The New York Jets completed a 4-13 record in 2021 and are looking to improve on head coach Robert Salah’s first season as they look to continue the rebuild. Last season’s schedule saw them be competitive in close games, going 4-5 in one-score games. However, the remaining 8 games saw them lose by double digits, leading to an up and down season.
However, injuries all over the roster to significant starters and key depth pieces hampered their efforts. A multitude of Achilles’ tears, sprains, and strains limited the true potential of the roster looking to win their first divisional game since 2019.
If the Jets can overcome some of the injury woes that plagued them last season and get some production out of those returning, then there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
2021 Notable Injuries
QB Zack Wilson (Right Knee PCL Sprain) Wilson sprained the PCL after a hard fall directly on his right knee after being tackled from behind in Week 7 against the Patriots.
He ended up missing four games due to the injury and returned with a hinged brace on his knee for extra stability. The PCL is the cousin to the ACL in that it prevents posterior translation of the tibia in relation to the femur. This means it prevents the lower leg from sliding backward and causing instability.
Fortunately, this ligament heals up relatively well without surgical intervention and should not have any lingering issues.
RB Michael Carter (High Ankle Sprain) Carter missed three games in late November and early December with what the team called a low-grade high ankle sprain. Despite the wording, he was still out the minimal number of games on IR before returning for the final four games of the season.
Interestingly, he had his best game of the season two weeks after returning, going off for 118 yards on 16 carries, but otherwise was rather ineffective. Due to the nature of his position, he is at risk for further high-ankle sprains with how linemen fall and catch guys from behind, but this is not an injury that should have any impact on his availability this season.
RB Tevin Coleman (Hamstring/Concussion) Coleman missed a total of five games last year with three coming as a result of a hamstring strain along with one game each for a concussion and illness. While the illness and concussion are of little concern other than the concussions being cumulative over time, the hamstring is something to watch early on.
The recurrence rate for hamstring strains is roughly 30 percent according to the research. Coleman has been around since 2015 but has only been able to play in all 16 games just once during his career. His past injury history is littered with a variety of injuries including a high ankle sprain in 2019 and a very significant knee sprain that cost him eight games in 2020.
With the Jets drafting another running back in Breece Hall, Coleman must find a way to stay on the field and fend off his competition. He has proven that he has the talent to be on the roster, but any sort of lingering injury could lead to lost opportunities for him in 2022.
OT Mekhi Becton (Right Knee Injury) Becton suffered a right knee MCL sprain, patellar dislocation along with cartilage damage which ultimately required surgery to repair. He suffered this injury in Week 1 last year and ultimately missed 16 games. While the MCL sprain is of no concern, the articular cartilage damage is considering that Becton is pushing past 350 lbs and at one point was 400 lbs.
There is a concern for arthritic changes as he gets older which could be accelerated by the prior injury, but the team is trying to mitigate that risk by moving him to the right side. This will give his right knee a break as he does not have to push off it as he keeps the defensive end from bending the edge. Moving to the other side of the line is somewhat concerning as he has to adjust all of his techniques which could affect his positional awareness, potentially leading to further injury.
Update: Despite all that was said earlier about his recovery and injury concerns, Becton’s 2022 season ended before it could begin. He suffered a right knee injury due to falling awkwardly at practice. Initial reports were positive and the team did not think he would miss much time.
Regrettably, he was found to have an avulsion fracture on his kneecap that will require surgery to repair along with a patellar realignment surgery. This is the result of where the patella continues to sublux or dislocate out of the groove that it articulates with on the distal femur as the knee moves. The avulsion part is where a portion of bone is ripped away via a ligament or tendon. In this case with the patellar avulsion fracture, it’s possible a portion of the medial patellofemoral ligament pulled a piece of the bone off, requiring surgical repair to re-establish the connection.
This most recent injury was similar to last season’s injury in that he did suffer a patellar dislocation but did not undergo surgery at the time as he was trying to return. Due to some residual instability within the knee, the patella was more likely to come out with knee movements that place stress on the patella, ultimately requiring surgery.
Unfortunately, this injury was still bad luck and sets back what could have been a bounce-back season.
Once he does return, research indicates that 77 percent of subjects undergoing this surgery return to sports. While Becton is expected to return to play in 2023, it remains to be seen how he will perform or if the injury bug strikes again. In the meantime, the Jets signed veteran OT Duane Brown to anchor the offensive line.
WR Corey Davis (Hip/Groin) Davis battled hip and groin injuries all last season, missing a total of eight games before ending the season on injured reserve. It’s not clear whether the hip injury was related to the later groin injuries, but typically core muscle injuries present as a different type of injury such as an adductor strain that simply does not get better.
