Florham Park, N.J. - For the New York Jets, this season has not been one to remember. This season saw some highs, but many more lows. After going 10-6 in 2015, expectations were high. However, the Jets performance this season did not live up to those expectations. Some big name players floundered, while others flourished when called upon. Fans have been given many reasons on why to give up on this team. However, the future is bright for this team with all the young talent that they have.
The offense has so much young talent to work with over the next couple of years. It all starts with the quarterback position of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. There is a lot of potential between the two young gunslingers. Petty played well in some instances this season, while struggling in others. Sometimes it's better for a player to learn from his mistakes. Petty has to get surgery on his torn right labrum which can affect his return time. That leaves the door wide open for Hackenberg. This offseason is crucial for him to bring everything together. Both quarterbacks have the raw talent, they just need to bring it all together on the field.
Luckily for Petty and Hackenberg, they have a young receiving core to grow with them for the future. This season opened up a beast in Quincy Enunwa that no one knew of. Enunwa finished the season second on the team in catches (58), team leader in yards (857), and team leader in touchdowns (4). He has been one of the top offensive weapons for the Jets this season and it's only his 3rd year in the league. Paired up with Enunwa is Robby Anderson. Anderson has been a diamond in the rough for the Jets this season. An undrafted rookie, he was one of the top receivers in the preseason in catches (13), yards (264), and touchdowns (3). Anderson finished the season with 42 catches, 587 yards, and two touchdowns. Both Enunwa and Anderson had potential to have better numbers this season had there been consistent quarterback play.
The Jets also have three other young receiving options that are bright for the future. Devin Smith, Jalin Marshall, and Charone Peake all have potential to put up big numbers in the future. Injuries have derailed Smith's career early on, but when he's healthy he is a dangerous deep-ball threat. In 14 career games, Smith has ten catches for 135 yards with one touchdown. Those numbers don't pop, but he's averaging 13.5 yards per catch. Jalin Marshall, an undrafted rookie, made a big splash in training camp. He became a big part of the return game early on, but injuries and fumble issues derailed his playing time, as he finished with four fumbles. Marshall finished the season with 162 yards on 14 catches and two touchdowns, tied for third on the team. Peake started off hot during the preseason, but fizzled out due to the emergence of Anderson and Marshall. In the first preseason game, Peake had four catches for 45 yards and one touchdown. He did finish the season with 19 catches and 186 yards, with a fumble recovery touchdown against the Seahawks. Peake is a threat in the red zone while Marshall and Smith are speed options.
The Jets finally landed a tight end earlier in the year with Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The team claimed him off of waivers from the Buccaneers in late September. Tampa Bay cut him after his second DUI arrest. In seven games with the Jets, Seferian-Jenkins had ten catches for 110 yards. He didn't get that many targets this season, but none of the tight ends on the roster had many targets. Seferian-Jenkins wants to be the elite tight end that the Jets haven't had since the days of Dustin Keller.
The Jets have some promise with some offensive weapons, but games are won and lost in the trenches. The Jets have some up-and-coming lineman in the ranks. First, rookie Brandon Shell is shaping up to be a big part in building for the future in New York. He made his first start against the Dolphins in Week 15 and started for the rest of the season. Shell actually played well with the opportunities he was given and is a bright option moving forward on the outside. The team needs to re-sign both Brian Winters and Wesley Johnson in the offseason. The inside of the offensive line has played well this season and it has a lot to do with these two. Winters has been solid with the Jets over the past couple of years. The drop off between Nick Mangold and Johnson is not a lot, plus the Jets save a lot more if they go with Johnson. Both Winters and Johnson are 25 and have a lot of good years left playing football.
Now to the defense, a part of the team in which the Jets "prided" themselves in. I know I don't have to say it, but I will anyway: Leonard Williams is the future of the New York Jets organization. He was clearly the best player out on the field this season. He was third on the team with 68 tackles and led the defense with seven sacks and two forced fumbles. In just his second year in the league, Williams was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl. The other second-year player on the line, Deon Simon, has some work to do but is shaping up as a reliable option for the future. He played well in place of Steve McLendon while he was hurt. Simon totaled 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season. Those numbers don't pop, but he proved he can make an impact when called upon. I'm not going to include Sheldon Richardson because who knows if he'll still be around next season.
Continuing with the pass rush, Jets fans have to be excited with how Darron Lee is turning out. Not really expected to play a big role when first drafted, Lee played big for the defense. Even though he missed three games in the middle of the season, Lee was second on the team in tackles with 73. The rookie also had one sack and three passes defended. Lee's pass rush ability wasn't fully showcased this season, but keep an eye out for it next year. Fellow rookie linebacker Jordan Jenkins also put on a show this year. He had 41 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. Jenkins is a gritty type of player, where he won't always pop out on the stat sheet, but he does the dirty work. He's a consistent player and that's one thing the Jets need.
The secondary was the weakest part of the Jets team this season. There is promise with the young players, but there still is a lot of work that needs to get done. Juston Burris is one of those players that has a chance to become an everyday starter if he really works hard in the offseason. He had five passes defended and one interception this season as mainly a utility player. He made one start against the Dolphins where he showed promise, but he was also beat deep by Kenny Stills. Coming out of college, Burris was raved as physical and press cornerback. Darryl Roberts is another cornerback that has the ability to be an everyday starter if he puts in the work during the offseason. He's shown flashes of talent this season, having six passes defended and 21 tackles in 12 games played. A good cover corner, it all relies on what he does in the offseason. Doug Middleton was a player that everyone thought was going to make the final roster in the summer. In the preseason, he had 15 tackles, one pass defended, and an interception in which he returned 40 yards. However, the undrafted rookie got hurt and didn't make the roster. Fast-forward four games before the season ended and Middleton was promoted from the practice squad. He finished the year with six tackles, one pass defended, and a touchdown (he recovered the kickoff in the end zone against the Bills).
WATCH VIDEO ABOVE: Leonard Williams talks about the 2016 season and looking ahead.