You’ve read the headline, and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “How on earth does this lunatic think the New York Jets will make the playoffs next season?”
Well, I insist I’m not taking whatever it is Kyrie Irving is taking, and I think it’s very possible that the Jets can be a good team next year, good enough to make the playoffs that is. With the right off-season moves and a number of close losses turning into wins, the Jets could go from 5-11 to, say, 10-6. 10 wins are traditionally enough to get into the playoffs as a wildcard.
Let’s start by discussing what the Jets need to improve on from a personnel standpoint. First and foremost, New York needs a star quarterback. I know it, you know it, everybody knows it. They definitely can’t have Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty under center if they want to go to the playoffs. Sure, McCown played well enough last season, but he is not the type of quarterback to lead you to the playoffs.
Many speculate the Jets’ quarterback of the future will be whomever they draft in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, but I firmly believe the Jets will go after free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will most certainly be available after the Washington Redskins traded for Alex Smith.
Cousins isn’t a superstar, but he has put up some great numbers over the last three years and would be a huge boost of stability to the most important position on the field, one the Jets have struggled with for a long, long time.
Since becoming the full-time starter for the Redskins in 2015, Cousins has passed for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of the three seasons. He’s also passed for at least 25 touchdowns and scored four or more rushing touchdowns in all three years as the starter. Cousins is a little reckless with the ball at times, as he has 47 turnovers over the last three years, but would he be a Jets’ quarterback if he wasn’t a little turnover prone?
If the Jets can snag Cousins in free agency, that will save general manager Mike Maccagnan and company the trouble of having to draft a quarterback in the first round. Then, they can go after the best player available with the sixth spot in the draft, a position they’ve had success with in recent years, drafting Leonard Williams (2015) and Jamal Adams (2017).
Given the need for other teams to draft a quarterback, the Jets could actually fare quite well and get one of the most electrifying players in the draft in Saquon Barkley, a junior running back out of Penn State. Barkley is a do-it-all player out of the backfield, with fantastic rushing, receiving, returning and pass blocking ability and even a little bit of throwing ability as well in case the Jets want to mix it up a bit.
Add Saquon to an offense with Cousins and a solid receiving core including Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa, and the Jets will be able to put up points. Some help to the offensive line would be nice, but that can be addressed with the Jets’ large amount of cap room in free agency, or in later rounds of the draft. Still, in terms of personnel moves this offseason, the Jets could do a lot worse than Barkley and Cousins.
As for on-field performance, the Jets struggled tremendously in close games, especially in the fourth quarter. The Jets lost six games by a single score, and allowed 8.7 points per game in the fourth quarter alone. That was the difference more often than not in another disappointing New York Jets season.
With a little more consistency late in games and fate working out in the Jets favor, a lot of those losses can very easily turn into wins. A legitimate NFL quarterback and an undeniable top-tier running back talent can only help the Jets’ ability to win games in 2018.
You might still think I’m as crazy as flat-earther Kyrie Irving, but I truly believe that, with the right moves, the New York Jets can and should make the playoffs next season.