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New York Jets' 2021 offseason plan: 'D' is for defense -- and demolition

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Stephen A.: Lawrence should 'pull an Eli Manning' if Jets receive top pick (2:14)

If the Jets receive the first selection in the 2021 NFL draft, Stephen A. Smith says Trevor Lawrence should either return to Clemson or refuse to play for the franchise. (2:14)

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Starting over: After focusing on the offense last offseason, general manager Joe Douglas will shift his attention to the defense in 2021. Translation: You will barely recognize the lineup next season.

The Jets could have as many as seven new starters by the time Douglas gets done cleaning house and restocking via free agency and the draft. It won't take a lot of brainpower to strip it down, considering seven of the top nine snap leaders are heading to free agency -- safeties Marcus Maye and Bradley McDougald; cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Brian Poole; and linebackers Tarell Basham, Jordan Jenkins and Neville Hewitt. Defensive lineman Henry Anderson isn't a free agent, but his large salary-cap charge ($9.5 million) makes him a likely casualty.

Of this group, Maye is the only A-list free agent.

The Jets have a league-low $37 million on defense committed to the 2021 salary cap, according to Over The Cap, which says everything about the talent level. It's no wonder they're 27th in yards allowed. It's no wonder they can't make a clutch stop. In the second half of one-possession games (we're talking about only three games), the defense has allowed points in 10 out of 12 drives -- and one of the "stops" was a missed field goal. It's not a coaching thing; it's a talent thing.

Let's be real: The Jets have one building block on defense -- tackle Quinnen Williams, which is why they never thought about trading him at the deadline. Nose tackle Foley Fatukasi, cornerback Blessuan Austin and rookie safety Ashtyn Davis can develop into solid starters, but we don't know yet. Linebacker C.J. Mosley will be back after his opt-out season. But can he return to his old form after missing nearly two full years?

Douglas has a ton of work to do, but it's not a great free-agent class. Edge rushers Matt Judon (Baltimore Ravens), Bud Dupree (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Shaquil Barrett (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) likely will be on the market after one year on franchise tags, but they will be in the 28-29 age category, around the time when players typically start the downside of their careers.

For defensive-needy teams, the 2021 NFL draft is thin at the top, as only two of the top 11 players on Mel Kiper's Big Board play defense -- Penn State edge rusher Micah Parsons (No. 4) and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II (No. 9). The Jets could be in the quarterback market with that first selection, which means Douglas will have to find defense with his eight other picks. Don't be surprised if he has a Carolina Panthers-like draft (2020) -- maybe not all defense, but something close.

2. Desir needs an 'e': Speaking of the defense, it's worth noting that Desir was benched for the final three minutes Monday night after allowing a 31-yard completion to New England Patriots wide receiver Damiere Byrd -- a play in which Desir seemed to lack ... well, desire. He half-heartedly gave chase across the field, resulting in a seat on the bench. Rookie Bryce Hall finished the drive at cornerback and played the entire final drive.

And to think, Desir was the Jets' top free-agent signing on defense. Stop signing former Indianapolis Colts cornerbacks! (See: Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston, both released.)

3. Old spy stories: The recent stories about security cameras in the locker room triggered thoughts about a bygone era of surveillance.

In the Jets' previous facility at Hofstra University on Long Island, where they trained until 2008, the wall clock in the locker room contained a tiny camera that was hidden above the "12," according to two ex-Jets from the 1990s.

Talk about high noon.

One player said the camera was the size of a "pin hole," adding he once walked by an office in the building and saw the camera "in action." The camera was supposed to be secret, but it became a running joke among the players.

4. Shouldering a lot: Quarterback Sam Darnold has always put the team above himself. You're talking about a guy who was willing to play last season with an enlarged spleen as he recovered from mononucleosis. Now, as he recovers from another shoulder injury, he needs to look out for No. 1. The Jets' season is shot, and what matters most is his long-term future.

Darnold said his goal is to "heal all the way, so I can finish out the season strong." He shouldn't rush back. What's the point? Perhaps it was an inflection point nine days ago when he pulled himself out of practice after only a few throws. That caused surprise and worry within the organization. As a result, he didn't play Monday night, his third missed game.

This could become a slippery slope. The organization wants him to play and play well, in part because it would enhance his trade value. Darnold wants to play because he's a competitor, and perhaps because he is concerned about the growing perception that he lacks durability. But he also needs to be smart about it; his livelihood hinges on that throwing shoulder. Fortunately, he is consulting with a lot of people, including outside doctors.

5. 'Big Ticket' perspective: Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton shows a lot of promise, but he hasn't reached the point where, to borrow an old Al Davis expression, he tilts the field. Consider:

When Becton is in the lineup, the Jets average 4.1 yards per rush -- 492 yards on 119 carries, including Darnold's 46-yard scramble against the Denver Broncos. (It would be 3.8 without the scramble.)

With other players at left tackle, the Jets average 4.3 per rush -- 398 yards on 93 carries.

Maybe the numbers would increase if they run to Becton's side more often. They average 5.1 yards when they run outside the left tackle (all games), as compared to 4.1 outside the right tackle, per ESPN Stats & Information.

6. Fighting COVID-19: Until Thursday, the Jets were one of five teams that had not placed a single player on the COVID-19 list during the regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. But then tight end Ross Travis, activated from the practice squad for the Monday night game, landed on the list. Even though it's the bye week, the players still are being tested on a daily basis, per league protocol.

The Jets had two players on the list in training camp -- every team has had at least one since then -- but, for the most part, Jets players and staff have done a commendable job of following protocols and keeping the virus away.

7. Young guns: The Jets return from the bye to face the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins, which means they will see rookie quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa -- both thriving with their respective teams. Not a great look for the Jets.

8. No quit in BP: Former Jets running back Bilal Powell, 32, has been out of football this year, but he still hopes to play. He just signed a marketing deal with New York-based Vayner Sports.

9. Did you know? Currently, the Jets are ranked 32nd in total offense, which is where they've been in 16 of the 26 regular-season weeks under coach Adam Gase (includes the 2019 bye week). They've never been higher than 30th, which is hard to fathom.

10. The last word: "Hopefully, a lot of these young guys are going to be able to look back at this, no matter what our record ends up being, and in some way feel like this situation hardened them and molded them into the player that they want to become." -- quarterback Joe Flacco, 35, who has experienced a Super Bowl championship with the Ravens and 0-9 with the Jets.