Are Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets Ready for Takeoff?

Jets Get A QB-Plus

The offseason saga between Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets culminated during draft week when the Packers and Jets reached terms to send the multiple-time MVP to New York. The Jets didn’t stop there. They also brought in Rodgers’ compatriots from Green Bay – OC Nathaniel Hackett and receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. After the Jets’ quarterbacks were among the worst in the league in 2022, Rodgers is a massive upgrade. Is the future hall-of-famer enough to make the Jets’ offense soar?

The Jets started off 2022 looking like one of the NFL’s best young teams. They were 6-3 in their first nine games. The defense did their job, finishing no. 5 on the season in Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA. Second-round rookie running back Breece Hall was starting to flash some explosive play-making ability. Just as he started to roll, however, he tore his ACL and the rest of his season was gone. A supposedly improved offensive line also sustained numerous injuries. Quarterback Zach Wilson showed he may not be an NFL starter going forward. Teammates grew impatient with his play. As a result, an offensive unit that was set to achieve takeoff, was grounded. The Jets went 1-7 in their final eight games, ending the season 7-10 and last in AFC East.

Enter Rodgers, an aging QB who was performing at MVP levels up until last season. He took a noticeable step back last year without Davante Adams, his preferred target for the previous seven seasons. It became increasingly clear Rodgers and the Packers’ front office were reaching the end of the road with one another. Rodgers gets a fresh start in New York and the Jets’ front office have brought in some of his favorite teammates. So far, the vibes seem positive. Let’s look at the other pieces they have put in place on offense and determine if the Jets are ready to resume their ascent.


The Jets got rid of Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur after last season and replaced him with Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett garnered poor reviews as the Broncos’ Head Coach, and was fired after fifteen games. He started out calling plays in Denver, but then handed that duty off after just a few games. The Broncos were the worst-scoring offense (16.9 points per game) in the NFL last season, and 29th in Offensive DVOA. Russell Wilson struggled under Hackett, too. His performance, which started to wane in Seattle the previous season, reached a new low. His QBR was 36.9 (no. 27) in Denver last season, by far the worst of his career.

Before the head coaching job in Denver, Hackett helped facilitate Rodgers’ two MVP seasons (2020 and 2021). During Hackett’s first season (2019) with the Pack, the offense was eighth in Offensive DVOA. The following two seasons (Rodgers’ MVP years), the offense was no. 1 and then no. 2 in Offensive DVOA. We know Aaron Rodgers wants to be involved in shaping this Jets’ offense. What we don’t know is if that is enough without Matt LaFleur, who called the plays in Green Bay. Hackett will have to become focused and proficient as a play-caller or hand those duties off to someone competent.

The Weapons

Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is one of the bright young stars in the NFL. He made an immediate impact in his 2022 rookie season, racking up 1103 receiving yards. With consistent quarterback play, it would have been a far more productive season. When Joe Flacco and Mike White were throwing him the ball, Wilson averaged 11.4 targets, 72.8 receiving yards and had two two-touchdown games. With Zach Wilson, he averaged seven targets, 43.6 yards and did not score (Chris Streveler came in for the second half of one game). The quarterback play, overall, was poor. Wilson caught only 56.4-percent of passes thrown to him due to an abysmal 63.9-percent (no. 92) Catchable Target Rate. Now he will be WR1 for a precision-accurate QB who likes to lock onto his favorite target. A monstrous breakout year for Wilson seems inevitable.

It sounds crazy, but Wilson could return value even though he is being drafted in the first round of Underdog Drafts. There are eight receivers going in the first round on Underdog. In this offense – with Rodgers throwing him passes – Wilson could easily land in the top-six at his position. The sense is that Rodgers builds rapport with his receivers at a glacial pace, but as soon as Christian Watson started playing a majority of the snaps last season, he was earning his fair share of targets in the Packers’ offense. And he was far more productive on those targets than both Lazard and Cobb were on theirs. Wilson is a more polished receiver than Watson, and head and shoulders above the rest of the receiver room in New York. With Rodgers, Wilson’s floor and ceiling are both sky-high.

Some Familiar Targets

After Elijah Moore was traded to the Browns, the Jets restocked the receiver room with Lazard and Cobb, Rodgers’ long-time cohorts in Green Bay. The Jets also signed Mecole Hardman in free agency and, at least up until now, retain Corey Davis. None of those secondary receiving options are particularly inspiring, but having a single Alpha along with a mediocre supporting cast seemed to work in Green Bay. Remember Rodgers – with Adams, Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, et al. – was the MVP two straight seasons and those Packers’ offenses were tops in the league in DVOA. Garrett Wilson is a competent stand-in for Adams, and more electric.

The problem will be finding another productive option in this offense. The list of fantasy assets to acquire from this Jets’ offense in 2023 starts and ends with Wilson. Lazard and Cobb have not produced at meaningful levels, even with opportunity in front of them. Cobb was one of Rodgers’ favorite targets in the distant past, but he has not finished better than WR50 in fantasy PPG since 2016. Lazard ran, by far, the most routes of the Packers’ receivers last season, but failed to outdo Christian Watson in fantasy production. Lazard ran 89.3-percent (no. 28) of the routes and finished as WR34 with 11.65 PPG. Watson was WR32 with 11.72 PPG while running just 56.9-percent (no. 90) of routes.

Breece Hall

The Jets invested an early second round pick (2.04) on Breece Hall in 2022. He played behind Michael Carter for two games. Then in the next four games when he took over a majority of the snaps and touches, he averaged 122 yards from scrimmage and had three touchdowns. He also had four carries for 72 yards and a TD in week seven before going out for the season with a torn ACL and meniscus. He is one of the great emerging stars in the NFL. The only drawback is that he will start the 2023 season recovering from injury.

It would be wise for fantasy gamers to exercise caution when drafting Hall in the 2023 season. He was injured in week seven (October 23) of the 2022 season. Early reports out of Jets’ camp are that he will be ready for the start of the season, but it is likely his full range of motion will not return until later, if at all, this season.

Backfield Depth

The Jets do have competent backfield depth behind Hall with third-year back Carter and second-year back Zonovan Knight, who filled in and took a decent-sized workload from week 12 on last season. New York also drafted Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round of this year’s draft. With a 4.50 40-time, and a 133.7 (97th-percentile) Burst Score, Abanikanda’s Athleticism Score is no. 1 in the 2023 class at the RB position. He, along with Knight and Carter, will fill in in spot duty while Hall gets back to health. The problem is figuring out which one to draft. The whole situation will be confounded once Hall returns, which may be in the first few weeks of the season. The Jets’ backup RBs are very acquirable – available in round 17 of Underdog drafts. Ibanikanda and Knight are worthy dart throws, but fantasy gamers should temper expectations.

Offensive Line

The Jets’ offensive line struggled last season. They were ranked dead last in Football Outsiders’ offensive line rankings – no. 32 in Adjusted Line Yards, no. 30 in Stuffed Run Rank and no. 24 in Power. They did better in pass protection, with a 7.0-percent Adjusted Sack Rate (no. 15). The unit experienced significant attrition during the season – six different offensive tackles spent time on injured reserve, per Zack Rosenblatt of The Athletic. Right tackle Mekhi Becton spent the year on injured reserve. He has played only one game since his 2020 rookie year due to injury. Left tackle Duane Brown missed six weeks, including the first five games of the season. Right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker also missed time.

The Jets will bring those three back as starters in the 2023 season, and hope they can stay on the field. They also drafted Max Mitchell in the fourth round in 2022, as well as Carter Warren in the fourth round and center Joe Tippmann in the second round this year. Billy Turner was signed from free agency in May. It remains to be seen if the line can get healthy and get quality reps out of the depth additions. Rodgers is accustomed to a high-performing offensive line in Green Bay. The Jets are hoping to get the same out of this pieced-together unit.

Ready for Takeoff?

Hopes are high for Jets fans going into 2023. It makes sense after such shaky QB play last season and now landing Rodgers. The question is whether they have enough firepower to compete in their division, let alone make the playoffs. They acquired two electric talents in Hall and Wilson in last year’s draft. The organization has done little else, however, to stock the offense with potent weaponry.

In the recent NFL Draft, the Jets opted to fill holes on the offensive line and add defensive pieces. It looks like they are going to continue to double down on what was a standout defense a year ago and rely on Rodgers and a middling cadre of pass-catchers (outside of Wilson). Even if Rodgers can rebound from his dip last season, it is unlikely the Jets have enough to keep up with the high-flying offenses in the AFC. A lot will have to fall into place for them to meet their goal of making the playoffs.