Jets’ Joe Douglas better keep his Sam Darnold promise

Joe Douglas didn’t draft Sam Darnold. He inherited Darnold. And Darnold was a big reason — beyond the reported six-year, $18 million-plus contract — why Christopher Johnson was able to lure his highly respected GM 10 months ago to replace Mike Maccagnan.

Darnold is fortunate Douglas happens to be a former offensive lineman at Richmond, and a smart and tough disciple of former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Maccagnan drafted Darnold, but was negligent in providing him with the enforcers and bodyguards critical to his development and success.

“When I first met his parents, in the first preseason game,” Douglas said Wednesday on a conference call from his remote home bunker, “I promised that I was gonna do everything in my power to take care of Sam, with protection and playmakers.”

Keep your promise to your young franchise quarterback, Joe.

Your team will go as Sam Darnold goes.

“That’s our focus, is doing everything we can to help Sam succeed,” Douglas said, “and the one thing that we didn’t want, we just didn’t want a situation where Sam was just gonna have to be under fire all the time with protection issues.”

Darnold does not have a true No. 1 wide receiver, even after Douglas moved swiftly to sign Breshad Perriman to replace Robby Anderson. With the 11th pick in the draft, Douglas will have to weigh the value of whichever high-character offensive tackle is available for his new and improved culture against the first- or second-rated receiver. The good news is: This is a deep wide receiver class, and Douglas has four of the first 80 picks.

And if Sam is under fire, he won’t have enough time to throw to his wide receivers and tight ends and running backs, right Joe? The Jets allowed 52 sacks last season.

“I think there’s a real shortage of quality offensive linemen in the National Football League,” Douglas said, “and so we’re gonna try our best to get as many quality ones as we can, because you can never have too many.”

Douglas has signed a wave of cost-effective free agents, highlighted by center Connor McGovern and tackles George Fant. Guards Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis can play. Center Ryan Kalil was a Hail Mary whiff, but Joe knows offensive linemen. And Joe knows that the Jets’ offensive line ranked 31st in run blocking and 30th in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders.

“So we’re gonna try to keep it simple with guys that are smart, tough and versatile,” Douglas said. “We’re gonna keep addressing that moving forward, we’re gonna keep addressing playmakers moving forward.”

Rookie Browns GM Andrew Berry landed right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency for Baker Mayfield, and Berry is expected to draft one of the Core Four tackles as a bookend in the NFL draft. The Chargers, who could be drafting a quarterback with the sixth pick of the draft to supplant Tyrod Taylor, traded 32-year-old left tackle Russell Okung for 28-year-old Trai Turner and signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga in free agency.

The Bills bolstered their offensive line for Josh Allen a year ago. The Cardinals re-signed left tackle D. J. Humphries and are expected to draft a tackle with the eighth pick for Kyler Murray after stealing DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans. Dave Gettleman will try again to protect Daniel Jones.

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Douglas was the vice president of player personnel on the night the Eagles traded up from No. 25 to 22 last April for Andre Dillard — considered by many the best tackle in the draft but who struggled as a rookie. Perhaps Douglas made a promise to Carson Wentz’s parents.

“Quarterback’s one of the most important positions in all professional sports,” Douglas said afterward, “and protecting the quarterback is one of the biggest priorities, and I think that we have some guys that are gonna be able to compete and do that.”

Do not forget what Douglas said days after he was hired by the Jets:

“Building around a young quarterback, there was a sense of urgency in Philadelphia, knowing that we had a young quarterback and we want to put the pieces around him. And I think there’s going to be that same urgency anywhere, but especially here with a young quarterback like Sam.”

Keep your promise, Joe.

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