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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

New York Jets GM Joe Douglas In It For The Long Haul, But He’s Had A Rough Start To The 2020 Season

Here is a look at some of the New York Jets’ issues heading into their game today against Arizona, with a particular emphasis on general manager Joe Douglas. 

With the Jets winless after four games, much of the fans’ wrath has fallen on beleaguered head coach Adam Gase, who certainly deserves his share of the blame. But Douglas does not deserve a free ride, even though he appears to be the organization’s best bet to turn this thing around in the long run. 

But in this short sample size thus far this season, Douglas’ free-agent acquisitions aren’t doing very well, for the most part. Here they are, listed in order by 2020 salary-cap figure, and total guaranteed money for the length of the contract, per overthecap.com. 

Center Connor McGovern ($7.333333 million, $18 million). McGovern, a former Denver Bronco, was expected to be the anchor of revamped offensive line, but his Pro Football Focus grade has slipped from 72 last season to 44.2 this year as he has been hampered by a hamstring injury suffered against San Francisco in Week 2. However, one would expect him to find his level eventually and be the player he has been in the past. 

Right tackle George Fant ($7.25 million, $8.85 million). Fant, formerly a left tackle, has improved slightly in his PFF grade, from 62.2 to 64.5. 

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman ($6.4375 million, $6 million). Perriman, who has only five catches for 29 yards, has missed most of the last three games with an ankle injury. Making it worse is that he replaced Robby Anderson, who signed with Carolina and has 28 receptions for a 13.5-yard average.

Cornerback Pierre Desir ($4 million, $3.25 million). Desir was benched on opening day by mercurial defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for giving too much cushion, and he had a bizarre game against Denver on Oct. 1, making two interceptions, one for a touchdown. But he also gave up a TD reception and several other key receptions. For the year, he has been targeted 14 times and allowed 12 receptions, per PFF. Not good. 

Right tackle Greg Van Roten ($3.34375 million, $3.25 million). Van Roten was named PFF’s most improved player on the Carolina Panthers last season, but his grade by their metrics has slipped from 65.5 last year to 55.7 so far in 2020. Plus, he whiffed on a block on a key fourth-and-1 play that helped doom the Jets to their loss against the 49ers. 

Douglas changing his M.O.? One encouraging aspect for Douglas is that in the last 10 days, New York has cut cornerback Nate Hairston, running back Kalen Ballage and linebacker Alec Ogletree, the last one occurring Saturday.  

What is significant about this is the fact that all of those pickups clearly were recommended to Douglas by someone else. Hairston (as is Desir) was one of the legion of ex-Indianapolis quarterbacks acquired on the say-so of assistant general manager Rex Hogan, Ballage played for Gase in Miami and Ogletree played for Williams with the Rams. 

Not one of them impressed in his time in green and white, and it is about time that Douglas gives more scrutiny to the in-house advice he gets. Not to say that he should become a dictator and not listen to others in the organization, but he shouldn’t automatically sign or trade for a player on one man’s recommendation. He especially should be wary when that person has an obvious bias and may be evaluating the past player, not the current one.  

Bell tolling again. Running back LeVeon Bell comes off injured reserve today and it will be interesting to see how Gase uses him. Speaking of people favoring the players they are familiar with, Gase has been force-feeding veteran Frank Gore in Bell’s absence, and it simply hasn’t worked. Granted, as noted earlier, the line probably isn’t opening gaping holes, but the 37-year-old Gore isn’t getting to them that quickly either. He is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry, the same as Bell last season.

The unfortunate thing for both Bell and the Jets is that with only four games left before the Nov. 3 NFL trade deadline, there might not be enough time for Bell to show he still has it and make another team think about acquiring his services. 

Shouldering the blame? In the Denver game, both quarterback Sam Darnold and promising rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton played despite shoulder problems. Becton, already nursing a shoulder injury, entered in a so-called emergency situation, and Darnold re-entered despite being driven into the ground on his right (throwing) shoulder. 

Not coincidentally, neither one is playing today. Even though both were deemed medically well enough to play by doctors, sometimes it is up to the coaching staff to protect the player from himself by sitting him down. Players are competitors and they usually want to play through the pain, if possible. But unless the season is on the line, is it really necessary? Becton, in particular, represents the team’s future and the Jets must be more careful going forward. 

And, by the way, Douglas deserves credit for his first-round selection of Becton, who had a positive test for marijuana at the NFL Combine. Douglas, who comes from a town in Virginia very close to Becton’s hometown, did his due diligence on Becton’s character and the rookie not only has been a model citizen, but a quick study despite not having preseason games. He has the potential to be a shutdown left tackle for years to come, which is the why the Jets must be careful with his health.

Flacco time. With Darnold out, veteran quarterback Joe Flacco will get a chance to show people whether Gase’s system still can work in the NFL. Gase’s play-calling early this season has left much be desired, especially after his scripted plays have run their course.  

But part of the problem has been Darnold’s inability to scan the field. He failed to see numerous open receivers against Denver, including Michael Cager on the play on which Darnold was body-slammed and injured. It will be interesting to see if Flacco can go through his progressions and make Gase’s non-trendy plays and route concepts work.

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