It has been a jarring offseason for the New York Jets and their fan base. The Eric Mangini era (many moons ago) brought four core players who had incredible runs with the team. While D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired before the 2016 season, Nick Mangold, David Harris and Darrelle Revis rode out another year in green and white.
With all three being released this offseason, what players on the roster could make up the new “core four” of the future? Here are the top candidates.
A productive superstar talent who has the drive to be a team leader, Williams is an absolute lock for the core four, perhaps for a decade. The defensive end turns 23 on June 20. Of the talented trio which also includes Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, Williams is the only one guaranteed to be part of the Jets’ future plans on the defensive line.
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 22, 2017
In his second NFL season he tallied a whopping 55 quarterback pressures with 48 solo stops. With the ability to play five-tech, three-tech, shade-nose and nose tackle, he is the most versatile piece on the Jets’ defensive line and certainly the most talented. Pencil him in as the face of the defense for a long time.
The 2017 top-10 selection hasn’t even played a regular-season down in the NFL, but his future looks as promising as anyone not named Leonard Williams. After consistently impressing with the starting unit in OTAs and minicamp, the safety is expected to make an instant impact in 2017.
3) Jamal Adams – best safety talent I've seen since Eric Berry and Earl Thomas were in same class. Hard hitter/coverage/ballhawk/high IQ pic.twitter.com/E3tuga5akH
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) December 22, 2016
The Jets’ secondary was awful last year, allowing big play after big play. Even worse, the effort level and communication from Revis, Calvin Pryor and even Marcus Gilchrist fell off a cliff. All three players are gone, and though Adams will go through rookie growing pains, he should be an upgrade on the back end from in terms of talent and leadership.
The first “surprise” of this group, Adams’ partner in crime on the back end of the defense was one of the more underrated players in the 2017 NFL Draft. Maye, a safety, is a reliable and fearless tackler who can help over the top in coverage. Maye was the leader of a Florida defense stacked with NFL talent, which speaks volumes of the locker room presence he can have in New York.
Playing alongside Jamal Adams, I think you can expect Maye's role to be very similar to his 2015 one – he's not just a box safety: pic.twitter.com/usdEFexH8y
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 1, 2017
Todd Bowles’ team needs to flip the turnover differential after a minus-20 effort in 2016. With two aggressive safeties in the fold, that number should begin to trend the other way. Expect this duo to be in Florham Park for quite some time.
The total wild card of the group must earn trust. It’s no secret that the fan base is down on the former first-round selection after a mediocre rookie campaign and signs of immaturity. That said, there’s a reason Lee went in the first round in the 2016 NFL Draft: He’s a talented player with tremendous speed at linebacker, and he can make plays all over the field.
Keep Darron Lee clean and he can run free to make plays. Hard for OL to get to him at 2nd level on outside runs, so much speed: pic.twitter.com/do72SOeGlS
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 16, 2017
Lee’s impact is heavily reliant on what’s in front of him. Williams, Wilkerson, Richardson, Deon Simon and Steve McLendon compose a very talented group that should keep offensive linemen away from him. The loss of David Harris severely hurts, because he was a bruising thumper who could take on lead blocks away from Lee.
If Demario Davis can adequately fill that role, expect a much bigger sophomore campaign for Lee in 2017.
The second wild card landed on this list for reasons that sharply diverge from anything Lee poses. Burris wasn’t a high selection (fourth round in 2016). The projection for him was somewhere between a third and fourth cornerback.
Early this offseason, Burris has overachieved in practices, flashing signs of quality when given playing time. He is extremely physical at the line of scrimmage, preferring to jam wideouts instead of letting them get off the line of scrimmage. With better safeties behind him, his style of play could have a big impact on Bowles’ defense. He is penciled in as the Jets’ third corner, sliding outside in the nickel defense. If he proves he has No. 2 cornerback potential, he could be a staple in Gang Green’s defense.
All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus
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