You ask, we answer. The Post is fielding questions from readers about New York’s biggest pro sports teams and getting our beat writers to answer them in a series of regularly published mailbags. In today’s installment: the Jets.
The Jets’ second half of the season went well, primarily because their schedule was very soft. This year the schedule is brutal. Yet with the upgrades, and hopefully [fewer] injuries, expectations are rightly high. Can the Jets beat the stronger teams in the league? — Robert
I’m not sure how high expectations should be for the Jets, Robert. Like you said, the schedule is brutal. Former Jets tackle Damien Woody tweeted last month the team might be better this year and finish with a worse record. I agree with him.
As for beating the stronger teams, I’ll need to see it to believe it. The Jets have not beaten a really, really good team since 2015, when they beat the Patriots. They have won some games against teams that made the playoffs the past few years, but none were top teams. They will get a chance to change that this season with games against the Chiefs and 49ers, who played in the Super Bowl in February. Let’s see if the Jets can win one of those. That would make me really believe this team has improved greatly.
Who are the five starters on the Jets offensive line when the season begins? — Adam B
Joe Douglas brought in a lot of new faces on the offensive line this offseason. Douglas has stressed players’ versatility and I think the Jets will have guys competing at multiple spots in training camp and let things sort themelves out.
Let’s go through each spot:
I don’t think there is any doubt Mekhi Becton will be the left tackle. The Jets took him with the No. 11-overall pick for a reason.
The Jets re-signed Alex Lewis, and I think he will be the only starter from last year who will be starting again this year at left guard.
At center, Connor McGovern will be the guy. The Jets were excited when McGovern hit the market and believe he will be a major upgrade in the middle for them.
Right guard is the most interesting position. Brian Winters is still on the roster despite speculation he would be cut. The team signed Greg Van Roten, who has been a starter for the Panthers. In the end, I think Van Roten wins the job. The Jets signed him for a reason, but Winters has not hung around this long by accident. The Jets love his toughness.
George Fant signed with the Jets hoping he would play left tackle, but the selection of Becton moves him to the right side.
If Sam Darnold had gently parachuted into KC with [Andy] Reid and [Eric] Bieniemy and that offense and [Patrick] Mahomes had splatted into the Jets disaster, I wonder how both QBs would be viewed today. — Henry W Katz
It is a fascinating question, Henry. How much do the circumstances a player enters affect his performance? Mahomes has such amazing skills that I think he would have been great wherever he went. I do think having Reid and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, etc., has helped speed things up. Maybe it would have taken longer with the Jets, but I still think he has ridiculous ability that would have come through.
The Darnold question is tougher and one we should be able to answer in the next few years if the Jets continue to build around him. I still believe Darnold will be a good quarterback. I’m not sure he would have been in Mahomes class, though, even if he started his career in Kansas City.
Now that the Jets have rebuilt the offensive line allowing Sam more time to get downfield with his progression reads, do you think we will see longer passes or do you think the knock on Gase is true that he’s addicted to throwing short of the sticks like he did in Miami and last year? — Rich Berger
I think there will be more downfield passes, but I do think Adam Gase will stick to what he believes in and that is a heavy dose of short passes. Gase loves wide receiver screens and quick throws for the quarterback. I don’t think he is afraid to take shots, though. We saw that even last year. They threw deep to Robby Anderson on a fairly regular basis.
I do think an improved offensive line will help in this area. There were games when deep throws were impossible because Darnold had no time. Darnold has said one of the areas he worked on this offseason is improving his deep-ball accuracy. Maybe that is a sign they want to throw deep more.