Author: DAVID WYATT-HUPTON
5 Impact Moves the Jets Made in the 2023 Off-Season
2023 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting Jets seasons in recent memory.
Following an extremely promising 2022 season, headlined by a number of breakout performances, Joe Douglas went to work this off-season intent on completing the build on a Championship calibre roster.
With training camp just around the corner, I thought we’d start this series with a look at 5 impact moves the Jets made this off-season.
- Trading for Aaron Rodgers
There’s only one place to start when you trade for a former Super Bowl champion and four time MVP.
The Jets made a statement of intent trading for Rodgers, who brings both a Championship ring and Championship mentality to New York.
The former Packers signal caller has made quite the impression since making the move east and has been an active participant throughout the off-season.
Looking revitalised, Rodgers should achieve several milestones with the Jets this year. He’s 945 yards shy of passing for 60,000 yards and just 25 touchdowns shy of 500.
Personal achievements are good, but winning a championship is better. Rodgers legacy is already well-established, but winning a championship with the Jets certainly wouldn’t hurt.
- Drafting Will McDonald
Joe Douglas sprung a surprise on draft night, electing to select pass-rusher Will McDonald out of Iowa State. Defensive end may not have been the most glaring need on the Jets roster, but listen to Douglas talk for 5 minutes and you’ll understand the importance of consistent line play.
The Jets had one of the best pass-rushing units in football last season and adding McDonald will only enhance that. It may also open up the opportunity for the Jets to use the versatility of John Franklin-Myers and Micheal Clemons, lining them inside next to Quinnen Williams.
Carl Lawson is another year removed from his Achilles injury and Jermaine Johnson is heading into year two in the system, adding a speed rusher like McDonald who possesses elite bend to turn the corner will make the Jets rotation that much more dangerous.
Last year the Jets ranked 3rd in the league in pressure percentage (25.4%) while blitzing a league-low 14.9%. If the Jets can continue to generate pressure with a 4-man rush, it allows defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to get creative with his coverage system.
- Adding Quinton Jefferson
The Jets experienced a little bit of turnover at defensive tackle with Sheldon Rankins heading to Houston and Nathan Shepherd waltzing into ‘The Big Easy’.
Joe Douglas wasted little time in finding suitable replacements in Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson, and while both are key, I wanted to focus on the latter.
The former Seattle Seahawk is coming off a fine season where he registered 29 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 42 pressures, now he gets the chance to line up next to superstar Quinnen Williams.
Not only will lining up next to Williams take the pressure off Jefferson, but it should ensure that one of them draws favourable matchups. Teams like to double Quinnen, but doing that with Jefferson around is a dangerous game. It’s a case of pick your poison with the DT position.
- Adding Allen Lazard
It’s often said that the Brits like an underdog, I can’t speak for everyone but I know that rings true for me.
Lazard was undrafted out of Iowa State and found his way to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who decided to stash him on the practice squad. Green Bay spotted the opportunity to poach him and after working his way up the Packers depth chart, he formed a close bond with Aaron Rodgers.
Lazard is coming off his best pro season having caught 60 passes for 788 yards and 6 touchdowns, and will likely move around the formation with the Jets.
While with Nathaniel Hackett in Green Bay, Lazard spent considerable time in the slot and out wide, and it’s logical to expect the same in New York. He also draws attention away from Garrett Wilson, who is coming off an impressive rookie campaign.
- Adding Mecole Hardman
Speed creates pressure and pressure bursts pipes. Those were the words of Joe Douglas while at the combine in Indianapolis this year, and you don’t get much quicker than Mecole Hardman.
Hardman has averaged 13.8 yards a carry since entering the league in 2019, and his speed creates possibilities for an offence and problems for a defence.
Not only is he a constant deep threat, but he can also be used on jet sweeps and conventional handoffs. He also happens to have multiple touchdowns in the return game, giving special teams coordinator Brant Boyer a talented skillset to work with.
Hardman’s 2022 season was cut short but back in 2021 he caught 59 passes for 693 yards with 507 of those yards coming after the catch. The west coast offence that Hackett will run will rely on YAC ability, and Hardman is likely to be a favourite target
Here I’ve outlined just five moves, but this is by no means a definitive list. You can point to the drafting of centre Joe Tippmann, signing of Adrian Amos or return of punter Thomas Morstead, this roster is ready to win and Douglas may not be done adding.