Predicting Jets' Key Stat Leaders for 2021 NFL Season
New head coach. New franchise quarterback. Better results?
That's what the New York Jets are hoping for in the 2021 season, as they look to bounce back from a 2-14 campaign and end their playoff drought, which has now reached 10 seasons, the longest active stretch in the NFL. Looking to lead the turnaround will be Robert Saleh, who is going to be a head coach in the league for the first time.
The Jets used the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft to select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson after they traded former starter Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. New York also used free agency to address some of its areas of need on both offense and defense.
Were these acquisitions enough for the Jets to quickly turn things around? That remains to be seen. But they have some talented players who are capable of putting up some strong numbers in 2021, and maybe that will lead to better team results.
Here are some early predictions for three key stats leaders for the Jets in 2021.
QB Zach Wilson
The key to the Jets' offensive success during the upcoming season will likely be the play of Wilson, who should begin his rookie campaign as the starter. New York has no quarterback with any NFL experience on its roster, so it appears to be Wilson's job.
In the past, rookie quarterbacks have had varying levels of success in the league. But Wilson has a strong arm and an impressive skill set, so that could lead to a smooth transition to the NFL. Plus, the Jets have a strong receiving corps and some solid offensive linemen, so Wilson may be in a position to quickly produce big results.
Still, Wilson is sure to have some games in which he'll have growing pains. AFC East matchups could pose a challenge with other strong teams in the division, and the Jets also have games against the New Orleans Saints (Week 14) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 17).
But Wilson is likely to showcase his potential at times, providing optimism for the future. He may finally be the quarterback who can lead New York back to success. And he'll have a solid rookie season that helps the Jets take some steps forward on offense this year.
Prediction: 3,514 yards, 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions
WR Corey Davis
Davis could emerge as Wilson's No. 1 receiving option during his first season in New York. The Jets have some other strong wide receivers such as Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims, but Davis has continued to improve his game in recent years.
Last season, Davis set career highs in yards (984) and touchdowns (five) in 14 games with the Tennessee Titans. And that came while he was in an offense in which he was the clear No. 2 receiving option behind A.J. Brown.
Now, Davis is with the Jets, and he seems confident that he can take his production to yet another level.
"I mean, just in my ability to get open, my speed, separation, I feel like I can do it all," Davis said after signing in March, per Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press.
Expect Davis to surpass 1,000 yards for the first time in his NFL career. As the 26-year-old develops a rapport with Wilson, it should be a great combination for Jets fans to watch over the next few years.
Prediction: 72 receptions for 1,103 yards and eight touchdowns
DE Carl Lawson
New York's biggest addition on defense this offseason was Lawson, who should immediately help improve the team's pass rush. That was an area in which the Jets needed to get better, as they were tied for 20th in the NFL with 31 sacks last season.
Lawson has recorded 10.5 sacks in 28 games over the past two seasons, but he's also shown that he's capable of even bigger numbers. As a rookie with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017, he had 8.5 sacks in 16 games. But in 2020, he had career highs in tackles (36) and forced fumbles (two).
However, Lawson didn't always get a ton of starting opportunities while in Cincinnati, which is likely to change upon his arrival to New York. And even when the 25-year-old defensive end doesn't record a sack, he's still effective at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Lawson may put up bigger sack numbers in 2021, though, and that will be a needed boost for the Jets defense. He'll help lead the way for an improved unit on a defense that should get better with Saleh at the helm.
Prediction: 32 tackles, eight sacks and one forced fumble