In the depths of the green side of MetLife Stadium, there’s a youthful revolution in effect.
The 2018 New York Jets have officially gone to the kids as the two faces of the franchise, one on each side of the ball is 22 years old or younger.
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the younger of the two, is set to become the youngest starting quarterback in a season opener since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970 at just 21.
The No. 3 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft out of USC has exceeded early expectations, facing the possibility of redshirting during his rookie season to beating Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater (subsequently traded to the Saints) for the starting job.
Darnold has shown an incredible amount of a poise for a player attempting to make the jump to a starting role in the NFL at his age.
He’s even had opposing players like Washington Redskins quarterback Josh Norman, who isn’t known for his kindness, in awe of his ability in the pocket.
Darnold will have a unique mix of weapons to work with during his first year as a pro. Jermaine Kearse has a winning pedigree after years with the Seattle Seahawks while Quincy Enunwa (26 years old), who showed flashes of becoming a solid contributor, is back after a neck injury sidelined him all of last year.
Then there is Terrelle Pryor, keen on showing his stellar 2016 season with the Cleveland Browns wasn’t just a fluke, and the troubled Robby Anderson (25 years old), who has run into more trouble off the field than success on it after a breakout 941-yard year in 2017. He is still facing a suspension after multiple arrests this offseason.
Now the Golden Boy takes the reins of a franchise that has been in the dumps for the better part of five decades, offering the promise of a quarterback that will be mentioned in the same breath as Joe Namath.
No pressure, kid.
While he’s set to become the leader of the offense for the next decade if all goes well, there is a brash safety in Gang Green’s secondary that continues to develop into a bona fide star.
At 22 years old, Jamal Adams has shown the promise of not only becoming a Pro-Bowl caliber defensive back but becoming an outright leader in the locker room.
He’ll be teaming up alongside fellow second-year safety Marcus Maye (25 years old) to create a young core that is supported by new cornerback Trumaine Johnson (28).
All of a sudden, it might not be so easy to pass against a Jets team that was mediocre at best last season.
It’s imperative they lock down opposing receivers as there might be growing pains within the heart of the defense. Darron Lee (23) is teaming up with his third-different inside linebacker in as many years as he and Avery Williamson (26) will split play-calling duties for the defense.
For the little brothers of the New York (New Jersey) football scene, it’s been a difficult seven years for the Jets as they haven’t made a single playoff appearance.
Now it’s up to the kids to lay the groundwork for a team that could seriously challenge in the AFC East over the next few years.
Jets AFC East predictions
New England Patriots: 12-4
New York Jets: 8-8
Miami Dolphins: 6-10
Buffalo Bills: 4-12