After watching who the Jets added this offseason through free agency and the NFL Draft, Jets QB Sam Darnold is confident enough to say the playoffs are certainly in reach for his team.
But that's if they put in the hard work to get there.
"We definitely have the guys to be able to win football games," Darnold told the media during a Zoom conference call on Tuesday. "As we see every year, it's about putting everything together. We still have a long way to go. We have meetings we haven't finished yet, guys still learning the playbook. ... Right now we're just working on ourselves and making sure we're good to go."
It's obviously been a different offseason for Darnold and his teammates, having to use and do whatever they can to prepare for a season that might not even start on time, though the league is determined to do so at the moment. Video meetings have quickly become the norm for NFL teams to learn playbooks and stay on course as best they can with training camp a couple of months away.
But if you're the Jets, it's hard to ignore the elephant in the AFC East: Tom Brady is no longer with the Patriots. With him joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the division is now wide open, which is why that playoff question came Darnold's way.
As any good leader would do, though, Darnold gave the right answer when asked how he feels about Brady leaving the Jets' arch nemesis in New England.
"With a great player like Tom Brady, obviously leaving it's a big deal. It's headlines," he said. "For us, every single game in the NFL is a tough one and I think any player can attest to that. So we're not going to take anyone lightly just because even though one of the greatest players, if not the greatest player of all time left the organization, we're not going to take them any more lightly. "
If the Jets are to claim the AFC East throne and end the Pats' reign of the division, Darnold must take a big leap in his third season. He said his second half of 2019 was much better than his tumultuous first half where he missed a few games due to mono.
"I thought I got more consistent and was just able to get more comfortable with the offense," he said.
Though he is losing his most comfortable wide receiver option in Robby Anderson, Darnold does have Jamison Crowder that he already built some chemistry with last season. Also, newcomers in Breshad Perriman and second-rounder Denzel Mims should round out the receiving corps. And there's also Le'Veon Bell still in the backfield along with Frank Gore, who just signed a one-year deal to reunite with Adam Gase.
More importantly, GM Joe Douglas made it a point to bolster Darnold's protection up front, too. Connor McGovern, George Fant, Greg Van Roten and first-round pick Mekhi Becton make up a completely revamped line that should give Darnold more time to work with in the pocket.
It all adds up to a playoff roster, including some improvements on defense especially in the secondary. And though it's way too early for Darnold to think about himself, the reality of the situation is Darnold's production makes or breaks this Jets team.
But that isn't his focus at the moment.
"For me, it's about being as consistent as possible and taking it one day, one game at a time," he said. "So right now with meetings, it's just about focusing in on what we're talking about that day and not looking any further than that. Right now, I think it's safe to say that we have a lot of potential but there's obviously a lot of work to be put in still and we're going to put in that work."