He underwent core muscle repair after aggravating the injury in Week 13, missing the final five games of the season. Fortunately, core muscle repairs have excellent outcomes with over 90 percent of players returning to play with no notable drop off in play or career length affected.
C Conner McGovern (Knee Surgery) McGovern underwent surgery, missing the final two games on injured reserve for what was termed “clean up” surgeries. Considering how poor the season went for the Jets, it only made sense for the team to get a head start on getting key players healthy for the 2022 season.
OT Cameron Clark (Spinal Cord Injury) Clark, a fourth-round pick in 2020, was forced to medically retire due to a spinal cord injury suffered early in training camp last year. He was injured while participating in 11-on-11 drills when he went down, motionless for several minutes before being taken to the hospital for further evaluation.
The team originally designated him with a spinal cord contusion, but after further evaluation and spending the season on IR, he was forced to medically retire without ever having taken a snap. His health is far too important to play a game and risk further damage that could significantly impact the quality of his life.
OT Conor McDermott (Knee Injury) After suffering a knee injury in the preseason against the Green Bay Packers, McDermott was placed on IR to begin the season, ultimately missing nine games. He was able to return in Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins before being inactive for the following two games.
He did find his footing late in the season, starting three of the last five games, playing in every snap in the second Dolphins game and Bills game to end the season. He has been a bit player most of his career with the exception of 2020 in which he appeared in 15 games. He is possibly expected to start this season and could be a key contributor now that Mekhi Becton is out.
OT George Fant (Knee Surgery) Fant underwent knee surgery to end his season prematurely in Week 18 after missing the Week 15 contest against Miami and battling through the injury the following week. The specifics of the knee injury were not made public, but he did start on the PUP to begin the season for training camp. Thankfully, he was quickly removed several days in as they ramped up to padded practices.
Fant has been relatively durable throughout his career with the exception of a right ACL tear in the 2017 preseason that cost him the entire season. Locking down the right tackle position will only allow the offense to get the running game going and protect Zack Wilson.
DE Carl Lawson (Left Achilles tear) Lawson missed the entire 2021 season due to a left Achilles tear suffered early in training camp. He has had a full year to rehab, starting on the PUP list prior to this season but was quickly removed several days into camp.
He is reported to be lining up on the right side, asking his left leg to drive him forward on that first step and plant to bend around the edge. He will be able to perform these tasks, but how effective he will remain to be seen.
I expect him to be a step slower as the season begins, slowly showing flashes of his old self as the season progresses.
LB CJ Mosley (Hamstring, Shoulder, Back) Despite only missing one game, Mosley dealt with a multitude of issues throughout the season that significantly hampered his ability to perform at his highest level.
None of the injuries isolated are of major concern but cumulatively hold him back. These injuries came on the heels of a groin injury that cost him virtually all of 2020. If Mosley can get fully healthy, then he can help lead the Jets’ defense to a new level. But that’s a big if at this time.
LB Hamsah Nasirlideen (Knee Sprain) The young linebacker missed three games due to a knee injury that lacked specifics on the exact issue. While the knee injury alone was not a major one, this comes on the heels of a torn ACL in 2019 that limited him during most of 2020 as well.
It’s not clear whether this was the same injury, but any further damage to that repaired knee could become chronic, leading to long-term management.
LB Jamien Sherwood (Achilles Tear) Sherwood tore his Achilles in Week 7, sending him to IR for the remainder of the season, missing 10 games.
He was able to avoid the PUP list heading into camp but will still likely be working to regain his explosiveness and lateral mobility during the first half of the season.
CB Brandin Echols (Quad Strain) Echols suffered a quad injury that cost him three games, placing him on injured reserve midway through the season.
S Bryce Huff (Back Injury) Huff suffered a back injury in Week 7, missing the following seven games. There were not any specifics as to the exact injury, but there were also not any reports suggesting he required surgery in the off-season either.
He will be a name to watch for further injuries in case this is a chronic issue.
S Lamarrcus Joyner (Tricep Tear) Joyner suffered a torn triceps in Week 1 and was sent to IR, missing the remaining 16 games. Fortunately, there should be no lasting effects of the injury and there is little risk for re-injury.
S Ashtyn Davis (Foot Injury) Davis had a foot injury originally suffered in late 2020 that ultimately required surgery, specifics not known. This caused him to miss all of the 2021 offseason workouts.
He later spent all of the 2021 training camps on PUP before being activated late in training camp. Unfortunately, he appeared to have a setback with the foot that put him back on IR for the first three games of the season. Once he returned he appeared to have quite a good season which hopefully he can parlay into another good one in 2022.
