The Dirty Dozen: New York Jets Are the Youngest Team in the NFL With 12 Rookies and at Least 8 Will Get Major Run

The New York Jets were one of the worst teams in football in 2020. In fact, since the team won the Super Bowl in 1968, the New Jersey-based franchise has only made the playoffs 13 times in the ensuing 52 years. The Jets are now undertaking yet another rebuild and are now the youngest team in the entire NFL. Their roster includes a dozen rookies, but there is one who matters more than all the rest in the Jets’ quest to climb out of the NFL’s basement.

The New York Jets are rebuilding with the youngest team in the NFL

New York Jets rookies, Cornerback Brandin Echols and Quarterback Zach Wilson are pictured during New York Jets Training Camp on August 11, 2021 at the Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, NJ.
NY Jets rookies Brandin Echols and Zach Wilson | Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire

Since the New York Jets last made the NFL Playoffs (in 2010), the franchise is 59-101. A record like that means one thing: It’s time for a massive rebuild.

Back from his sojourn as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, owner Woody Johnson took control of the team back from his son Christopher in early 2021, per NorthJersey.com. Now he, along with third-year general manager Joe Douglas and first-year head coach Robert Saleh, are undertaking a long-overdue resurrection project.

Gone are expensive veterans like Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell. In their place are some of the incredible 19 draft picks the team has selected in the last two NFL Drafts.

Now, the Jets have 25 of the 53 players on the current roster that weren’t on last season’s 2-14 embarrassment, per ESPN. They are the youngest team in the league with an average age of 25.1 years, just edging out the also rebuilding Detroit Lions (25.2 years).

The way the Jets got here is by keeping 12 rookies on their 53-man roster.

The Jets have 12 rookies, and at least eight should get significant playing time this season

The Jets made 10 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, and all 10 made the Week 1 roster. These players are:

  • QB Zach Wilson (No. 2 overall, BYU)
  • OL Alijah Vera-Tucker (N0. 14, USC)
  • WR Elijah Moore (No. 34, Ole Miss)
  • RB Michael Carter (No. 107, UNC)
  • LB Jamien Sherwood (No. 146, Auburn)
  • CB Michael Carter II (No. 154, Duke)
  • CB Jason Pinnock (No. 175, Pitt)
  • LB Hamsah Nasirildeen (No. 186, FSU)
  • CB Brandin Echols (No. 200, Kentucky)
  • DT Jonathan Marshall (No. 207, Arkansas) 

Additionally, New York added undrafted corner Isaiah Dunn from Oregon State and first-year NFL kicker Matt Ammendola from Oklahoma State. 

Eight of these players will likely figure prominently in the Jets season. On offense, Wilson, Vera-Tucker, and Moore are all huge figures. Carter will get run in a RB rotation with Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perrine, and Tevin Coleman, as well. 

On the defensive side, Echols and Carter II will both play big minutes, and Sherwood will start at one of the linebacker spots. The eighth rookie is Ammendola, the only placekicker on the Jets’ roster. 

The only rookie who truly matters is Zach Wilson 

The new faces in the secondary and the Vera-Tucker and Moore will all be important to the Jets in 2021 and beyond. However, there is truly only one rookie who will almost single-handedly determine the franchise’s long-term future, and that is Zach Wilson.

Any NFL fan knows that the quarterback largely determines an organization’s fate. When a team invests the No. 2 pick on a passer, that player’s success or failure will mean the difference between a team that finally gets back to the playoffs or one that has to rebuild once again a few years from now.

Wilson is that player. The QB put up impressive numbers during his time at BYU but did so against less-than-stellar competition. In his last year in school, he only faced two teams ranked in the Top 25: Coastal Carolina and Boise State. His Cougars lost to the former and beat the latter 51-17.

Wilson had a productive and impressive preseason. In limited action, he put up the best passer rating in the NFL at 137.7.

It would be incredible for the Jets if the young QB can carry that into the regular season. A top NFL signal-caller paired with the youngest team in the league could make Gang Green a contender for years to come.

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