A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Dynamic duo on D: The Jets' two best defensive players -- linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Jamal Adams -- played together for only five quarters in 2019. Mosley, his season ruined by a core-muscle injury that required surgery, can't wait to rejoin Adams and elevate the defense. Mosley never bought into the trade rumors that circulated around Adams for several months.
"To me, I wasn't too worried about that," he said in an interview with ESPN. "That would be a crazy move."
"First of all, he's one of the leaders on the team," Mosley said. "That's first and foremost. He brings that extra energy whether guys want it or not. Sometimes you might be tired or not feeling good, but as soon as he steps on the field, you're going to hear that voice and he'll be flying around. To have that presence in the secondary, a guy that can make plays in the passing game and also plays in the backfield -- in the box -- that's always exciting."
Mosley wants Adams to stick around for a long time, which means a contract extension for the All-Pro safety. Adams, skipping the voluntary virtual offseason, hopes to have a new deal before the season. (He still has two years, $13.4 million left on his current contract.) If he stages a training-camp holdout, the trade speculation surely will return.
Imagine what Adams and Mosley could accomplish as a tandem. Without Mosley, the Jets still finished seventh in total defense, a testament to coordinator Gregg Williams and the no-name players who supplemented Adams.
"Once we get everybody back, and everybody already has a year under their belts as a defense, we can take this to another level," Mosley said.
Five months removed from surgery, Mosley said he expects to be ready for training camp. He won't declare himself 100% until he starts cutting at full speed -- for now, he's just running straight ahead -- but he said he feels great. Because of the stay-at-home orders, he created a training room in the basement of his New Jersey home. He has a treadmill, a stationary bike a rowing machine and light weights. He's on his own for rehab, but consults with the team trainers twice a week.
"When you're gone from something you love so much, it's kind of like when you first learn how to ride a bike," Mosley said. "You just don't want to stop."
Cool gesture by #Jets LB C.J. Mosley (@TreyDeuce32RTR), who taped a congratulatory message to the graduating class of 2020 at Floral Park HS on Long Island. The school reached out to the Jets and Mosley delivered. He said the message is for all students, not just athletes. pic.twitter.com/sI8P6rYKJH— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) May 6, 2020
2. QB insurance a must: The Jets flirted with Andy Dalton before he signed with the Dallas Cowboys, per sources. The interest was mutual, from what I hear, but the Jets knew he'd be a tough get. That they got involved shows they're interested in acquiring an experienced backup. Good idea.
It would be a mistake to enter the season with David Fales (zero starts) and rookie James Morgan as the backups to Sam Darnold. They should've learned their lesson last year; the offense was dysfunctional when Darnold was sidelined with mononucleosis. In two years, they're 0-6 in games Darnold doesn't start.
Coach Adam Gase likes Fales, whom he has coached in three different places, but let's not forget he also liked Luke Falk -- and look how that turned out. This is a win-now year for the Jets, and they can't leave themselves vulnerable at the most important position.
The most obvious candidate is Joe Flacco because of his distant connection to general manager Joe Douglas. He was the Baltimore Ravens' area scout who championed Flacco before he was drafted in 2008. The key with Flacco is his health. He had surgery about six weeks ago to repair a neck injury. He expects to receive a clean bill of health by late August and I'm told he wants to continue playing.
Matt Moore is another name in the rumor mill because he played for Gase in Miami, but a reunion doesn't seem likely at this point. Other free agents are Blake Bortles, Drew Stanton and Trevor Siemian, who didn't impress before getting hurt last season in Week 2. Truth be told, it will be hard to secure the position at this stage. The Jets might have missed their shot.
3. Frankly speaking: The addition of Frank Gore is fascinating on many levels: How much does he have left? Can he and Le'Veon Bell co-exist? How will Gase deploy them? I can tell you this: The Jets believe Gore, who turns 37 on Thursday, still has juice left. They also believe he will have a positive influence on the other running backs, including Bell, whom some believe wore down late in the year.
Now for a sobering stat:
Gore (44%) and Bell (42.4%) ranked 27th and 28th, respectively, out of 29 ball carriers in rushing success rate (minimum: 150 attempts) last season, per NFL NextGen Stats. RSR is the percentage of run plays resulting in a successful play based on the yards to go by down: 40%+ on first down, 50%+ on second down and conversion on third/fourth down.
Jets find Bell backup in Gore
Rich Cimini outlines how the Jets' signing of Frank Gore affects Le'Veon Bell.
4. Where's the love? It's always fun to check the game-by-game predictions of my fellow ESPN NFL Nation reporters to see how they forecast games against the Jets. Based on their predictions, the Jets will go 1-15. Their only win comes against the Las Vegas Raiders, courtesy of reporter Paul Gutierrez, who might be a closet Jets fan, per sources.
5. $am Darnold: A year from now, the Jets will have to make a decision on Darnold's fifth-year option (2022). Under the new collective bargaining agreement, his draft class (2018) will be the first whose fifth-year salary is fully guaranteed from the moment the option is exercised. Previously, the amount was guaranteed for injury only; it became fully guaranteed in March of the fifth year. The difference is significant.
In Darnold's case, his fifth-year salary will be equal to the transition tag for quarterbacks. You have to believe it will be north of $24.8 million, the current transition number for quarterbacks -- roughly triple his current salary. The luxury of having a quarterback on his rookie contract will end in 2022.
6. Undrafted sleeper: The Jets must be high on rookie tackle Jared Hilbers, an undrafted free agent from Washington. He received a $62,000 guarantee in his contract, an unusually high amount for the Jets. By comparison, defensive end Kyle Phillips, who made the team last year and became a key rotational player, got only $30,000.
At 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, Hilbers is long and athletic with a basketball background. He sounds a lot like recently-signed tackle George Fant. That's no coincidence because of the new emphasis on athleticism for the offensive line.
7. RIP, Idzik 12: Now that Quincy Enunwa (neck) is done for 2020 and likely done for good with the team, the Jets' 12-man draft class from 2014 is all but wiped out -- utterly mind boggling and perhaps worthy of an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary someday.
Then-GM John Idzik had a chance to change the franchise with a dozen picks, but he chose a lot of bad players. He once told someone that the class never got a chance to realize its full potential because it wasn't properly developed by the coaching staff. Hogwash. Only one of the 12 remains in the league -- Minnesota Vikings backup guard Dakota Dozier (fourth round) -- which says everything about the Idzik 12.
8. Remembering the Don: The Jets-Miami Dolphins rivalry -- down in recent years -- used to be one of the best in the NFL. Much of that was due to the legendary Don Shula, who died Monday.
Shula's hatred for the Jets probably was born with his epic loss to them in Super Bowl III, when he coached the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts. He exacted some revenge by beating them in the infamous Mud Bowl, the 1982 AFC Championship Game in which the Jets accused him of ordering the Orange Bowl field to stay uncovered during an overnight drenching. The sloppy field negated the Jets' speed advantage.
So did Shula pull a fast one? Former Jets great Wesley Walker, held to one catch for zero yards, said he doesn't know and doesn't care.
"He'd have been a fool not to do it to stop us," Walker said this week. "As a coach, you're supposed to do anything to give your team every advantage. The bottom line is, we played on the same field and they played better than we did, and it cost us a Super Bowl."
Walker said Shula's death "broke my heart." Despite the intense rivalry, he had great respect for the man. Upon hearing the news, he searched for video of his unforgettable 1986 performance against the Dolphins and posted highlights on Facebook. It was the signature game of Walker's career -- six catches for 194 yards and four touchdowns, including a 43-yarder in overtime.
"It was funny to re-watch his reaction on the sideline," Walker said.