The Jets' offseason has been a wild roller-coaster ride. It started at the bottom when they fired their head coach, peaked during free agency and the draft, then went on a wild spiral downward when they fired their general manager … and then somehow managed to come out of it OK.
In fact, not only do they seem OK now that GM Joe Douglas and his good buddy, head coach Adam Gase, are in charge; they are convinced they are on an uphill climb again. They are loaded with optimism. They feel like they are finally headed in the right direction. They believe a return to the playoffs is near.
Maybe they're right. Or maybe they're fooling themselves. For now, though, there has been an unusual amount of hope and excitement around the Jets as they wrapped up their spring organized team activities and mini-camps. Time will tell if that's warranted or not.
Until then, here are 5 things we've learned about the Jets this spring:
1. The Jets are more convinced than ever that Sam Darnold is about to turn into a star.
They weren't shy about raving about the 22-year-old quarterback publicly, and they did it even more privately. Gase, in particular, couldn't say enough good things about the Jets' latest "franchise." Darnold obviously has the ability that everyone looks for in a quarterback, but Gase is convinced he has the brain to match.
More to the point, what's impressed Gase is how much Darnold has learned from last year -- mistakes he made in the past that he doesn't make now, or things that he suddenly knows he needs to do. Darnold has also impressed his coach with how fast he's picked up a new playbook and scheme. It can't be easy for a young quarterback to learn his second NFL scheme in his second NFL year.
Add in the fact Darnold said he feels far more comfortable than he did a year ago, and the arrow is pointed way, way up. It's the games that matter, of course. But factoring in his spring growth with how well he played at the end of last season, it's easy to see why everyone at One Jets Drive is so excited.
2. Adam Gase is definitely in charge.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is Douglas' team or Christopher Johnson's. No matter how anyone spins it, if Gase had gotten along with Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, Maccagnan would still be the GM. And if Gase hadn't wanted Douglas to be Maccagnan's replacement, then the Jets wouldn't have kept upping the ante until Douglas agreed to a six-year, $20 million deal.
Gase got what he wanted and he will continue to get what he wants. Maybe that's backward, but the end result isn't necessarily a bad thing. Having the GM and coach on the same page, with the same vision, is the dream scenario for every organization. As long as Gase doesn't get drunk with power and can truly work with a GM who is on equal footing with him, there's no reason to believe this won't work out.
3. The Jets have more than enough offensive weapons, and Gase knows how to use them.
It's still hard to say who, exactly, is the Jets' No. 1 receiver or whether anyone outside of running back Le'Veon Bell has Pro Bowl potential. But Gase has enough talent to work with, even if none of them are breakout stars.
Bell is obvious, of course, but he's also backed up by Bilal Powell and the versatile Ty Montgomery. And Chris Herndon, in his second year, could be a rising star at tight end. As for the receiving corps, it's at least diverse. Quincy Enunwa is as tough and reliable as they come; Robby Anderson has breakout speed; and newcomer Jamison Crowder is one of the best, most elusive slot receivers in the game.
Assuming Darnold gets enough protection from the offensive line, Gase is convinced they have more than enough to generate plenty of offense. Maybe there isn't a breakout star besides Bell. But Gase doesn't think he needs one.
4. Leonard Williams could be the breakout player of Gregg Williams' defense.
The Big Cat looked good this spring, which is mostly meaningless since pads weren't even on. But he also looked refreshed, which is understandable considering all the things that worked out well for him this spring.
For starters, he has a new defensive coordinator who can't wait to turn him loose, and a head coach who believes he still has the ability to be an NFL star. Considering how much he's underachieved so far, there wasn't a guarantee a new staff would believe in him. And that's important considering he's making $14.2 million this season and will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Talk about perfect timing: Gregg Williams wants to turn him loose and find ways to make him a productive pass rusher. Then the Jets drafted defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who is just good enough to take some of the blocking focus away from Leonard Williams. If it all works as expected, Leonard Williams could end up having a longer Jets career than many people thought he would.
He also could end up a very, very rich man.
5. The cornerback situation is a mess.
Start with the fact their No. 1 cornerback is Trumaine Johnson, who didn't come close to living up to his five-year, $72.5 million contract last year and was even suspended for the season finale for disciplinary reasons. He struggled this spring the few times he showed up. And the fact that he's flanked by Daryl Roberts isn't exactly a comfort.
Beyond that, it's not clear if the Jets have much of anything. Brian Poole is a fine slot corner, but the depth after that is Parry Nickerson and Derrick Jones and, frankly, not much else. The Jets are one injury there away from a disaster -- if they're not a disaster at that position when healthy, too.
What did Gregg Williams say about all that? Not much, really. His answer was a non-answer about how his guys in the secondary can play many different positions. But can any of them play cornerback well? This spring really did not make that clear.