New York Jets Week 17 Observations

new york jets week 17
Credit: Last Word on Sports

We thought Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay would end the winter heartbreaks and soul-crushing fourth-quarter drives. It merely delayed the inevitable. In Week 17, the New York Jets fell to the NFC South-leading Buccaneers, 28-24. From promising rookies to glimpses at the deepest parts of the depth chart, let’s take a look at what went down.

Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson’s best day as a pro was overshadowed by the 4th down blunder late in the game, but it shouldn’t take away from his performance. Wilson, against a talented Tampa Bay defense, totaled 234 yards through the air and didn’t turn the ball over. He repeatedly threw receivers open, dazzled in tight windows, and showcased the twitchiness that got him to New York.

For the second week in a row, Wilson will be tasked with building on a strong performance. Using this final stretch as a springboard for 2022 will be paramount in his, and the team’s, development.

Running Backs

Michael Carter looked good in his few snaps, grabbing nine receiving yards and a 55-yard rush. He’d leave with a concussion soon after. If his rookie campaign is indeed over, he can sit tight knowing he’s locked up a significant role in the future of this offense. 

As for the rest of the backs, it was nice to see Austin Walter get a couple dozen snaps in. The production wasn’t impressive (14 carries, 49 yards) but the workload in relief was promising. Ty Johnson saw the rest of the carries and a decent amount of third-down work (three catches on four targets). Frankly, Johnson has disappointed since an intriguing start to the year. He has struggled to produce with any sort of consistency and could be deemed expendable this offseason.

Moreover, it’s time Nick Bawden sees some recognition. New York’s first real fullback since Tommy Bohanon, Bawden has excelled as a versatile blocker in his short stint.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Without Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Jamison Crowder, expectations were tempered for the receiving room heading into Sunday; and rightfully so.

Keelan Cole only caught two of five targets, despite Wilson’s impressive efforts. It was a step back from the better performances he’s showcased in 2021. Jeff Smith hauled in a singular 13-yard catch. Denzel Mims did not play in the loss.

Where the conversation turns, however, is with Braxton Berrios. An upcoming free agent, Berrios has emerged as a “must re-sign” candidate. His ability to contribute on special teams, on the ground, and through the air has made him the leading candidate for New York’s fourth wide receiver. A slow offseason could see Berrios start in the slot come 2022.

 In Week 17, Berrios was the only New York Jets receiver to make any sizeable impact. Between two carries and eight catches, he racked up 77 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson’s fourth-down sneak would rob him of a chance at a hat trick.

At tight end, Kenny Yeboah and Daniel Brown held down the fort. Wilson was successful in targeting the duo, posting a 100% completion percentage and 65 yards on a quartet of passes. Yeboah may have flashed enough to earn a depth spot next season, but it was a fairly uneventful day for the position group.

Offensive Line

The New York Jets offensive line had been dismantled by injuries well before Week 17. Surprisingly, they managed to put together a strong game against a very good Buccaneer front.

On the interior, Dan Feeney and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif outperformed expectations. Alijah Vera-Tucker continued his awesome rookie year, too. The three combined to play a major role in New York’s rushing attack. Tampa Bay’s interior defensive line had a uniquely quiet Sunday.

At tackle, George Fant exited early with a knee injury. His season is over, but like Carter, he’s played himself into 2022 plans for the Jets. His ability to play both tackle spots may become necessary when Mekhi Becton returns. Chuma Edoga would replace him on Sunday. Morgan Moses played well in the loss, though the tackles were outshined by their interior counterparts.

Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

It was a quiet day for New York’s defensive line, an unsurprising development given the talent the Buccaneers possess. Still, a few flash plays slipped through the cracks. Foley Fatukasi racked up two tackles for loss in what was one of the best games of his season. Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins had some disruptions, too, though they failed to find the stat sheet.

As a whole, the Jets held Tampa Bay to three yards per carry. Given the challenge in the trenches and their propensity to fold against any rushing attack, the defense’s performance against the run was very encouraging. 

Much like Week 15’s game against the Miami Dolphins, New York edge rushers were never going to have an impact on this game. And that’s okay! Brady getting the ball out quick is clockwork, so don’t be disappointed in the edge group’s lack of success. 

Ronald Blair III would replace Huff, another member of the Injured Reserve (IR) club. Playing 77% of the snaps, I felt he jumped off the screen a couple of times. For a guy whose first snaps of the season came in Week 10, he’s adjusted well.

Linebackers

C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams share many similarities. Being better against the run than the pass is one of them, and it sure looked like it against the Buccaneer’s talented crop of targets. Brady and company did a good job of attacking the middle of the field and putting the two in a bind on more than one occasion.

