The goal for the Jets entering this offseason was to build around quarterback Zach Wilson.
Last year’s No. 2 pick needed help. He needed the playmakers and protection that his predecessor Sam Darnold never had. He needed a defense that could get him the ball back and not give up 54 points in a game.
Now that the heavy lifting of roster building in free agency and the draft is over, it looks like general manager Joe Douglas accomplished what he set out to do.
The Jets roster no longer has more holes than a bad script. The Jets have legitimate options at wide receiver, running back and tight end. The offensive line looks solid, if not spectacular. The defense should be able to affect the opposing quarterback and make plays on the football, something that was rare last season.
The pressure was going to be on Wilson this season no matter what the Jets did or did not do this offseason. That comes with the job description. But the excuse that Jets quarterbacks have had for most of the last decade is gone. No one can say that the Jets are not giving Wilson a chance.
It’s now on Wilson to take the next step.
No one is saying he has to be a Pro Bowler this year, but he needs to show progress from his rookie season. The Jets need to know by the end of Year 2 that he is their franchise quarterback and not have any doubts.
Just look at what Douglas has surrounded him with. He has a legitimate NFL wide receiving corps with Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore and Corey Davis. He has a two-headed monster at running back with Michael Carter and Breece Hall. He has good tight ends to target in CJ Uzomah, Tyler Conkiln and Jeremy Ruckert.
It should be noted that this is still a very young group. Jets fans are excited about the team’s draft class, and rightfully so, but not every rookie is going to be ready to contribute on Day 1. Remember last year that Moore and Carter did not hit their stride until midseason. This group may take a few years to fully realize its potential. If the Jets were newborns last year, they are now toddlers. They learned to crawl. Now, it’s time to start walking. Eventually, they’ll be able to run.
Even with the youth factored in, this is the best offense the Jets have had on paper since 2016. There are not studs at every position, but there are also no obvious holes. The offensive line has massive potential with Pro Bowler Laken Tomlinson joining a group that got better as last year went along and will have a healthy Mekhi Becton back. People seem to forget how promising Becton was as a rookie. If he can stay on the field, he will be a key piece.
On defense, the Jets no longer will just cross their fingers. The defensive line looks strong with Carl Lawson on his way back from his Achilles injury, Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins and John Frankiln-Myers back and Jermaine Johnson II added to the group. The secondary is better with the additions of Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed and Jordan Whitehead.
This is not going to be a top-10 defense, but they also should not be ranked 32nd like last year.
“I feel like we added some really good pieces to the offense and added two really good pieces to the defense, too,” Douglas said after the third round of the draft, “making sure we protect him at the line of scrimmage and add quality tight ends, quality skill guys, quality backs. I feel like we’re trying to build a strong, balanced team. Not just offense, but team.”
The biggest question mark now is how Wilson will play. Will he look like he did in his first eight games last year when he threw 11 interceptions or like he did in the final five games when he did not throw any? Can he blend his playmaking ability with the smarts to take an easy throw sometimes?
Douglas and the Jets had plenty of victories this spring. It’s up to Wilson to make sure that continues in the fall and winter.