Answering biggest questions 2020 NFL season has for Jets and Giants
Before the presidential debates, The Post presents five pressing questions for the Giants and Jets to answer:
More pressure: Joe Judge or Adam Gase?
Joe Judge is the second head coach of the Giants in the past two seasons under general manager David Gettleman. Both of those years, 2018 and 2019, produced glaring losing records. Hiring Judge could be seen as somewhat of a gamble, considering he is one of just two NFL head coaches whose previous highest position in the league was special teams coordinator. The other is the Ravens’ John Harbaugh.
Should Gettleman have his name attached to another four- or five-win season, there may be conversations to be had about the future. And with that, Judge may suddenly become expendable and wish he never had left his sturdy job with Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
On top of all that, Judge has made headlines for the old-school flair he brought with him to New York. But he had better be wary of how it affects his team on the field, because that flair can provoke fury if the losses begin to pile up.
— Mollie Walker
This should not even be a debate. There is way more pressure on Adam Gase than on Joe Judge this year.
Judge is in the honeymoon phase. Everyone swoons when he speaks and he is lauded as the greatest general since Eisenhower for sliding in the mud with his team.
Gase, on the other hand, is about as popular as a proctologist with Jets fans. They will be screaming for him to be fired if the Jets go down 7-0 in Week 1 in Buffalo.
Jets CEO Christopher Johnson will face enormous pressure to fire Gase if the team stinks this year. Gase must find a way to get Sam Darnold living up to his pre-draft billing and fix an offense that ranked No. 32 in the NFL last year.
Judge will be given a pass if the Giants struggle. Everything will be blamed on GM Dave Gettleman and he will be the one facing the firing squad in January if the season goes south.
— Brian Costello
Who wins more games: Giants or Jets?
Saquon Barkley is healthy and so is Evan Engram. Daniel Jones, provided he can curtail his fumbling issues, looks like a keeper under center. He also will have more help around him. The defense has recently made two significant additions, with the re-signing of Markus Golden and the signing of veteran defensive back Logan Ryan, after a busy offseason of upgrades at cornerback and linebacker.
Now compare that to the Jets, who lost their two best defensive players (Jamal Adams and C.J. Mosley), may have the worst set of receivers in the NFL and are breaking in an almost completely new offensive line without any preseason games during which to develop chemistry. Sam Darnold can only do so much.
— Zach Braziller
If we’re being honest, trying to find the most wins on either side of New York’s vast football divide is something of a working definition of “fruitless task.” On paper, at least, it feels like we may be in for another long season.
Still, more wins is more wins. And the fact is the Jets simply have more winnable games on their schedule than the Giants do. The tough part of the schedule is impossibly tough — games against both Super Bowl participants, the two annual buzz-saw Pats games.
But you can find 5-6 wins among the rest.
The Giants? There just aren’t a lot of gimmes. Home to Washington? Home to the Browns? At Cincinnati, assuming Joe Burrow hasn’t resumed his assault of defenses and secondaries, a spot at which the Giants seem especially vulnerable?
No. The Jets will be the best team in New York. Even if that’s akin to being the best outdoor ice-skating ring at the Equator.
— Mike Vaccaro
More winnable division: AFC East or NFC East?
With Tom Brady as starting quarterback, the Patriots won 17 of the past 19 AFC East titles, including the past 11, setting an NFL record. But with Brady now with Tampa Bay, the division is finally up for grabs again.
Bill Belichick has never done it without Brady. In six years (five with Cleveland) with a different starting quarterback, Belichick has posted a 41-55 record. Now, the legendary coach will likely lean on a quarterback (Cam Newton) who attracted no other offers as a free agent.
But can any quarterback be trusted in the AFC East? The Bills defense could clinch a return to the playoffs, but inconsistent Josh Allen, who led the team to just 19.6 points per game last season, is also back. The Jets, returning without star safety Jamal Adams, will bank on third-year quarterback Sam Darnold to make the necessary leap, while the Dolphins will initially ride 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has yet to reach the playoffs in his career.
— Howie Kussoy
In the midst of another brutal season last year, the Giants still had a mathematical shot at the playoffs entering Week 13 with a 2-9 record. That’s how bad the NFC East was in 2019 — its combined .375 winning percentage was the worst in the league.
The Cowboys appeared to improve the most in the offseason, but still face one huge distraction: Dak Prescott will be playing on the franchise tag, still waiting on a new contract, all while working in Mike McCarthy’s new offense. In Philadelphia, Carson Wentz will be throwing to a receiver group that didn’t land the proven upgrade it needed, pinning its hopes on DeSean Jackson and first-round pick Jalen Reagor (whose debut reportedly will be delayed by a training camp injury).
The Giants hope Joe Judge’s workmanlike mentality rubs off on the team, which still has plenty of holes. And the Washington Football Team changed its name while trying to clean up the organization off the field, but still has a long way to go on the field from being an actual threat.
— Greg Joyce
Bigger opt-out loss: Nate Solder or C.J. Mosley?