The other side of the coin, of course, was found in their run defense. Both consistently held down their assignments and played fast, downhill football to complement the front four.

Cornerbacks

Perhaps the most interesting position group from Sunday’s defeat was the cornerbacks. In Week 17, the New York Jets, for the first time all year, saw Bryce Hall play worse than Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II. That isn’t to say he was bad, but Mike Evans and Antonio Brown both had their fair share of wins against him.

Echols had another strong performance, intercepting Brady on a fade route to Evans. He had his best game since returning from injury in Week 14 and he rose to the occasion against possibly the best team on their schedule. 

On the inside Carter showcased an important part of his skillset, blitzing for New York’s only sack. He too had a pretty good day at the office. Of course, the entire defense got shredded in the game’s final minute, but Brady in the clutch is football’s version of divine intervention… maybe we should grant them a pass.

Safeties

The star of the show in the safety room this week was Jason Pinnock. The rookie corner started at safety and had his best game to date. He was quiet but effective. Most importantly, he epitomized Robert Saleh’s vision of an athletic, versatile defense. There’s a reason Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood were handpicked by the rookie head coach. Versatility will be a key for the future of this defense, and Saleh may have picked up his first true win in that regard.

Ashtyn Davis was out-snapped by Pinnock but wasn’t a detriment to the defense. Elsewhere, Elijah Riley played with a ton of energy, and though he was a step slow on the game-winning touchdown pass, he was quick physically and mentally throughout the contest.

Special Teams Units

It was smooth sailing for the New York Jets special teamers in Week 17. This might as well be another segment on Berrios. He’s been a sparkplug time and time again and averaged 27.5 yards per return. When teams intentionally kick around you, chances are you’re doing something right.

No major miscues elsewhere is a moral victory New York will gladly take. No missed extra points, no penalties-turned-to-missed field goals. There weren’t any poorly executed fakes, either! 

Outlook

Sunday may have played host to the most irrelevant soul-crushing loss in recent memory. To play so well only to fall apart at the end in such disastrous fashion was such a “same old Jets” moment. Ultimately, it was the most painful route to the best-case scenario. Wilson played well, as did many other young players, and they kept their pick safe within the top five, at least for now.

As for next week, they’ll head to Buffalo as heavy underdogs. It won’t mean much for their place in the standings, but a promising week could answer a lot of questions as they cross the finish line. For Saleh and his young coaching staff, these next four quarters could be monumental.

New York Jets Week 15 Observations

New York Jets Week 15
Photo Credit: http://www.miamidolphins.com

The holiday season is upon us, but there isn’t much cheer to be found across the New York football landscape. The New York Jets fell to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 31-24 in Week 15, piling on another loss in the franchise’s 11th consecutive lost season. The offense hasn’t put up more than ten points in the second half of a game since Week 10. The defense may be the worst in team history. Simply put, things can be better. Here’s how it went down on Sunday.

Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson has been the worst starting quarterback in football this season. His tendency to make the simple look complicated has stunted the offense time and time again. Thankfully, Week 15 saw the New York Jets rookie take some steps forward in this regard. He wasn’t outstanding by any means (13/23, 170 yards, 0 Passing TD, 0 INT), but the signs of progress were encouraging.

The impact of Mike White’s performance manifested itself in Wilson hitting the checkdown and short, first read much more frequently. He showcased the same instinctiveness we saw in college to avoid some sacks. Perhaps most importantly, he kept the ball out of harm’s way, outside of a lone lost fumble. The next step for Wilson is to successfully run the offense outside of scripted drives early in games. 

The Running Backs

Tevin Coleman’s experience in a Mike LaFleur-like offense showed up early in the season and continued in Miami. He did get more favorable blocking than Michael Carter, but made the most of his carries. His proper vision and footwork were on display and helped him accumulate 50 yards on the ground. 

Moving on, I’ve been a huge supporter of Carter during his rookie campaign. With that said, he did not play particularly well on Sunday. He found himself working horizontally for too long, failing to climb vertically before a defender brought him to the ground. He weirdly struggled to gain traction in the passing game, too.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Injuries to Corey Davis and Elijah Moore were always going to cripple this offense. Unfortunately, nobody truly stepped up to the plate at wide receiver. Jamison Crowder became the go-to option, garnering five catches on eight targets. Given the state of the depth chart and offense, he’d be the only pass-catcher to see more than three targets. 

Braxton Berrios looked good in his limited touches as he fights for a 2022 roster spot. On the other hand, Denzel Mims had another gloomy day. Wilson could not connect with Mims on any of his three targets. His weaknesses as a route runner continued to get exposed. That hurdle in the path to larger responsibilities may be the one that ultimately ends his Jets tenure. 

