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Analysis | The Jets, now with Mike Williams, are doing far more to help Aaron Rodgers

Analysis | The Jets, now with Mike Williams, are doing far more to help Aaron Rodgers

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 1

Aaron Rodgers’s debut season with the New York Jets lasted all of four plays. The rest of the Jets’ year was devoted to the quarterback musing about making an early return from the torn left Achilles’ tendon he suffered and the team’s deficiencies without him ultimately rendering such talk moot.

Assuming that Rodgers can return to the field next season and remain on it far longer, he should have much more help in Year 2 with the Jets.

Their busy offseason retooling continued Tuesday when they agreed to a one-year contract with wide receiver Mike Williams, who was released by the Los Angeles Chargers last week as they dealt with a salary cap crunch. The signing of Williams gives the Jets an accomplished wideout to pair with No. 1 receiver Garrett Wilson. The Jets also have fortified their offensive line for Rodgers and, just in case things veer off course again, they’ve addressed their backup quarterback situation.

None of this is to say the Jets should dust off the Super Bowl aspirations they put on display last offseason after completing a blockbuster trade with the Green Bay Packers for Rodgers. The four-time MVP, remember, arrived for his introductory news conference and immediately spoke of how lonely the single Super Bowl trophy in the team’s lobby looked.

Everything changed when he crumpled to the turf at MetLife Stadium on the Jets’ opening offensive series against the Buffalo Bills during the first Monday night game of the 2023 season, then was helped to the sideline and taken from the field on a cart. Rodgers turned 40 in December. He will be returning from a major injury. The Jets are coming off a 7-10 season that exposed not only how wrong they were to retain Zach Wilson as their Plan B at quarterback but also how many flaws they had on offense that even Rodgers’s presence might not have hidden.

Wilson didn’t play particularly well. But he also was plagued by having a bad offense around him. His leaky line allowed him to be sacked 46 times. His receivers mostly could not get open. Garrett Wilson somehow managed 95 catches for 1,042 yards. No other Jets wide receiver had more than 23 catches.

The addition of Williams changes the equation considerably. He was twice a 1,000-yard receiver over seven seasons with the Chargers. He averaged 15.6 yards per catch. He is a more-than-capable complement to Wilson, particularly if it’s Rodgers throwing the passes. He can be a downfield receiving threat that keeps the opposing defense honest.

General Manager Joe Douglas previously focused on bolstering the offensive line. He has added two tackles, trading for Morgan Moses and signing Tyron Smith as a free agent, and a guard, grabbing John Simpson in free agency. Smith was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time all-pro choice with the Dallas Cowboys. He has been one of the NFL’s top left tackles, but he has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. He came at a relatively modest cost; his one-year contract with the Jets guarantees him only $6.5 million but could be worth as much as $20 million.

There are no guarantees that Rodgers will be the player that he was. He returned to the practice field late last season but, with the Jets out of playoff contention, never got the opportunity to press the issue of whether he would be allowed to play. He must show that he still can be a difference-maker. And he must demonstrate that he can remain healthy and in the lineup.

The Jets granted Zach Wilson permission to seek a trade and have already replaced him by signing Tyrod Taylor, a reliable veteran who made five starts last season for the New York Giants. But this is all about Rodgers. It’s about what the Jets could be with him on the field. Their defense should remain formidable. If Rodgers and his improved supporting cast can make the offense functional, the Jets could be a playoff contender, at least.

Either way, whether they’re winning or losing, they certainly will be a spectacle. Rodgers publicly expressed his dismay last season with some of the turmoil that surrounded the Jets, citing leaks to the media that he said had no place in the culture of a winning team. He said at the end of the season that “the bulls— that has nothing to do with winning needs to get out of the building.”

Meanwhile, there is always something happening with him. Most recently, it was his reported candidacy to be the running mate of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. It didn’t happen. Kennedy reportedly is planning to select Bay Area attorney and investor Nicole Shanahan to run for vice president on his ticket. Rodgers apparently will be sticking with his current job.

Maybe things actually will go better in that job next season.

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