The Jets' 2019 season was a tale of two halves. After a 1-7 start, New York rallied to win six of its final eight games to finish with a 7-9 record during Adam Gase's first season as coach. Two big reasons for the Jets' second-half turnaround was quarterback Sam Darnold and the inspired play of Gregg Williams' defense.
In the draft, the Jets added several players who they hope can make an immediate impact in 2020. Among those players are offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, receiver Denzel Mims, safety Ashtyn Davis, pass rusher Jabari Zuniga, running back La'Mical Perine, offensive linemen Cameron Clark and cornerback Bryce Hall. The Jets also added some new veterans into the mix, signing receiver Breshad Perrmian, running back Frank Gore, offensive lineman Greg Van Roten and linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. The Jets also acquired free safety Bradley McDougald in the trade that sent former All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to the Seahawks.
With training camp underway, we decided to take a look at the five biggest position battles that will unfold before the Jets kick off the season against the Buffalo Bills.
1. Starting Cornerback
The Jets are hoping that Desir, who was signed by the team during the first week of free agency, can rebound after an injury-marred 2019 season with the Jets. Desir's size (he checks in at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds) and overall physicality should be better utilized in New York by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Quincy Wilson, another former Colt who was acquired by the Jets during the draft, will also vie for a starting job. While he doesn't have all the physical tools that Desir has, Wilson does possess a physical demeanor that was probably one of the main reasons why Williams wanted him on his defense.
Maulet and Austin, two players who started a combined 12 games for the Jets last season, will also get an opportunity to start. Both players were lauded for their ability to tackle while limiting big plays in the Jets' secondary. Austin, however, will need to have an exceptionally good camp after getting benched late in the 2019 season.
A darkhorse candidate is rookie Bryce Hall, who fell to the fifth-round after sustaining an ankle injury during his time at Virginia. If he's healthy, Hall should definitely be in the thick of things as it relates to earning a starting spot.
While he may be asked to fill one of the team's two cornerback spots, Brian Poole, who returns following an impressive '19 season, will likely be asked to resume his role on the outside.
2. Offensive tackle
Training camp will determine whether or not Becton, the third offensive lineman selected in the draft, will be ready to protect Darnold's blind side at left tackle when the Jets open the season. Based on how high he was selected, it's safe to assume that Becton will get every opportunity to win the job at left tackle, which should make Fant, who inked a three-year, $30 million deal with the Jets after three seasons with the Seahawks, the front-runner to be New York's new starting right tackle.
While Edoga, a third-round pick in the 2019 draft, has yet to reach his potential, the Jets' brass is reportedly high on him as he enters his second season with the team. If Becton and/or Fant don't distinguish themselves during camp, that could open the door for Edoga, who was Donald's teammate for three seasons at USC.
3. No. 2 receiver
Candidates: Denzel Mims, Josh Doctson, Vyncint Smith, Josh Malone
The Jets are hoping this position battle can be claimed by Mims, the 59th overall pick in this year's draft. During his last three seasons at Baylor, the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Mims caught 182 passes for 2,901 yards and 28 touchdowns. Last fall, he caught 12 touchdowns passes while averaging 15.5 yards per catch while helping Baylor win 11 games during their final season under new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule.
While his route tree at Baylor wasn't the biggest, Mims did showcase more of what he can do in terms of route running during Senior Bowl week. His speed (he has a recorded time of 4.38 in the 40-yard dash) should also help him get acclimated to the speed of the NFL sooner than other rookie receivers.
Doctson, a former first-round pick, is hoping that his third NFL team in five years is the charm after an underwhelming start to his career. He did enjoy some success during his second and third seasons, catching 79 passes for 1,034 yards and eight touchdowns for Washington. Malone, the Bengals' fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, is also heading into his second season with the Jets. He spent most of the season on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man roster with two games remaining in the season.
If they are not confident enough in their current receiving corps, the Jets will likely explore signing a proven free agent before the start of the regular season. One option here is Demaryius Thomas, who the Jets have continued to communicate with over the summer. Thomas, a four-time Pro Bowler who spent the 2019 season in New York, is hoping to show an NFL team that he is healthy again after dealing with Achilles and hamstring injuries over the past two years.
4. Starting strong safety
Candidates: Bradley McDougald, Ashtyn Davis
The Jets drafted Davis with the idea that he could be part of a three-headed monster with fellow safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. But with Adams now in Seattle, the acquisition of Davis is now more of a necessity than a luxury for the Jets, who will likely put more on the rookie's plate as he gets ready for his first NFL season.
Davis, however, won't be thrust into the starting lineup if he's not ready. McDougald, an eight-year veteran, has 75 career starts under his belt. During his last two seasons with the Seahawks, McDougald recorded five interceptions, 15 passes defensed and four forced fumbles while serving as Seattle's starting strong safety. The Jets also have very good starting free safety in Maye, a former second-pound pick who has been a starter since being drafted by the Jets back in 2017.
That being said, expect Williams to create several schemes that will allow Davis, McDougald and Maye to be on the field together at the same time. Fans should also expect to see Williams play Davis, who was lauded for his versatility during his college career, at both safety positions during his rookie season.
The Jets will let Ficken and Maher battle it out for the right to the team's starting kicker to open the season. New York's kicker last season, Ficken made 70.4% of his field goal attempts and 88.5% of his point-after attempts. Maher, the Cowboys' kicker the past two seasons, made 74.2% of his field goal attempts and 98.6% of his point-after attempts in Dallas.