In the last six months, the Jets have finished off their third straight season of double-digit losses, their eighth straight season of missing the playoffs, and they've fired their head coach and general manager. No wonder so many believe that things couldn't possibly get any worse.
Of course, that's not the defeatist attitude around One Jets Drive these days. Inside their building, they believe things are about to get much, much better. They have added many talented reinforcements, a high-energy coach, and a GM who seems ready to pull them in the right direction.
Will it all work out for this star-crossed franchise? It's not too early to guess. So here are five bold predictions for what to expect from the Jets this year:
1. Sam Darnold is going to the Pro Bowl, and not as an injury replacement
That's not just bold. It's crazy! I mean, he's in a conference with Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and DeShaun Watson. How, exactly, does Darnold get through that minefield?
Well, for one, the Jets have helped stack the deck for him, adding Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder while also improving their offensive line. For another, they added a head coach in Adam Gase, who is an offensive whiz that has been hamstrung by some poor quarterbacks in his career. Having a guy with the talent of Darnold could unleash his creativity.
And Darnold is just better than he was. He played really well near the end of last season, and all signs this offseason point to growth in the right places -- learning the playbook, feeling more comfortable, not making the same mistakes. He is poised for a breakout year and it's going to be big.
2. Le'Veon Bell will not play more than 12 games
He'll probably still have 1,200 rushing yards and another 65 catches for 600 receiving yards, but don't be fooled into thinking that his year off for football was good for his body. Yes, it saved him from a year of wear and tear. And yes, I'm sure when he gets to training camp, he'll feel fresh.
But he's still 27 years old, heading into his sixth NFL season, and has endured heavy use over the years. He worked out on his own this offseason, which means he's likely not in "football shape," and that was pretty clear when he was a limited participant at minicamp this spring.
It's just hard to imagine he doesn't pull a muscle at some point. Honestly, the best the Jets can hope for is that it happens early and doesn't linger. They don't need a four-game absence from their biggest offensive weapon to come late in the year.
3. Leonard Williams will have at least 12 sacks
Considering he's had 17 in his four NFL seasons and seven in the last two, it would be quite a leap to 12. But he's going to be renewed by having a defensive coordinator who knows how to use him properly, and doesn't make a mess of his defensive line rotation.
Not only that, he's going to be helped enormously by the interior presence of rookie defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who will take a lot of pressure off Leonard Williams. And Gregg Wiilliams, their brilliant defensive coordinator, will make sure Leonard Williams is a key player in their pass rush. His hyper-aggressive scheme leaves offenses wondering where the pressure is going to come from.
If they guess wrong, Leonard Williams will be in great position to make them pay.
4. The Jets will be the NFL's most active team at the trading deadline
New GM Joe Douglas is getting a late start to this team-building thing, and in a way, so is Gase. This was Mike Maccagnan's show to run until recently, and it seems pretty clear that Gase wasn't happy with the slow, deliberate way Maccagnan approached his job.
Unfortunately, right now there's little either of them can do except scour the waiver wire. You can be sure that they will active claiming players who are cut by other teams before Week 1. But the first time he -- they -- will really be able to make a mark will come at the trade deadline.
That'll be a chance for them to dump some of Maccagnan's players and bring back some of their own. It's hard to say who, but any player brought in by Maccagnan would seem to be a potential trade target. Every GM and coach prefers to be surrounded by their guys.
5. The Jets are not only going to the playoffs, they're going to win a game
They are not ready to overtake the New England Patriots yet. They're not going to win the AFC East. But they are good enough to win 9-10 games, and earn a Wild Card berth. If they do, they could compete with whoever wins the AFC North or South. One playoff win on the road wouldn't be that much of a shock.
I know that's hard to grasp because it's been a long time for the Jets. But with the addition of Bell and Crowder, some coherent coaching, and a defensive coordinator who is vowing to be aggressive, the pieces are there to finally put this all together. They are still a few steps away from being a Super Bowl contender. But a little growth from Darnold and they are going to be a playoff team that nobody wants to play.