A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Project Sam: Before the preseason opener last August, Jets general manager Joe Douglas -- new on the job -- was introduced to Sam Darnold's parents in the VIP area on the field at MetLife Stadium. The impromptu meeting started with a warm embrace from the quarterback's mother, Chris. Douglas reciprocated by essentially vowing to be her son's guardian angel.
"I promised I was going to do everything in my power to take care of Sam with protection and playmakers," Douglas recalled this week.
How's it going so far?
Not great, but not bad, either. As Douglas acknowledged, "I think we still have a lot to do in both those regards. I think we've done our best to attack some of the issues we've had in the past."
Anybody who draws a conclusion about the Jets' offseason before the 2020 NFL draft simply doesn't know the business of football. Free agency is one part of the puzzle, which is a good thing for the Jets because they're still a few pieces shy of a complete picture. Let's take a closer look at Darnold's protection and playmakers, as Douglas calls them:
Playmakers. It's never a good thing when a young quarterback loses his top playmaker, but Douglas evidently felt wide receiver Robby Anderson didn't fit into the organization's philosophy of "financial discipline," as he called it.
Replacement receiver Breshad Perriman is Robby Lite. On paper, he fills the role of "speed receiver," sans the past production. Douglas said Perriman has "the ability to take the top off a defense. We expect him to come in here and make an impact. We think he'll be able to have a chemistry with Sam, moving forward."
It might take some time, though, as Perriman is a notoriously slow starter -- nine career catches in the month of September. That also has been a trend in Anderson's career, so all this talk about the brilliant chemistry between him and Darnold is overblown. Nevertheless, the Perriman-for-Anderson swap is a small regression at the position, one that must be addressed in the draft.
This is why the notion that it's offensive-tackle-or-bust with the No. 11 overall pick no longer applies. Coach Adam Gase needs another starting-caliber receiver to make his offense functional, and there's a growing belief in some circles the Jets could pick a receiver -- Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs III. Personally, I think a blue-chip left tackle would help Darnold more than a receiver -- Darnold's mom might agree -- but Douglas may not get a crack at an elite blindside blocker.
Protection. George Fant-for-Kelvin Beachum at left tackle isn't an upgrade. While Fant is younger and more athletic than Beachum, his lack of experience as a full-time player (1,014 snaps as a tackle) makes him a projection.
Douglas raved about Fant's athleticism and lateral quickness, traits he believes will fit nicely into Gase's scheme. The Jets aren't paying Fant $9 million this season to sit on the bench, so there will be a place for him. Still, they can't be satisfied with Fant and Chuma Edoga as their long-term answers at tackle. If the Jets go receiver with the 11th pick, it wouldn't shock me if they package their second-round pick and the highest of their two third-rounders to move up into the bottom of Round 1, where they might have a shot at Austin Jackson or Josh Jones, a pair of well-regarded tackles.
One position the Jets did upgrade is center, where Connor McGovern is slated to replace Jonotthan Harrison. Stability in the pivot, something they haven't enjoyed in a few years, can galvanize an entire offensive line. Douglas described McGovern as smart, athletic and versatile, meaning he can play guard, too. They should be OK in the interior, with the return of left guard Alex Lewis and the addition of guard Greg Van Roten. But an offensive line is only as good as its tackles, still an area of need.
2. Winters is coming: A lot of folks, me included, were quick to bury guard Brian Winters, who seemed like a likely cap casualty. But he's not going anywhere and will compete for a job in training camp, according to Douglas. If Winters doesn't win a starting job, he probably will be asked to take a pay cut on his $7 million salary. That's how things work in the cutthroat NFL.
With Winters, the Jets have eight experienced linemen, including six on the interior -- Winters, Van Roten, McGovern, Lewis, Harrison and Josh Andrews. Presumably, Winters will compete against Van Roten at right guard, but that would require a position switch for Van Roten, who has played left guard his entire career.
3. Q stands for question mark: There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding injured wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who is rehabbing a neck injury. I can tell you this: Enunwa has no immediate plans to retire. That route wouldn't make financial sense, considering he has $10.1 million in guaranteed money coming his way over the next two seasons. If he's not medically cleared, he could spend the 2020 season on the physically unable to perform list as he evaluates his options and collects his money. Douglas doesn't sound optimistic about Enunwa's future.
"We should have more information on that, hopefully soon," he said. "That's a big question mark for us."
4. Silent safety: It's all quiet on the Jamal Adams contract front, per Douglas. If Adams gets an extension, it won't happen until after the draft, probably closer to the regular season. The Jets are focused on the draft and free agency, both of which were complicated by the coronavirus-related restrictions and distractions. There are rumors about the Dallas Cowboys plotting to make another run at Adams before the draft, but it would take an extraordinary offer to pry him away in a trade.
Whether he likes it or not, Adams is on the back burner, and there's not much he can do about it now. In the current climate, it wouldn't be a good optic if he makes a stink about being underpaid.
5. Special K: In NFL circles, center Leo Koloamatangi is a relatively anonymous player. That's not the case in his adopted home of Hawaii, where he has assumed a role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Koloamatangi, who graduated the University of Hawaii with a degree in entrepreneurship, joined with three locals to create the Hawaii Towards Zero website, which is designed to slow the spread of the virus by collecting data from users and distributing it to health providers. The site also includes a resource center, which provides emotional support and financial advice. Koloamatangi's project has garnered attention in Hawaii, where at least three TV stations have highlighted his efforts.
"This almost feels like a civic duty," he told KHON2's Rob DeMello in an interview that appears on DeMello's Instagram account. "Really, it is a civic duty. It's not a job. This isn't a wake up and I feel like I have to get a couple of tasks done. ... It's time to be bold. It's time to lead. It's time for the leaders ... to step up."
Koloamatangi, 25, was born in Texas and attended Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton, California, before enrolling at Hawaii, where he became a team captain. The Jets signed him to the practice squad last Oct. 30, about two months after he was released by the Detroit Lions. He dressed for the final five games, but never saw action.
He feels indebted to the state of Hawaii, saying, "I owe a lot to the islands. I've become who I am today being there, being around the people that are there, having those support systems, those families, those friends."
6. The IT MVP: His name is Tom Murphy, and he's the vice president of information technology -- aka the IT Guy.
"Rock stars," Douglas said of Murphy and his staff.
With the Jets forced to work remotely because of the league's COVID-19 restrictions, Murphy & Co. coordinated an effort to make sure Douglas and his team were equipped to work via video conferencing. Anticipating the situation, Murphy started in mid-February by emailing instructions to everyone in the organization.
Douglas said they have had to "A & I -- adjust and improvise," overcoming the inconvenience of moving into home offices. He said they will conduct draft meetings and meetings with the coaches via video conference.
It's the new normal.