For what seems like the first time this season, I was impressed by the tight end group. Wilson completed each of his five targets to Ryan Griffin, Tyler Kroft, and Trevon Wesco. There were seized opportunities after the catch and no painstaking blunders reminiscent of past weeks. The run blocking wasn’t great, but the Jets will certainly accept that trade off the rest of the way.

The Offensive Line

It was a rough day at the office for New York Jets offensive linemen in Week 15. Conor McDermott was predictably bad in his first start of 2021. The rest of the unit wasn’t much better. Alijah Vera-Tucker and Connor McGovern both had high-variance play. The right side of the line consistently struggled in both phases of the offense.

Getting your young quarterback battered and failing to open up rush lanes are not exactly the keys to winning. Against a solid Dolphins defense, it was never going to be acceptable. It’s an area that will likely be addressed heavily once again this offseason. For now, New York is just hoping bad play up front doesn’t lead to bad habits for their young players in the backfield. 

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

We knew the New York pass rush was going to do little against Miami’s short passing game. One sack and four quarterback hits was probably all they were ever going to get. It was nice to see Bryce Huff back in action, even if it was in uneventful fashion. 

Once again, their front four looked woefully outmatched. The Jets have been trampled on the ground this season, from Cordarrelle Patterson to Damien Harris and now, Duke Johnson Jr. It is certainly more than just a defensive line issue, but everyone on the interior needs to step up. 

Sheldon Rankins was far and away the best lineman for the Jets on Sunday. On a line with as much talent as New York’s, it shouldn’t be necessary to highlight his performance, but here we are. It will be an interesting challenge for Douglas to improve the unit without spending significant assets. 

The Linebackers

The linebacking group coming into the year was questionable at best, and the rookies brought in to rejuvenate the unit had failed to make an impact. However, the emergence of Quincy Williams has been huge for this defense. Williams above all else is consistent, even with his faults. His motor showed up constantly across his 66 snaps. As he improves in coverage, the unit should become incredibly formidable. 

Furthermore, C.J. Mosley looked decent for the New York Jets in Week 15. I thought he had a solid day in coverage, especially given the weapons Miami has over the middle of the field. Unsurprisingly, he led the team in tackles, though he played a role in the Jets’ unrelenting struggles against the run.

The Cornerbacks

It is widely acknowledged that this unit has been the most pleasant surprise for New York. That was no different on Sunday, as they played like the team’s best position group. Brandin Echols headlined the unit, posting his best week in a couple of months. Headlined by a pick-six, the rookie was strong all day.

Bryce Hall was not perfect, but held his own. His strong day was likely helped by the absence of phenom Jaylen Waddle, though that shouldn’t take away from his prowess in coverage. Both he and Echols totalled three passes defended in the loss.

Michael Carter II played well on the inside, too. Of course, getting flattened by Tua Tagovailoa isn’t ideal, but the rookie had a strong day. If two of Echols, Hall, and Carter emerge as legitimate long-term starters, New York should be in a good spot. So far, that seems like a realistic possibility.

The Safeties

Much like the linebackers mentioned earlier, this was ultimately a mediocre day. Ashtyn Davis showed up early, catching one interception and almost hauling in another. His athleticism and playmaking skills are exciting, but his struggles with both processing and tackling are as surprising as they are bad for his future as a starter.

Elsewhere, Elijah Riley played well before his scary concussion. I don’t expect to see him back in action for 2021, but he’s more than secured his spot on the practice squad at the very least. Another depth option, Sharrod Neasman, filled in for Riley aptly. The unit was not exempt from the tackling woes that hurt the defense, but they did a fairly good job of holding up the back end.

The Special Teams Units

Outside of a bad punt by Braden Mann, the New York Jets special teams units looked pretty good in Week 15. Eddy Pineiro hit his chip shot field goal and each extra point. On the coverage side of things, the only punt return they surrendered went for five yards. Berrios continued his solid season as a return man. Nothing spectacular, but it was a very necessary step up from most of 2021.

The Outlook

The Jets get the privilege of taking part in a heavyweight matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. It’ll be an opportunity for a get-right game, and a chance for Wilson to have the same late-season streak that Sam Darnold went on in his rookie season. Of course, that will be made more difficult by the coronavirus outbreak in the locker room. 

If Wilson can continue to limit the turnovers and the special teams units play a clean game, there’s no reason why they cannot leave MetLife victorious on Sunday. Expect the run game to get back on track and the defense to take advantage of a bad Jaguars offense. Hopefully, New York can bring some cheer before hosting Tom Brady in Week 17.

