A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Empty cupboard: Even though the Jets’ poor drafting record is well known, the trade of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams shined a particularly harsh light on the issue. And maybe, just maybe, it factored into Jets general manager Joe Douglas’ decision to deal away his best player. Let’s explain.
By trading Adams, drafted No. 6 overall in 2017, the Jets joined the Las Vegas Raiders as the only teams that don’t have a single one of their first-round picks from 2011 through 2017 on their rosters, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
That factoid is more damning in the Jets’ case because they made eight selections in that window, the Raiders five.
The Jets’ 0-for-8, compiled by the three previous regimes, consists of four terrible picks (Darron Lee, Calvin Pryor, Dee Milliner, Quinton Coples), one mediocre pick (Leonard Williams), one solid pick (Sheldon Richardson), one good pick that went bad (Muhammad Wilkerson) and one excellent pick (Adams), whose relationship with the organization fractured.
A team doesn’t have to consistently ace the first round to have success — look no further than Adams’ new team, the Seattle Seahawks — but it’s more the exception than the rule. The lifeblood of a team is, and always will be, the NFL draft. The Jets’ failures are a big reason why they haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, and the many misses are hampering the rebuild because the picks from the mid-2010s — the players who should be the nucleus — are nowhere to be found. Quarterback Sam Darnold (Class of ’18) is the longest-tenured No. 1 pick on the roster, for crying out loud.
Douglas did not want to trade Adams — he mulled Seattle’s offer for weeks — but the potential upside was too good to ignore. By acquiring first-round picks in 2021 and 2022, he gave himself four No. 1s in the next two drafts. The last time the Jets had this much draft capital in a one- or two-year span was 2000, when then-GM Bill Parcells made four first-round selections. After not having first-round picks in 1998 (swapped for Curtis Martin) and 1999 (Parcells compensation to the New England Patriots), he pulled off a franchise-altering draft.
This is Douglas’ Parcells moment, spread over two years — a chance to atone for the sins of his predecessors.
2. Did you know? Other than the Jets, the only other teams to part ways with at least eight first-round choices they picked from 2011 through 2017 are the Cleveland Browns (10 out of 12 picks) and Minnesota Vikings (eight out of 10), per ESPN Stats & Information.
3. History repeats: I hate to keep digging into the past, but I must say the Adams trade blockbuster reminds me of the Keyshawn Johnson trade in 2000.
Back then, the Jets dealt away a brash, charismatic, Pro Bowl talent who demanded a new contract and didn’t get along with the coach (Al Groh). They received two No. 1s for Johnson and used a third-round pick to take another wide receiver, Laveranues Coles. The Jets can’t cash in their Adams picks until next year, but they do have a third-round pick at his position, safety Ashtyn Davis.
Parallels aside, what remains to be seen is how the Jets respond to the Adams trade. In 2000, the Johnson deal galvanized the team. It motivated the players to prove people wrong, to show critics they could survive, even thrive, without their No. 1 receiver. History looks upon that season as a bust because of the 9-7 finish, but let’s not forget the Jets started 6-1, including the historic comeback win against the Miami Dolphins.
The current, post-trade spin from the Jets is how they’re “hungry” and “motivated.” They should be. Adams was a terrific player for the Jets, but they should be able to withstand the loss of a safety.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they also lost Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, who has opted out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus pandemic concerns. The silver lining is the Jets played 14 games without him last season and still finished seventh in total defense, but that was with Adams. No one said circling the wagons would be easy.
4. Reality check: Even though the Adams trade created no cap room in 2020, some folks might be wondering if Douglas will respond with a big-name, crowd-pleasing acquisition to make people forget about Adams.
That’s not how he operates.
Unless a great opportunity comes along, Douglas probably will roll his cap surplus (currently $21 million, per Over the Cap) into next year.
Jadeveon Clowney? We’ve been down this road before; the answer is no — still.
Yannick Ngakoue? The Jacksonville Jaguars probably will wind up trading their disgruntled pass-rusher, but I would be surprised if it’s to the Jets. They won’t trade a first-round pick and pay $17.8 million for a (likely) one-year rental on the franchise tag. They see him as a one-dimensional player. He is productive in that one dimension (37.5 sacks in 63 games), but he’s not an ideal fit in Jets coordinator Gregg Williams’ base front.
5. Bell is ringing: If you follow Jets running back Le’Veon Bell on social media, you know he is fired up for the season. He’s predicting a career year, which would be a remarkable turnaround after last season’s disappointment. The man should be highly motivated because he knows he almost certainly will enter the job market again next offseason.
