Only 60 minutes of football remain for the New York Jets this season. While 14 teams make the postseason, the Jets will remain home once again in January and February. With New York amid another losing season, fans are frustrated and want change. However, major change won’t happen as owner Woody Johnson has submitted his vote of confidence for Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas to return in 2024.
Today, let’s look at reasons to believe and not believe in General Manager Joe Douglas entering 2024.
Two Reasons To Believe and Not Believe in Joe Douglas
2022 Draft Class
April 28th through April 30th, 2022, was the highlight of Joe Douglas’ tenure so far with the Jets. If it wasn’t for these three days there is a real possibility Douglas does not have a job right now. Douglas got his first crack at drafting as Jets GM in 2020 which ended in disappointment, he followed that up in 2021 by whiffing on the second overall pick, Zach Wilson. However, in 2022 that all changed for Douglas.
With three total selections made in round one, the fourth pick and tenth pick made history in their first seasons. Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson became just the third pair of teammates to take home Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Gardner also earned a ticket to Vegas to participate in the Pro Bowl Games and became a first-team All-Pro. Both of these young players have exploded once again in 2023.
The next two picks also sent fans partying as Douglas was able to trade back into the first round to select Jermaine Johnson and then with the 36th overall pick he took Breece Hall. Hall has implemented himself as one of the best dual-threat running backs in football while Jermaine Johnson has made a huge year-two leap and should make the Pro Bowl.
This class covered up Douglas’ previous mistakes dating back to the 2020 NFL Draft. His 2023 draft is still unknown, but entering an offseason where the Jets could have a top-10 pick, it isn’t crazy to think Douglas could pull another 2022-like class out of his bag of tricks.
Hidden Gems on Defense
The old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is accurate in describing Douglas’ ability to find hidden talent on defense. Going back to his first full offseason in 2020 until now, Douglas has been able to find key pieces through UDFA, waiver claims, and one big late-round steal.
One of Douglas’ best moves to this day was his decision to sign UDFA Bryce Huff out of Memphis University in 2020. Huff has become one of the best and most underrated pass rushers in the NFL. This season he has put up 8 sacks which is a career high and is just two away from his first 10 sack season of his career. The next obstacle for Douglas will be re-signing Huff as he will be an impending free agent in 2024.
Quinnen Williams got the opportunity to play with his brother Quincy Williams beginning in 2021. The Jacksonville Jaguars cut Williams on August 31, 2021. A day later the Jets claimed Williams on September 1st and since then, he has been a key piece on defense. Williams this season is the only player in the NFL to have 100+ tackles, 10+ passes defended, and 15+ tackles for loss. Williams is in just the first year of a three-year contract extension he signed this past offseason.
Another waiver claim Douglas was able to make that signed on long term was John Franklin-Myers. Franklin-Myers was also cut on roster cutdown day in 2019, just two years prior from Quincy Williams. It wasn’t until 2020 when Franklin-Myers made his first appearance as a Jet and since then, he has been a big piece.
The Jets’ 2021 Draft class featured two Michael Carters. One is no longer with the team while the other is making a huge impact. Michael Carter II was drafted in the fifth round out of Duke. Carter in year three has implemented himself as one of the best slot corners in football and an important cog in the Jets’ talented cornerback room.
Fans have to give credit to Douglas where credit is due. During his time some of the defense’s best players were hidden gems that other teams didn’t want. Douglas’ ability to find these players on defense is one thing, the next step is finding these hidden players on offense.
For the baseball fans out there to put it simply, Joe Douglas has batted well below the Mendoza line when it comes to free agency. Outside of D.J. Reed who has been his best signing, Douglas’ free agent classes are ugly. Douglas has missed many free agents ranging from high-cost additions to low-cost additions and that needs to change come 2024.
When looking at the 2021, 2022, and 2023 offseasons Douglas has brought in names such as C.J. Uzomah, Laken Tomlinson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Duane Brown, Dalvin Cook, and Carl Lawson. Many of these players will join Cook and Hardman in the offseason as players who will no longer be with the team.
The reality is this, minus a few hits for Douglas in free agency it has been mostly bad, those names above are just a few. When Douglas took over he wasn’t supposed to be the GM who went on spending sprees in free agency, he was supposed to build through the draft. The issue is, outside of 2022 his drafting has been fireable and so have his free-agent signings. The question remains amongst the fanbase, what exactly is Douglas good at? The harsh answer is not much, and that is why fans don’t have much belief moving forward.
When the Jets hired Joe Douglas in 2019 one of his biggest priorities and reason for being hired was building a successful offensive line. At the time it was for Sam Darnold and then for Zach Wilson and after that, it’s been a revolving door at QB and offensive line. The question remains, even if Aaron Rodgers didn’t tear Achilles on the fourth play of the season would he have lasted behind this offensive line built by Douglas?
Douglas’ first-ever draft pick as Jets GM was Mekhi Becton who he took 11th overall in 2020. Turns out, that pick has been so far from what fans expected and Becton will most likely be out in 2024. Since then Douglas has missed on free-agent signings and hasn’t built any quality depth on the offensive line. The one positive for Douglas was drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker, but unfortunately, he has been plagued with injuries early on in his NFL career.
After Douglas’ first offseason in 2020 the offensive line that season allowed 160 pressures in 16 games. This year they have already allowed 177 pressures the most in football through 16 games. On top of that, Jets quarterbacks are being pressured 26.2% of the time, which is the third worst in the NFL. So when people say Douglas since taking over has made this line worse, those people are 100% correct.
Going into the offseason the Jets will need at least three new offensive linemen plus depth at different spots. Douglas has been so far from the offensive line guru that the Jets thought they were getting when he was hired in 2019. Trusting Douglas to build a line that will keep Aaron Rodgers healthy in 2024 is a risky move by New York.
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