The Jets’ season started with Sam Darnold throwing a pick-6 on his first NFL pass, but the rookie quarterback has come a long way since then.
Many of the Jets’ young players have, which could be an indication that the team is headed in the right direction.
Second-year safety Jamal Adams is a cornerstone on defense. Wide receiver Robby Anderson came on strong at the end of the season. Rookie tight end Chris Herndon emerged as a player who could be a keeper. After returning from a broken foot, second-year running back Elijah McGuire has scored touchdowns in the last three games, having become the Jets’ featured back because of injuries.
“It’s awesome,” Darnold said. “It’s good to know that our future is bright here. I’m very confident in that and I’m very excited about it.”
Here’s a look back at 2018 and what’s ahead in 2019:
Adams: A star on the rise and already an impact player. The first-time Pro Bowler and team MVP leads the Jets in solo tackles, is second in total tackles and is tied for first in tackles for loss.
Special teams: Andre Roberts has been the NFL’s best returner. Jason Myers set a franchise record with seven field goals in a game and became the first player to kick five field goals of at least 55 yards in a season. Both made the Pro Bowl. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “That’s probably the best unit we’ve faced all year.”
Darnold: He’s shown impressive growth and development. In his last three games, Darnold has thrown six touchdown passes and only one interception. He had the Jets leading in the last three minutes of each game. They need to get him more weapons and see what he can become.
Henry Anderson: Real good acquisition for a seventh-round pick. The former Colt’s seven sacks is tied for the team lead.
Herndon: Showed a lot of promise and became a main target for Darnold. Herndon is second on the team in catches (38), yards (494) and touchdowns (four).
Trumaine Johnson: Didn’t live up to expectations after getting a five-year, $72-million deal. He missed five games with a quadriceps injury and was beaten for several big plays, but his four interceptions lead the Jets.
Leonard Williams: He also hasn’t lived up to expectations. Williams has only four sacks this year and went nine games without one. The Jets could extend his contract this offseason.
Darron Lee: He had two interceptions in the opener and returned one for a touchdown. His season ended in huge disappointment when he was suspended for the final four games for violating the substance-abuse policy.
Spencer Long: He was signed to play center and had a snapping problem, especially after a finger injury worsened. Long finished the season at left guard and played well.
Penalties: Numerous pre-snap penalties, defensive holding, pass interference and unnecessary-roughness calls at the worst times.
Bills 41, Jets 10: The low point. The Jets looked unprepared and as if they took Buffalo lightly in Week 10. They were completely dominated at home and trailed 31-0 in the second quarter against a team that totaled 46 points in the previous six games. Todd Bowles’ seat officially became hot on this day.
Packers 44, Jets 38 (OT): The Jets led 35-20 with less than 12 minutes left and imploded in their home finale. They committed 16 penalties for a franchise-record 172 yards.
The offense: The Jets scored three offensive touchdowns in a five-game stretch. The Packers scored three against the Jets in 9:59 in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Jets ranked at or near the bottom in many categories — including red-zone offense and third-down conversions — for much of the year.
The defense: They were supposed to be a solid unit, but they gave up 540 yards of offense to the Packers and 503 to the Jaguars. The Jets were outscored 97-41 in the fourth quarter and overtime in the last nine games, eight of which were losses.
Jaguars 31, Jets 12: Jacksonville embarrassed the Jets’ defense and held their offense to 178 yards in Week 4.
Miami 13, Jets 6: Darnold threw four interceptions and injured his foot. Long had snapping issues and the offense didn’t score a touchdown.
THE FREE AGENTS
The Jets locked up Quincy Enunwa on Friday.
Jets who will become unrestricted free agents include Josh McCown, Jermaine Kearse, Bilal Powell, James Carpenter, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon, Brandon Copeland, Andre Roberts and Jason Myers.
The Jets likely will have a new head coach. General manager Mike Maccagnan has whiffed on numerous draft picks, but he has a better chance of returning than Bowles.
With perhaps a top- three pick and about $100 million available in free agency, the Jets need an edge rusher and also will look to fill holes at receiver, running back, the offensive line and the secondary.