’s solid in the slot) will make plays.
Punter Lachlan Edwards (imagine being named after two Air Force bases!) has developed into one of the league’s best. Kicker Cairo Santos is a proven commodity.
Key newcomer: Avery Williamson — The instinctive linebacker/tackling machine needs to emerge as the leader of the defense.
Big loss: Austin Seferian-Jenkins — An athletic and productive tight end, and good safety valve for McCown, Seferian-Jenkins will be tough to replace.
Tough stretch: Right out of the gate. The Jets open on “Monday Night Football” in Detroit (oh no, Matt Patricia again!) followed by a home date with divisional rival Miami. Todd Bowles then takes his club on back-to-back road trips to Cleveland (on “Thursday Night Football”) and Jacksonville (which has one of the best defenses in the AFC). Bowles’s seat could heat up fast.
Prediction: 6-10 (fourth in AFC East)
Coming Friday: Bills
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.