The New York Jets were entering a new era in 2019. They had flashy new uniforms, a few intriguing free agent signings and a young quarterback the front office was very high on. They didn't anticipate Sam Darnold contracting mono and missing a few games while several of their best defensive players got knocked out with serious injuries -- which resulted in a disappointing 7-9 season.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas has spent the past couple of years trying to support his former No. 3 overall pick under center. In a recent conference call, Douglas even recalled telling Darnold's parents before last season that protecting the quarterback was his first priority.
"I promised I was going to do everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers," Douglas said, via the Associated Press. "I think we still have a lot to do in both those regards moving forward. I think we've done our best to attack some of the issues we had in the past."
Darnold played in 13 games last season and he was sacked 33 times. When he wasn't on his backside, he was finding creative ways to escape heavy pressure. It wasn't like the Jets didn't try to protect Darnold -- they just had to deal with an absurd amount of problems along the offensive line. Both starters and backups dealt with injuries that forced others to play out of position. It really just was a mess.
"I think there's a real shortage of quality offensive linemen in the National Football League," Douglas said. "So, we're going to try to do our best to get as many quality ones as we can because you can never have too many. We're going to try to keep it simple with guys that are smart, tough and versatile."
The Jets hold the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which gives them a chance to pick up a quality player who can come in and make an immediate impact. While there are a few highly-touted offensive linemen who will be available, the Jets have already tried to improve the offensive front this offseason -- signing Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten and George Fant. It may be impossible to pass on the opportunity to take one of the talented wideouts who should be available.
The Jets allowed Robby Anderson to sign with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, so there's a hole at the No. 1 wideout spot that could be quickly filled with how New York uses its No. 11 overall pick. Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb is considered by many to be the top wideout in the class, but Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III from Alabama have just as much star potential. Douglas has admitted that adding talent around Darnold is just as important as protecting him.
At the same time, using the No. 11 pick on a wide receiver would lower the team's chances of finding an offensive lineman who can start in year one and the same did replace Anderson with former Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman. This is also viewed as a very deep draft class at the wide receiver position so there should be talent available in nearly every round.
"We're going to keep addressing playmakers moving forward," Douglas said.
More and more in recent seasons, it's become clear that the most important thing in the modern NFL is offensive infrastructure. Offense has been more important than defense for a while now, and the personnel involved in crafting that offense matters a great deal when it comes to determining its success. Recently,, and he has the Jets tied at No. 28 in the league. This offseason hasn't been anything impressive, but the draft could affect how much the Jets improve next year.
If the Jets can remain healthy in 2020, you have to believe they are at least a .500 team. But clearly Douglas is aiming higher than just that. They have the franchise quarterback they want, now it just comes down to keeping him on his feet and giving him playmakers to make his life easier.