Is the Giants’ offensive line really any better than it was at the beginning of the 2017 season, before general manager Dave Gettleman vowed to start his rebuilding by prioritizing the trenches? With Nate Solder at left tackle, maybe marginally so. With Solder not in uniform, it’s not.
Solder opted out as a cancer survivor with a cancer-patient son and another newborn son at home. His decision forced rookie Andrew Thomas into the high-pressure left tackle position rather than a smoother entry on the right side and turned journeyman Cam Fleming (26 starts in six seasons) into a full-time starter at right tackle — unneeded question marks compounding the uncertainty at center.
Solder hasn’t lived up to his monster contract in two seasons with the Giants (11 sacks allowed in 2019), but a team weakness gets even weaker without him.
The Giants offense could win a NFL-wide seven-on-seven tournament, with Daniel Jones throwing to Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Golden Tate. But Jones and Barkley can’t win actual games while lying on their backs.
— Ryan Dunleavy
There are two sides to many things, but not this. This is more of a knockout decision than a debate. Of course the Jets losing C.J. Mosley to the opt-out is more damaging than the Giants losing Nate Solder to the opt-out. Not that Solder is easy to replace. He is a towering presence at left tackle and the plan was to keep him there, likely only for one more year, so that first-round pick Andrew Thomas could acclimate to the NFL at right tackle. That plan went awry, but let’s face it, Solder did not have a strong 2019 season. Now Thomas moves in at his natural spot, left tackle, a year earlier than expected. A deal, but not a big deal.
Mosley has been selected to four Pro Bowls. Solder? None. Mosley is irreplaceable in the Jets defense. Were you not watching last year’s opener when Mosley was all over the field, returned an interception for a touchdown and the Jets were up 16-0 on the Bills? Mosley suffered a groin injury, the defense goes kaput and the Jets lose 17-16. That is how much of an impact Mosley makes. He is the brains of the defense and one of the best leaders on the team.
The Jets replace Mosley at linebacker with Neville Hewitt. That is not exactly the same as the Giants replacing Solder with a player many evaluators believe is the best left tackle prospect in the draft. Add in the Jets’ trading away of Jamal Adams, and Mosley’s loss is even more magnified. No Adams, no Mosley means no playmakers. Mosley opting out is a devastating blow to the Jets. No way around that. Solder’s absence will hurt, as far as experience and leadership and a steady hand. It is not the same deal.
— Paul Schwartz
Who will be New York’s breakout player this year?
He is 6-foot-5 (maybe 6-6), 250 pounds (maybe 255) and thicker and stronger than ever. If you were going to build the modern-day prototypical outside linebacker, you would build Lorenzo Carter.
He looks good in the lobby, and he looks good getting off the bus, and now it is time for him to look good terrorizing offensive tackles and quarterbacks off the edge and honor the great pass-rush tradition that was forged by Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.
This is Year 3 for Carter, and there is no reason why he should not be a double-digit sacker. And there are no excuses.
He will have the kind of quality teaching and coaching he has not had, and it’s not as if Carter does not work at his craft. This is a special athlete who had the option of playing basketball as well as football in college, and 8.5 sacks over his first two seasons is stark underachievement.
The Giants didn’t draft any pass rushers per se. Markus Golden returns with his 10 sacks. Golden has a motor that never stops, but he is not viewed as what general manager Dave Gettleman calls a blue goose pass rusher. Carter can be the Big Blue goose pass rusher. He can beat you with power, and he can beat you with speed. No one is asking him to be L.T. Giants fans could sure get behind calling him L.C., though.
Carter looks primed to put it all together. He emerged as a leader with his heartfelt, emotional Zoom cry for equality and an end to racial injustice. With the secondary as suspect as it is, head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham need a breakthrough season from Carter. And he looks primed to finally put it all together. The third year’s the charm. If not now, when?
— Steve Serby
Quinnen Williams, the Jets’ second-year defensive tackle out of Alabama, can become a difference-maker after a somewhat quiet rookie season.
Williams, who was slowed by a late-season ankle injury, wasn’t terrible in 2019, finishing with 28 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in 13 games. But he didn’t produce the way we expect a third-overall pick to produce. Williams had just 19 total pressures in 349 pass-rushing snaps last season.
A second season in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ system should make him a much better player than he was last year. So, too, should his own motivation. Quinnen Williams has spoken boldly about how much better he can be in 2020.
He, too, has gained a lot of knowledge from veteran teammate Steve McLendon.
“I’m feeling it, man,’’ the 22-year-old said recently. “I feel myself being that person that they drafted me to be. I feel like I’m coming into being that person to being a dominant defensive tackle in the NFL. I’m in great shape, great condition, I got my body fat down, I’m rocking and rolling. Last year, I was coming in and getting my feet wet. This year … I got my body right this offseason. I got my confidence back this offseason.’’
Expect a more productive and confident Williams in 2020.
— Mark Cannizzaro
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