C.J. Mosley had just completed a season in which he had the most tackles in his career. The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker showed he could still be a strong and productive leader of a defense after opting out of the 2020 NFL season because of COVID-19 concerns. But that gave him little satisfaction.
The Jets finished 4-13, last season and winless in the AFC East, missing the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. That still stings Mosley. He carries that into this season and believes everyone in his locker room is driven to flip the same old Jets’ script.
“Since the last game of the season when the clock hit zero in Buffalo, I was ready to get back to it,” Mosley told Newsday. “I think that’s been the motivation for everybody. We’re really trying to prove to ourselves and prove to people that we really can do something different here.”
By something different, Mosley means making the playoffs. The Jets’ last postseason appearance was following the 2010 season. Mosley signed with the Jets in 2019, believing he would be able to end that drought that is now the longest active one in the NFL.
Mosley thinks the Jets can make the playoffs this season. He said it before training camp. Nothing that has happened since then — including a knee injury to quarterback Zach Wilson — has changed his confidence.
“I still feel the exact same,” Mosley said.
It’s “very important” for Mosley to be a part of that turnaround.
“I’ve been around winning a lot. I’ve been very blessed in my football career,” he said. “I feel like I know the blueprint. I’ve been in situations where I can handle the wins and losses. When you come from a program like Alabama, you come from a team like Baltimore where the expectation is to win every single year that really builds your character.
“That makes you push yourself but also push the people around [you] because they see you doing things the right way. If you see people not doing things the right way you can call them out because there’s already a respect level. We’re all trying to get to the same spot.”
The Jets — who open the season next Sunday against the Ravens — feel good about themselves heading into Year 2 under coach Robert Saleh and after general manager Joe Douglas upgraded the roster.
They added talented young players (cornerback Sauce Gardner, receiver Garrett Wilson and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson). They signed proven NFL players (linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback D.J. Reed, safety Jordan Whitehead, left guard Laken Tomlinson, left tackle Duane Brown and tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin).
The Jets are not close to being a finished product as many of their young players have to develop. When Wilson returns, and if he takes the leap the Jets anticipate, playing “meaningful games down the stretch” as Douglas expects, isn’t out of the question.
There is a different vibe around the Jets. Other veterans who have been around winning in their careers are encouraged.
Brown has spent less than three weeks with the Jets. The five-time Pro Bowler, who played in nine playoff games with the Texans and Seahawks, sees a team that believes it can win.
“Absolutely,” Brown said. “That’s what it’s all about -— a mentality. No one here cares about what’s happened before. No one here cares about expectations outside of the building. They know the kind of talent we have on the roster. They know the kind of work we put in and that’s all that matters.”
Uzomah played on two- and four-win teams with the Bengals before their unexpected run to the Super Bowl last year, and said the Jets have “a lot of potential.”
“You could just tell by the people that we’re bringing in, the character that we brought in, the type of grit of the players from free agency, the guys from this draft class,” Uzomah said. “You can tell that that’s what we’re building towards. We got the pieces. It’s just making sure we got our minds set and we have to stop the self-inflicting wounds.”
The AFC is loaded this season, and Saleh and Douglas haven’t put the expectation of making the playoffs on the Jets, but the players have. Mosley said they talk about it a lot. He believes they’re building toward that.
“It’s the mentality of when we come to work we’re not just coming here to practice and win a couple of games. There’s always a mission,” Mosley said. “There’s always a greater good that you’re trying to accomplish. That’s what I’m talking about when I mention playoffs or when I’m talking about expectations or why we’re here.
“You come here to win games and get to the playoffs and try to be a legend one day. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to drive everybody.”