The development of Zach Wilson, and the ups and downs that go with that, continues to be the defining story of the New York Jets in the early stages of the 2021 season. But other moves are being made, and other things are happening, some of which affect Wilson directly, and some of which have a more subtle impact on the rookie signalcaller. Here is a look at some of them:
Barring a sudden turn of good fortune, it would seem veteran slot receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) will miss his third consecutive game Sunday when the Jets visit Denver at 4:05 p.m. This is a loss for everyone. Crowder’s knack for winning quickly against defensive backs at the line of scrimmage and flashing open quickly is beneficial for any quarterback, especially a young one.
Meanwhile, Crowder himself needs to get on the field. He is in the final year of a restructured deal and being inactive is preventing him from putting himself into his position for his next contract, which might not be with the Jets. Unfortunately for Crowder, he has been beset with numerous injuries over the past several seasons. If he sits out Sunday, he will have missed 14 of the last 51 games for Washington and New York since the beginning of 2018.
Despite the reworking, his cap figure still is the eighth-highest on the team, at $6.352 million, per overthecap.com. And as Crowder fails to increase his value on the open market next March, the Jets are getting no bang for their buck. Lose-lose.
The revolving door continues at linebacker. Veteran B.J. Goodson got no snaps at outside linebacker last week against New England and announced his retirement shortly thereafter, only eight days after being signed off the street. Head coach Robert Saleh indicated it was for personal reasons. In this era of limited player availability for all teams, Goodson, a sixth-year veteran who previously had played for the Browns and Giants, never spoke to Jets’ reporters.
Quinnen Williams’ brother, Quincy Williams, started in place of the injured Jamien Sherwood as Goodson was limited seven special-teams snaps.
Financially, Goodson only cost the Jets one game check. They also worked out former Jet Avery Williamson last week. They still seem committed to a youth movement at the position, but New England quarterback Mac Jones exploited their defense with a dink-and-dunk passing game, and Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater often does the same thing. (Granted, covering running backs and tight ends in space wasn’t Williamson’s forte in recent years, anyway.) Still, one wonders if the Jets might sign a veteran at this position if they continue to get exposed here.
The Jets don’t have much flexibility to make a move, with only an estimated $4.33 million in cap space, per overthecap.com. For what’s worth, veteran punter Thomas Morstead is costing them $802,778 against the cap.
Conversely, New York has yet to be exposed at cornerback, as the youngsters at the position have performed admirably for the most part. Yes, they deserve credit, but part of the reason is that no team has tested them yet. The one deep ball given up by the Jets was mostly the fault of a safety, not a cornerback. And again, Sunday’s opponent, Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater, tends to utilize a short and intermediate passing game.
The one time the Jets got beat deep thus far, it was the fault of a safety, not a cornerback. That safety, Sheldrick Redwine, was waived last week, although he soon was re-signed to the practice squad. days after his disastrous mental mistake in allowing Sam Darnold’s favorite deep threat with both the Jets and Panthers, Robby Anderson, to get behind him for a 57-yard touchdown. As I wrote here, that play showed just how dangerous it can be to go with too much youth on the back end of the defense.
The 2020 draft continues to disappoint. For many reasons, some of which are out of the control of the Jets and general manager Joe Douglas, only one member of the nine-player 2020 draft class suited up against New England. He was fifth-round pick Bryce Hall, who is securely penciled in as one of the starting corners. But left tackle Mekhi Becton (first round) and punter Braden Mann (sixth) are on injured reserve after being hurt in the season opener.
Safety Ashtyn Davis (third) hasn’t played since last season because of a foot problem. Linebacker Jabari Zuniga (third) and quarterback James Morgan (fourth) have been waived, although Zuniga was brought back to the practice squad. A freak practice injury caused a spinal injury that may result in the end of the playing career of guard Cam Clark (fourth), although he is expected to recover fully. Running back La’Mical Perine (fourth) missed the opener because of a foot injury and was a healthy scratch in Week 2, but could play against the Broncos with Tevin Coleman out because of a non-COVID illness.
Perine doesn’t seem to be a good fit as a runner in this offense, but he is a good receiver out of the backfield, which does work in the Shanahan-style attack.
And that leaves us with the curious case of second-rounder Denzel Mims. He got only three snaps in the opener, but turned one of them into a 40-yard catch. He was a healthy scratch against the Patriots, and Saleh has said repeatedly the problem is he is not adept at special teams and the coach also has indicated Mims does not have as firm a grasp of the various receiver positions as do his counterparts. If so, then Saleh and his coaches are to be commended for invoking some discipline and accountability in doling out playing time. But could Mims give a struggling air game a spark, especially if Crowder again is out? It remains to be seen.
Still, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo is reporting that the Jets are turning down trade offers for Mims, thus is appears he is still in their plans.