What can you say about the New York Jets? They are a team amidst a culture shift and rebuild, but continue to fight week in and week out.
And up until Week 15, they were still in contention for a playoff spot, despite a losing record. But now, after falling to New Orleans, the playoff race is no longer on their radar. Instead, the Jets need to take their final two games and mold them around a different framework.
While the team is considered to be a “young” one, the Jets have proved throughout the season that some of their veteran presence has allowed key pieces to grow. We’ve seen it most effectively in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, who have been thrust into the spotlight while taking notes from fellow corners Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine. We’ve also seen it with rookie running back Elijah McGuire as Bilal Powell and Matt Forte have taken him under their wing.
But now with the seemingly impossible feat of playoff contention out the window, the Jets need to put the focus on the rest of their young core.
While Adams and Maye have been directed into the NFL spotlight out of the gates, there are others among the Jets roster that should be seeing the field more. Other young and potential standouts include McGuire, wide receivers Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart and JoJo Natson, and cornerback Darryl Roberts. All of them have seen limited snap counts in wake of the Jets using their veterans to make a playoff push.
But that is no longer the case. Now is the time for them to earn their future roster spots.
McGuire has shown poise during his briefs stints on the field. When he happens to earn a touch in between Forte and Powell, he tends to make the most of it. With over 300 yards and an average of four yards per carry, McGuire has been going step for step with the Jets veteran backfield committee. It will be crucial to see more of him in these final games because, without a doubt, Forte and Powell will not be long-term options.
And as the offseason approaches, the Jets will need to analyze the potential market for free agent and rookie running backs. It will be important to see what potential McGuire brings to the table as it could have a lasting effect on the franchise’s future.
The same goes for Roberts at cornerback. The Jets have used him pretty inconsistently throughout 2017 despite his accelerated progression. He has beat out fellow corner Juston Burris on the depth chart, but has been unable to surpass Claiborne or Skrine for a starting position. While he may not deserve that yet, the Jets should fire up his snap count in their final games. The position could be in jeopardy come 2018 and it would be worthwhile to see what they currently have stashed.
A Batch of Receivers
The Jets have stocked up on wide receivers over the past two years. With the focus being so heavily pinpointed on the defense, management has tried to compensate by gambling on young receivers. While Anderson has certainly paid dividends in that regard, there are many others that the Jets should being plugging into the offense.
Stewart and Hansen have been given limited opportunities over the past few weeks, but a total evaluation of them can’t quite be done yet. In those brief instances, the Jets saw Hansen display his athletisicm, making plays down field and on crucial third downs. Stewart seems to be a step behind as the Jets have contained him to short routes with very few targets.
But the Jets need to unleash these guys before the end of 2017. Hansen could be utilized more in the slot and would compliment an improving Jets offense next year. Stewart should be given the opportunity to stretch the field and show off his deep-ball athleticism he had at Alabama.
No Better Way
Ultimately, there is no better way to improve on development than to acquire game experience. With the Jets no longer playing for 2017 bragging rights, it makes sense to get their young guns out there. It is an unfortunate state, but the Jets shouldn’t be playing to win in these final games, but rather they should be using them as a scope for future potential.