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By: Geoff Magliocchetti
The Force is strong with the New York Jets thanks to a rush of offseason moves and arrivals from all sides of the gridiron galaxy
Will the AFC East be able to handle the firepower of the New York Jets‘ magnitude? Time will only tell.
With the hype of the NFL offseason taking a slight hiatus, sci-fi fans and more have celebrated another unofficial holiday after the draft, that of “Star Wars Day.”
Annually held on May 4 (a play on the oft-cited “May The Force be with you” mantra seen throughout the series), Star Wars Day pays tribute to the eponymous space opera franchise created by George Lucas, which is best known for its nine episodic theatrical films that make up the “Skywalker Saga.”
The series unconventionally began with the release of the fourth film, retroactively subtitled “A New Hope,” in 1977, which spawned two sequels in three-year intervals. A trio of prequels was released between 1999 and 2005 with sequels following about a decade later. Numerous spin-offs have likewise emerged, including two theatrical films and several television shows on the Disney+ streaming app.
Jet X previously compared Gang Green’s representatives to the Skywalker films in 2021, but much has changed in both Florham Park and a galaxy far, far away since then. In celebration, Jet X re-visits the new-look group’s episodic appeal.
The Phantom Menace: RB Breece Hall
One of the most cherished sequences of Episode I is the podracing sequence that shifts the fate of the galaxy: through dangerous, high-speed affairs, young Anakin Skywalker’s victory in the “Star Wars” version of NASCAR places him on a path to the Jedi, the Dark Side, and back again.
The Jets’ fortunes could likewise rely on speedy affairs, primarily through the antics of Hall. Sebulba himself would’ve had trouble keeping pace with Hall, the first running back chosen in the 2022 NFL Draft at 36th overall.
A four-game stretch in October hinted at Hall’s potential, producing 468 yards from scrimmage (fourth-best in the NFL in that span), a score in each game, and a perfect slate for the Jets. Much like the galaxy was never the same after Anakin left Tatooine, the Jets were never the same after Hall was forced to shut down early thanks to a knee injury, going 2-8 after his rookie season became one with The Force.
Attack of the Clones: WR Mecole Hardman
Though the duplicates would prove to be their undoing later, the Jedi Order’s antics at the Battle of Geonosis are assisted by the arrival of a massive army consisting of clones made in the image of famed Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett.
The Jets certainly hope there’s no Order 66-style caveat in the form of Hardman, who has partly been described as similarly skilled to Braxton Berrios.
Like the late Fett, who found himself on the wrong end of Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber, Berrios didn’t make it through the hype of his introduction. In his place comes Hardman, who has already established a bit of a victorious legacy for himself as the clones did through their adventures in the acclaimed animated legacy “The Clone Wars.”
Hardman has proven himself capable of anything Berrios was able to accomplish, but Hardman has done so on a championship level, having spent the first four years with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Revenge of the Sith: QB Zach Wilson
By keeping Wilson, once a New Hope, on board, the Jets have more or less channeled Windu, who infamously told an increasingly jaded Anakin that he was “on this (Jedi) Council” but unworthy of the rank of Master.
This offseason couldn’t have been easy for Wilson, who was forced to watch the search for his replacement make national headlines, but his promise to make the incoming Jets thrower’s “life a living hell” certainly sounds like something that would come from Star Wars’ users of the Dark Side, the earthly reference of a fiery underworld notwithstanding.
If the Jets, however, do form a gridiron empire in the vein of what the Galactic Republic becomes in Episode III, Wilson could be used as an apprentice to Rodgers, one “younger and more powerful” (how the evil Darth Sidious indirectly described Anakin) than what his usurper had in Jordan Love.
A New Hope: DL Quinnen Williams
The fun of the original “Star Wars” adventure has been partly offset by some of the more recent spin-off material: “Rogue One,” “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” and “Andor” confirm that the Empire was a formidable prescience long before the Death Star fired its superlaser for the first time.
New York definitely had its fun last season, but it was hard to find anything positive to say after Buffalo and Miami respectively ran away with playoff spots and the gridiron’s Emperor – Bill Belichick – continued to get the past of the Jets.