“He’s not a guy I would ever doubt, just seeing what he’s done throughout his career,” Jets coach Adam Gase said.
Gase said Bell’s knowledge of the system is “completely different than it was last year,” so he expects him to have quicker reactions than before. He also talked about how Jets coaches used the offseason to study different ways they can get him the ball in the running and passing games.
Haven’t we heard this before? Enough lip service; let’s see it happen.
6. QB questions: Gase said they have had extensive internal discussions on whether to have a “quarantine quarterback” during the pandemic, a newfangled insurance policy that seems to be gaining momentum around the league. It’s an interesting concept.
Think about it: What if the entire quarterback room tests positive two days before a game? What, then? The smart play would be to have an arm in the bullpen, a quarterback who participates in the meetings virtually, trains away from the facility and could step into the huddle at a moment’s notice.
The logical candidate is David Fales, who already knows the Jets’ playbook, but there are some logistics that need to be worked out. Would he count on the roster or the practice squad? What about salary? As Gase noted, the Jets have three games on the West Coast, which complicates matters. He said there’s no urgency to make a decision.
7. Delay of game: For those wondering about the training camp schedule, the teams are having an extended ramp-up period that emphasizes strength and conditioning. The first non-pads practice is Aug. 12, likely open to the media, followed by the first padded practice Aug. 17. After 30 years of covering training camps, it certainly feels weird to spend the first two weeks at home.
8. The last word: “My first reaction when I saw the call [from Seahawks GM John Schneider], I thought I was in trouble. Then I realized I hadn’t done anything. Then I was like, ‘OK, this is weird. You don’t really talk to a GM every day.’ All I remember is him saying, ‘We traded you to the Jets.’ It was almost like his voice echoed in my ear. He continued for speak for two more minutes and all I heard was, ‘Jets … Jets … Jets.’ At first, I was kind of stunned. I felt abandoned, like they just kicked me out, like they didn’t care about me or valued me there. Then I started to think about how much of a blessing this was, another opportunity.” — safety Bradley McDougald on his reaction to being traded.
Raiders’ Jon Gruden calls backup QB Marcus Mariota ‘dazzling playmaker’
HENDERSON, Nev. — While Derek Carr is firmly entrenched as the Las Vegas Raiders starting quarterback, the guy signed to be his backup, Marcus Mariota, impressed coach Jon Gruden on Friday, the third practice of training camp in which players wore helmets.
“He’s interesting,” Gruden said with a smile of Mariota. “He took off a couple times today and it really fired me up. He’s been hurt, but looks like the ankle really turned a corner. He’s a dazzling playmaker with his feet and that’s the key to his game.
“I saw glimpses of that today. It’s exciting. Started off slow on 7-on-7 [drills], but [he] picked it up, had a nice day. Had a real nice day.”
Indeed, Mariota, who lost his starting job with the Tennessee Titans to Ryan Tannehill last season, struggled early in practice, missing tight end Jason Witten badly on an intermediate pass to the right sideline. And he throws a different ball than Carr.
But it is Mariota’s scrambling ability and willingness to extend plays with his legs that makes him a good fit for Gruden’s offense. Even as Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, has said since signing as a free agent with Las Vegas in March that the Raiders were Carr’s team.
In fact, both Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft by the Titans, and Carr, a second-round pick of the Raiders in 2014, suffered season-ending broken legs on the same day in Week 16 of the 2016 season.
“It’s like weird, crazy things that link you together,” Carr said earlier in camp.
“I’ll tell you one thing, in our quarterback group you have to compete and that’s what I do. Anyone that’s around me, all I’m going to do is compete. I’ve had multiple starters in the NFL come in here and be in the same room as me. You can go through the list about who’s started games and who’s been in our quarterback room. It happens all the time, but when you go 7-9, people like to make up stuff.”
Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Mariota would push Carr, a three-time Pro Bowler and the franchise’s all-time leading passer who is coming off career highs in passing yardage (4,054), completion percentage (70.4%) and Total QBR (62.2) but is just 39-55 as a starter, with one winning season in six years.
And as Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com, “The best quarterbacks are the ones that have the wins; stats will follow.”
Mariota is 29-32 as a starter.
“Competition brings out the best in any player in any sport,” Olson said.
“I would say it’s the best competition that we’ve had since we’ve been here.”
Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett ‘had lot of hesitation’ about playing before deciding not to opt out
Lockett’s concern stemmed from a preexisting heart abnormality as well as the fact that much of his family has asthma. Before the Seahawks drafted Lockett in the third round in 2015, medical checks at the scouting combine revealed that his aorta is on his right side. At the time, Lockett was briefly unsure if he would be able to continue playing football.
“So just with everything that happened in COVID, that was one of my biggest issues was just trying to make sure [this heart condition] wasn’t gonna affect me if I was able to go out there and play,” Lockett said Friday on a video conference with reporters. “Obviously, nobody really knows. You’ve got doctors who kind of give you what you need to know up front, what they think and what their biggest opinion is of it, but I think I had my chance to opt out, and I said that if I come up here, I’m gonna just play.
“I know that we’ve got Pete [Carroll], we’ve got a lot of older coaches. They don’t want to put themselves in a situation to get sick neither, so I told myself if they could do it then I know I could do it. And if I’m going to come out here and play, then I’m just going to do what needs to be done. I’m not going to stress about COVID. I did that from February to before we came into camp.”
The 27-year-old Lockett has led the Seahawks in receiving in each of the past two seasons.
His family experienced a scare earlier this year when a cousin contracted COVID-19. The woman had previously lived with Lockett in Seattle.
“It was bad,” he said. “I would get messages from her mom and she would send me like a long paragraph and stuff because my cousin never told me. She was just telling me how she was having a hard time breathing, she really didn’t feel good, and when I ended up talking to my cousin after she ended up overcoming it, she had told me that there was one day where her body was just aching so much she had told a woman … basically like she really didn’t think she was going to make it. She was like, she didn’t think her body was going to be able to deal with what she really felt another day.”
Lockett said the cousin has asthma, as does much of his father’s side of his family.
“That’s why it made me question if I wanted to come play,” he said. “I have a lot of stuff in my family to where I don’t want to put anybody in jeopardy.”
The Seahawks had one player, guard Chance Warmack, opt out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns. As of Friday, they had placed only one player on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and that was due to a false positive test to wide receiver John Ursua, who has since been activated and is taking part in practice.
Colts’ Jacoby Brissett says he knows he’ll start at QB again somewhere
INDIANAPOLIS — Jacoby Brissett might never start another game at quarterback for the Colts. But in his mind, he believes he’ll be a starter again in the NFL at some point down the road after he failed to hold on to the job in Indianapolis in 2019.
Brissett said he was surprised when coach Frank Reich gave him the news last winter that they were replacing him with veteran Philip Rivers as the starter. Reich acknowledged that Brissett, like any other player would be, was upset by the demotion.
“I still believe in myself,” Brissett said Friday in his first public comments since Rivers’ arrival. “I know I’m a starter in this league. I know I can play at a high level. I did it last year.”
Brissett became the starter when Andrew Luck announced his retirement two weeks before the regular season last year. The Colts gave Brissett a two-year contract, allowing him the opportunity to prove he could be the next franchise quarterback.
Brissett, however, didn’t consistently play at a level needed to lead a team to the playoffs last year. He started strong in leading the Colts to a 5-2 record, including victories over playoff teams Houston, Tennessee and Kansas City. But Brissett, who suffered a knee injury at Pittsburgh in early November, faltered down the stretch as the Colts lost seven of their final nine games to miss the playoffs.
He finished 29th in the NFL with 196.1 yards per game and was hesitant to take shots down the field.
General manager Chris Ballard gave an indication a change was going to occur when he said the jury was still out on Brissett at the end of last season. Rivers is a 38-year-old veteran who has passed for 59,271 yards and 397 touchdowns in his 16-year career. Brissett said he still plans to compete even though Rivers is now the starter.
“I really can’t say enough positive [things] about how he has been with this change, I guess — I don’t know another word for it, with me being here and also how he has just been,” Rivers said. “He’s an impressive guy to be around. The way he works at it and then how helpful he’s been with little things, ‘Here’s how we signal this. Here’s how I usually set that. Here is how I set that.’ Then the few things that I’m like, ‘Gosh, can we do this? Can we do that?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’ll learn it. Whatever you are most comfortable with.’ So he has been super helpful, gracious.”
Brissett still has significant value to the Colts. Reich has said they plan to have special packages for Brissett to get him onto the field this season. And Brissett has to be ready to step in and start at any moment, especially with the uncertainty when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brissett, like Rivers, will be a free agent at the end of this season. “I know I’ll be a starter in this league one day again,” Brissett said. “Wherever that may be.”
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