AFC East

How the Jets live without CJ Mosley…again

It was announced Saturday that Jets middle linebacker CJ Mosley will be joining the growing list of NFL players who will be opting out of the upcoming season. He’s the first player on the Jets to do so, but likely won’t be the last.

However, with Sam Darnold already saying he has no reason to opt-out, Mosley will certainly be the most impactful one.

After signing a 5-year, $85 million contract last offseason, Mosley played in just two games in 2019 — neither of them in its entirety. After starting Week 1, the Jets had a 16-0 lead on the Buffalo Bills in the second half. He had a pick-six, a fumble recovery and broke up a would-be touchdown late in the third quarter to keep the Bills off the board.

But on that pass breakup, Mosley hurt his groin. He had to miss the rest of the game and the Jets defense promptly fell apart, giving up 17 points to lose 17-16.

The injury kept him out for a couple of weeks but he returned for the Jets Week 7 matchup vs. the Patriots with high hopes. He played a bit but ultimately didn’t last, and that was the final time he stepped on the field in 2019.

There were hopes for 2020 that with a healthy Mosley the Jets defense, a unit that was already good without him in 2019 (it took them a few weeks to find their footing after his injury but they eventually turned into a top-10 unit in the league), could become one of the best in the NFL.

Then the Jets traded Jamal Admas to Seattle. The move had to be done, but it still weakens their defense.

Now that Mosley has opted out, the Jets have lost their two best defensive weapons for 2020. Bradley McDougald, who the Jets got back in the Adams deal, is the clear replacement at strong safety, but who will replace Mosley?

Fifth-year player Neville Hewitt, third-year player James Burgess and rookie Blake Cashman (now going into years six, four and two respectively) got most of the playing time last season and all three are still on the roster, but it’s very possible none of them are the starters Week 1.

The top option as of now is Avery Williamson, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but was very productive in 2018 as the starting middle linebacker.

Williamson was placed on the active PUP list a few days ago, but the hope is he will be ready to play this season.

The Jets also brought in Mosley’s former teammate Patrick Onwuasor who has played on-and-off with the Ravens over the past four seasons, starting 26 of the 43 games he’s played in.

If Williamson is healthy then he will probably be a lock to start Week 1, and Onwuasor will likely be grouped in with Hewitt, Burgess and Cashman, splitting time at the other inside linebacker spot.

Yes, the Jets spent most of last season without Mosley and Williamson so even getting just Williamson back is a plus. They even were good with the tandem of Hewitt, Burgess and Cashman at inside linebacker, so hopefully defensive coordinator Gregg Williams can survive without Mosley again.

The one big difference is he still had Jamal Adams to work with, one of the most dynamic defensive players in the league. Being a box safety, he was even able to help out in the territory usually dominated by the inside linebackers.

The Jets don’t have that this year. Bradley McDougald is good but he’s not a box safety like Adams. The “addition” of Mosley was supposed to help offset the loss of Adams, but that’s not the reality anymore.

They really need Williamson to return to his 2018 form if not better and someone from the second group of inside linebackers to step up if they want any chance to be successful.

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