Now that rookie quarterback Sam Darnold is signed, sealed and in the fold, and the Jets are whole, is it fair to wonder what the outlook is for them? And is it reasonable, after a five-win season, to fantasize about maybe making the playoffs?
“Our approach has always been, we have a vision for this team,’’ general manager Mike Maccagnan said Monday. “We feel very good about what we’ve done. We think we’ve tried to make positions more competitive. Like every team out there, we have areas we’d like to improve upon; we have a lot of young guys we’re excited about. I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘Hey, we are this, or we are that.’ It’s going to work itself out. But our vision is to build a team that can be competitive for a playoff [spot] year in and year out.’’
While Maccagnan isn’t ready to declare the Jets’ rebuild completed, the fourth-year GM seemed to be hinting that the project is in the home stretch. He traded up to get the No. 3 overall pick and select Darnold, and Monday he pointed out that the Jets were able to upgrade through free agency this winter, adding cornerback Trumaine Johnson, linebacker Avery Williamson, receiver Terrelle Pryor, center Spencer Long and running back Isaiah Crowell. Maccagnan also couldn’t resist saying the Jets are in excellent shape as far as the salary cap goes.
Of course, it isn’t a lock that Darnold will be the starter in Week 1. He was always going to have to beat out incumbent starter Josh McCown and former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater in training camp, and having missed the first three days of camp, the 21-year-old has some catching up to do. But whoever is calling signals when the Jets open against Detroit on Sept. 10 will have some pretty good receivers, according to Jermaine Kearse.
“I really like our receiving corps,’’ Kearse said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who compete, who make plays, and what I really like about our group is just the chemistry we have with each other. We know there’s a few spots to make the team, yet we encourage each other; we want to see each one succeed, and we try to push each other to be the best group we can be.’’
That group includes Kearse (65 catches, 810 yards last season); Pryor (77 catches, 1,007 yards in 2016, before being limited to nine games last year); 2017 breakout player Robby Anderson (63 catches, 941 yards) and Quincy Enunwa, who missed last season with a neck injury, but who had 58 catches for 857 yards in 2016.
None of that means the Jets are favorites to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Yet Maccagnan isn’t about to declare a non-playoff season a failure. There is no mandate by owner Christopher Johnson to reach the postseason this year, Maccagnan said.
“Christopher’s been very supportive,’’ Maccagnan said. “He understands what we’re trying to do. Our focus is to try to make sure we do everything possible to put this team in a position where it can go out there and compete for the playoffs on a yearly basis. There has been no mandate or no whatever, nothing along that lines. But that doesn’t mean we don’t personally want to accomplish and achieve that.’’