With Quincy Enunwa now out for the season with a neck injury, the Jets’ wide receiving corps will be led by ... well, um, let me know whether you’ve heard of any of these jamokes:
- Robby Anderson
- Deshon Foxx
- Frankie Hammond
- Chad Hansen
- Chris Harper
- Gabe Marks
- Jalin Marshall
- Charone Peake
- ArDarius Stewart
- Lucky Whitehead (yes, that Lucky Whitehead)
- Myles White
- Marquess Wilson
Holy hell, look at that list again. Then consider that the Jets’ tight ends caught just 18 passes for 173 yards last season—far and away the worst numbers in the league. And that running back Matt Forte, who will be 32 by the end of the season, only survived an otherwise thorough roster purge because he’s due $4 million guaranteed. And that the new left tackle is Kelvin Beachum, who spent last year impersonating a traffic cone in Jacksonville. And that the quarterbacks are Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg. I think that about covers it.
Ex-Jet Damien Woody, your thoughts?
Great question! That the Jets are tanking has been obvious for months. And after last year’s veteran-heavy roster threw its back out while getting out of its easy chair en route to 5-11, a major reset was certainly in order. The 2016 Browns may have set the standard for what punting on an NFL season looks like, but the Jets have shown true determination and grit in trying to keep up (down?).
All the speculative hyperbole is hereby safe to use as a reference. Per Pro-Football Reference, no team’s net passing yards per attempt has been less than 4.0 since the 2000 Bengals. The 2002 Texans finished with the worst offensive DVOA (minus-43.3 percent) of all time. The 1992 Seahawks—through some combination of Stan Gelbaugh, Kelly Stouffer, and Mark McGwire’s brother at quarterback—rank last all-time in passing offense DVOA (minus-65.3 percent). You can do it, Jets!
It wasn’t like Enunwa—who was entering a contract year, ugh—was going to make Jets fans forget the name Wesley Walker. But Enunwa’s size, blocking ability, and hands allowed him to function as an H-back capable of lining up anywhere to do just about anything. He was a fine amalgam of the kind of positionless football that’s all the rage these days. Yet even before Enunwa got hurt Saturday night, the Jets’ offense already seemed to be building toward a punchline:
What Enunwa’s injury does is leave the Jets with Anderson—an undrafted free agent who caught 42 passes as a rookie last year—as their No. 1 receiver. GM Mike Maccagnan has called his creation “a roster of opportunities,” while offensive coordinator John Morton has talked a lot about competing. Credit is being given to players for giving it their all, and Hackenberg has earned plaudits for successfully breaking a huddle and making a throw. The Jets are a professional football team that’s talking like it’s eager for the start of junior varsity tryouts.
NFL teams have always had to rebuild after going through down cycles. In the past, the usual roster churn and the prospect of a high draft pick in the right year often allowed that process to play out rather quickly. But the current rules encourage the sort of tanking the Jets are trying. Teams are required to spend 89 percent of the salary cap, but only in cumulative four-year intervals, with an allowance to roll over any excess cap space in a given year. This is the first year of the next four-year cycle, and the Jets right now have $21.8 million to carry forward, per NFLPA records.
But gutting the roster and letting the Johnson family keep its money can only last for so long; the Jets will have to spend again by 2020. On draft weekend, Maccagnan traded down five times to stockpile a total of nine picks, thus improving his odds at finding better players. But Maccagnan is also the guy who’s used past draft picks on Petty and Hackenberg. The tank is on. How deep will it go?