Success on the Horizon for Gang Green

Zach+Wilson+still+has+major+upside+as+the+Jets+signal+caller%2C+and+can+only+improve+in+year+two.+%0A%28courtesy+of+Twitter%29

Zach Wilson still has major upside as the Jets signal caller, and can only improve in year two. (courtesy of Twitter)

Ryan Olson, Contributing Writer

After two horrendous seasons with a 6-25 overall record, it was safe to say that Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor’s job was on the line. However, second-year quarterback Joe Burrow’s promising future is probably what saved his coaching career;  boy is he happy it did. In his do-or-die third season, Taylor led the Bengals to a 2021 AFC North Division championship for the first time since 2015. Taylor is now beloved in Cincy. That’s the magical part of sports, and Cincy fans were lucky enough to witness the rapid transformation of a franchise still vying for its first Lombardi trophy. The team’s immediate improvement 4-11-1 to 10-7 should serve as a blueprint for many cellar-dwelling teams. There is one specific team that may have the potential to dramatically improve in the span of one season just like the Bengals: the New York Jets. So what do the Jets have to do this offseason to make this fantasy a reality?

It starts with weapons. The Cincinnati Bengals have an arsenal of weapons on the outside: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Each of these wideouts are playmakers. Meanwhile, the Jets have a steady diet of mediocre receivers. They lack a Ja’Marr Chase or, in other words, a star. This is a need that the Jets should address in free agency rather than the draft. Calvin Ridley, D.K. Metcalf and Amari Cooper have emerged as possible trade targets for Gang Green. If that falls through, the Jets should pursue one of the available game-changing free agents: Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson or Davante Adams. If the Jets can bolster their wideout group this offseason, they would present Zach Wilson with playmakers, something he lacked in his first year under center.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the Jets need to improve their offensive line heading into Robert Saleh’s sophomore season as head coach. Wilson was the third most sacked quarterback in the NFL this season, getting tackled for a loss a whopping 44 times. Though, 2020 first round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker proved he can be a formidable force up front for Gang Green. The team is hoping for a healthy offseason for 2019 first rounder Mekhi Becton who sat out the entire season with a knee injury. Regardless of Becton’s status heading into next year, the Jets need to address their offensive line in the draft or via free agency.

That brings me to the defensive side of the ball. The 2021 Jets had one of the worst defenses in the NFL, ranking 29th in opponents rushing yards per game and 30th in opponents passing yards per game. However, there is hope because the Jets are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Their secondary is composed solely of first and second year players. That’s not to say the Jets should not look for secondary help in the draft. If this team wants to undo 13 losses from a season ago, they’re going to need all the help they can get, especially in a department in which they ranked in the bottom five. 

Don’t forget about the return of Carl Lawson. He is a welcome sign for a Jets team that hasn’t had a pass rush since Muhammad Wilkerson. Lawson’s presence on the line coupled with Quinnen Williams has the potential to wreak havoc in the backfield. The Jets should still utilize one of their first- or second-round picks to strengthen their defensive line, especially considering the youth and inexperience of their secondary. Of all their needs, this is by far the most important. A strong pass rush is the quickest way for the Jets to reverse their defensive struggles of a year ago. Look for them to target Aidan Hutchinson from Michigan or Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon with one of their two first-round picks.

 The Bengals and Zac Taylor should be applauded for their remarkable turn-around because it is not, by any means, easy. With that being said, the New York Jets will make major strides in their second year with the right moves in the offseason. Watch out for Gang Green!