P Braden Mann (Knee Sprain) Mann missed seven games due to a knee sprain suffered in Week 1, drastically affecting their ability to flip the field, going 2-5 in his absence.
G Laken Tomlinson– He is about as durable as someone can be, missing only one game since 2015. He did not appear on the injury report at all last year for the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 and could be a real difference maker for the Jets’ offensive line.
TE Tyler Conklin– Also an incredibly available player, Conklin has only missed 1 game in four seasons, the Week 1 matchup in 2019 due to a rib injury.
DE Jacob Martin– Coming from Houston, Martin continues the trend of healthy players, missing two games in 2019 due to a knee injury. He also missed two games in 2020 due to COVID, but was able to appear in all 17 games in 2021.
S Jordan Whitehead– Missing two total games due to hamstring and calf injuries, Whitehead is the most banged up of the bunch. Fortunately, he has appeared in at least 14 games the last three seasons and missed the minimal time when he does suffer an injury.
TE CJ Uzomah– Another prized free agent, Uzomah had a nice bounce-back season after tearing his Achilles in 2020, missing 14 games. He was able to return to play for the Bengals as they reached the Super Bowl, appearing in 16 games and playing through an MCL sprain in the loss.
CB DJ Reed– Another proven veteran signed by the Jets in the offseason, he tore his pectoral muscle in 2020 during offseason workouts. He was able to return after missing 6 games to start the season but was effective in his return. He did miss one game in 2021 due to a groin injury, but it did not appear to linger and he comes to New York rather healthy.
DT Solomon Thomas– The former first-round selection by the 49ers comes to the Jets after playing for Robert Saleh when he was their defensive coordinator. Thomas has been an overall disappointment during his time in the league, but that top-10 pedigree will at least get him some tryouts and second chances until he runs out of opportunities.
He did tear his ACL in 2020, missing 14 games but was able to return and play in all 17 games in 2021.
2022 Draft Picks
CB Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner– Other than a back injury that cost him a bowl game early in his collegiate career, Gardner has absolutely no injury concerns heading into his rookie year with the Jets.
WR Garrett Wilson– Suffering a concussion in November 2021, Wilson also has a minimal injury history that makes it much more likely that he does not miss extended time.
RB Breece Hall– The new potential bell cow back, Hall comes in with a pair of undisclosed injuries in 2018 and 2021 but managed to stay overall healthy during his time at Iowa State. He received over 700 touches, indicating that his durability should translate well to the NFL.
DE Jermaine Johnson– Missing only three games over five seasons, Johnson picked up a lot of minor injuries including a pair of ankle sprains and a shoulder sprain midway through his career.
While it’s not expected that they will avoid injury altogether, the minimal missed time despite the injuries bode well for his career in the NFL.
TE Jeremy Ruckert– Originally suffering a foot injury in February that was initially described as plantar fasciitis, it appears the injury was more severe as it lingered into being placed on the NFI list to start the season. He was activated on August 3, beginning his ramp-up process to begin the season.
OT Max Mitchell– Did not appear to miss a game in college, and has no notable injury concerns.
DE Michael Clemons– Other than a foot injury that was reported to require surgery in 2018, he used a medical redshirt to gain an extra year of eligibility. He was otherwise fairly durable during his time at Texas A&M.
We already highlighted that Becton missing the season due to his avulsion fracture in his kneecap really hurts the team as a whole protecting Zack Wilson. The other major concerns are not so much with specific players, but keeping current starters on the roster healthy.
If the starters do not and cannot stay healthy, there is no amount of depth in this world that can allow them to play at the top of their game. They changed the head athletic trainer out after the 2019 season, but have little to show for it at this time. Injuries will happen, but if they can avoid the season-ending variety or limit some of the soft tissue issues above, then they can actually have a chance to compete.
It’s also worth noting how several positions were severely beaten by injury or depth issues, most notably the secondary, linebackers, and offensive line. The front office is trying to shore things up by bringing both free agents and draft picks in with minimal injury histories, though that won’t completely eliminate the risk.
Gone are the days of taking a risk on a guy coming off an injury, trying to get him cheap, and hoping he can produce. They need to invest in health, maintaining consistency, and cycling out the players who aren’t available.
This is a 6-8 win team based on the players they are returning from injury and players they added in the draft and free agency. If things go wrong, 6-11 is very possible, but 8-9 and taking some AFC East divisional wins could easily be in the cards. If this team can avoid the season-ending variety of injuries that decimated their roster last year, they do have the talent to compete.
They are not quite there yet in their rebuild, but they should gain some respect within the division and conference in 2022.
Top Photo Credit: AP/Cleveland.com