New York Jets Week 10 Observations

new york jets week 10
Credit: The Jets Wire

They’ll never be able to take away the Mike White game from us. The relief appearance-turned-quarterback controversy finally closed its curtains, as the New York Jets were dismantled by the Buffalo Bills, 45-17, in Week 10. Calls for an encore will be non-existent as Zach Wilson returns to the stage hoping to bring life to a comatose roster. Here’s a quick look at how his supporting cast performed on Sunday.

Mike White

White’s luck ran dry about as quickly as it had magically appeared just two weeks ago. Against a stifling Buffalo defense, there were few mistakes to capitalize on. The easy checkdowns were muddied and White found himself consistently behind the sticks with his first read covered and pressure mounting. 

He struggled to retain any semblance of competence, throwing four ugly interceptions. New York struggled to move the ball and quickly played themselves out a more manageable deficit. Wilson’s return marks the end of White’s run, and while I can’t promise better quarterback play, it’s possible the rookie’s return will kick the Jets into gear.

The Running Backs

The offensive line (spoiler alert) was downright bad on Sunday. Thus, the rushing production from the group was not impressive. Still, I remain impressed with Michael Carter. He flashed the contact balance and agility that earned him his reps and looked good as a receiver, totaling four catches and 43 yards on six targets. Carter was rewarded with a late touchdown run.

As for the other backs, Tevin Coleman saw limited action, but was strong. Coleman ripped off a 15-yard run and was promising in his limited action as a returner and receiver. Ty Johnson, saw eight targets during his 25 offensive snaps. Johnson had some unfortunate drops, but it’s clear they see him as a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Hindered by White’s limitations, the receiving corps for the New York Jets in Week 10 had a poor outing. Corey Davis returned to his lead role and led the group with seven targets, five catches, and 93 yards. However, he still underperformed. Early season drops were written off, but the issue has followed him into the holiday season. Throw in a crippling fumble and it’s easier to see why more heads are turning to Elijah Moore as the answer.

Moore was not spectacular by any means on Sunday. Yet, his ability to run routes and make plays after the catch keeps him viable as the offense trudges along. His six targets are an inspiring number, reflecting Mike LaFleur’s relatively newfound urge to get him touches.

Moreover, Keelan Cole, Jamison Crowder, and Braxton Berrios failed to make any substantial contributions. At tight end, Ryan Griffin hauled in a 21-yard catch, but struggled to leave a mark on this beatdown.

The Offensive Line

Like last week’s primetime affair, the New York Jets were consistently outplayed in Week 10. That certainly does not stop with the trenches. On several occasions, Carter was pummeled in the backfield. Their collective inability to create rush lanes kept White in adversarial positions.

Their pass protection wasn’t much better. White was pressured on seemingly everything that wasn’t an immediate checkdown and was laid out on occasion. Even stud rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker wasn’t as incredible as he’s been in recent weeks. 

The stumble in performance can at least in part be pinned on Greg Van Roten. He was credited with three pressures and was bad in the run game too. Simply put, other options have to be explored. That starts with replacing him with newly-acquired Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

Perhaps the largest issue I have with the Robert Saleh administration is the binary of the team’s wins and losses. Against Tennessee and Cincinnati, New York came out energized and played 60 minutes of good football. Almost every single minute outside of those two games has been disastrous. 

One of the position groups that best exemplifies this is the defensive line. At times, Quinnen Williams is leading a talented unit to create consistent pressure. On the other hand, they’ve been gashed repeatedly by the run week in and week out. When their front four comes out flat, everything else seems to fall apart.

Amending this starts with playing your best players more, and your worst players less. The basis for Saleh’s defensive line rotations is logical, but Williams playing at such a high level only to see 60% of their snaps in a given week is quite the opposite. 

Anyhow, Williams looked good for his New York Jets in Week 10. John Franklin-Myers had his flashes, but virtually everyone else looked flat. Subsequently, Allen had all day to throw and Bills running backs combined for an effortless 98 yards and three scores.

The Linebackers

Earlier this year, I sang praise for C.J. Mosley as a key for this defense, similar to Dont’a Hightower in New England. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. He quarterbacked a defense that for all intents and purposes laid down and died. He struggled with the speed of Buffalo’s playmakers and was just as troubled in zone coverage as everyone else.

With that said, Jarrad Davis may have been worse. He had a handful of awful plays in coverage and did not redeem himself in run support. Quincy Williams and Del’Shawn Phillips looked good in their limited reps prior to this game, but failed to stand out. 

The Cornerbacks

Another questionable coaching decision was showcased at corner: the choice not to follow star receivers. Bryce Hall is the best cornerback on the roster. Buffalo simply deployed Diggs on the opposite side of the field, and he rightfully went off. Eight catches, 162 yards, and one touchdown later, it’s worth asking whether it was the best strategy.

Hall was beaten a few times in his own right by Gabriel Davis and Emmanuel Sanders in what was the group’s worst week in a while. Brandin Echols and Javelin Guidry were repeatedly torched by Diggs. This isn’t inherently awful; being isolated with a stud like Diggs is incredibly difficult. Still, getting dominated by high-level players may be emblematic of their future as depth pieces instead of starters.

Michael Carter II might have been the best corner to see the field for the New York Jets in Week 10. He defended a pass and recovered a fumble in the loss. Also, Isaiah Dunn (again) played well in his limited snaps.

The Safeties

Marcus Maye’s absence was most definitely notable. However, it has opened the door for one of the few bright spots of the blowout. Sharrod Neasman played on just 29% of the team’s defensive snaps, but certainly made an impact. He made a diving interception en route to racking up two tackles and a pass defended.

With relatively pedestrian play from the Jets’ safeties, and no long-term role for Jarrod Wilson, it would serve New York well to grant Neasman more playing time. It seems every time he steps on the field, he makes a positive impact. If anything, finding a long-term third safety could be a nice player to discover in a rebuilding season.

The Special Teams Units

Matt Ammendola was effective on Sunday, nailing a 48-yarder and two extra points. Braden Mann was similarly proficient in his punting duties.

The return game was intriguing, as Tevin Coleman looked awesome, but penalties marred an otherwise productive day. I doubt he pushes Berrios for punt return work, but I’d like to see the veteran retain his kick return duties.

Small sample size aside, the Jets’ punt coverage has to be better. For a team that is innately conducive to adversarial starting field positions, giving away free yards is a death sentence. 

The Outlook

You didn’t need to read this piece to know the New York Jets were beaten badly in Week 10. Of course, part of the story is that they are simply out-classed at virtually every spot. Still, the coaching concerns continue to arise in ways that stray from the standings.

The last team to hit an average scoring margin of -15, like New York currently has, was the 2009 (at the time St. Louis) Rams. Naturally, the regression to the mean is coming, and they likely won’t get boat raced by Houston or Miami, but losing this badly at such a rate is a concern for any rebuilding team.

The Jets get another crack at a divisional opponent next week when they face the Dolphins. For our sake, let’s hope it’s actually watchable.

New York Jets Week 8 Observations

New York Post Robert Sabo

“The Mike White Game” was a religious experience at MetLife Stadium, comparable in recent years only to the overtime coin-toss fiasco against the New England Patriots. The instantly memorable Week 8 contest saw the New York Jets beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-31. Home underdogs by 11.5 points, it took a complimentary performance, some lucky breaks, and one incredible first start to take down the now 5-3 Bengals. Let’s see just how it went down.

Mike White

White’s play was easily the story of Sunday’s game. He ran the offense well as he was consistently accurate and on schedule. White constantly took what the defense gave him, protected his receivers, and kept the ball out of harm’s way. Even his two interceptions hit teammates before falling into the hands of a defender. 

Totaling 405 yards and three touchdowns, White showcased the best-case scenario for a 3.6 air yard/attempt outing. If nothing else, he put on a clinic for Zach Wilson and how to get the ball out fast and keep the chains moving. White never lost control of the moment and retained his poise and accuracy under pressure.

Another benefit of White’s game was his level of comfort within the offense. This allowed Mike LaFleur to call his game from the booth. Nothing was drastically different schematically, but with the numbers the offense put up, I’d be surprised if they let LaFleur out yet.

The Running Backs

I’ve been hard on this group at times, but they showed out on Sunday. 

Michael Carter was the main beneficiary of the LaFleur game plan, catching nine of 14 targets for 95 yards. He also carried the rock 15 times for 77 yards and a score. Carter played 70% of New York’s offensive snaps and showed his ability to be the engine of the offense. His fantastic contact balance and agility extended plays time and time again. 

Subsequent to Carter’s brilliance, Ty Johnson saw a 29% snap share, his lowest of the season. However, he made the most of it. His four carries for 15 yards didn’t shift expectations, but he had one of his better receiving games of the season, garnering five catches and 71 yards on six targets. He was involved in both a spectacular tightrope exhibit for a touchdown and the game’s clinching penalty.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Corey Davis sitting out didn’t bode well against a strong Cincinnati defense, but the New York Jets wide receivers did their part in Week 8. Jamison Crowder was a machine after the catch, and outside of his lone fumble, was a frequent target of White’s. His eight catches were the most amongst New York wide receivers.

In Davis’ absence, Denzel Mims was on the field for a vast majority of the team’s snaps. He ultimately was only targeted three times per the box score, but an Elijah Moore holding call took a seemingly manufactured Mims touch off the board. He filled in well and even without awesome production, likely earned himself additional snaps in the future. 

Rookie Elijah Moore had an inspiring day, too. He was featured behind the line of scrimmage, much like his touchdown against New England. It’s a point of emphasis for this Jets offense to get the ball in Moore’s hands and let him make defenders miss. Unlike Week 7, however, Moore was effective as a receiver as well. He caught six of his targets and totaled 67 yards through the air.

Braxton Berrios and Keelan Cole split seven targets, but both looked good. Cole had himself a catch-of-the-year candidate before a slight movement of the football took his touchdown away. Berrios would respond by finishing the drive with a score in nearly the same exact spot.

As for the tight ends, it was another rather underwhelming week. Tyler Kroft outplayed (and outproduced) Ryan Griffin, but neither took any semblance of a quantum leap. 

The Offensive Line

For how bad they were as a unit in September, New York’s offensive line played spectacularly on Sunday. For the first time all season, they had quality performances from all five starting linemen. Surely, it played a significant role in the backs’ big games and keeping White (mostly) upright.

George Fant played well in his limited snaps before falling victim to an ankle injury. His replacement, Chuma Edoga, was not as stifling but performed better than previous weeks/years would suggest. Ideally, Fant starts on Thursday night, but Edoga’s play is encouraging at the very least.

Moving from left to right, Alijah Vera-Tucker had another quality outing. He’s continued to surprise since his awful start, exemplified by the development of him making exceptionally quick adjustments to adversarial situations instead of being mystified by simple stunts. His progression is critical to the long-term success of not only the unit but for the offense as a whole.

Connor McGovern had a solid game, and it seems the New York Jets have finally begun to mitigate their communication issues in Week 8. Perhaps what was more surprising was the play of Greg Van Roten, a Jet who I have repeatedly criticized. He had what could only be described as easily his best game as a member of this football team.

Interestingly enough, the Jets flipped tight end Daniel Brown for Laurent Duvernay-Tardif at the trade deadline. LDT, who struggled in his last starting stint, and hasn’t played since Super Bowl LIV, may give Van Roten a run for his money. I like the trade either way, but that competition will be interesting to watch unfold. 

Lastly, Morgan Moses continued what has been a pretty good first year in New York. Gifting Jets’ passers blindside protection has been vital. As a unit, they held up well in both phases of the game. 

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

It may not have been to the extent of the new folk-hero, but Shaq Lawson also had the game of his career, He made his presence felt without recoding a typical box score stat for a defensive lineman. Instead, he used his hands exceptionally well to tip Joe Burrow pass attempts. This culminated in the biggest defensive play of the game, an interception with just four-and-a-half minutes to go. 

Jabari Zuniga was the only real flash opposite Lawson. He proved his worth with a big forced fumble on an impressive sack. I’d like to see him stick on the roster the rest of the way and learn under Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich.

The interior pressure was much better than the edge unit on Sunday. Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins both came up big. Where I was more impressed was their play against the run. Previous weeks had shown the Jets’ front to be vulnerable, especially when their linebacker play was failing to help, but both did a really good job of playing the run between the tackles.

The biggest impact the interior defensive line had was early, in the collection of red-zone plays run in the first quarter. Without their victories here, the Bengals may have quickly moved on with the Jets.

The Linebackers

First of all, C.J. Mosley’s presence on this team cannot be overstated. He is easily their best linebacker and his pre-snap skills have a ripple effect across the defense. It’s no surprise that when he’s on the field, his fellow linebackers perform better.

Quincy Williams saw a sizeable drop in playing time, which was disappointing given his play. Considering the hopes the Jets had for Jarrad Davis, though, and it is not surprising that this unfolded how it had. Thankfully, both were adequate. Williams actually showed some nice reps in coverage and picked up his first (counted) sack of the year. If he keeps it up, he’ll have an argument to be their third linebacker in base packages next year.

It is also worth noting that Blake Cashman did not see the field after his abysmal showing in Foxborough. There were some high hopes amongst Jets faithful about the speedster, but it has failed to culminate on the gridiron thus far.

The Cornerbacks

Given the recent performances of Ja’Marr Chase, holding him to 32 yards was an impeccable showing from the cornerback room. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, and Michael Carter II all had individual moments of weakness, but they put together another very strong showing. 

