PHOENIX — There’s plenty of optimism about the Jets after their recent additions of high-profile players, and first-year coach Adam Gase is all in on the positivity. In fact, he believes that the Jets can get back to the playoffs in 2019 for the first time in nearly a decade.
“If we stay healthy, we should be in the conversation in December,” Gase told reporters Tuesday morning during a coaches’ breakfast at the NFL’s annual spring meetings. “That’s realistic. We have a good quarterback. We have a lot of good pieces around him. We feel like we’ve added a lot of pieces on defense.”
The key will be how well the Jets do down the stretch, according to Gase, who was hired in January after being fired by the Dolphins following a three-year stint with Miami.
“It’s all going to be about how we play in that late November-December area,” Gase said. “We’re talking about a six-week span where every team in this league, it’s all going to be decided in those weeks. There’s going to be three or four teams that are eliminated already, and everybody else is going to have a shot.”
He puts the Jets in that “everybody else” category.
Two big reasons: second-year quarterback Sam Darnold and newly acquired running back Le’Veon Bell, the centerpiece addition of the Jets’ free agency spending splurge.
“I like what Sam showed last year,” Gase said. “I feel like he’s going to work as hard as he can to make sure this offense is explosive and efficient at the same time.”
Gase believes it was beneficial for Darnold that he missed some time because of a foot injury he suffered against Gase’s Dolphins midway through last season. Darnold missed three games before returning for the team’s final four games. Darnold had six touchdown passes and just one interception in the final month of the season, compared to 11 touchdown throws and 14 interceptions in the nine games before the injury.
“Just his whole mechanics, body language, throwing it away, not forcing throws, getting a check down when he needs to,” Gase said of Darnold’s improved play after returning from the injury. “You could tell he had a different feel. That was good to see.”
Gase said the addition of Bell, the former Steelers’ All Pro running back who signed a four-year deal with the Jets after sitting out the entire 2018 season, will be a great benefit for Darnold’s development.
“We have a blueprint [for Bell], but it’s in pencil,” Gase said. “We just want to make sure that we are on it with what he likes to do in the run game. His patience is unique. You don’t see what he does a lot. I don’t want to put him in a box. We’ll easily be able to adapt to what he does in the run game. It’s just going to take more of the chemistry part of — [offensive] line, him, quarterback, receivers tight ends. Everybody just getting used to play with each other and certain run schemes that he’s really good at. We’d be fools not to do those.”