Focus on Gase, Darnold as Jets try to end playoff drought
NEW YORK JETS (7-9)
NEW FACES: First-round pick OT Mekhi Becton, second-round pick WR Denzel Mims, S Bradley McDougald, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Pierre Desir, C Connor McGovern, RB Frank Gore, QB Joe Flacco, LB Patrick Onwuasor, CB Quincy Wilson, OT George Fant, G Greg Van Roten, WR Chris Hogan, OL Josh Andrews, third-round pick S Ashtyn Davis, third-round pick RB La'Mical Perine, sixth-round pick P Braden Mann.
KEY LOSSES: S Jamal Adams, WRs Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas, CBs Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts, LT Kelvin Beachum, G Brian Winters, LB Brandon Copeland, RB Bilal Powell, RB-WR Ty Montgomery, OT Brandon Shell, P Lachlan Edwards.
STRENGTHS: Adam Gase's offense will feature two of NFL's most successful running backs in Le'Veon Bell, looking to have big season after subpar numbers in first year with Jets, and 37-year-old Gore, who insists he has plenty left and should serve as complement to Bell in backfield. New York deep at tight end with healthy Chris Herndon to go along with Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown and Trevon Wesco. Despite loss of Adams, McDougald should step in and provide solid 1-2 punch with Marcus Maye. Davis should also see lots of time in three-safety packages.
WEAKNESSES: Wide receiver group is Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and then who knows? Mims entered camp expected to be key contributor, but dealt with hamstring issue. Jets signed Hogan during camp to provide veteran presence after Mims and Vyncint Smith (core muscle) went down. Cornerback could be issue. Desir and Poole missed portion of camp with injuries, but New York needs someone from mostly inexperienced group to step up. Wilson, acquired from Colts during draft, could be unheralded addition. Jets still lack consistent pass rusher.
PANDEMIC DEVELOPMENT: Jets will start five players on offensive line who didn't start in Week 1 of last season. O-line group tried to build chemistry remotely using Zoom calls and texts, but had to wait until camp to work on field together. How quickly they build cohesion will go long way toward determining offense's success.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Bell. After sitting out year and having ho-hum numbers last season, he's predicting big things. Bell came to camp in what he said was best shape of career and could make for early-round steal, especially in PPR leagues, with Gase saying he needs to use him better, particularly in passing game.
VEGAS SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 70-1. Over/under wins: 7.
EXPECTATIONS: Big year for Gase and Darnold, with their futures with Jets somewhat tied to each other. Gase is entering just second season in New York, but is charged with overseeing development of Darnold into what Jets believe is franchise quarterback. Renovated O-line should help, and so should healthy Herndon and addition of Perriman. But if offense struggles again and Darnold fails to take next step, Gase could be on way out — and Jets and GM Joe Douglas could begin wondering if they need to start looking in another direction at QB. New York hasn't made playoffs since 2010 season, so Gase needs to keep Jets in contention until at least December.
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