A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Key questions: While the Jets receive pats on the back for their headline-making offseason, some folks in the NFL personnel community are curious to see how the new pieces fit together. Three questions emerged in conversations with scouts and coaches:
Can a defense thrive with two middle linebackers?
Avery Williamson did a solid job last season in that role, but the front office felt compelled to sign C.J. Mosley, one of the top players on the free-agent market. To say they paid him handsomely would be an understatement -- a team-record $43 million guaranteed. So now Mosley will be in the middle, with Williamson likely sliding over to the weak-inside spot. Here's the issue: Neither one of them excels in pass coverage, leaving the Jets vulnerable against teams that like to throw to their running backs (see: New England Patriots).
Presumably, Williamson and Mosley will stay on the field in nickel situations, exacerbating the potential problem. If one sits, you're paying a lot of money for a two-down linebacker. The Jets appear ready to move on from Darron Lee. That puzzled one coach, who called him "their best coverage linebacker."
The Jets gave Crowder a $17 million guarantee, making him one of the league's highest-paid slot receivers. What people tend to forget is Enunwa, who signed a new contract ($10 million guaranteed) at the end of last season, has posted his best numbers from the slot. Even last season, when he got a chance to play outside, Enunwa still was most productive in the slot. In fact, 21 of his 38 receptions came there, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Coach Adam Gase is a fan of Enunwa's skill set, saying, "I want to make sure we do a good job of giving him variety." There's no rule that says you can't thrive with two slot receivers -- look at the Patriots -- but the addition of Crowder has some people wondering if the Jets poured too much money into one position.
The Jets, who have a lot invested in Anderson ($17 million guaranteed) and Leonard Williams ($14 million), would have three highly paid defensive tackles if they take Williams with the No. 3 overall pick.
"Who sits?" one scout asked.
They could use Quinnen Williams at nose tackle in their 3-4 scheme, but many believe his best position is as a 3-technique tackle (lined up on the outside shoulder of the guard). What about nickel situations? Teams are in nickel more than 50 percent of the time, but do you really want to rush the passer with a trio of 300-pound linemen? It would be the same answer if they switch to a 4-3 base.
Unless the Jets are planning to trade Leonard Williams (unlikely) or let him walk next year as a free agent, they don't really have an ideal spot for Quinnen Williams, a blue-chip talent. That's why some insiders believe they prefer an edge player such as Kentucky's Josh Allen or Ohio State's Nick Bosa.
No doubt, the Jets have added talent this offseason. It'll be fascinating to see how Gase and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams use the new parts.
2. Cats: Williamson, who played at Kentucky, is advocating for the Jets to draft Allen, a pass-rushing phenom last season for the Wildcats. He told me he already has lobbied for him in phone conversations.
"I'd be so excited if he's my teammate," Williamson said. "I talked to Gregg Williams about him. He's just one of those kids you want on your team. He's going to bring the ability to rush the passer and that's what we've been lacking. That's what we need. We need a great edge rusher."
3. Rush hour: Gase made a couple of interesting points when discussing the need for an edge rusher. He said "you have to find the right guys" to compete in the AFC East, which includes a quarterback (Tom Brady) who knows how to avoid sacks and another quarterback (Josh Allen) who can run all over the place.
"You have to rush the passer a certain way, so really it's about getting the right pass-rusher or getting the right group of pass-rushers," Gase said. "I don't know if it's, 'Hey, one guy fixes this.' It's about making sure we build the model the right way, saying, 'This is how we can win the division.' I mean, that's the key to everything, right?"
I like that mindset, but the reality is, it always helps to have an elite pass-rusher. If you can get one, don't pass up the opportunity.
5. Longing for Crowder: It sounds like Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden is really bummed out about losing Crowder. Check out this quote from the NFL owners meetings, where he was asked how Crowder can help second-year quarterback Sam Darnold.
"He'd be a great benefit for a rookie quarterback or a 15-, 20-year veteran quarterback," Gruden said. "He's a great player. Great players make it easy on quarterbacks, especially in the slot. Those guys are a quarterback's best friend. You see what [Julian] Edelman does, what [Danny] Amendola has done, obviously Jamison Crowder. Guys like that, Cole Beasley, are a quarterback's best friend. It's a lot easier to throw those intermediate throws than to throw outside the numbers and read man and zone. Some of those option routes, these guys get open no matter what the coverage and those are easier throws. Those guys can make 5-yard gains into a 25-yard gain. That's what Jamison's specialty is."
The Redskins didn't make a strong bid to keep Crowder. The money -- three years, $27.5 million -- was too rich for their blood.
6. The last time ...: Lots of chatter about the possibility of the Jets trading down in the first round, which got me wondering about the last time that happened. You have to go back to 2005, and it won't bring back fond memories -- i.e., the Doug Jolley trade. The Jets traded their first-round pick (26th) to the Oakland Raiders for two second-rounders, a sixth-rounder and Jolley, who was supposed to solve their need for a pass-catching tight end. Jolley was a bust who lasted one year in New York.
7. Another assist from Peyton: New backup quarterback Trevor Siemian told the Jets' official website that former Denver Broncos teammate Peyton Manning played a role in his decision to sign with the Jets. Siemian said Manning "spoke really highly" of Gase, who was Manning's offensive coordinator in 2013-14 -- before Siemian was drafted. The future Hall of Fame quarterback/pitchman has left his fingerprints on a couple of moves this offseason. You may recall he called CEO Christopher Johnson to recommend Gase for the head-coaching job. I wonder who Peyton likes in the draft?
8. Coach speak: Gase, while at the owners meetings, gave a technical breakdown on how Crowder and running back Le'Veon Bell can play off each other in the passing game, and it got me thinking: When was the last time the Jets had a head coach who could speak with such authority about the offense?
Gase is their first offensive-minded coach since Rich Kotite (1995-96), but I'd say the last guy was Eric Mangini (2006-08), who, despite his defensive background, could talk X's and O's on both sides of the ball. Still, it's been a long time. It's a refreshing change.
9. Small-school inspiration: That Stony Brook's Jordan Gowins has a chance to play in the NFL is a small miracle, but he was out there on Wednesday, participating in the school's pro day after a solid career at the FCS school. Gowins, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound running back with Saquon-esque thighs, ran his 40-yard dash in the low 4.6s before scouts from the Jets and New York Giants. He likely won't be drafted, but he could get an invite to an NFL camp.
"You dream about this day every day of your life," he said afterward. To his credit, Gowins understands there's more to life than football.
At #StonyBrookU pro day, RB Jordan Gowins (@Destined_23) did 30 reps on bench press. He used it as fundraiser for Stony Brook Children's Hospital ICU unit, where he spent a month as a 10 yo after swimming-pool accident. He has raised $2,100 so far. Bravo. @SBAthletics pic.twitter.com/s85tyEfDTo— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 27, 2019
10. The last word: "If we stay healthy, we should be in the conversation in December. I mean, that's realistic. We have a good quarterback; we have a lot of good pieces around him. We feel like we added a lot of good pieces on defense. It's all going to be about how we play in that late November-December area." -- Gase on whether the Jets can be a playoff contender.