They each did a fantastic job of forcing Burrow to either hit a check-down or make a heavily-contested throw. For a young unit, it likely helps that they are not forced to travel and constantly shift their responsibilities beyond their means. They may not have come up with an interception yet, but the unit’s play, in general, has been a wonderful surprise. 

The Safeties

There are few monumental takeaways from the current state of the safety room, but I think it acts as an interesting reflection on the coaching staff. 

Marcus Maye, amidst trade rumors, contract uncertainty, and a seemingly hopeless season, certainly could have mentally checked out. It likely would have shown up on film, but a lack of viable replacements would put the front office in a bind. 

Instead, Maye has continued to perform at a high level and quarterback the secondary. The hustle plays are still there and he is easily the best player in the safety room. Perhaps Saleh’s administration has done enough in this regard early on to keep everyone bought in. In Week 8 of a seemingly lost New York Jets season, it certainly wasn’t a guarantee.

Moreover, Ashtyn Davis did not have his best game as a Jet on Sunday. His tackling and angles were far from perfect, and it is clear he is still developing above the shoulders, much like New York’s cornerbacks. Still, it is encouraging to see him on the field for virtually every snap. He has the tools and the versatility to be a difference-maker, it is just a matter of development.

Sharrod Neasman has cemented his role as the team’s third safety. He too has still found the field, substituting in on lighter packages. His Week 4 flashes are enough for me to want the staff to keep an eye on him as a potential rotational contributor in the secondary long-term.

The Special Teams Units

Missing a field goal always dampens whatever blanket covers the special teams units, and it is clear Matt Ammendola has to be better. Yet, I’m curious whether Saleh’s 4th down conservativeness has put his kicker in adversarial situations. It may not have loomed large for the New York Jets in Week 8, but it is a bit of a troubling trend that could rear its ugly head once they find themselves in higher-stakes football games.

Otherwise, I have no complaints regarding New York’s special teams. Berrios was both responsible and effective in his returns. Their kickoff coverage was good, and their punter failed to see the field.

The Outlook

Week 8 played host to one of the craziest games the New York Jets have seen this century, to a point where quarterback controversy has almost been invited in. Of course, that can all disappear into the autumn air depending on the outcome of Thursday’s game.

Despite their loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts have played good football of late. If they fail to generate pressure, Carson Wentz can still do some legitimate damage, especially to a target as good as Michael Pittman Jr. Offensively, being down a starting quarterback and potentially quality players at left tackle and wide receiver isn’t going to make this primetime matchup much easier.

Game two of Mike LaFleur in the booth could prove to be the jolt this offense needed. If so, Wilson’s impending return should draw even more anticipation. Until then, it’s the Mike White Show, and it’s time to hit the road.

NFL Week 7 – 7 Up, 7 Down: Seventh Circle of Heaven?

Credit: USA Today

A somewhat dross and quaint NFL Week 7 is in the books. What were the hottest topics for those in the inner sanctum within the league? Who were the headliners that made waves in the seventh week of the season? The Weekly Power Rankings have arrived and the question is: who made it to the seventh circle of heaven?

Up

1. Non QBs throwing touchdowns!

– We had a pair of non-quarterbacks to get the scoring fiesta started on Sunday within minutes of each other. 

First up, was MVP contender Derrick Henry throwing a perfectly timed pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt (on national tight end day, no less!)

Next was Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne doing the honors. 

2. Throwback uniforms for GB and SF

Two iconic legacy franchises sporting high-caliber throwback duds. Enough said. 

San Francisco’s clean 1994 throwbacks

3. Local meteorologists in the Bay Area

Every dog gets its day or so they say. Well, viewers of the Sunday Night Football broadcast heard the words, “atmospheric river” and “bomb cyclone” enter the sporting lexicon. Strange times indeed as the Niners and Colts did battle in a seemingly endless torrential monsoon. There was a crazy sequence in the first half where both teams couldn’t hold onto the slick ball, trading turnovers like baseball cards (they still do that, right?)

4. Joe Burrow to Chase is pretty pretty pretty good

– Yeah, you got the prohibitive favorite for offensive rookie of the year award catching passes from a young gun with the dawg in him. It appears that the lethality of 2019 LSU Burrow to Chase carried over to Ohio’s Queen City. Not much more to say than Larry David probably approves of the young emerging duo. This could be a weekly thing in the article. Is this the remake of the 1998 Vikings with Randy Moss?

5. Dan Campbell’s bravado and passion

– Campbell’s Lions are fighting every single week despite the stacked odds against them. Most 0-7 teams would have caved long ago and dissolved into internal dissension. You can see the tangible chemistry and passion that his players play for him. It’s too bad that Jared Goff isn’t the answer for a moribund Lions franchise. Campbell is part of an increasing trend of coaches laying it all on the line and going for it despite the odds of failing to convert first downs. May the Lions get their first win soon. 

6. Kyler Murray’s MVP candidacy

– Murray has to be the favorite for the MVP award at this point in the season, leading the Cardinals to a 7-0 record against a tough schedule. It’s not like the Cardinals are loading up on wins against the patsies of the league, either. They’ve had to deal with tough COVID issues knocking out their head coach for a game along with multiple key pieces. He’s one of the more dynamic playmakers in the league alongside the terrifying Lamar Jackson. He’s making plays like this seemingly every drive

7. Marshawn and the Legendary ManningCast 

– The affable, jovial, and loquacious Marshawn Lynch joined Monday Night Football’s ManningCast and he did not disappoint. In related news, the FCC could be just as happy that their coffers will be filled by ESPN’s banking department for Lynch’s glorious expletive-filled appearance. The only downside was Peyton “apologizing” for the fun. We need more Marshawn on prime-time TV! 

DOWN

1. Sam Darnold isn’t the present nor the future

– He has turned into a pumpkin after a solid start to life in Charlotte and 2021 will likely be his last as a starter in this league. Darnold was benched for PJ Walker on Sunday and it isn’t like Walker lit it up either. Perhaps the damage done to Darnold in New York is too much for him to rebound from. Carolina took a gamble passing on multiple rookie passers with their first-round selection. It hasn’t worked out but that’s life. The Panthers were on the periphery of the Deshaun Watson chase but now are firmly on the list of top-tier contenders for his services after the past few weeks. 

2. Brian Flores and Matt Nagy’s job security

– The expectations for either man to keep his current job beyond this season have to be slim to none. Flores has been a fun quote machine during press conferences and his Dolphins are on life support in the AFC East. Fortunately, Miami has long been the rumored destination for one Deshaun Watson. Nagy on the other hand, is a dead man walking as the Bears look lifeless, their star rookie passer running for his life, and the coach mostly ambivalent about the whole affair. It’s over for the Nagy regime in the Windy City. Flores’ rear end is firmly planted on the hot seat if he can’t turn it around. 

3. New York teams 

– Both New York teams are a colossally terrible combined 3-10 through seven weeks of this season. The Jets have a plan in place to build something at least despite the horrific decision not to have a veteran backup quarterback throughout the offseason to guide a now hurt Zach Wilson. Robert Saleh might be regretting his decision to go for this job as his defense has been something awful. Meanwhile, the Giants are just bad and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic under the embattled Dave Gettleman. Granted, they’ve suffered a ton of injuries but Daniel Jones is looking more and more not the long-term answer. Joe Judge still has some cache so there’s that. 

4. Mike Evans and historical landmarks

– On a more light-hearted note, Mike Evans wasn’t cognizant of the implications of Tom Brady’s 600th touchdown pass and gave the ball to a now-infamous fan in the stands. That said fan was the subject of immense ridicule for giving the ball up for such little return. Evans had a hilarious reaction after the fact and a member of the Buccaneers staff had to go and negotiate for the return during the game for all to see. It all worked for everyone involved as the fan won out relatively decently, Evans scored a couple more, and Brady got to roast everyone on national TV. 

5. Chiefs D is still bad 

– Yeah, it was bad and Patrick Mahomes couldn’t bail them out on Sunday after the woebegone Titans defense held the Chiefs to a field goal. It felt like the Titans were actively trying to sit on the lead during the second half. A silver lining could be that the horrendous Kansas City defense held the Titans’ offense in check after allowing a 27-0 deficit? It’s still a long way to go but it’s increasingly looking like a massive Achilles’ heel for the franchise. 

6. Homecomings

– Not the most enthralling of contests between the two quarterbacks traded for another in Los Angeles. Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff weren’t at their best in this one. At least Dan Campbell made it entertaining with his panache and derring-do? A game that left a lot more meat on the bone, that’s for sure. Maybe next time?

7. Kyle Shanahan 

 – Are we sure that the boy wonder can evolve instead of being all hype? When opposing defenders are openly deriding your offensive philosophy, it’s time to question certain things. We all know Jimmy Garoppolo is injured and limited as a passer when healthy but at least Frank Reich adjusted to his passer’s strengths in the eternal monsoon. Shanahan will need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. Please get healthy, Trey Lance. I mean, the coach couldn’t figure out that this play was working exceedingly well for the opposition and couldn’t adopt the same tactics? 

Previous Editions

Week 1: Opening Overreactions

Wk 2: Perceptive Repeats

Week 3: So Nice, Do It Thrice

Wk 4: Good Quads Like Saquon

Week 5: Thrive at Five