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Jets’ Joe Douglas has a Zach Wilson bust, but nailed 2022 draft

Two days in April have saved Joe Douglas from getting a ton of grief in December and January.

If there was any hope left for Zach Wilson finding success in a Jets uniform, that evaporated Thursday night on a rainy night at MetLife Stadium. Wilson was terrible against the Jaguars, and looked and sounded like a broken quarterback after the game. The Jets have a decision to make on Wilson in the offseason, but at the moment, it feels hard to envision Wilson playing for the Jets again.

Normally, saying the quarterback drafted No. 2 overall just 20 months ago is done with a team would mean trouble for the man who drafted him. Douglas faced the biggest decision of his Jets tenure in the spring of 2021. He had to figure out whether to stick with Sam Darnold for a fourth season or to move on and draft a quarterback. Douglas shipped Darnold to Carolina and then drafted Wilson with the second overall pick.

That draft pick may turn out to be one of the worst in franchise history, and that is saying something for a franchise that has Lam Jones, Blair Thomas and Vernon Gholston in its history.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson #2 looks to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Zach Wilson appears as if he might go down as an all-time Jets draft bust.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

But no one is screaming for Douglas’ head right now. The reason why? What he did this year to follow up that Wilson pick.

Douglas drafted Sauce Gardner with the No. 4 overall pick and Garrett Wilson with the No. 10 pick, a pick he acquired from the Seahawks in the Jamal Adams trade in 2020. Those two are leading candidates for the Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year awards, respectively. On the second night of the draft, Douglas selected Breece Hall, who was on his way to challenging Wilson for the Offensive Rookie of the Year before a torn ACL in October ended his season prematurely. Throw in Jermaine Johnson, Micheal Clemons and Max Mitchell, each of whom has contributed this season, and the 2022 Draft class someday may be viewed as the best in franchise history.

Douglas has had other misses as GM, most notably the 2020 draft class that has not yielded any impact players. But any conversation of what Douglas has done should also include what he has accomplished. He took over a team in 2019 that had a terrible roster and some equally terrible contracts. He got the salary-cap situation fixed and made some shrewd trades to put the Jets in position to add talent.

Sauce Gardner #1 of the New York Jets celebrates with teammates after an interception against the Buffalo Bills.
Defensive Rookie of the Year front-runner Sauce Gardner (1) headlined the Jets’ 2022 draft class.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Part of the reason Zach Wilson’s poor play was so frustrating to watch this season was the talent he was surrounded with. These were no longer the days when Jets fans watched Darnold throwing to a bunch of wide receivers who would not make another roster in the NFL. The Jets had a team talented enough to make the playoffs, but it was being held back by Wilson’s play.

Douglas built that roster. With the exception of C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams, every significant Jets player was acquired by Douglas.

Douglas also hired head coach Robert Saleh, who has turned around the Jets’ culture and made some critical decisions this season, including benching Wilson.

Garrett Wilson #17 of the New York Jets runs the ball, dragging Kaiir Elam #24 of the Buffalo Bills.
Garrett Wilson is a foundational piece on offense from the Jets’ 2022 draft class.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Jets have to win the next two games to have a shot at the playoffs. If they make the playoffs, Douglas and Saleh will gain some equity and enter 2023 riding high. If the Jets fail to make it, the pressure will be on in 2023 for both Douglas and Saleh.

Wilson may not be part of the plan in 2023, and Douglas will take some heat for whiffing on the No. 2 overall pick. But the Jets now will be built around players such as Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Hall. Douglas drafting that core over two days in April is what makes his job safe as we enter uncertain times in January.

Flying blind

The Jets won’t find out when they are playing their Week 18 game until after this coming week’s “Monday Night Football” game between the Bills and the Bengals. The NFL keeps all games for the final week of the season as “TBD.”

This could create some travel insanity for the Jets, who are flying home from Seattle on Monday, if the NFL moves the Jets-Dolphins game to Saturday of Week 18. There will be two NFL games played on Saturday that week. The Jets-Dolphins game could be one of them depending on this week’s results.

Head coach Robert Saleh of the New York Jets reacts during the first half against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on December 18, 2022.
Robert Saleh may have to navigate the Jets through a difficult travel week heading into the season finale against the Dolphins.
Getty Images

That would mean the Jets travel schedule would look like this:

Saturday, Dec. 31: Fly to Seattle

Sunday, Jan. 1: Play the Seahawks

Monday, Jan. 2: Fly to New Jersey

Friday, Jan. 6: Fly to Miami

Saturday, Jan. 7: Play the Dolphins

That would be a brutal stretch for the Jets, and seems unfair for the NFL to ask of a team chasing a playoff berth.

The Jets-Dolphins game also could end up being the “Sunday Night Football” game on Jan. 8. If the Dolphins beat the Patriots and the Jets beat the Seahawks this weekend, the Jets-Dolphins game will be a “win and in” game. You would have to think that would end up on Sunday Night Football. If the Dolphins lose to the Patriots, things get a little more complicated, which could result in Jets-Dolphins being a Saturday game.

Of course, if the Jets lose to the Seahawks, this is all a moot point. In that case, they likely will be playing at 1 p.m. on Sunday. But if they win, the scheduling could get interesting.

Stat’s so

Breece Hall #20 of the New York Jets rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2022.
Breece Hall, another part of Joe Douglas’ 2022 draft class, is the Jets’ leading rusher despite not playing since tearing his ACL in October.
Getty Images

The Jets’ rushing attack has disappeared in recent weeks. Amazingly, the team’s leading rusher is still Hall, who has not played in two months after tearing his ACL. Here are the Jets’ top rushers in 2022:

Breece Hall: 80 attempts, 463 yards, 5.8 yards per attempt (long: 62 yards), 4 touchdowns

Michael Carter: 110 att., 396 yards, 3.6 yards/att. (long: 25), 3 TDs

Zonovan Knight: 65 att., 251 yards, 3.9 yards/att. (long: 48), 1 TD

Zach Wilson: 28 att., 102 yards, 3.6 yards/att. (long: 18), 1 TD

Ty Johnson: 17 att., 102 yards, 6.0 yards/att. (long: 32), 1 TD

Source: Pro Football Reference

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