The maximum firepower of the AFC East is perfectly countered by Quinnen Williams, whose developed pass-rushing abilities in his fourth season rivaled that of the proton torpedo fire from Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing fighter that took the space station down. Rebellions are built on hope and that’s exactly what Williams has provided the Jets as they navigate through an AFC East populated by powerful weaponry.
The Empire Strikes Back: OLs Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker
The Rebel Alliance was riding high after their victory at the Battle of Yavin, but Episode V wasted little, if any, time in re-establishing just how dangerous the Empire could be. Forced into hiding on the icy world of Hoth, the Rebels take a beating when Imperial Walkers decimate their base, their agile snowspeeders being no match for the mechanical behemoths.
The Jets have a big opportunity to reinstall fear into opponents with monsters of their own, as Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker are set to put their helmets back on after dealing with injuries. Don’t be surprised if Becton, having missed nearly two full years after a respectable rookie season, channels Darth Vader’s destructive energy on display throughout the Empire’s revenge, to the point where he wasn’t above using the Dark Side to punish his own Imperial subordinates (something Jets defenders should perhaps be prepared for once Becton takes to the practice field at One Jets Drive this summer).
Return of the Jedi: Head Coach Robert Saleh/General Manager Joe Douglas
Following their defeats in “The Empire Strikes Back,” the Rebel Alliance embarks upon an all-out, all-or-nothing assault on a partially rebuilt Death Star stationed over the forest moon of Endor. Rebel leaders Mon Mothma and Admiral Gial Ackbar employ both a ground assault on Endor’s surface (led by Han Solo and Leia Organa) while an aerial attack paced by Lando Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon goes attacks the weapon head-on.
The Rebels’ do-or-die attack perhaps mirrors what Saleh and Douglas are working through: they’ve invested much in the 2023-24 campaign, one seen as vital to their respective metropolitan futures. If their transactional gambits don’t pay off, this year, in the words of General Lando himself, could become “the shortest offensive of all time.”
The Force Awakens: WR Garrett Wilson
New “Star Wars” adventures returned to theaters in 2015, as a galaxy far, far away was under new management thanks to the sale of Lucasfilm to The Walt Disney Company.
New characters, primarily the Jedi-sensitive heroine Rey, were made to follow in the footsteps of the Skywalkers and Solos, battling threats old and new three decades after the Original Trilogy ended.
With Episode VII having Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron take over for Leia, Luke, and Han, Wilson ran in the path paved by George Sauer, Wesley Walker, Al Toon, Wayne Chrebet, Keyshawn Johnson, and more by becoming the first homegrown Jets receiver in 15 years (Jericho Cotchery) to post a four-digit yardage season for the team.
The Last Jedi: QB Aaron Rodgers
In a story arc that proved polarizing amongst the Star Wars fanbase, Luke resurfaced in Episode VIII sporting graying facial hair and living in isolation following an agonizing personal failure, attempting to leave his powers of The Force behind.
The relative lack of darkness notwithstanding, that certainly sounds a lot like what Rodgers went through before making his decision to return for a 19th NFL season, which comes after a year that saw him post his worst statistical numbers as a full-time starter.
Both were drawn out of hiding for heroic efforts they simply couldn’t pass up: for Luke, it was a visit from the Force ghost of his late master Yoda. Nothing supernatural was required for Rodgers to emerge as the latest sign of passing hope for the Jets, though some might argue Joe Douglas used a Jedi mind trick on Green Bay Packers management for the relatively affordable trade sacrifice used to obtain his services.
The Rise of the Skywalker: The Pack Pack
Having fully embraced the heroic acts and legacy of the family that guided her through her journey with The Force, the Skywalker Saga ends with Rey adopting the eponymous moniker and preparing to lead a New Jedi Order through the use of a yellow lightsaber.
The Jets have likewise turned to yellow to push themselves forward, assembling enough former Packers to subject any Bears, Lions, or Vikings fan in the tri-state area to a great disturbance in The Force. Randall Cobb is but the latest, joining Rodgers along with fellow receivers Allen Lazard, Malik Taylor, and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Even Rodgers’ de facto passing Padawan Tim Boyle is along for the ride, set to compete with Zach Wilson for the primary backup job.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor