New York Jets LB C.J. Mosley speaks after vaccination

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley

The New York Jets linebacker, who sat out last season due to health concerns, shared a message on Instagram after receiving his vaccination.

New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley announced through Instagram that he has been administered the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations. According to his post, Mosley has received the Janssen vaccine and is due for a second shot at a date to be determined.

In his message announcing the news, he encouraged others, including his critics to seek out their own shots.

“Let’s get back to normal, let’s be happy, let’s feel the love from our family and friends…LETS GET VACCINATED! [sic]” Mosley wrote in his caption. “ps if you got time throw in a football joke, you have enough time to type in your info to register to get vaccinated.”

The former Baltimore Raven opted out of his second season in green citing concerns about the NFL season proceeding in the midst of the ongoing health crisis. A four-time All-Pro nominee, Mosley signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Jets in March 2019, but injuries and last season’s opt-out have limited him to two games in a New York uniform.

Upset fans inevitably filled Mosley’s post, facetiously hoping that Mosley’s vaccination means he’ll be able to partake in the upcoming season. Mosley responded to his detractors in stride.

“I’ve never said check my stats…. but check my stats!” Mosley said told one. “I’ve missed two years and my stats still up there with the best. This post is about the health and well being of myself and others. If you disagree, then all good brotha. BUT pleaseeeeeee spare me talking about some career games. [sic]”

Because I’m part of the 1% in this profession, not you. So just 🤫 until them gates open up at METLIFE! Then it’s go time.” [sic]

Mosley won’t be the only vaccinated one returning to MetLife Stadium this season. With vaccinations well underway across the nation, it’s highly anticipated that fans will be welcomed back to Jets and Giants games. The pair were two of 19 teams whose home games remained closed to fans.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets sign Buffalo Bills LB Del’Shawn Phillips

New York Jets

Phillips, a former JUCO star, joins the New York Jets after making his NFL debut with an AFC East rival last season.

The New York Jets announced the signing of linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips on Tuesday. Phillips comes over their AFC East rival Buffalo Bills, who waived him on January 19.

Phillips, 24, made his NFL regulars season debut last season through two games with the Bills, ironically making his debut against the Jets during the teams’ get-together in Week 1. Alas for Phillips, a quadriceps injury limited to only one other game in November. All 14 of his snaps came on special teams.

The Buffalo arrival was the latest step on Phillips’ most unusual journey to the NFL. He was originally committed to Western Michigan’s football team (set to join fellow new Jet Corey Davis) but was ruled academically ineligible. After a year away from the game, Phillips joined up with Garden City Community College in Kansas. He’d pick up seven sacks in his freshman season and earned 95 tackles the following year as the Broncbusters topped Arizona Western College to capture the NJCAA National Championship.

Phillips later saw his Division I dreams realized through a new chance at Illinois. He would go on to tally 180 tackles, including 10 for a loss and 2.5 sacks, in two seasons. During his senior campaign, Phillips was tied for second in the Big Ten with a quartet of interceptions. Phillips also held defensive captaincy honors during his final season in 2018.

Though Phillips was undrafted after his time in Champaign, he joined up with the Atlanta Falcons during the 2019 preseason, earning 21 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries over five exhibitions (including the Hall of Fame Game). He was part of Atlanta’s final cuts, but was signed to the Bills’ practice squad just over a month later.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets LB Jordan Jenkins moves on to Houston

New York Jets, Jordan Jenkins

Jordan Jenkins, the longest-tenured member of the New York Jets, is moving on to the Houston Texans on a two-year deal.

A New York Jets staple is moving on to the Lone Star State.

Per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson, linebacker Jordan Jenkins is moving on from the Jets to the Houston Texans through a two-year, $8 million deal. Jenkins, 26, had been the longest-tenured member of the Jets at five seasons.

The defender bid farewell to New York in a heartfelt Twitter post, which included a photo of Jenkins walking through the halls of MetLife Stadium clad in his No. 48 uniform.

“Put it all out there on the field during my time with the Jets, battle through torn labrums, bruised ribs, etc,” Jenkins wrote. “Will always be thankful for the (Jets) for drafting me. Excited to start this new chapter in life.”

Jenkins began his career as a third-round pick (83rd overall) out of Georgia. He would go on to earn 189 tackles in five seasons, including 22.5 sacks. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 with a career-best eight sacks, which earned him a new one-year deal at $3.75 million. Alas for New York, Jenkins failed to build on that prior season and would up landing on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in December.

He had four multi-sack games in green, including two big takedowns of Daniel Jones in a November 2019 win over the New York Giants.

With Jenkins’ departure, the title of longest-tenured Jet now belongs to Marcus Maye, who accepted his franchise tag at just over $10 million. Maye is thus set to enter his fifth season with the team. Jenkins also closes the book on the Jets’ underwhelming 2016 draft class, which also included Darron Lee, Christian Hackenberg, Juston Burris, Brandon Shell, Lachlan Edwards, and Charone Peake.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Jamal Adams has the last laugh (for now)

Jamal Adams

Jamal Adams’ methods of departure were unconventional, but one look at the current New York Jets shows that he had a point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zip7sTieTRY&ab_channel=NFL

Looking back on the calamity that was 2020, it’s hard to believe that some noteworthy occurrences happened this year. Phenomena like the rebooted XFL, the tweaked NBA All-Star Game, and the world’s uncanny fascination with Netflix’s Tiger King seem like they happened decades ago, but will forever be copyrighted with the insignia of 2020.

New York Jets fans likely feel the same way with Jamal Adams and his turbulent exit.

Surprisingly, it’s been less than a full calendar year since Adams donned the green, black, and white that the modern New York Jets’ uniforms carry. A wet, dreary contest against a Buffalo Bills team resting starters for the playoffs saw Adams register three tackles and a pass breakup in a 13-6 Jets win. Utterly forgettable by every sense of the football imagination, it stands as a gridiron landmark if only because that’s the last time the Jets have been on the right end of an NFL scoreboard.

At the time, few could envision that it would be the last dance for Adams (and Robby Anderson, but the Jets don’t play Carolina until 2021). Adams had avoided addressing the future but certainly implied there was one between him and the Jets by referring to the otherwise meaningless win as “the start of our next season”.

“It’s confidence carrying over into the off-season,” Adams said of the game, per Ethan Greenberg of NewYorkJets.com. “Everybody is going to be watching the playoffs and we’re going to have a bad taste in our mouths, but it’s just going to feed us.”

That meal, of course, never came. Apparently miffed at the lack of a long-term contract, Adams went to pretty much napalm every bridge he had left in New York, routinely calling out the organization’s failures since he joined the team as a first-round pick in 2017 and telling anyone who would listen that he wanted out unless a stable contract was presented. The Jets eventually struck a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, sending Adams over for Bradley McDougald and a pair of first-round choices.

But Adams’ true frustrations really seemed to stem from the Jets’ lack of on-field success. He was more than happy to join the Seahawks even when Seattle stressed patience in offering him the desired deal. The ongoing health crisis could’ve well played a role, but the optics made it seem like Adams was turning the Jets into a punchline one last time.

Even when the deal has done, neither side has truly seemed to have gotten over their breakup. A reunion awaits this weekend as the Jets descend upon Lumen Field on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS), and the parting of ways remains fresh on each party’s mind.

Jamal Adams
CREDIT: McManus Designs

It was obvious that Adams’ get-together with his former comrades was going to come up during each side’s weekly availability. Head coach Adam Gase’s comments made headlines earlier this week when he was dumbfounded by the idea of animosity between him and the defender.

“I thought it was good, but obviously he felt different. I don’t know, I never had any poor interactions with him,” Gase said, per Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports. “he was somebody I talked to a lot and communicated with. Just kind of once the offseason hit, that’s kind of where…there’s nothing I can do, I’m not in charge of contracts. I’m not involved in those talks. That’s kind of where his agent and front office guys got to go to work.”

“I knew when we lost how much it hurt him, like I knew that. He’s a competitor, man. He has no interest in coming on the wrong end of the stick in the win-loss column. He feels like he sells out and gives everything he has, and he wants to win. I mean he wants to do everything he can to win.”

Adams spoke later in the week and offered a roller-coaster, maybe even contradictory, statement about his time in New York.

“The guys that make the decisions over there, they just didn’t value me like Seattle does and I appreciate that,” he said, per Brady Henderson of ESPN. “There’s no hard feelings towards them. They had different views. I had a different view, but at the end of the day, I’m just happy to be where I am and I have an organization that believes in me, believes I can get it done, and thinks highly of me. That’s all I can ask for, man. It’s just all about respect for me.”

The defender’s comments have been, and will continue to be, scrutinized to no end. But at this point, no rationally-minded football fan can deny that the last laugh belongs to Adams.

Adams or no Adams, 2020 was going to be a struggle for the modern Jets. Even with expanded playoff real estate, too many established served as roadblocks to the seven-team sweepstakes. But the team nonetheless looked at their future with a sense of immediacy. one look from the Jets’ offseason ledger should’ve told Adams that 2020 was not the time or place to think about a long-term deal. Debate can reign over whether that message was conveyed clearly, but Adams certainly didn’t believe it was, even as the Jets added free agents on a de facto audition-style basis. But what was done is done. There’s no use in looking at what feels like ancient history or analyzing the ins and outs of a deal that will only be complete by 2022 at the earliest.

The best move the Jets could’ve made in the deal’s aftermath was to wish Adams well and focus on their own affairs. Bygones could be bygones…let Adams worry about his past, let the focus be on the future. Alas, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams couldn’t get on board with that.

“Jamal may get bored there because they don’t use their safety-type things with all the complexities, maybe not showing what they’re doing as much as we do,” Williams said per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, taking a shot at Seattle’s propensity for a Cover 3. “We’ll still do a lot of the same exact things, but we’ll highlight the people we have here. As you saw what we did (last season), he had maybe his most productive year here because of how we highlighted the skill set he has.”

In perhaps a bit of irony reserved for the darkest reaches of the popular sports-prognostication-gone-wrong account @OldTakesExposed, Williams is left to brood in boredom while Adams closes in on history.

Adams has served as the closest thing to a consistent silver lining that Seattle has had in an otherwise brutal year defensively in the secondary. Only lowly Jacksonville has let up more yardage through the air than the Seahawks (407.4 per game), whose roller-coaster season has reached a new valley with a loss to the Jets’ blue metropolitan counterparts last weekend. But Adams has carried on his propensity for backfield invasions. In only eight games, he has broken his career-best in sacks set last season in New York with 7.5…a half-takedown short of Adrian Wilson for the most by a defensive back in a single season. The fateful sack could well victimize Sam Darnold with both Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis out on the offensive line and Denzel Mims missing from the receiving corps.

Such a happening would no doubt cause many to break out the “LOL Jets” memes and serve as another bumbling chapter in the Jets’ ongoing trek toward complete 16-game imperfection. It would go well beyond a simple sack, but, if it were to happen, could well personify and fulfill Adams’ most damning comments bestowed to his former green employers.

New York Jets, Jamal Adams
 Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Adams sat down with Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden on the latter duo’s All Things Covered podcast in November. In a discussion about his time and falling out with the Jets, Adams admitted he suffered from depression as the losses piled in New York. It was enough for Adams’ father George, himself a former first-round pick in New York (albeit for the Jets’ blue counterparts), to start encouraging Adams’ agent to start looking for greener pastures…ones that didn’t include “Jets” imprinted on his helmet.

“I fought depression in New York,” Adams said on the podcast. “I’m man enough to say it. I came home after a tough loss and just sat in my room in the dark. No phone, no TV. (My dad) hated to see me like that. It killed my pops so much.”

“Rebuild” became a dreaded buzzword. The aforementioned win over Buffalo was commemorated with a locker room celebration as it allowed the Jets to finish 7-9…unacceptable elsewhere, but a cause for jubilation in New York, which had reached such a summit for only the second time over the last six full seasons.

Admas’ biggest takeaway? “They do not want to win”.

“Money’s a plus, but I love the game of football,” Adams said. “I love what I do … I was sick of hearing ‘the rebuild year’,” Adams continued. “I was bringing the juice back to the Jets,” Adams said. “I simply told them, ‘Hey man, if you guys want to keep me here to be a Jet for life, let’s sit down and talk. This is after the fact they told me, ‘We wanna offer you an extension. I felt like I was being disrespected.”

“Let’s be honest, the Jets were the laughingstock. (Seattle) is how the NFL is supposed to be. This is the dream I was dreaming.”

Williams’ ousting is the latest move of an ongoing purge that should continue well into the Jets’ offseason. Among those who went before him were Adams’ fellow defensive starters like Avery Williams, Steve McLendon, and Pierre Desir. Le’Veon Bell was cast away from the offense through an outright release months after little, if any, attempt was made to keep Anderson, who’s now a beacon in the Carolina’s more organized rebuild. All the while, Gase, who has had to snuff out rumors of in-fighting between him, Adams, and Bell, continues to oversee the operation, somehow inching his way closer to the upper half of the league’s longest-tenured coaches. His ousting could well come after yet another meaningless Week 17 game, this one coming in Foxboro against the Patriots on January 3. But considering all the names the Jets have given up on before they gave up on Gase, his firing feels anything but certain.

Does that sound like a team that wants to win?

Seattle winning the early portions of this trade was likely to be expected. McDougald, who spent a majority of this season injured, is the only piece of the Adams trade with a name so far, as the Jets are set to choose twice in each of the next two opening draft rounds after acquiring Seattle’s picks. Adams was the perfect piece for a team on the cusp of the Super Bowl to add, and he’s doing what he can to help his new cause. In Seattle, seven wins is a step, not a destination.

But, through their play, the Jets are proving Adams right, almost writing their own warning for any big-name talent that want to join their cause through free agency or the draft.

The Jets’ first step in yet another reset must be to prove Adams wrong. That, more than likely, won’t involve victories in the early going. If the heartbreak against Las Vegas from last weekend proved anything, it’s that the Jets really couldn’t care in the slightest about the concept of tanking. If anything, they should continue to use these final four weeks to build any positives and complete their offseason shopping list for yet another reset.

If it proves Adams wrong in the process…well, they’ll take any kind of victory they can get at this point.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Adam Gase “looking for volunteers” on defense

New York Jets, Adam Gase

As the season nears its merciful end, Adam Gase and the New York Jets are running out of defenders due to injury.

In an ironically cruel sense of timing, Adam Gase and the New York Jets are in desperate need of help in the secondary as a matchup with Jamal Adams looms.

Gase had a dire outlook on his secondary’s injury situation, as he began his Friday statements by declaring that safeties Ashtyn Davis (foot) and Bennett Jackson (hamstring) will miss Sunday’s visit to Seattle (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Further ailments on the offensive line, including Greg Van Roten (toe) and injured-reserve listee Alex Lewis (non-football), had Gase joking that he was “looking for volunteers” to finish out the season.

“We have a plan as far as if we had anybody go down, we cross-trained multiple guys,” Gase said, per notes from the Jets. When it comes to the defense, Gase said “We do have two guys that have had some experience playing back there that are ready to go if we have any kind of injury.”

Marcus Maye and Matthias Farley are the only current safeties on the roster with NFL experience. Former Giants draft pick Corey Ballentine has mostly worked on special teams, while practice squad reps Saquan Hampton (a Rutgers alum) and Zane Davis could also be considered. First-year defender Elijah Campbell has also been called up to the active roster. Offensively, rookie draft pick Cameron Clark could take over for Van Roten, who has partaken in 93 percent of New York’s offensive snaps this season.

It sets up quite a conundrum for the Jets (0-12), who will be playing the first of four games under interim defensive coordinator Frank Bush on Sunday. Bush, formerly the team’s inside linebackers coach, is taking over for the ousted Gregg Williams, who was let go after a questionable defensive play call at the end of their latest loss, a 31-28 decision at the hands of the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend.

“These kids have always been resilient,” Bush said of his unit this week, per Jets notes. “One of the most unique things about our players is that, when they hit the field, they hit the field running. They come out with the right intent. The attitudes have always been good. I’m yet to see one day when they come out with a bad attitude and we have to push them to go. We just have to make sure they’re going in the right direction.”

Bush and his group did receive a bit of good news as they go into a dangerous matchup with a Seattle offense boasting the talents of Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf: Gase announced on Friday that he expects Bless Austin to return to the lineup alongside rookie Bryce Hall. Austin, another former Scarlet Knight from Piscataway, has struggled to gain momentum after a strong rookie season after spending time on injured reserve with a neck injury. He was activated this week alongside tight end and fellow sophomore Trevon Wesco. Lamar Jackson will serve as a reserve, should Austin make his start as anticipated.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets defense reacts to last-minute loss vs. Las Vegas

New York Jets

The New York Jets seemed on their way to their first win of the season, but a brutal defensive lapse brought them back to a winless reality.

Coming out on the wrong side of a Sunday scoreboard probably shouldn’t phase New York Jets fans at this point. After all, their team is the only winless squad left in the NFL and seems destined for 16-game imperfect infamy.

The Jets seemed ready to avoid such a fate with a narrow lead against the playoff-contending Las Vegas Raiders. New York had erased a 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter to the tune of rushing touchdowns from Sam Darnold and Ty Johnson. Their 28-24 lead seemed safe, even when Las Vegas got the ball back with 35 seconds to go. The Jets failed to pick up a first down after a potential go-ahead score was stopped, but they still figured to be sitting pretty at MetLife Stadium.

Braden Mann’s 47-yard punt situated the Raiders at their own 39 before a 15-yard Derek Carr pass to Darren Waller got them to the Jets’ 46. Victory still appeared imminent after Carr’s throw to Nelson Agholor was overthrown after a clock-stopping spike. But Las Vegas’ incoming redemption was a painful reminder that the team made to personify the year 2020 is still trapped in this cycle of distress.

Opting for a Cover Zero setting and an emphasized blitz on a ten-yard third down, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams apparently sought to use pressure to get the Raiders to fold. With the linebackers blitzing and the secondary engaged in man coverage, the Jets put all their hope in a sack to run the clock out and depart East Rutherford with their first win of the year. The plan backfired, with Henry Ruggs breaking free from Lamar Jackson and catching Carr’s deep ball. It led to the game-winning 46-yard score that sent the Raiders into hysterics. Five seconds remained on the clock, but all they produced was a desperation heave from Darnold that resigned the Jets to a 31-28 defeat.

The Jets (0-12) advanced one step closer to joining the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns in winless 16-game seasons, though most of their fanbase seemed nonplussed by such news, taking solace in the fact that the team appears to be closing in on the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Conversely, Las Vegas (7-5) averted disaster and remained alive and well in the AFC wild card hunt. They currently sit one game behind fellow Sunday winners Miami and Indianapolis for the final playoff slots in the conference.

On the other side of MetLife Stadium, postgame comments took on a somber tone. Johnson, fresh off a career-best 104 yards (the Jets’ first such rusher since October 2018), couldn’t fully enjoy the best afternoon of his young NFL tenure.

My family’s happy and a lot of people were messaging me this and that. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the win,” Johnson said, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “I wanted to get the win, that’s point-blank. It’s a blessing. I appreciate the guys giving me the opportunity, the guys on the line, out on the perimeter. I appreciate the hell out of them. I just wish at the end of that we came out with that W.”

Safety Marcus Maye was on the field for the fateful score. Covering Hunter Renfrow in man coverage, Maye was forced to watch helplessly as the ball landed in Ruggs’ waiting arms.

With eight men blitzing, Maye and his fellow men of the secondary were forced to deal with Las Vegas receivers one-on-one. The safety appeared to take a jab at Williams’ defensive playcall in his postgame comments.

“That situation, (there) just has to be a better call. We gotta execute, but you gotta help us out at the same time,” Maye said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “We fought hard to put ourselves in the position to win. That’s the point in the game we’ve just got to be in a better call.”

For his part, Jackson accepted responsibility for what happened with the Ruggs situation. The undrafted rookie has been pressed into a full-time role on defense due to both medical and transactional departures.

“I didn’t execute it to the best of my ability or how I wanted to. It’s tough, but at the same time, I also know that call is not going to define me or my career,” Jackson said in another Post report from Greg Joyce. “It’s tough. It’s definitely tough. I wasn’t looking for help, but I definitely was probably hoping it wasn’t on me. All I could think was, ‘Not me.’ I don’t want to be the reason. But I was. Gotta live with it. Gotta get better.”

Even Carr himself was shocked by the turn of events on the New York defense, telling SportsMax that he “couldn’t believe” that the Jets opted for an all-out blitz.

The call itself goes to Williams’ corner. Though the defensive coordinator did not speak after the game, head coach Adam Gase remarked that the team was trying to put pressure on Carr, which had worked to their benefit earlier in the game. New York was credited with six quarterback hits on Carr throughout the game, while Neville Hewitt and Quinnen Williams each earned a sack.

Nonetheless, the impulsive plan backfired at the worst possible time. The Jets’ appeared to ease up the pressure on the previous play, sending only four to the backfield on Carr’s final in completion of the afternoon.

“(The defense had) done well with (pressure) all game. That’s what happened. We had a couple of free runners, but we didn’t get there,” Gase said, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “You’re in this league long enough, you see games like this. You don’t want to be part of them, I know that.”

The Jets return to action next Sunday, hitting the road to take on the Seattle Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Quinnen Williams: The New York Jets’ brightest silver lining

Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

It hasn’t taken long for Quinnen Williams to rewrite the narrative of his NFL career, as the former No. 3 pick has taken huge strides.

Enough has been written about the brutality that is the 2020 New York Jets, but there are still five weeks to go in this harrowing journey, and sites and newspapers need content. If the Jets (0-11) reach the Holy Grail of imperfection, sipping Zima in perpetuity with the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns, the retrospectives will likely never end for football masochists.

Relief can be derived through looking on the bright side in any aspect of like. Those with time to root for the Jets likely have their health, and if the team’s imperfect destiny is the biggest problem in their lives, they probably don’t have many problems at all. But even trying to find silver linings in this mess appears to be futile, as the presumed incoming purge of both the roster and coaching staff looms, who knows who make their way onto the 2021 roster.

Then again, Quinnen Williams has spent this dreary season defying expectations. Why stop now?

As a team, the Jets had relatively little to lose entering the 2020 campaign. Even if the Jets had managed to conjure up a few wins by this point, the playoffs would still likely be buried by established contenders. We’re already in a situation where two 2019 division champions, including the top seed, might miss out on the postseason. Perhaps no one could forsee the true, winless carnage that laid ahead for the Jets, but making the playoffs was always going to be a shock. It allowed them to play with a sense of reckless abandon, though they’ve rarely taken advantage of that.

But individual cases on the roster, however, were full of potential make-or-break cases right from the get-go. General manager Joe Douglas bestowed plenty of one-year deals in his first full offseason at the helm, helping create a list of 31 players up for free agency at the end of the year. That doesn’t even count the players whose contracts have 2021 outs. These cases perhaps only serve to completely dispel the notion of tanking, but that’s a conversation for another day.

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams
 Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Williams’ contract situation wasn’t exactly dire. The Jets would be in for even more dead money if they tried to move him, the only potential form of cap relief coming through just over $2 million in savings if they trade him after June 1 next year (and even then, it leads to over $5 million on their dead money ledger). But the interior defensive lineman still had to prove himself during his sophomore season.

One could perhaps create a team of gridiron all-stars of the players the Jets have passed on the draft in the new century alone. With Williams going third overall out of Alabama, the Jets passed on several names packed with potential, including linebacker Josh Allen, who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the seventh. While Allen enjoyed a Pro Bowl campaign, Williams struggled to the tune of 28 tackles (four for a loss), 2.5 sacks, and a single pass defense over 13 games, losing parts of the season to a high ankle injury. It didn’t help that the only two men chosen in from of Williams were a new franchise quarterback (Kyler Murray) and a future Rookie of the Year who helped fuel a Super Bowl run (Nick Bosa), nor did Williams’ arrest on a gun charge at LaGuardia Airport in March (though charges were later dropped).

It was fair and perfectly natural for Williams to be worried. After all, the networks that broadcast the draft have turned roasting the Jets’ prior picks into more of a draft tradition than big boards and Mr. Irrelevant combined. Additionally, the already-quick trigger-fingers of NFL general managers have become even more aggressive. But of all the skills Williams learned in the football Valhalla of Tuscaloosa, the means of fighting through adversity might’ve been the lesson that he’ll remember most from his time with the Crimson Tide.

“I played for Alabama, a lot of people hate Alabama,” Williams said toward the end of last season, per Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com. “A lot of people criticize Alabama. I lost to Auburn, lost in the National Championship. So you get criticism all the time, man. But you’ve got to know who you are. You’ve got to know that the person who criticizes you don’t know Xs and Os the way you know Xs and Os.”

This offseason was a game-changer for Williams, setting the stage for his breakout campaign. Denied an opportunity to train at game speed with the preseason wiped out, he instead made an effort to improve in areas away from the field: the practice facility, the weight room, and the community.

Williams underwent an intensive body transformation during the offseason, seeking to eliminate body fat. He returned to Florham Park nearly ten pounds lighter when training camp commenced. In the meantime, he found a way to take care of a different brand of metropolitan defender: first responders battling the ongoing health crisis. Williams donated over $25,000 worth of meals to different hospitals to New Jersey healthcare workers. 

“I transformed my whole body,” Williams said in training camp video released by the team. “I got a whole new diet. I done opened my mind to a whole new ball game of food that I never thought I would, like all types of seafood, different types of fishes and different types of protein, stuff like that, and good fats and bad fats, things like that, so I really can’t pinpoint anything, but I definitely got a whole new mindset on food and a whole new mindset on nutrition.”

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was convinced that his protege was ready to take the next step in his professional football.

“People are going to see a big jump in his production and in his play,” coach Williams told SNY in June. “He’s had a very good offseason in how he’s trained and what he’s done to get better.”

Williams’ offseason progress has impossible to miss on game day. He has already set new career-highs in nearly every traditional defensive stat, earning 41 tackles and five sacks. Next Gen Stats noted that, during the Jets’ most recent defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Williams earned single-game bests for quarterback pressures with six (his third game of having at least five this season) and a pressure rate of 18.8 percent. The offense was unable to capitalize, but Williams also forced a fumble recovered in Miami territory in the 20-3 defeat.

So much uncertainty surrounds the Jets in the near future, as this woebegone campaign has completely diluted one of the more legitimately hopeful periods in this perpetual rebuild. Things aren’t going to magically improve with the inevitable top overall pick. Looking for positives may seem like a futile cause, but they could provide building blocks for the eventual foundation that will one day hopefully lift the Jets out of this rut.

A win may not appear on the left side of the Jets’ standings column this season…but Williams is providing one in the proverbial sense, the video archive department of the networks that broadcast the draft be damned.

Williams and the Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon, taking on the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Three things to know about CB Bryce Hall

New York Jets, Bryce Hall

With the release of Pierre Desir, rookie Bryce Hall will take on an expanded role in the New York Jets secondary.

Kids are running New York now.

The New York Jets bid another one of their veteran starters farewell this week, placing cornerback Pierre Desir on waivers. Desir joins Le’Veon Bell, Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson as New York starters that have been sent elsewhere as the team sinks further into football oblivion.

With Desir’s departure, younger players will be expected to take on a larger role over the Jets’ remaining seven games. Cornerback Bryce Hall will be among the latest to step up, as he moves to the front of the depth chart with Desir seeking a new team. The Jets (0-9) hit the west coast to battle the Los Angeles Chargers (2-7) in their first-ever visit to SoFi Stadium on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Hall was the Jets’ fifth-round pick (158th overall) back in April’s draft, hailing from Virginia. The early portions of his season were spent on the reserve/COVID-19 list and later the non-football injury list, but he made his debut in the Jets’ most recent defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots. He would go on to earn two tackles in his first taste of NFL action. With Desir gone, and Bless Austin recently sent to injured reserve, Hall is expected to play a major role in the Jets’ defense in the final stages of this woebegone season.

“I attacked the rehab process just how I attack my preparation in playing this game,” Hall said this week, per Chris Ryan of NJ Advance Media. “The biggest thing that’s helped me is my faith and just having that positive outlook that I will be able to. I felt like God brought me here for a reason, so he’s like, ‘You’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna have an opportunity. Now keep you know just learn as much as you can, through that process.’”

ESM has a few things to know about the former Cavalier as his big opportunity awaits…

[EDIT: 11/23/20, 4:00 p.m. ET:] A previous version of this article referred to Bishop McDevitt’s nickname as the “Royal Lancers”, rather than the Crusaders. This has been corrected.

He Got His Start on Offense

It’s ironic that Hall has made his modern football living through making life miserable for opposing receivers, as his career began in the position he now neutralizes. He entered the national scene as a receiver at Bishop McDevitt High School, a parochial school in Pennsylvania, earning 2,386 yards and 35 touchdowns over four seasons. Afterward, he was offered two Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers, choosing Virginia over Coastal Carolina.

“I think all those years playing receiver have helped with my understanding of what offenses are trying to do and with my ball skills,” Hall said in a pre-draft retrospective with Ron Counts of The Daily Progress. “It was funny because we were so raw in terms of fundamentals and technique. (I) really had to stumble into it and take in whatever the coaches were saying. After a lot of failing and getting roasted multiple times in practice, I started to find my way.”

The switch obviously played out for the better; Hall went on to lead the nation in pass defenses during his junior season in 2018 (21), an accomplishment that helped him earn first-team All-ACC honors at the end of the year.

He Nearly Played Basketball

Hall could’ve been donning the blue and orange threads of the Knicks rather than the green and white of the Jets had he had his way upon reaching the Wyncote, PA campus of Bishop McDevitt. It was the Crusaders’ head football coach, Jeff Weachter, who was able to convince Hall to trade the hardwood for the gridiron permanently after Hall was ready to hang up his helmet during his sophomore season.

“I said ‘You’re kidding. At best, you’re a Division II basketball player. You’re a D-I football player,’” Weachter said in Counts’ report, mentioning that Hall missed the Crusaders’ first scrimmage that season while tending to basketball matters. “He called me the next day on Sunday and said ‘Coach, I made a horrible mistake. Can I still come out?’ I said ‘Of course. But you’re not going to start the first couple games.’ I understood because that’s just Bryce. He wants to be perfect at everything he does, and he wanted to spend that time perfecting basketball.”

Only destiny and fate know how drastically Hall’s life could’ve changed with the decision. True to Weachter’s prediction, he earned a Division I invitation to the Cavaliers, where he not only earned the publicity that led to his drafting, but also met his fiance Anzel Vilojen, a former member of Virginia’s field hockey squad. Days after the Jets brought him to New York, Hall asked Vilojen to marry him in a successful proposal.

He Has Worked Through a Lot of Adversity

The Jets have added several veterans whom they hope can direct the team through these times of adversity, but the rookie Hall can serve as a strong source of inspiration, even as he enters only his second week of NFL action.

Some experts felt that Hall could’ve been a first-round pick had he entered the draft after his junior campaign. Athlon Sports, for example, had Hall ranked in the top ten of their premature 2020 draft rankings. Hall, however, opted to return for his senior campaign, a year that ended early due to a devastating ankle injury. The injury played a major role in his fall from round one to day three.

But Hall never came to regret his decision to return to Charlottesville. In fact, from the moment the injury happened, the defender was looking to glean the positives out of it.

“I feel like I’m already better from it now, because that’s the thing: When you go through difficult things like that, it really molds your character. It just creates something in you that wasn’t possible to be developed before, had you not gone through this process,” Hall said, per Jeff White of Virginia’s official athletics site. “Now I’m in a position where I’m becoming a better leader, and I’m developing different gifts that I feel like I’ve had in me but just haven’t come out, like speaking. I’m usually somebody who leads by example. Now, my voice is the only thing I have to help and encourage and communicate.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills ready for the challenge of Kyler Murray, Cardinals offense

New York Giants, Lorenzo Carter

The Buffalo Bills conquered the forces of Russell Wilson last week, but their NFC West endeavors get no easier.

A win over the NFC-leading Seattle Seahawks should’ve, in theory, rendered doubters in the 2020 Buffalo Bills an endangered species. The Bills not only led a majority of the Seattle game by at least two possessions, but they neutralized the Swiss Army quarterback that is Russell Wilson through four turnovers (two interceptions and fumbles each).

But any progress the Bills made last weekend can immediately become undone by Wilson’s NFC West compatriot.

The road to respectability revealed a fast lane for the Bills last weekend, but another roadblock awaits in the form of the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Buffalo (7-2) will face an Arizona offense that sits atop the NFL at 422 yards a game. The Cardinals (5-3) not only enter with voltage but fury as well after enduring a 34-31 defeat to the Miami Dolphins last weekend.

The primary reason for the revolution has undoubtedly been a combination of quarterback Kyler Murray, a top overall draft pick who has made several large leaps in his sophomore season. Murray has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his eight games thus far. That includes three each over the past two games to tally 16 on the season.

Buffalo brass knows a dangerous challenge lies ahead.

“They’ve got a terrific young quarterback…and an offense that is ranked number one in the league, so we’re gonna have our hands full with what they do on offense,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said earlier this week, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “Trying to get a grasp around what’s the best approach that we need to take to slow them down. It’s hard to compare (Seattle and Arizona) other than the fact that they are both very explosive offenses. We’re gonna have to bring our ‘A’ game to have a chance to be successful.”

“The speed and quickness element are off the charts,” head coach Sean McDermott added in the same report. “Having never coached against him before, just when you’re watching on film and you watch it on TV, you can see the difference. We’re talking elite (defensive) athletes that are around him, he’s not running around just average athletes out there, he’s running around great athletes, and he looks different even than those athletes, so I’ve been able to get an appreciation for him.”

Murray has also caused relentless damage on the ground, gaining at 50 rushing yards in all but two games this season. He put up a career-best 106 in a losing effort against the Dolphins last week but the Cardinals are 6-3 when he otherwise reaches the half-century mark on the ground.

During game prep for Arizona, reserve receiver/returner Isaiah McKenzie played the role of Murray on the scout team.

“It certainly helps,” McDermott said of the McKenzie imitation, in another report from Garrett Stepien of 247 Sports. “A lot? I don’t know, I think that remains to be seen. I would just say it certainly helps to get ourselves acclimated to that type of speed and quickness.”

Another factor in the Arizona revolution has been receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who came over to the Cardinals through an offseason trade with the Houston Texans. Hopkins’ final game in the Space City came against the Bills during the AFC Wild Card playoffs, when he earned 90 yards on six receptions in addition to a two-point conversion in the Texans’ overtime victory. Arizona’s other offensive talents include running back Kenyan Drake and Hopkins’ fellow receivers Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, and the immortal Larry Fitzgerald.

Only adding to the Bills’ plight is the fact that they’ll be missing two of their top cornerbacks (Josh Norman, Levi Wallace) and a strong reserve safety (Dean Marlowe) after a positive COVID-19 test also sidelined several of those in close contact. Buffalo has made several roster moves to combat the losses.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: silver lining Marcus Maye speaks after defeat

On his first day as the defensive headliner, Marcus Maye served as one of the lone silver linings for the New York Jets’ Week 1 endeavors.

Getting the New York Jets’ “game ball” in the locker room after Sunday’s game in Orchard Park may be more of an insult than honor at this point.

The first game of the green decade was one to forget, its 27-17 final score in favor of Buffalo Bills nowhere near as indicative of just how one-sided the game really was. Buffalo scored the first 21 points to bring the nonexistent home crowd to its feet and relatively waltz through the remainder of the game.

In a game like that, silver linings are few and far between. The 69-yard scoring hook-up between Sam Darnold and Jamison Crowder seemed wildly out-of-place in such a one-sided affair. New York (0-1) could perhaps at least take assurance in the fact that Mekhi Becton played a relatively decent game on the offensive line. The box score, however, was relatively low on condolences.

A welcome exception to the trend was safety Marcus Maye.

Sunday marked perhaps one of the most important games of Maye’s NFL career. While it was the fourth season of his NFL career, it was perhaps his first as a defensive headliner. With Jamal Adams napalming his bridges to New York and C.J. Mosley opting out, Maye likely had the brightest green spotlight on him during Sunday’s proceedings. Only more eyes will linger on Maye this season because of his contract status; his rookie deal ends after Week 17.

For all intents and purposes, Maye impressed his suitors, both domestically and abroad. He led all defenders with 10 tackles and also earned two sacks of Josh Allen. Two quarterback knockdowns likewise awaited Maye, who also successfully defended two passes and forced a fumble.

According to Jets PR, Maye is “the 10th Jet since 1994 to record a sack, forced fumble, TFL and a PD in the same game”. Notable fellow Jets to achieve the feats in that span include Darrelle Revis, John Abraham, and Muhammad Wilkerson (who did it three times).

Maye felt that Buffalo didn’t do anything truly special in victory, instead claiming blame on behalf of the Jets.

“(Buffalo wasn’t) doing anything schematically. (Allen) was extending plays with his legs and getting guys open with his feet,” Maye noted in transcripts provided by the Jets. “The penalties hurt us on our end, but other than that, that was really it. We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half.”

To Maye’s point, the Jets lost 95 yards on nine penalties. Buffalo (1-0) earned six first downs through laundry alone. Two of those instances came from the defense on either third downs or with at least 10 yards to go.

Overwork may have contributed to the defensive woes as a whole. The Jets earned only one first down on their first five possessions, forcing the defense back on the field as quickly as they left it. Maye wasn’t looking for excuses, however. With the Jets likely positioned as underdogs for the foreseeable future, Maye knows that better starts will be vital to making the most out of this trying season.

“You have to come out hot. You have to come out fast. You can’t wait until things get tough to get going. From the first play you have to come out,” Maye noted. “You know he’s going to run. You know he’s going to extend plays. You know he’s not going to stay in the pocket. So, we just have to execute and be disciplined in our rush lanes. When the ball is in the air, just be composed and be smart.”

The Jets’ confidence in Maye was apparent when the team granted him defensive captaincy honors alongside 12th-year veteran Steve McLendon. It was Maye who spoke not only for the Jets’ defensive shortcoming but for their pregame demonstration as well.

With athletes across North American sports engaging in demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice, the Jets opted to remain in the locker room during the opening ceremonies. According to Maye, team unity was the catalyst behind the decision.

“We just decided as a unit that we were going to hold out and stay inside during the National Anthem. We all decided that was something big for us to do. We did it as a group, as a team. Obviously, people had different perspectives on being out there on the sidelines, so we made an emphasis on just staying inside and keeping everybody together inside.”

The Jets will get a chance to redeem themselves at home next weekend against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags