New York Jets: Grading Week 4’s win vs. Tennessee

The New York Jets got back in the win column for the first time in 271 days on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

New York Jets 27 (1-3)

Top Offensive Performer: QB Zach Wilson (21-of-34, 297 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Top Defensive Performer: DL John Franklin-Myers (4 tackles, 3 QB hits, 2 TFL, 1 sack)
Top Specialist: Ret. Braxton Berrios (3 total returns, 56 yards)
Up Next: Sunday vs. Atlanta (@ London) (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network)

Tennessee Titans 24 (2-2)

Top Offensive Performer: RB Derrick Henry (33 carries, 157 yards, 1 TD)
Top Defensive Performer: LB Harold Landry III (7 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Top Specialist: K Randy Bullock (3-of-4 FG, long 46)
Up Next: Sunday @ Jacksonville (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Offense: B+

The stage was set for the Jets’ offense to sink to its traditional depths: they were unable to gain traction in the run game, Zach Wilson was forced into another interception blemish when Corey Davis was swallowed up by the MetLife Stadium turf, and they faced an early two-possession deficit. On their first 10 plays, the Jets mustered a mere 15 yards.

But enough can’t be said about the Jets’ offensive resiliency on Sunday, which helped permanently changed the course of the game on a crucial third down conversion where he found Corey Davis to wipe out a ten-yard obstacle. The Jets finally earned a first half touchdown eight plays later when Michael Carter earned his original NFL score from a yard out. Strong defensive efforts have kept the Jets in games throughout the season. On Sunday, the offense finally rewarded those efforts.

Wilson’s resilience was particularly inspiring, especially considering the depths his infantile NFL career has forced him into over the first three weeks. His adaptation to the Tennessee pressure showcased the rebirth of his ability to roll out and throw on the run, which was prominent in Provo but left somewhat forgotten after a stagnant preseason in the pocket. After the interception that came via a Davis error, Wilson completed 19-of-29 passes for 291 yards and two scores, good for a 121.5 passer rating in the later stages of the afternoon.

“You get a little ball rolling, you get a little bit of confidence, and it starts to snowball,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson, per notes from the Jets. “He showed everything that we see in practice we see it all and the kid was outstanding.”

In an addition to the resiliency factor, Davis recovered from two early mistakes (the fallen route and a self-recovered fumble) to showcase the deep ball, big play skills that led the Jets to bestow him an expensive contract last spring. The Jets also immediately benefitted from the return of Jamison Crowder, who helped open more opportunities for Davis and became Wilson’s top option in the second half (6 receptions, 58 yards, including the score and an 11-yard red zone output that set up the eventual winning field goal in overtime). Despite the problems in generating ground traction (Carter, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman united for 58 yards on 20 carries), the offensive line allowed only one sack of Wilson.

The unit still has plenty to work on: if there was anything to be upset about, Saleh seemed to be a bit miffed by the fact the Jets weren’t able to immediately finish the game via touchdown in the extra session. But Sunday marked one of the Jets’ most complete offensive efforts in a long time. Now comes the hard part: building on this momentum so Wilson’s big play antics become routine.

Defense: A-

The Jets’ garish opening efforts on the scoreboard masked some valiant work from a defense that played the hands it has been dealt very well. Such endeavors were finally recognized against the Titans.

Week 4 should’ve gotten out of hand after the Jets’ horrifying first ten plays: an opening three-and-out allowed Tennessee to start at its own 43. The aforementioned interception, landing in the hands of Kristian Fulton, situated them only 32 yards away from six points. For all intents and purposes, the game should’ve been over then and there.

But the defense once again kept the Jets in the game, primarily through a pass rush that looks absolutely spectacular considering Carl Lawson’s noticeable season-long absence. Gang Green’s defense took down Ryan Tannehill seven times on Sunday, their best output since a November 2017 prime time game against Buffalo. The John Franklin-Myers Pro Bowl campaign began in earnest on Sunday as he spent almost as much time in the Titans’ backfield as Derrick Henry.

Though it comes with the asterisk of missing out on the A.J. Brown/Julio Jones experience, the Jets’ makeshift secondary continued to work wonders. Cornerback Bryce Hall handled both his blitz and coverage duties, tallying two pressures and allowing only two completions when his assignments were targeted. The Jets lost Brandin Echols to a late injury but undrafted replacement Isaiah Dunn held down the fort well in his absence.

The Jets also continue to enjoy the fraternal antics of Quincy and Quinnen Williams. Quincy had a dozen tackles, including two for a loss, none bigger than an open-field tackle on the renowned Derrick Henry on a fourth down in the fifth period. Though the first down was earned, the denial of extra yardage resigned the Titans to rely on potential big plays downfield without Brown and Jones, the eventual endgame being a missed 49-yard field goal that ignited the metropolitan celebration. The younger Quinnen kept his breakout rolling with two sacks, having earned 3.5 over the last two weekends.

How can one reward such a high grade when giving up 24 points, even in an overtime effort? The answer lies in Henry, who managed to do the things expected of him on Sunday (177 total yards). While Henry’s abilities nearly derailed the Jets’ comeback efforts (much like his fellow elite running back Christian McCaffrey did during kickoff weekend in Charlotte), the defense (particularly the pass rush) did enough to force Tennessee to consider its non-Henry options. Strong efforts all afternoon allowed the Jets to take the ball out of Henry’s hands when it mattered most: the renowned rusher touched the ball only three times on the Titans’ ill-fated 13-play drive in overtime.

Special Teams: B

The Jets continue to tread water in the punter’s role with Thomas Morestead (46.2 average on six attempts) still filling in for Braden Mann. They also had to overcome a silly 15-yard fair catch interference penalty from specialist ace Justin Hardee in the crucial stages of the fourth quarter, though the defense was able to bail them out through a turnover on downs in the red zone.

Even if Ammendola’s triples (from 22 and 27 yards out) weren’t anything out of the ordinary, the continued consistency and stability in the kicker’s role are certainly welcome after waddling through the post-Jason Myers landscape. Braxton Berrios (in addition to tallying 15 yards on two instances of offensive trickery) also strengthened his stranglehold on the team’s return duties, earning at least 14 yards on all three of his returns.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The true culprit of the Sam Darnold era was…

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Adam Gase is far from innocent, but he’s not the primary reason why the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold era didn’t work out.

There’s no use in crying about the past, especially when the prior affairs are only three weeks old. But social media’s stranglehold on society and the NFL stretching its news cycle from eight hours on Sunday to 365 days a year have seemingly done away with rationality.

If invitations to Canton were granted through 280 characters or less, for example, the construction of Sam Darnold’s bust would not only be underway but his 2021 season might have its own wing. It’s easy to see why Darnold’s modern endeavors have earned their share of headlines: he’s the quarterback of one of five undefeated NFL teams and his redemption story is compounded by the fact his former employers, the New York Jets, serve as a running gag amongst professional and amateur football comedians alike.

The Jets’ reunion with Darnold was crossed off of their bucket list on kickoff weekend. It’s way too early to fully grade the trade that sent Darnold to Charlotte, especially considering two of the metropolitan spoils garnered (second and fifth-round picks next spring) don’t even have names yet. Realistically, the Jets shouldn’t worry about Darnold again until 2025, the next scheduled meeting between Gang Green and Carolina.

Yet, the omnipotent nature of modern NFL football doesn’t allow the Jets a moment’s peace (Carolina’s nationally televised win over Houston on Thursday hasn’t helped stop the spread). The fact that Darnold is playing an active role in the Panthers’ success…he’s responsible for six of Carolina’s eight touchdowns while the Jets have scored two over their first three games under Zach Wilson’s offensive watch…is placing only a bigger spotlight on both Gang Green’s past, present, and future blueprints.

As their team continues to sputter sans Sam, Jets fans have sought a main villain, a living, breathing entity whom they can blame for their predicaments. Former head coach Adam Gase has been the primary target as Darnold joins a list of breakthrough stars that have flourished upon his departure (joining names like Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, and Laremy Tunsil).

Such fingering is misdirected.

The Jets’ modern struggles obviously do not fully exonerate Gase. Surely the post-Gase success list (which has also welcomed the fortunes of Gase’s collegiate and professional teams) isn’t a matter of coincidence and, traumatizing as this season has been so far, his weekly denials that he was fighting with the faces of the franchise haven’t been missed. Besides, the obvious suspect, as so many other murder mysteries have proven before, is more often than not the one who did the deed.

Gase will require some extra supervision when he inevitably gets yet another NFL job (because the modern NFL loves, if anything, coaching retreads), but he’s shielding the real culprit: it was ex-general manager Mike Maccagnan, in the front office, with a misguided sense of roster management.

 Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The jury is still out on Maccagnan’s successor Joe Douglas, especially with the poor early returns of the Wilson/Robert Saleh era. But one thing Saleh knew what Maccagnan was doing wasn’t working: as of Sunday’s Week 3 contest (a garish 26-0 loss in Denver), only three players from Maccagnan’s last contest as the metropolitan decision-maker (Foley Fatukasi, Marcus Maye, Nathan Shepherd) remain on the modern roster. Half of Maccagnan’s ill-fated final class (in the ensuing 2019 draft) is already gone.

Douglas’ pruge of the Maccagnan is a microcosm of what Darnold had to deal with. The Maccagnan era was one of negligence and ill-advised splashes, one that tried to cover inefficiencies at the supposedly “boring” positions with high-profile signings.

From the get-go, Darold was mostly left to fend for himself. Maccagnan’s strategy seemed to be an incomplete cause-and-effect chart whose profits and yields relied on Darnold becoming an MVP candidate. The offensive cabinets assembled by Maccagnan consisted of the aforementioned big-ticket free agents equally saddled with big baggage (Le’Veon Bell) and that was just the beginning of the team’s issues.

In his all-too-brief time as the Jets’ thrower, Darnold was also stuck with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), former stars past their prime (Demaryius Thomas, Frank Gore), flash-in-the-pan breakthrough candidates that wilted under a brighter spotlight (Chris Herndon, Quincy Enunwa), and undeveloped projects that either didn’t work out (Terrelle Pryor, Jermaine Kearse) or remain a work in progress (Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims).

All the while, Maccagnan almost completely ignored construction of the wall in front of Darnold. Save for some desperate moves late in his tenure…the ill-fated trade for Kelechi Osemele and drafting Chuma Edoga in the third round of his final draft…Maccagnan opted to go with blockers made of inconsistent one-year failed fixes. Darnold, for example, worked with three different primary centers (Spencer Long, Jonotthan Harrison, and Connor McGovern), an inconsistency set forth by Maccagnan’s failure to find a long-term solution.

It was a stark departure from predecessor Mike Tannenbaum’s finest hours: during his first draft in 2006, Tannenbaum chose Virginia tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, passing (pun intended) on touted quarterback prospects like Vince Young and Jay Cutler. When they had a chance to take touted collegiate, skill player heroes like Joseph Addai, Sinorice Moss, and LenDale White, they instead opted to bring in Nick Mangold. Not only did those two blockers headline the closest things the Jets have had to recent glory days, but they also became two of the most beloved figures in franchise history. Tannenbaum surrounded his homegrown talents with accomplished veteran strengths like Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. Carolina had already restocked its blocking cupboard with Taylor Moton and Matt Paradis.

Compare that to what Darnold has to work with in Carolina: the Panthers found a way to unite him with Robby Anderson, one of the few things that were working with him in New York. Anderson was one of two four-digit yardage receivers Darnold now has to throw to, the other being DJ Moore. Of course, no one in Jets circles needs to be reminded about the impact Christian McCaffrey can have, as the returning running back served as the 187-yard difference in Carolina’s 19-14 triumph on opening weekend. Carolina’s defense has also come up huge; through a majority of Week 3 action, the Panthers are the only team in the league that has let up less than 200 yards a game (191).

Rather than the hapless Gase, Darnold is also working with accomplished offensive minds Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. The former is all too familiar with raising lost causes from the football abyss, taking downtrodden college programs at Temple and Baylor to unprecedented new heights.

Carolina is in the midst of working with a new general manager, having brought in former Seattle scouting expert Scott Fitterer last winter. Adding Darnold is by far his most impactful move to date, a trade that open a new chapter in the book of the Panthers, one that officially allowed them to move on from the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera glory days.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few months into the job, Fitterer has done more Darnold than Maccagnan ever did.

Darnold is no longer being relied upon to be the sole source of offensive sparks. Many of those pieces arrived before Fitterer, but also spent valuable offseason funds on the aforementioned defense: former Temple linebacker was reunited with Rhule and now leads the team in sacks (4.5). They used their first pick on South Carolina shutdown corner Jaycee Horn (though he’s set to miss some time due to a non-contact foot injury). The Panthers are only poised to upgrade further after Week 3’s events: according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, they’re close to picking up former Jacksonville cornerback C.J. Henderson for tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round choice…a move the Jets, frankly, should’ve investigated further into.

Simply put, Fitterer appears to know the impact of surrounding a franchise quarterback with reliable help on all sides of the ball…a lesson the Jets are learning the hard way. Douglas at least appears to understand that on paper, having added accomplished veterans and using expanded draft capital on assistance in protection. There’s plenty of time to develop past the Darnold era and get things back on track. It doesn’t diminish, however, the progress Carolina has made with the former green thrower.

There’s no use in looking back on the Darnold era, at least not at this point on the NFL timeline, but that’s not the nature of modern football. If a (premature) culprit must be found, the Jets must start at the top. Blaming Gase is popular…but putting on Maccagnan is may be right for now.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Grading Week 2’s loss vs. New England

robert saleh, jets

Zach Wilson’s struggles prevented the New York Jets’ offense from moving forward, but Sunday served as another good showcase for the defense.

New York Jets 6 (0-2)

Top Offensive Performer: RB Michael Carter (11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions 29 yards)
Top Defensive Performer: S Marcus Maye (6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup)
Top Specialist: KR Braxton Berrios (4 returns, 95 yards)
Up Next: Sunday @ Denver (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

New England Patriots 25 (1-1)

Top Offensive Performer: RB James White (6 receptions, 45 yards, 5 carries, 20 yards, 1 touchdown)
Top Defensive Performer: DB J.C. Jackson (3 tackles, 2 interceptions)
Top Specialist: K Nick Folk (4-for-4 field goals, 1-for-2 extra points)
Up Next: Sunday vs. New Orleans (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Offense: D+

Whether it’s fair or not, the state of the Jets’ offense is going to be judged by Zach Wilson’s progress. Even the most optimistic Wilson prophet had their faith shaken on Sunday, as none of his four interceptions could be excused by a baseball-style official scorer. A struggling offensive line missing the services of Mekhi Becton did little to help out: a metropolitan comeback effort was stymied by four sacks of Wilson, all coming in the second half.

The struggles of Wilson masked some encouraging offensive progress: Michael Carter flourished in expanded duties despite the loss of Becton, earning 88 yards (59 rushing) from scrimmage in his second NFL contest. Ty Johnson maintained consistency with 50 yards on a dozen attempts. Carter and Johnson united to obtain half of the Jets’ 18 first downs.

In terms of passes that landed in the hands of Jets receivers, Braxton Berrios continued his strong start, earning a career-best 73 yards on seven receptions while Corey Davis (2 receptions, 8 yards) was held in check. Elijah Moore (4 receptions, 47 yards) hinted at his greater powers while the Jets continued to struggle with generating momentum amongst the tight ends, particularly when they got deeper in New England territory. Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft united for a mere 18 yards on a trio of receptions.

In another positive development, the Jets did earn 336 yards of offense on Sunday, besting their totals from all but two games from last season.

Defense: C+

Considering the awkward position Wilson’s turnovers left them in, the defense did commendable work on Sunday. Highlight reels will immortalize Damien Harris’ touchdown run that took several defenders into the end zone with him, but the makeshift unit put forth a respectable effort in their first Mac Jones experience. The 15th overall pick from April’s draft proceedings was limited to mostly dink-and-dunk endeavors, picking up only 186 yards on 30 attempts.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley started to resemble his Baltimore self, limiting his assignments to 20 yards on four receptions while picking up a team-best 10 tackles. Safety Michael Carter II allowed only 17 yards on five grabs. Quincy Williams appears to be another Joe Douglas waiver wire gem, allowing only 13 yards and earning a tackle in the backfield.

New York’s pass rush also upped its game, tripling its sack total from Week 1. John Frankin-Myers is the only Jets on the sack ledger in each of the first two weeks, having also forced a recovered fumble of Jones. Marcus Maye and Sheldon Rankins earned the other quarterback takedowns, all of which came in the first half. The Jets also forced three New England three-and-outs, up from one against the Panthers.

The Jets were once again beaten by multi-talented running backs: in addition to Harris’ arduous but well-publicized run to glory, the Jets were beaten for 65 yards and a score by White. It’s certainly a few notches down from Christian McCaffrey’s wild ride in Carolina, but worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Special Teams: C+

Matt Ammendola returned to his regularly scheduled kicking duties on Sunday with Thomas Morestead in tow. Ammendola wound up accounting for all of the metropolitan scoring; he converted from 21 and 35 yards out but missed a 53-yarder in the third quarter. Wilson’s de facto arm punts limited Morestead to a single 45-yard attempt.

In addition to his offensive breakout, Berrios further solidified his prescience on the Jets’ return game, averaging just under 24 yards per kick attempt. His 38-yard return in the late stages of the third quarter set up Ammendola’s first field goal of the day.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: 3 silver linings from another loss to New England

robert saleh, jets

The New York Jets’ 11th consecutive defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots saw several optimistic causes slip through the cracks.

The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets in front of a crowd of disgruntled metropolitan football fans…yes, folks, New York City is back.

New England’s Empire may be over…its destruction brought about by the loss of its superweapon Tom Brady…but it has retained control of the East Rutherford system through a perfect three-game slate over the last two seasons. That includes Sunday’s 25-6 triumph at MetLife Stadium, one that provided the rudest of introductions to whatever lingers of the Jets-Patriots rivalry to Zach Wilson, he of four interceptions in the defeat.

It’s often hard for the Jets to glean anything positive out of get-togethers with the Patriots, who have now won 11 in a row over Gang Green. Eight of those defeats have come by multiple possessions and the Jets (0-2) have yet to earn a regulation win over New England in their modern MetLife-sponsored home since the original staging in 2010. The 19-point loss provided more or less the same heartbreak New York has been accustomed to over the last decade.

Yet, Sunday’s defeat somehow featured several unique bastions of hope in the midst of another defeat…

Get Carter (More Touches)

The Jets’ run game enjoyed a significant boost on Sunday: not only did it triple its yardage output from opening weekend at Carolina (45 to 152, besting its total in all but one game from last season), it did so without the offensive line assistance of Mekhi Becton.

Jets running backs averaged nearly 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday, which could come up big for the developing offense as Wilson still seeks to solve the NFL game. Ty Johnson, for example, maintained his brand of New York consistency (50 yards on 12 carries) while Tevin Coleman burst up the middle for a 17-yard carry in the second quarter.

But Jets management is likely enthused by the progress Michael Carter made on Sunday. Carter, the team’s fourth-round pick from last spring, is expected to pull away from the Jets’ current committee set up and flourished in an expanded role against the Patriots. The 88 yards he tallied from scrimmage were most for a green rookie rusher since Elijah McGuire in 2017 (93).

With five interceptions over his first two games, Wilson could for looking for some non-aerial antics to assist him as he gets further absconsed into the Jets’ offense. The rise of Carter can help the Jets build some much-needed, sustainable offensive momentum.

Defensive Fine

For all the concerns about the Jets’ defense in the early going, the unit has held its own in the early going. The 19-point disadvantage seems ugly to the naked eye but the Jets have lingered in their defeats far longer than should’ve been possible thanks to some strong adaptation by the defense. Wilson’s turnovers should’ve buried the Jets but the defense kept the damage relatively in check, yielding 16 points from the four turnovers.

The Jets’ young secondary group limited attacks from New England’s receivers, as it was once again mostly running back assistance that sank their efforts. James White was a menace on both the ground and through the air, tallying 65 yards on 11 touches. Nothing more needs to be said about the 26-yard rushing touchdown from Damien Harris that dragged several Jets defenders in the end zone.

But the secondary assistance was very reliable, limiting opposing wideouts to only 69 yards on nine receptions, limiting rookie Mac Jones to mostly dink-and-dunk strategies. The pass rush also drastically improved, earning three sacks of Jones in the first half (Marcus Maye, John Franklin-Myers, and Sheldon Rankins being the lucky recipients). New England’s 260-yard output was Patriots’ worst tally against the Jets since 2014. New York could also take faith in a strong performance from C.J. Mosley, who earned 10 tackles in defeat and once against finished a Jets game without incident.

The former Raven was particularly enthused by a late defensive stand by the Jets on the Patriots’ final possession of the afternoon. New England was situated only 25 yards away from the end zone after a turnover on downs but earned only a Nick Folk field goal to create the final margin.

“I know it looks familiar to a lot of people, but I can assure you that this is not the same team. We’re always going to show resilience, we’re always going to battle,” Mosley said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “That’s the picture I try to paint. Even on that goal-line stand at the end, it was all heart for us. In the locker room, we told ourselves we had a great week of preparation, everybody came into this game confident. Now we’ve got to take it to the next level. It’s not on the coaches. It’s on the players wearing the uniform.”

BB’s Great

The Jets’ offense was mostly stuck in reverse thanks to Wilson’s turnovers, but has another reliable receiving threat emerged?

While Jamison Crowder continues to recover from a bout with COVID-19 and a little more uncertainty has emerged around Denzel Mims (a healthy scratch for Sunday’s defeat), Braxton Berrios has picked up the slack.

It would’ve been easy for Berrios to get lost in the receiving fold after the arrivals of Davis, Keelan Cole, and Elijah Moore (who hinted at his powers with 47 yards on a quartet of receptions), but the third-year is making a name for himself. Through two games, Berrios is the Jets’ leading receiver with 124 yards on 12 receptions. That includes a career-best 73-yard showing on Sunday while New England locked down Corey Davis. Berrios has also been a reliable prescience on special teams, as his 23.8-yard average kick return ranks 10th amongst players with at least two attempts. His 38-yard runback in the first half set up the Jets’ first of two field goals of the afternoon.

While both Cole and Moore seem poised to take over in the slot if/when Crowder departs next offseason, Berrios’ development is worth keeping an eye on. The former Patriots previously described himself as a “Swiss Army Knife” in a report from team writer Ethan Greenberg.

“I have everything to work on,” Berrios said in January. “I think there is no one harder on me than m, and I’d like to keep it that way. I truly have everything to work on as a receiver, as a football player in general. Truly, I’m looking forward to doing that and coming back an all-around better player.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. New England

michael carter, jets

Sunday will be defined by Zach Wilson’s mistakes, but several bastions of hope emerged from the New York Jets’ latest loss.

New quarterback, same painful result.

Damien Harris and James White each had a rushing touchdown while J.C. Jackson earned two interceptions of Zach Wilson. The second overall pick’s East Rutherford introduction was a painful one, as he threw four interceptions in a 25-6 defeat. New England (1-1) has now won 11 consecutive meetings over the Jets, who fall to 0-2 for the third consecutive season.

ESM has three silver linings who emerged from the first defeat in East Rutherford…

Honorable Mentions

  • WR Elijah Moore: 4 receptions, 47 yards
  • RB Ty Johnson: 12 carries, 50 yards
  • WR Jeff Smith: 1 reception, 35 yards
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 10 tackles, 1 pass defense
  • LB Shaq Lawson: 4 tackles, 2 TFL
  • DL John Franklin-Myers: 3 tackles, 1 sack
  • DL Sheldon Rankins: 2 tackles, 1 sack

3rd Star: WR Braxton Berrios

7 receptions, 73 yards

With Corey Davis enduring a tough afternoon (one of Wilson’s interceptions went through his hands and into the waiting arms of J.C. Jackson) and Jamison Crowder still working his way back from COVID-19, Berrios came through for the New York offense. His 73 yards were a new career-best and he leads the Jets with 12 receptions in the early going. Berrios also averaged over 23 yards per kick return, including a 38-yard tally that set up the Jets’ only points of the first half.

2nd Star: S Marcus Maye

6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

Considering the awkward circumstances Wilson’s mistakes forced them into, the Jets defense mostly prevailed. New York particularly raised the pressure in the first half, earning three sacks of Mac Jones, the first coming from the safety Maye. The Jets’ real problem was stopping the New England running backs. White caught all six of his targeted passes (tallying 45 yards) while Harris more or less put the game away with a scoring run that dragged several defenders in the end zone. Maye’s ability to break into the backfield is certainly inspiring to a Jets defense working with makeshift material.

1st Star: RB Michael Carter

11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions, 29 yards

The Jets running back committee put forth a solid effort, as metropolitan rushers had 152 yards on 31 attempts (4.9 average). Carter was particularly impressive, serving as one of the Jets’ most consistent offensive sources. Many expect Carter to break away from the committee set up and grab the lion’s share of attempts before the end of the year. The Jets enjoyed a taste of what the fourth-round pick could bring in an expanded role on Sunday. More importantly, Carter worked through a downtrodden offensive line that was missing its anchor (Mekhi Becton) fairly well. As Wilson continues to figure out the NFL game, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the Jets do with Carter, perhaps relying on him as a consistent momentum shifter in the immediate future.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets continue to deal with the curious case of Denzel Mims

Mims, the New York Jets’ second-round pick from the 2020 draft, played only three snaps in Sunday’s loss in Charlotte.

The best thing you can say about Denzel Mims’ sophomore season opener is that he made the most of his limited opportunities.

Conversation around Mims has reopened after the New York Jets’ 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 action. Mims partook in only three snaps of the defeat, but featured heavily in one of the game’s most impactful plays: with three minutes remaining in the final frame, Mims’ 40-yard reception situated the Jets at Carolina’s 10-year-line. Corey Davis put in six points on a eight-yard pass from Zach Wilson to create what became the final margin.

Making the most out of limited opportunities has defined Mims’ infantile NFL career: the second-round pick from the 2020 draft tallied 357 yards over the final eleven weeks of last season, 10th amongst rookie receivers in that span. Hamstring woes ate away at his training camp and sidelined him for the first six weekends. Mims’ drafting was part of the Jets’ efforts to find the best of both offensive worlds. They chose blocker Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice, passing on several elite receiving talents. Mims, an aerial energizer out of Baylor, was chosen 59th overall.

Despite Mims appeared to be an odd man out of sorts after the Jets revamped their receiving corps this offseason, a relic of a prior coaching regime after the arrivals of Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keeland Cole. That idea gained further traction through Sunday’s snap counts: Mims’ trio ranked well behind reserves like Braxton Berrios (37) and Jeff Smith (9) on a day where both Cole and Jamison Crowder were each unavailable. Despite his late entry, Mims’ 40 yards earned on the aforementioned reception was third amongst New York receivers behind Davis (5 receptions, 97 yards) and Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards).

(Photo: Getty Images)

Head coach Robert Saleh partly blamed the “sequence of the game” for Mims’ lack of reps, per notes from the Jets. He labeled Davis, Moore, and Berrios as his top three receivers in Carolina. Saleh also said that the Jets’ late offensive pace afforded the comfort to give Mims an offensive opportunity. The Jets’ final drive went 93 yards in 10 plays, doing so in 2:31 as they tried to erase a late two-possession deficit.

“(Mims) has been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh said. “If the Z, the F or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

“(Sunday) was more of a timing thing where offense really didn’t get rolling until that fourth quarter, which is where you started seeing him show up on the football field,” Saleh continued. “We had those extended drives, I think we had a 10-play, 93-yard drive where the receivers needed a break, and it gave them that opportunity to step in and get action.”

Saleh also mentioned that Cole and Crowder “both have a shot to come back this week” as the Jets prepare for their home opener against the New England Patriots on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Their potential reinseration could create an awkward situation for Mims, whose big-play potential and ability to gain yards after the catch made him attractive to a Jets offense in desperate need of big-yardage situations. Sunday opponent Jeremy Chinn and and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the next ten selections.

Finding a place for Mims could be a way for incoming offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to leave an impact on the New York offense. LaFleur previously worked with the receivers in San Francisco and guided names like Kendrick Bourne, Maquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk to breakout seasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Special Teams

A New York Jets kicking competition is set to commence under the watch of the seemingly immortal coordinator Brant Boyer.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Our look back on the offseason comes to an end by wrapping up with special teams…

New York Jets, Jason Myers
Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

Much has been made about the constant turnover in the Jets’ franchise quarterback role. But compared to what’s happened in the kicker’s role, that role is among the stable in football.

Since Jason Myers’ historic 2018 campaign…and after the Jets let him abscond to Seattle without much resistance…six different kickers (three alone during the 2019 preseason) have tried and failed to pick up where he left off. Lacking a reliable kicker for two straight seasons is always unacceptable, but missing one during a would-be franchise quarterback developmental years is gridiron doomsday.

Sam Ficken, to his credit, was refreshingly close to ending the trend. His three-point attempts were the one thing that was going right for the Jets over the opening portions of their 2020 season, converting each of his first nine attempts (five alone coming in a nationally televised showdown against Denver). But a groin injury suffered in October derailed his season, forcing the Jets to turn to CFL/XFL veteran Sergio Castillo before staging a meaningless finale with Chase McLaughlin.

Sixth-round pick Braden Mann was one of the busiest men in football last season. He was called upon to punt it away a league-high 82 times, but his 43.9 average was 28th in football. While the Jets would like to see him move up the stat ledger (though, ideally, he won’t be on the field as often this season), Mann did manage to go somewhat viral for some touchdown saving tackles.

In the return game, receiver Braxton Berrios has been reliable on punts. Over the last two seasons, Berrios is one of six returners (min. 30 attempts) to average at least 10 yards (fifth-best at 10.5). On kicks, Giants draft pick and cornerback Corey Ballentine was a pleasant surprise as a late arrival, averaging over 26 yards per return over the last six weeks.

Long snapper Thomas Hennessy lived up to the four-year extension he earned in the midst of the 2019 season and completed another incident-free season.

jets, michael carter

How It’s Going

Never mind cockroaches; when the apocalypse comes, Brant Boyer might be the last living thing to stick it out. The special teams coordinator was the sole survivor of the post-Adam Gase coaching purge, having also survived the erasure of Todd Bowles’ army.

“So many people called on his his behalf,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Boyer in January, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “He’s held in such high regard.”

The Jets spent this offseason delivering Boyer some welcome back gifts. He was particularly excited about the arrival of cornerback Justin Hardee, who became one of the NFL’s most respected gunners in New Orleans. Hardee was added on a three year deal and will certainly help a punt return unit that allowed over 11 yards a return last season, the sixth-worst mark in the league. In comparison, Hardee’s Saints allowed less than three.

“I was ecstatic on that one,” Boyer said in video from the Jets. “We played 13 different gunners last year, so it was a real struggle.” Boyer was also pleased about the leadership role Hardee took in the specialists’ room. “He’s been fantastic, and what he’s done is he’s taken over a leadership role in the room, and that’s what the biggest thing we needed in our room especially losing a bunch of our core guys and things like that.”

“We just need somebody to emerge at that other gunner, so they can’t double (Hardee) every time…we’ll see what happens, which I fully expect someone will do.”

The answer to Boyer’s quandary could lie within the latter rounds of the draft. Defensive project and sixth round pick Hamsah Nasirildeen was an elite gunner during his freshman year at Florida State (seven tackles in special teams coverage) while Brandin Echols served in specialist duties during his JUCO days.

In the return game, Berrios should be retained on punts, while Ballentine could face competition on kickoffs from running backs Michael Carter (24.5 average in his junior year at North Carolina) and Ty Johnson (27.2 in his senior year at Maryland).

Ficken was waived in December but was retained on a future deal. He’ll face competition from undrafted rookie Chris Naggar (AAC Special Teams Player of the Year at Southern Methodist) to retain his role. New York Jets, Sam Ficken

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

As the Jets try to return to relevancy, they can’t overlook their special teams group. They’re preparing to embark on yet another quarterback development adventure with Zach Wilson as the lead protagonist and special teams can make an immediate difference in terms of helping him earn wins and losses.

When the new quarterback reaches opposing territory, a reliable kicker can ensure such drives end with points, building his confidence. If Mann takes a step forward and Hardee lives up to his sterling gunner reputation, the opponent can start in dire straits, and make the defense’s job a lot easier.

Much like his work on the offensive line, it’s good to see that general manager Joe Douglas is willing to valuable offseason capital on special teams, though it’s time for the arrivals to start rewarding his faith on the field. Adding elite, proven names in the arena like Hardee and Carter losses the pressure.

Final Offseason Grade: B-

How do you think the Jets’ special teams contribute to their resurgence? Follow Geoff Magliocchetti on Twitter @GeoffJMags and keep the conversation going.

New York Jets Top 10 Tuesday: Veteran breakout candidates for 2021

As the New York Jets bide time before training camp, ESM looks at some veteran faces that could be poised for a breakout.

As we’ve officially reached a rare dead period on the NFL calendar, ESM presents Top 10 Tuesday, a weekly list series that will center on the past, present, and future of the Jets in a sortable format.

We’ll begin this series by looking at ten veteran players that could rise to the occasion come up big for the Jets as they embark on a new gridiron journey…

Oct 1, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken (9) celebrates his field goal with teammates during the first half against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

10. K Sam Ficken

Since Pro Bowler Jason Myers absconded for Seattle, the Jets have been through six different kickers. That’d be unacceptable in pretty much every football realm, but such instability is unacceptable for a team with a developing offense. Confidence can be built if points can be scored in as many drives that invade opponents’ territory as possible.

Ficken, set to enter his third season in green, seemed like he was on his way toward ending the constant turnover. He converted each of his first nine field goal attempts (five alone during a Thursday night tilt against Denver) but he lost the spark after missing several games with a groin injury. This time around, Ficken will compete with undrafted free agent Chris Naggar to get his job back. He can become a vital silver lining in the Jets’ expected growing pains if he’s able to capitalize on a career-best 86 percent success rate from three.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Defensive Lineman Kyle Phillips #98 of the New York Jets makes a stop call against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

9. DL Kyle Phillips

The versatile Phillips, entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, was one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019 season. Veteran injuries forced him into starting duties, but he made the most of his opportunity with 39 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Phillips was a consistent backfield invader in his rookie season, as his seven tackles for a loss were tied for fourth-best on the team and his quarterback pressures (6) were good for third amongst his fellow linemen.

Alas, an ankle injury prevented Phillips from building on the momentum from his rookie season. To make matters worse from a personal standpoint, the Jets spent the offseason bolstering their front seven with established veteran names that could leave Phillips in an awkward spot. He’ll certainly return with a vengeance in 2021 and will keep things interesting in the second halves of preseason games.

8. OL Dan Feeney

Perhaps no one in the NFL has increased their profile better than Feeney this offseason. The former Los Angeles Charger has gone viral for his goal celebrations at New York Islander playoff games, becoming the literal face of the Jets’ support for their blue and orange comrades on Long Island.

The surge in popularity has had many asking exactly what the Jets get in Feeney, who was mostly used as a depth option in Los Angeles. His experience at center could prove vital: Sam Darnold went through three different primary centers in three years and the Jets would love to establish some starting lineup stability for incoming franchise man Zach Wilson right from the start.

trevon wesco, new york jets

7. TE/FB Trevon Wesco

With Tyler Kroft arriving as an established goal-line option and strong potential behind undrafted free agent Kenny Yeboah (not to mention the return of starter Chris Herndon), the third-year, fourth-round pick faces an uphill battle to make an impact as a tight end. But he can make an offensive difference through the resurrection of the archaic fullback spot.

As we discussed last week, the days of Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson may be gone, but the Jets appear set to resume the Wesco experiment at fullback after injuries prematurely shut down the project last season. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur previously reaped the benefits of Kyle Juszczyk’s prescience in San Francisco and believes that Wesco’s bulkier size could allow him to do things that even the All-Pro fullback wasn’t capable of.

“(Wesco) is a bigger body, he’s longer,” LaFleur explained last week, per notes from the Jets. “He’s going to be able to play a little bit more inline, so we can use him in multiple ways, whether it be 21 or your typical 12 personnel formations.”

6. LB Blake Cashman 

One has to wonder if it’s now or never for Cashman, who enters his third NFL season in an unusual spot. The fifth-round pick from 2019 filled in serviceable when C.J. Mosley got hurt two years back, but injuries of his own have limited him to only 11 games in his career so far.

It’s always tough to condemn a player for getting hurt in the NFL. After all, football is a violent game and injuries happen. When they do, players should take all the time they need to heal up properly. But the NFL has proven time and time again that it’s willing to make business decisions that aren’t anything personal. Cashman appears to be a good fit in Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s defensive landscape, so it would be a shame to see his NFL career end before it truly begins.

Dec 20, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets running back Ty Johnson (25) scores a touchdown as Los Angeles Rams strong safety Jordan Fuller (32) defends the play during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5. RB Ty Johnson

It’s a bit of a shame that Johnson’s mini-breakout was masked by the malarkey of Adam Gase’s final days at the helm. For example, Johnson made Jets history in a December tilt against the Raiders by earning the first triple-digit yardage game for the Jets in over two full calendar years. Not only did the Jets waste the historic tally through Gregg Williams’ ill-advised final blitz, but Johnson earned only 13 carries over the next three games (as opposed to 22 in the Las Vegas debacle).

Johnson has a decent chance to shine in the Jets’ new-look, minimalist approach at running back. The present focus has turned to newcomers Michael Carter and Tevin Coleman, but don’t let Johnson’s status as a holdover from the Gase era fool you: he’s capable of making an impact at moment’s notice. His speed and experience in lining up in the slot could also pay big dividends in LaFleur’s system, giving him a bit of an edge over the more north/south-inclined La’Mical Perine.

4. WR Braxton Berrios

With so many new receivers on their way in, it’s somewhat easy to forget about Berrios, one of the leading receivers from last year’s woebegone two-win squad. He faces a bit of a battle to make the roster, but the former Patriot got his season off to a great start in minicamp, emerging as one of the most pleasant surprises. It was enough to earn special props from Wilson.

“Braxton is a smart guy, that’s one of his best attributes,” Wilson said at the end of minicamp, per notes from the Jets. “He’s a slippery player, he gets in there and runs some great routes. He’s quick, but I think the best attribute is just knowing what’s going on. He’s got a great feel for the defense, he’s got great hands. He’s just been in those spots to make plays. We’ve got a lot of good playmakers and Braxton is doing a great job.”

Berrios might also be able to make an impact on special teams. During the 2019 season, he was one of two returners (min. 20 attempts) to average over 10 yards on punts.

Nov 17, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions middle linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) runs off the field after recovering a fumble during the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

3. LB Jarrad Davis

Coming off a brutal two-win season, it was going to be hard for the Jets to convince the truly elite free agents to join their cause. Their consolation prizes include Davis, a former first-round pick that previously repped Detroit.

Davis’ career got off to a decent start, as he earned All-Rookie team honors while working in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s 4-3 system. However, Austin was let go with the rest of Jim Caldwell’s staff at the end of the 2017 season despite guiding the Lions to three winning seasons in their four campaigns. Detroit football hasn’t been the same since and Davis was an unfortunate part of the decline. He failed to adapt to Matt Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni’s set-ups and the Lions declined his fifth-year option prior to the 2020 season. Davis thus joined the Jets on a one-year, $5.5 million deal this offseason.

Davis’ finest performances have come in the 4-3 set that Saleh and Ulbrich are set to implement. He earned his first-round status through working with Geoff Collins at the University of Florida and worked well with Austin early on in Detroit. That knowledge can not only help him break out on a personal level but can also help him take on the role of a teacher of the 4-3 set.

Nov 29, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims (11) runs the ball ahead of Miami Dolphins defensive back Nik Needham (40) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2. WR Denzel Mims

One thing that’s really unfortunate about Mims’ situation is that he will forever be connected to a fellow member of the green draft class of 2020. When the Jets drafted Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick…Joe Douglas’ first at the helm of general manager…it came at the price of passing on considerable receiving talents (i.e. Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, eventual Rookie of the Year Jerry Jeudy). But those concerns were supposedly alleviated when the Jets when Douglas and Co. were able to snag Mims out of Baylor in the early stages of the second round.

Becton’s early promise has somewhat masked the fact that Mims hasn’t been on the field much in the early going. It has mostly been a case of bad luck, as he dealt with injuries at the earliest stages of 2020 prep and was never really able to get into the swing of things. This time around, Mims missed voluntary workouts due to a (non-COVID-19) illness, causing him to lose valuable reps with Wilson. The spotlight has thus turned to another second-round pick, that of Elijah Moore.

But Jets brass and outside observers still appear to believe in Mims, who serves as a valuable big-play target. Former NFL receiver and current NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson listed Mims as one of his five receivers poised for a breakout, while LaFleur compared Mims to Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant.

“It looks like he has a wingspan like Kevin Durant. He’s got tons of range as long as that ball is anywhere around him. If the ball is anywhere in the vicinity, you expect them to get it,” LaFleur said in May, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “He’s eager, he’s a really cool dude to work with. But he’s just gonna have to get out there…it’s just going to be reps and just going and understanding the speed of the game.”

1. LB Carl Lawson

As the Jets seek to re-energize their pass rush…which becomes vital with a presumed pair of matchups against Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa in the foreseeable future…one of their biggest acquisitions was Lawson out of Cincinnati. Yet, hard-to-please fans and analysts expressed disappointment with his relatively low sack numbers. Lawson tallied 11.5 over the last two seasons, a drastic declined from the 8.5 he put up in his rookie year.

However, don’t let the relatively pedestrian numbers fool you: Lawson has been an agent of chaos in opposing backfields. According to ESPN’s Seth Walder, advanced stats indicated that Lawson was one of eleven defenders that “created” at least 10 sacks last season, even if he himself didn’t obtain it. In more conventional stats, Lawson also put up 32 overall quarterback pressures, good for second in the league behind only TJ Watt.

Ulbrich noted Lawson’s dedication to the game in some of his first statements as the Jets’ defensive boss.

“(He’s) obsessed with the game,” Ulbrich said of Lawson, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “He wants to become the most technical pass-rusher in the league.”

Lawson admitted in Dunleavy’s report that he does want his sack numbers to return to the levels he knows he’s capable of. He believes the Jets’ bolstered interior defense, led by 2020 breakout man Quinnen Williams, can help him get there.

“I have the mindset that no matter who is around me I should win my 1-on-1,” the signer of a three-year, $45 million told Dunleavy. “That’s a great thing to have, great interior players, but the way I think of it is to produce no matter what the situation because what if everybody got hurt? Could I use that as my excuse for (fewer) sacks? No.”

What other Top 10’s do you want to see? Let Geoff know on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets positional preview 2021: Wide receivers

The New York Jets may have found a big-play man in Denzel Mims, but the receiving picture behind him is far murkier.

The Position: Wide Receiver
On the Roster: Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims,
Free Agents: Breshad Perriman, Jeff Smith, Vyncint Smith
Reserve/Future: Josh Malone, D.J. Montgomery, Jaleel Scott

With the offense at a crossroads of sorts, the New York Jets are looking for playmakers. When it comes to their receivers, they may have uncovered a diamond in the second-round rough in Denzel Mims, but things behind him a lot murkier.

Part of the reason why it’s been so hard for Sam Darnold to develop a true rhythm as the Jets’ franchise quarterback is that his targets have undergone a ridiculous amount of turnover. Upon the departures of Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, no receivers from Darnold’s rookies season of 2018 remained on the roster. In the of the 2020 season, Mims eventually found his NFL footing after missing the early stages due to injury, vindicating general manager Joe Douglas’ decision to pass on first-day talents like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Justin Jefferson.

But Douglas’ free agent options didn’t fare as well. Breshad Perriman, for example, failed to recapture the glory of his final Tampa Bay days, earning only 30 receptions over 12 games. New England castaway Chris Hogan failed to make a difference and the injury bug refused to leave the Jets alone. The most consistent part of the unit, slot man Jamison Crowder, led the team in all major receiving categories for the second straight season. Crowder is under contract for one more year, but the Jets would save just over $9 million in cap space if they moved on from him through a release or trade.

Even if Darnold doesn’t return under center, the Jets needs to freshen the receiving situation for the newcomer. The unit’s last 1,000-yard endeavors came through the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker pairing during the doomed 2015 campaign.

Free Agents-to-be 

Breshad Perriman

Signed to a one-year deal worth $8 million ($6 million guaranteed), Perriman was brought in as the potential top target after ending his single season in Tampa in style (506 yards, five touchdowns in his final five games in 2019). But he never lived up to that billing in New York. He sustained an injury in the early going and never gained any momentum, save for strong performances in the New England games (8 receptions, 185 yards, 2 touchdowns).

With a new regime coming in and Perriman struggling in his lone green season, he is likely destined to hit the market.

Jeff Smith

Undrafted out of Boston College, the former quarterback has turned into a fun project in New York. Injuries have stunted his true potential, but Smith earned 167 yards on 17 receptions last season. That included a strong 81-yard showing when he was called upon to take extended duties when ailments ate up the top of the depth chart. He could potentially return as a depth option under new receivers coach Miles Austin.

Vyncint Smith

After getting some extended playing time when injuries struck in 2019 (joining in-season from the Houston practice squad), Smith himself landed on injured reserve in the early going and was limited to seven games, during which he only earned a single reception and lost his return duties to Braxton Berrios and Corey Ballentine. It’s possible he could get another go at it if the Jets want to create a special teams competition.

Will They Draft?

While there are plenty of names available to the Jets through free agency…and there are plenty of resources to bring in an elite name…the Jets’ receiving corps needs a complete makeover. With an extra pick in two of the first three rounds, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them use one on a receiver. In the event they get Watson…a happening made increasingly remote but the Texans’ apparent stubbornness to hold on to the disgruntled thrower…they likely wouldn’t have the second pick to use on Heisman winner Devonta Smith, but Jaylen Waddle, his Tuscaloosa partner-in-playmaking, might be around if they hold onto the 23rd pick send from Seattle. The speedy Waddle has seen his projections fall after enduring an ankle injury in Alabama’s October tilt against Tennessee.

Day two options open to the Jets could include Kadarius Toney, Rondale Moore, Sage Surratt, and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Veteran Possibilities

Allen Robinson, Chicago

Unlike Watson, Robinson is set to be a free agent and isn’t held back by stubborn management if he wants to find new opportunities. Fresh off a career-best 102 receptions despite the Bears’ unstable quarterback situation, Robinson could be a game-changer for the Jets no matter who’s throwing to him. Additionally, Robinson hasn’t exactly been subtle about his approval of the Jets’ offseason thus far. Twitter sleuths uncovered that some of Robinson’s recent “likes” involve calling for Watson to go to New York and approval of the Robert Saleh hire.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh 

If there’s one thing Darnold needs right now, it’s consistency. Bridges are burned with, say, Anderson (who has become a selling point in Carolina’s ongoing rebuild), but Smith-Schuster’s Sothern California collaborations with Darnold earned rave reviews. Smith-Schuster caught some of Darnold’s earliest passes as the two guided USC to a 10-win season in 2016, capped off by the epic 52-49 thriller against Saquon Barkley and Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Smith-Schuster and Darnold united for 133 yards on seven hook-ups in that game, which afforded the Trojans the third slot in the final AP poll from that season. Some will point to Smith-Schuster’s propensity for pregame TikToks as an excuse to stay away, but that’s a small price to pay compared to the comfort and stability Smith-Schuster could provide to a quarterback in desperate need of those feelings…be it Darnold or otherwise.

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay

For all intents and purposes, Godwin should be one of the biggest household names in football. Through no fault of his own, Godwin often gets lost in the headlines, but that might happen when your catching cohorts are Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski. Godwin also missed four games with a hip/quad injury but still managed to post 840 yards after a breakout year in 2019. Godwin has played a major role in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl endeavors as well; he scored a touchdown that put them ahead for good in the Wild Card round against Washington and led the team with 110 yards in the NFC title clinch against the Packers. If Godwin is looking for a place to prove he can be a No. 1 receiver, New York would be a strong place to do it.

Outlook

A makeover is definitely coming to the Jets’ receiving corps. Free agency would certainly be the better way to go, as it would provide Mims a good mentor and give the team so much-needed, experienced stability. Whoever comes into the Jets’ quarterback spot is going to be thrown into a roaring green fire. They need to do whatever they can to make Darnold or the incoming new party to feel as comfortable as possible. Providing him with a strong, elite receiving talent would be the best way to do that.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss at Seattle

Silver linings were few and far between on Sunday in Seattle, as the New York Jets were on the wrong end of a blowout.

The first-ever Jamal Adams Bowl more or less proved the defender correct.

Just about after calling the New York Jets a team that “didn’t want to win“, Adams faced off against his green ex-compatriots for the first time on Sunday afternoon. Adams wound up making some history on his special day, as he became the NFL’s all-time single-season leader in sacks from a defensive back, passing Adrian Wilson’s eight from 2005 with a sack of Sam Darnold in the first half. It was all part of the latest Jets defeat, a 40-3 shellacking at Lumen Field.

Russell Wilson threw four touchdowns for the Seahawks (9-4) before giving way to former Jets franchise man Geno Smith in the third quarter. Elsewhere, fellow former Jet Jason Myers booted two field goals in helping former New York boss Pete Carroll, the longtime head coach in Seattle, inch closer toward another playoff berth. Yet another former wearer of green, Damon “Snacks” Harrison, had six tackles for Seattle, who continues to hold the top NFC wild card spot.

The lone scoring the Jets (0-13) could muster was a 45-yard field goal from Sergio Castillo, who missed three others. Sam Darnold threw for 132 yards while Josh Adams led the runners with 27 yards on six carries.

3rd Star: WR Braxton Berrios

3 receptions, 49 yards

The Jets’ offensive struggles took center stage once again with Denzel Mims missing and Jamison Crowder limited. Berrios did what he could to stem the bleeding, becoming the closest thing the Jets had to an offensive standout. His 49-yard output was his best showing since September.

2nd Star: DL Folorunso Fatukasi

2 TFL, 1 sack

Fatukasi has been a strong silver lining whose late breakout has been masked by the Jets’ problems as a whole. He nonetheless kept things going with a strong day of visiting the Seattle backfield, capping things off with a late sack of Geno Smith. Change is undoubtedly coming to the Jets organization in some way, shape, or form. Fatukasi is doing what he can to make sure he’s not a casualty.

1st Star: S Marcus Maye

4 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD

This season has been…well, it’s been nothing if not a chore to get through from a Jets fan’s perspective. But Maye has been doing what he can to make the season tolerable, primarily by trying to make sure the Jets have some representation in the SportsCenter Top 10.

Maye’s acrobatic interception while covering D.K. Metcalf kept the score at a manageable 7-3 deficit, if only for a short while. The offense failed to do much with it, but Maye made yet another case for a chance to extend his stay in New York as free agency looms. Maye’s turnover coming shortly after Adams dropped what could’ve been a pick-six might’ve only sweetened the deal for Jets fans looking for even the tiniest morsel.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags