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

Don’t fault the New York Jets for defying the “tanking” method

Fans across the tri-state area admonished the New York Jets for the sin of playing better football on Monday night.

Let’s be clear from the get-go that while metropolitan fans have been forced to deal with a lot in the year 2020, it pales in comparison to the issues on a broader scale. If the biggest problem in your life is seeing Henrik Lundqvist in a Washington Capitals sweater or that the New York Knicks fell in the NBA draft lottery, you’re a lot better off than at least 99.999999999 percent of the rest of the world, especially in these trying times.

That being said, it was hard not to send at least a few sympathies to New York Jets fans on Monday night.

If only because New York City skyline shots are ratings gold, the Jets partook in their second nationally televised NFL game this season on Monday night, their AFC East showdown with the New England Patriots streamed to the masses of a football-loving public. Placing such a matchup in a national TV slot more or less explains why Hollywood keeps churning out gory, repetitive interations of franchises like Saw: they’re violent, often one-sided, and unpleasant from anything but a macabre sense, but people keep watching them, so the powers that be continue to make sure they remain in production. Since 2010, seven New York-New England get-togethers have been placed in either the primetime windows of Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night. The Jets have lost each of those meetings, including a 30-27 last-second defeat on the most recent edition of ESPN’s Monday Night Football. It’s the Jets’ ninth consecutive loss to New England and their ledger reads 0-9 for the first time in franchise history…a mark so dubious even Rich Kotite and Co. managed to avoid it.

Yet, when Nick Folk’s 51-yard triple sailed through the uprights as time expired, Jets fans throughout the tri-state area were…relieved?

Yes, the 2020 season has become so wretched for Jets fans that they are actually resorting to begging the Patriots to humiliate them. Such declarations are made in the name of tanking, the supposed art of intentionally losing games so as to secure a better draft pick. As the only winless team left in the NFL and only one single-win left on the docket (the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars), the Jets are well in position to secure the top overall choice, presumably to be used on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Tanking has become a far-too-common entry in the New York sports ledgers recently. The Jets’ case to do only increases due to the NFL Draft’s straightforward method of sorting. Unlike their counterparts on the ice and hardwood, the NFL eschews a lottery system, merely ranking non-playoff teams from worst to best record in determining the first 18 picks. A lower strength of schedule serves as the primary tiebreaker. It’s understandable that fans comfort themselves through thinking of the future, whether it’s via endless visits to Tankathaon or rhyming/alliterating social media tags (#TheEndeavorForTrevor).

. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Jets have had to deal with accusations of tanking after eight straight defeats (with an average margin of defeat at three possessions). A mini fire-sale that bid farewell to touted names like Le’Veon Bell (released), Steve McLendon, and Avery Williamson (the latter two traded for day three draft picks) did nothing to ax those notions. Head coach Adam Gase, perhaps the most common name on the top of many Jets’ fan purge lists, insisted that it wasn’t a sign of a complete 2020 shutdown.

“I never look at waving the white flag. That’s not in my DNA,” Gase said earlier this fall, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. Regarding the departures, Gase noted that “I know it’s not always ideal, but that’s the NFL. That’s what it is. That’s part of what happens when you don’t win. We’re at a part of the season where we haven’t won a game yet, and things like this happen”.

But obsessively, almost masochistically, hoping your team loses is not the way to go.

For one thing, the unpredictable nature of the NFL Draft is too much to hinge every one of your future hopes on. One look at the countless montages all of the football rights-holders play on draft weekend showcasing the Jets’ high-profile misses should tell you that. Even if the Jets do earn the No. 1 pick and the presumed rights to Lawrence, he’s not going to wave a magic wand and make them into a contender again. It should be clear at this point that the Jets don’t seem to be making any major decisions when it comes to the beleaguered coaching staff, at least before the year lets out.

The macabre silver lining of such a woebegone record is the gift of consequence-free opportunities (at least from a franchise standpoint) for your team on game day, chances to work with research and development, see what works and what doesn’t. For their part, the Jets did seem to take advantage of this dark gift and played their best game of the season on Monday night. Sure, the Tom Brady-free Patriots aren’t what they used to be, but the fact that the Jets put up a good effort against a desperate divisional foe should be inspiring to whatever fans have opted to stick around for this.

Yet, what could’ve been a night of hope and inspiration was instead one of fear for the fanbase for the majority of the evening. The mortal sin of a New York sports rooting for a Boston team is often only applied in “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” situations. There were probably New York Yankees fans that secretly clamored for the Red Sox to top the Mets in the 1986 World Series. The New York Giants’ faithful donned a new shade of blue for Super Bowl LII, unsuccessfully getting behind the Patriots’ championship cause against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Fans must realize, though: even if games have no consequence in the long run…box scores from the final seven games might week be erased from the New York archives at the end of the season. But to these players, Monday’s game in New England…and the final seven games overall…mean everything.

A combination of health and social factors have served as reminders that these athletes are human. These are not interchangeable parts. Living, breathing men and women partake in these games for our entertainment, a form of amusement we, the sports-loving people, have turned to in these times of turmoil. The dark side of it is that careers and livelihoods are on the line. For some on this Jets roster, it could be the last time they see their names on an NFL depth chart. To tell these players to toss a game aside so your team will be on the clock sooner…potentially taking that player’s replacement…is naive. Tanking is a ludicrous notion in any sport. Asking players to do so in the 16-game nature of the NFL makes it even more callous in the wider picture.

Take, for example, Folorunso Fatukasi. A native of Far Rockaway and now-defunct Beach Channel High School, Fatukasi has been on and off the Jets’ active roster since joining the team as a sixth-round pick in 2018. There was promise on display from Fatukasi last season after missing all but one game in his rookie year, but perhaps nothing to truly solidify his status for the Jets’ future. His case, and perhaps many others, was perhaps hurt by a lack of preseason games, exhibitions canceled in the wake of the ongoing health crisis. The casual observer might not be able to tell whether Fatukasi was more likely destined for the Jets or, say, an XFL roster in the future.

But with injuries and the ongoing purge taking over, Fatukasi has pounced on his newfound opportunity, particularly when McLendon was dealt to Tampa Bay. His Monday output (7 tackles, including a big fourth-down stop that eventually led to a Jets field goal) added to his impressive 2020 resume, one that has him ranked in the top ten of Pro Football Focus’ interior defensive lineman ratings.

Do you really want to tell this guy to quit now for the mere possibility of hope later? Fakutasi admitted that the situation is far from ideal, but he and his fellow Jets are committed to figuring things out immediately.

“It is frustrating,” Fatukasi said, per Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post. “But we’ve still got a lot more work to do and guys are going to make sure that we’re encouraged to get this thing turned around somehow.”

Even before his big Monday night moment, Fakutasi was adamant that tanking wasn’t in the Jets’ vocabulary, without ever having to say those cursed words.

It is Monday night football, but at the end of the day it is another game, another opportunity,” Fatukasi said in a pregame report from Jack Bell of NYJets.com “My biggest objective is to go in and play as hard as I can with my teammates, rally with my teammates, and play a good game.”

“This is what we play for…to get a W.”

Do you really want to tell a guy like that to lose on purpose? Do you really want to tell the Jets’ upcoming free agent group, consisting of 28 players, some of whom will be biting and crawling for a chance to stay in the league, that their futures mean nothing? If and when Sam Darnold returns, shouldn’t he get seven final opportunities to prove he’s the Jets’ franchise man?

The sheer quality of upcoming opponents may wind getting the Jets the top overall pick their fans so desire. Five of the Jets’ final seven adversaries are either in a current playoff spot or at the very least tied for one. The exceptions are a Week 17 rematch with the Patriots in New England and their next immediate game against the Los Angeles Chargers following their bye. Los Angeles is only two wins up on the Jets, but, unlike New York, the Bolts at least seem to have some semblance of hope. Justin Herbert appears to be their franchise man and the six losses on their slate have come by a combined 24 points.

Realistically, the pro-tank party’s philosophy could be the talk of the team as they freefall toward an imperfect season. That outlook involves embracing the positives gleaned…and one could look at young developments like Denzel Mims and smile…while thanking the football gods that the Jets did just enough to add another tally to the right-hand side of the win-loss column. 

But you can be assured that the Jets won’t buy into the tanking philosophy. If postgame comments from Monday’s aftermath ring true, they’re focused on November/December 2020…not April 2021.

At least in the grand scheme of things, Jets losses are heartbreaking again. Guard Greg Van Roten made of this change in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. Van Roten made it clear that the best way out of the Jets’ current woes it to go out and win a game.

“A loss like that is heartbreaking because it’s ‘Monday Night Football’ and it comes down to the very last play of the game,” Van Roten said. “I felt like we played well enough to win and just didn’t finish. You lose and you come in on a day like today and everyone’s spirits are down. You have to watch the film, see what you did well and build on that, see what you did not so well and correct it and you have to move on. We have a bye week to kind of recover a little bit, get healthy physically and mentally and hit the ground running when we get out of the break and just go win a game.”

“In this league, you have to play with confidence,” quarterback Joe Flacco added in the same report. “The more you lose, the harder it is to do that. The more you win, you expect to go out there and run for 200 yards and throw for 350 and score five touchdowns. You expect to do that. Right now, the way we’re playing, we’re trying to convince ourselves that that’s going to be the case. We don’t really know. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to believe, continue to take it day by day.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Pros and cons of a potential Kevin Zeitler trade

The 2020 NFL trade deadline is right around the corner. The New York Giants have already gotten active, trading away edge rusher Markus Golden to the Arizona Cardinals for a sixth-round draft pick. The Giants have had a few other players’ names come up in trade discussions, too. Veteran wide receiver Golden Tate is a trade candidate whose value is increasing. Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler is another name that teams have called about.

Kevin Zeitler was traded to the Giants in 2019. Since then, he has started in all but one game for the Giants. Zeitler has been one of the team’s best players since his arrival in New Jersey. But with the Giants sitting at the bottom of the NFC East with a lowly 1-6 record, there is a chance they start to sell off their best players to the highest bidders. How would the Giants benefit from a potential Kevin Zeitler trade?

Pros

The Giants are a young, rebuilding football team. They invested heavily into their offensive line this offseason, particularly through the 2020 NFL Draft. New York drafted two offensive tackles and one interior offensive lineman in this year’s draft. That interior offensive lineman is Shane Lemieux out of Oregon, and he would be the new starting right guard if Kevin Zeitler were to be traded.

If Zeitler were to be traded, the Giants would be able to give Lemieux a starting role for the final 8 weeks of the season. This would allow them to have plenty of NFL film on Lemieux going into the offseason before deciding whether or not to sign or draft another offensive lineman.

Best case scenario, Lemieux impresses and instills confidence in the Giants that he can be a long-term starter at offensive guard. Worst case scenario, Lemieux struggles and proves not to be the long-term answer, indicating to the Giants that they need to find a new offensive guard in the offseason.

Regardless, Kevin Zeitler is not a long-term answer at offensive guard. He is 31-years-old and has not been the same player this year that he was the seasons prior. Moving on from Zeitler would also free up $10 million in salary cap for the Giants (Spotrac).

Trading away Kevin Zeitler would likely acquire the Giants a day-two pick in the NFL Draft. He is their best offensive player and most valuable trade asset. The Giants would be able to gain draft capital and give Shane Lemieux valuable game experience. These are great benefits to trading away Kevin Zeitler, but there are drawbacks also.

Cons

If the Giants do trade Kevin Zeitler away, their offensive line will be going from bad to worse. The Giants’ offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL despite having Kevin Zeitler in the starting five. Taking him away would put Daniel Jones in harm’s way.

Additionally, taking Kevin Zeitler out of the starting lineup and thrusting Shane Lemieux in there could be bad for the rookie out of Oregon. Lemieux was a mid-round draft pick that is being developed behind Kevin Zeitler at the moment.

If he is ready to take on a starting role, then the Giants would probably be excited to get him out there in some capacity. But Lemieux has not lined up at offensive guard once this season, just a few snaps at fullback. If he is not ready to play, the Giants might risk stunting his growth by forcing him into the starting lineup to face tough competition.

The Giants have about a week to get a deal done if they plan on trading away Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler is a valuable and talented player, but if Gettleman and the Giants want to play the long game, they might benefit from moving on from the veteran offensive guard.

New York Giants have best chance of landing number one overall pick, according to ESPN

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Once again, the New York Giants are the talk of the NFL Draft less than a month into the NFL’s regular season. After an abysmal 0-3 start, Giants fans have lost hope in their team and have begun looking ahead to the offseason. According to ESPN FPI, Giants fans have good reason to look ahead to the draft.

The New York Giants have a 27.8% chance of landing the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, per ESPN FPI. This is just ahead of the New York Jets, who have a 27.7% chance of landing the top pick. Right now, it appears that the race for the first pick will be between the two New York teams.

The Giants and Jets have a much higher chance of picking first overall than any other team. The team with the third-highest chance is the Jaguars, at only 8.2%.

The Trevor Lawrence Sweepstakes

There is one player that will be targeted with the number one pick in the 2021 NFL Draft: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Few “generational” quarterbacks have entered the NFL. The prospects that get the “generational” tag are Peyton Manning, John Elway, Andrew Luck, and now Trevor Lawrence. That is elite company that Lawrence is consistently brought up with.

The team that secures the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft will, far more likely than not, draft Trevor Lawrence. Even the Giants will need to give fair consideration to replacing Daniel Jones in that scenario. Jones has flashed great potential in his first 15 starts, but he has been far from perfect. If the Giants do end up with the first overall pick, it would be an indictment on Daniel Jones. The only way the Giants implode like that is if Jones not only fails to progress but actually regresses between now and the end of the season.

So, in that scenario, Dave Gettleman would be fired. Daniel Jones is Gettleman’s (and Pat Shurmur’s) quarterback and, without Gettleman, there are no ties necessarily keeping Jones with the organization. A new general manager would come in and likely consider Trevor Lawrence too good to pass up.

The same goes for the New York Jets and Sam Darnold. Darnold was an excellent prospect coming out of college who has looked impressive at times but has yet to put it all together. Trevor Lawrence, being an infinitely better quarterback prospect, might be the only sensible selection for the Jets at first overall.

Whether it is the Giants, Jets, Jaguars, or someone else picking first overall, the selection will be Trevor Lawrence. Of course, a team like the Jets or Giants could trade down for a king’s ransom if they believe enough in their young quarterbacks. But Trevor Lawrence’s ceiling is too high to pass up. He is a must-pick prospect for whoever lands the top selection in 2021.

New York Jets’ Sunday loss in Indy shows how far they’ve fallen since 2018 trade

It’s hard to blame Darnold for it, but there’s no denying the New York Jets are no better off since their fateful 2018 trade with the Colts.

The NFL Draft has transformed from a single, fleeting weekend in April to a 12-month, 365-day affair that dominates the football landscape on both the professional and amateur levels. Part of the reason for this evolution is the lasting relationship the draft holds with the concept of “what might’ve been”. Fruitful and ineffectual Sundays in autumn have fans constantly asking questions in spring retrospect.

The New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts will be linked by this bond for the foreseeable future. Two years, five months, and eight days before their Sunday afternoon meet-up at Lucas Oil Stadium, a 36-7 Indianapolis shellacking, the two sides agreed to a trade that altered the selection board of the 2018 NFL Draft. New York (0-3) sent four picks to Circle City to move their first turn up three slots. Such a move allowed the Jets to be around for one of the top quarterback choices available in the 2018 proceedings.

The Jets and Colts also engaged in several draft day deals since then, but none have been more vital than the swap that indirectly dressed Sam Darnold in green.

“(New York) had an interest to move up to (No.) 3 and kind of went back and forth for the last four or five days,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said at the time, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “(We) talked to a couple other teams, but we still wanted to stay in position in that top 10 where we could still get a premium player. We feel like at (No.) 6, we’ll still be able to get a premium player.”

At the time, the Jets were actually stocked on the foreign concepts of hope and momentum. They had gone 5-11 the year before but were energized by a young unit overseen by the reasonable reliability of placeholder quarterback Josh McCown. USA Today had the Jets winning a single game in 2017, but McCown and company conjured up five (including one over future AFC finalist Jacksonville), providing some rare positive vibes in green New York circles.

Trading four picks to move up three spots was risky no matter how it was sliced, but, in this NFL era ruled by offensive heroics and a fantasy football deity, a true franchise quarterback was vital. 2018 was the year to find that man, with Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson all entering the professional ranks. Then-general manager Mike Maccagnan knew just how important being in prime position to welcome one of those names to New York was, telling ESPN Radio’s Humpty and Canty “If (there) was a player we felt strong about, we would have no qualms of potentially trying to go up and get him”. With the third selection in hand, he was guaranteed at least one.

After Mayfield and running back Saquon Barkley respectively went to the Browns and Giants, the Jets took Darnold with the third overall pick. Everyone involved knew typical green growing pains were ahead, but the Jets’ perpetual rebuild had perhaps his brightest glimmer of hope since the Tim Tebow circus tent deflated.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis quietly made its selections, preparing for a future that would presumably be led by their own prized franchise man. Andrew Luck had missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury (leading to the Colts’ high draft slot), so Indy was abuzz on what would be done to protect him. Ballard acquiesced by draft Notre Dame guard Quinton Nelson with the sixth overall choice brought in from New York. The next day, another Jets selection (37th overall) was used to take another interior man, Auburn’s Braden Smith (one choice after the Colts used their original second-rounder to take future All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard). The final Jets choice from 2018 was traded to Philadelphia, but the Colts used the last of the bounty to choose cornerback Rock Ya-Sin 34th overall in the following year’s selections (Ya-Sin missed Sunday’s game due to injury).

Nelson and Smith (who later moved to tackle) joined a veteran group headlined by Peyton Manning-era holdover Anthony Castonzo and veterans Ryan Kelly and Mark Glowinski. Upon Luck’s return, he was sacked only 18 times during the 2018 campaign, slicing his takedowns by more than half. The Colts immediately returned to the playoffs and earned an upset win over divisional rival Houston in the wild card round. Not only was Luck never sacked, but Colts rushers also tallied 200 yards, 148 coming from Marlon Mack.

Indianapolis eventually bowed out to top-seeded Kansas City, but the reformed line earned rave reviews.

“They’re blue-collar work guys,” former offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo said in a 2018 report from ESPN’s Mike Wells. “These are the guys that dig holes. They work with jackhammers every day. There’s no glory for these guys. If it weren’t for them, nothing else happens.”

“Every team in the league has physical talent, but the mental makeup of this group top to bottom is by far the best I’ve been around,” retiring guard Matt Slauson said in Wells’ story. “The way they’re able to take coaching and immediately apply it is huge. It allows for in-game adjustments to happen real fast.”

Luck’s abrupt retirement prior to the 2019 season somewhat derailed the Colts’ resurgence plans, but the team has remained competitive under placeholders Jacoby Brissett and Phillip Rivers. They’ve only allowed 35 sacks over the past two seasons, good for eighth in the NFL. An uncanny ability to stay healthy has likewise been impressive. Sunday’s tilt against the Jets marked the 19th consecutive game that the Colts rolled out the same unit in front of the quarterback, which might as well be an eternity by NFL standards. The unit has been overseen by former playoff hero and strong offensive mind Frank Reich, who has worked with coordinator Nick Sirianni since their days with the Chargers’ franchise (2013-17).

To say Darnold has been lacking that kind of stability would be the understatement of this infantile season.

The USC alum can certainly be held accountable for the alarming number of mistakes he has made in the fateful third season, like the three Sunday interceptions into crowded coverage that yielded 14 Colts points. But the fact Darnold has managed to showcase some flashes of brilliance despite an ever-changing roster. Whereas throwers from Indianapolis have enjoyed continuity in their protection and receiving, Darnold is working with an entirely new offensive line from last season and not a single catcher remains from his rookie season.

The transition and turnover has not been limited to on-field personnel. Darnold has had to go through two different coaching staffs, and a third could be on the way if the Jets opt to move on from head coach Adam Gase. While Reich oversaw an offense that consistently racked up yardage in San Diego and Los Angeles, the 2020 season has been full of evidence against Gase. Ryan Tannehill has emerged from quarterback purgatory to become one of the game’s more consistent passers. Jets management, namely CEO Christopher Johnson, has offered a vote of confidence to Gase, the “offensive genius”, but the Jets appear in the 30s in numerous stat categories in a 32-team league. Funds and picks to help Darnold have gone toward acquisitions that have been disappointing (Breshad Perriman, Ryan Griffin, Quinnen Williams), injured (C.J. Mosley, Denzel Mims), or both (Le’Veon Bell).

Sunday was more or less a culmination of the Jets’ woes against a team with whom they collaborated with in managing their future. The Colts (2-1) are a team that’s still figuring things out. Rivers is clearly not meant to be the quarterback for any lengthy period. Longtime prime receiver T.Y. Hilton has struggled to post the number expected of him. Tannehill and the undefeated Tennessee Titans have control of the AFC South. The horseshoe helmeted squad might be able to take advantage of the expanded wild card picture, but no one’s expecting them to rep the conference in Super Bowl LV.

Against the Jets, however, it might as well have been the Manning/Edgerrin James/Marvin Harrison days all over again.

The Jets earned only 15 first downs and 260 yards on offense, failing to reach 300 for the third consecutive week in an NFL where such a concept is commonplace. Even brief moments of joy, like a 7-7 tie in the first quarter via Darnold’s rollout strike to Braxton Berrios, was offset by calamities both unforced and beyond their control. In the case of the latter, a rare step in the right direction, Mekhi Becton, was lost to an injury that cost him the entire second half. His prescience was best on display when his replacement, Connor McDermott, missed the block on Justin Houston that led to a Colts safety in the fourth quarter, more or less solidifying the case that the Gase-era Jets are football’s version of Murphy’s Law. Gregg Williams’ defense could provide no silver linings. True to form, the Colts’ blockers allowed no sacks on Sunday.

This brutal display simply personified how little the Jets have moved forward since that fateful trade in 2018. The Colts were the perfect team to expose such flaws. If anything, the Jets have only taken several steps back.

“I just got to play consistent,” said Darnold of the loss, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “I’m not playing consistent enough to play well in this league. Make the plays when they’re there. When they’re not, just get rid of the ball. Check it down. Do all the right things I need to do.”

Thirteen harrowing weeks remain on the Jets’ ledger. The lone positive to glean from Indianapolis is that a short week ensures that no one will have to watch the game film for too long. New York returns to action on Thursday, as an American public desperate for football will endure a test in endurance through a Jets tilt against the equally woebegone Denver Broncos (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network). While the thought of the playoffs conjures up only Jim Mora-style tirades, much of the Jets’ personnel, including Darnold, could well be playing for their New York futures.

The Jets are next scheduled to face the Colts in 2021, also at Lucas Oil Stadium. It stands to reason that a majority of Indianapolis’ haul from the trade will still be playing when the matchup arrives. Thanks to both personal and team-wide issues, Darnold’s status could well be in doubt as well.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Drafting Trevor Lawrence won’t help anyone

Premature mock drafts have Trevor Lawrence donning New York Jets green. But subjecting the college legend to this wouldn’t benefit anyone.

The New York Jets previously stunk for Sam. Now, the early stages of the 2020 season have them going on an endeavor for Trevor.

Fans and analysts alike have begun to turn on Darnold after a dismal start to the new decade. Through two weeks, Darnold ranks 28th amongst quarterbacks in yardage (394), 24th in completion rate (62.7 percent), and 26th in passer rating (82.6). Those numbers are bad enough from an established veteran thrower, where the modern struggles on the bottom of today’s quarterback ledger boil down to two cases: either the player is clearly past their prime (Tom Brady, Drew Brees) or is kept safe by a massive contract that makes them immovable (Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford). Those are issues that keep you solidified in the present, with the team around the thrower talented enough to keep modern affairs afloat.

But Darnold’s struggles have the Jets tensely monitoring the past, present, and future.

There’s no use in worrying about the past; Scott Lang isn’t coming to the gate at One Jets Drive with the secrets to time travel. The Jets can only take care of the present and the future. While the Jets (0-2) are already fading from a crowded AFC playoff picture, the next 15 weeks will be crucial for players and coaches seeking to earn spots and longevity, and to at least make a lost season look respectable.

As for what’s to come, plenty of prognosticators, amateur and professional alike, have opted to play general manager.

One of the greatest marketing moves the NFL ever made was evolving its from from a single spring weekend a year-long affair. The early stages of the regular season are no exception, as mock drafts for 2021 are already hitting the internet after the first two weeks of the season. Such premature projections have the Jets in the top spot after the brutality displayed in their first couple (though draft order haven Tankathon currently has the Jets picking 11th, with Carolina getting the top choice).

The name in that slot is none other than Trevor Lawrence, the Clemson legend in the midst of what’s confirmed to be his final collegiate campaign. Lawrence’s on-field prowess was already well-known, but the lead-up to a most unusual kickoff exposed his strong leadership qualities through his involement in both the push to play the 2020 season and the social issues gripping the country. Uncertainty peppers the future American landscape, but one of the strongest certainties seems to be that Lawrence will be the No. 1 pick next spring.

Clamoring for the consensus top choice is common and understandable amongst fans; it’s cheaper than therapy and a good hashtag earns valuable social media currency of likes and shares. But it’s not just the fans who envision Lawrence exchanging orange for green.

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports has the Jets picking second, but with his top choosers in Cincinnati set with Joe Burrow, the Jets get a different kind of Tiger in Lawrence. Cory Kinnan of Fansided’s NFL Draft site had the Jets taking Lawrence as the first name outright. Noted stats and data site Pro Football Focus went so far as to give fans a visual aid, digitally placing Lawrence in Jets equipment.

If Mike Tannenbaum was still the Jets’ general manager, Lawrence’s surname might already be stitched into replica jerseys. Tannenbaum certainly knows about the trials and tribulations of franchise quarterback hunting in New York. His seven-year tenure (2006-12) oversaw the high-profile acquisitions of Brett Favre and Mark Sanchez.

“Trevor Lawrence is very similar to Andrew Luck. He’s a once-in-a-generation talent. And I don’t know how any team with the first pick wouldn’t take him,” Tannenbaum said on ESPN Radio’s Keyshawn, JWill, & Zubin. “Now you get into this discussion of ‘What could you get for Sam Darnold?'”

For all the athletic silliness New York sports fans have had to deal with, their patience has been rewarded by so-called “once-in-a-generation” talents through premium draft picks. Just ask New York Liberty fans about the all-too-brief Sabrina Ionescu experience this summer. The New York Rangers are projected to go through the same process after the branded ping-pong ball bounced their way, with Alexis Lafreniere expected to don Broadway blue at next month’s draft.

But, at this moment, a Lawrence-Jets merger would do neither side any good.

When one looks at the Jets’ offense, a unit that ranks in the depths of most, if not all, major stat categories, one would wonder exactly what exactly is the selling point. The 2020 offense is a culmination of modern and throwback negligence, one that finally may have found a cornerstone blocker in Mekhi Becton at the expense of generally disregarding the skilled weaponry. Would-be saviors Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims have dealt with injuries, as has reliable slot veteran Jamison Crowder. Tight end Chris Herndon has struggled to recapture the spark of his rookie season. Pricy rusher Le’Veon Bell has likewise dealt with injuries and the potential cap savings stemming from a hypothetical release ($5.5 million) may be too tempting to pass up next offseason.

It’s not like Darnold’s time in New York has been a total loss. Even with relatively little help, Darnold has managed to churn out the occasional masterpiece. A visual silver lining of Darnold’s escape from the San Francisco 49ers’ pass rush turning into a scoring strike to Braxton Berrios has made the rounds on social media this week, for example. It’s certainly possible for Jets fans to both call out Adam Gase and his coaching staff and hold the fan-favorite Darnold accountable for his own mistakes.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

But with management, namely team CEO and chief decisionmaker Christopher Johnson, seemingly sticking to the “brilliant” Adam Gase, subbing Darnold for Lawrence would make the offense only marginally better and perhaps end a promising career before it truly begins…perhaps emulating the current, scary process Darnold is working through now. Lawrence’s ideal destination is a team that’s the proverbial “quarterback away” from truly contending. The Jets are many, many, many moves away from being a quarterback away. Subjecting Lawrence to this perpetual rebuild, especially one mored in a particularly scary brand of football, seems like cruel and unusual punishment.

Obviously, there’s plenty of time to make moves to further accommodate Lawrence, if the Jets find themselves in the Tiger sweepstakes. The team is blessed with one of the better cap situations in the league (set to work with just over $72 million at the onset of the 2021 offseason) and granting Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy a long-awaited, long-deserved head coaching opportunity would be a point of interest for outside help.

But, as Tannenbaum noted, the Jets arranged Darnold’s development years to be overseen by Gase, the alleged quarterback guru. While it’s possible one of them could survive a potential purge, it’s looking more likely at least one of them could be exchanged by 2021.

“The whole decision-making process was the Jets saying Adam Gase and Sam Darnold are going to be tied to the hip,” Tannenbaum noted on the ESPN podcast. “That’s our franchise for the next 10 years.”

That’s what makes the final 14 games so important for Darnold, who may be playing for his grip on the franchise quarterback role. He needs to make sure the Jets don’t even consider drafting someone like Lawrence. The Jets are blessed with an extra first-round pick over the next two seasons thanks to the Jamal Adams bartering with Seattle, but it would a major victory if they didn’t have to spend any of those premiere selections on yet another franchise quarterback. Granted, the Jets have dealt with so many calamities that one more would be relatively easy to deal with. But the very last thing a rebuilding team needs…other than a sense of hesitation that has been far too common over the first two games…is a franchise quarterback controversy.

The Jets already have enough to deal with, having dug themselves into an extensive hole as is. It wouldn’t be fair to drag Lawrence down with them.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets position group evaluations: Tight Ends

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each New York Jets position group within the organization and grade each group. Today’s group is one of the most encouraging groups on the roster. That is the tight end room. From a highly anticipated bounce back tight end to a standout veteran, to a potential diamond in the rough, this group is one of the best on the roster. So let’s get into it.

TE 1: Chris Herndon

Without a doubt, the most anticipated return on this roster is Chris Herndon. Last season, Herndon entered the year with very high hopes. After a suspension and an upper buddy injury, Herndon’s sophomore season was a bust. Now, he’s back, and he’s been a star of camp. Reporters have been consistent across the board in their lauding of how he will be the critical piece to Sam Darnold’s success. With the lack of receiver depth, Herndon will be counted on to play a significant role. As I previously wrote, Herndon will either be the X-Factor of the offense and the key reason Darnold takes the next step or the reason Darnold has nobody to turn to when the play breaks down.

TE 2: Ryan Griffin

Last season, without Herndon, many analysts wondered who’d step up at tight end. Those questions were quickly dispelled with the impressive play of Griffin. With 34 catches for 320 yards and five touchdowns, Griffin proved to be a huge red zone threat. If Herndon can be the dynamic threat over the top and outside (when need be), then Griffin will be able to play a huge role in red zone success. As long as both guys can stay healthy when the Jets put out two tight end sets, they could be a force to be reckoned with. Griffin does tend to struggle with consistency, though, so as long as he doesn’t become a non-factor, he’ll be a great piece of the offense.

TE 3: Trevon Wesco

The West Virginia product was a curious selection by the former front office regime when he was picked in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. Wesco wouldn’t have been a controversial pick if he was known as a dynamic threat in the red zone or over the middle like the two other tight ends in the room, but he was traditionally known as a blocking tight end. Then, this offseason, he became a much more well-rounded athlete as Adam Gase has stated, and he’s found a real rhythm in camp reportedly. If Wesco can show in-game that he can be a weapon, that would only make the offense all the better.

Grade: A-

This group is FAR from a proven group. With that said, the way Douglas and Gase have built this group, they have potential to complement each other very nicely. Not only that but with the lack of depth at receiver, these guys will be counted on to step up. I truly believe this group has potential to shock some people this year and mask some of the Jets offensive inadequacies. 

New York Jets Position Group Grades: Running backs

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

As the season looms, I decided to take a deep dive into each position group within the New York Jets‘ organization and grade each group. Today’s group is the running backs. Headlined by a thinner and motivated Le’Veon Bell, the ageless wonder that is Frank Gore, and the dynamic rookie in LaMical Perine. It’s a good group with a lot of potential, but how much can potential carry this group, let’s take a closer look.

RB 1: Le’Veon Bell

Without question, Lev Bell is the lead back for the 2020 campaign. Bell is determined to prove that last season’s poor performance was a fluke. He set a record for the lost YPC in franchise history, and I’m sure that doesn’t sit well with him. Bell is lighter than last year, has more quality linemen blocking for him and a coach taking accountability for his poor usage. Still, how much of that is fools gold. Bell is still struggling to keep frustrations quiet, and we know what happened last time a Jet did that. The offensive line could fail to gel and prove to hinder the offense early on. Most of all, Adam Gase may decide to take more of a committee approach and not give Bell the reps he truly deserves. I think Bell will be more improved this year, but I can’t say have I have the same confidence in Adam Gase to use him properly.

RB 2: Frank Gore

Fresh off another year of not looking like he’s slowing down. The 37-year-old running back is being counted on to play two roles this season. After jumping to #3 on the all-time rushing yard rankings, Frank Gore has continued to be an aggressive and productive back. He’ll be counted on to get meaningful reps early.

Gore is also being counted on as a leader and mentor to the younger backs in Perine and Bell. Gore is going to have his hands full trying to keep Bell quiet and still mentor Perine as a rusher. If anyone can do it, though, Gore can. Gore has been touted as one of the most impressive rushers in camp, and I’m genuinely excited to see his impact with the squad. I just hope Gase doesn’t overuse him in lieu of Bell.

RB 3: LaMical Perine

Perine suffered a low-grade ankle sprain that had potential to be A LOT worse. I and Jets fans everywhere feared the worse upon the report he was carted from practice. Now, Perine will hopefully be back quickly and able to contribute by Week 2 at the latest. Perine has the potential to be a change of pace back that really compliments the punch you in the mouth rushing style the other two backs have. Perine has flashed his impressive speed early and often in camp, and I’m excited to see him take the field as well. Perine needs to get some reps early to see if he is capable of being the long term back for this team. I’m weary of his durability and overall productivity, but ultimately I’m hoping for the best.

Grade: B

I really like this group. It’s one of my favorite position groups on this roster as a whole. I think the combination of potential with veteran presence is something that could really benefit the team as a whole. Plus, the value Bell brings as a pass-catcher adds another dimension to the offense. I have high hopes for this team. My biggest fear is Adam Gase is the reason I get let down. 

New York Giants: Best & Worst Case Scenarios For The 2020 Season

New York Giants, Daniel Jones, Lorenzo Carter

Football is almost here. The 2020 NFL season is set to kick off in just a little over a week from today. The New York Giants are entering the new season with a brand new coaching staff and a revamped roster.

Much has been said about the Giants’ offseason moves. They put a heavy emphasis on the defensive secondary and offensive line, but there were other positions they did not address with as much priority.

Regardless of the team’s roster-building strategies, there are two ways that this season can go: good or bad. But what does good and bad look like for the 2020 New York Giants?

Best-Case Scenarios (GOOD)

Obviously, the best-case scenario for any NFL team is to win the Super Bowl. But, realistically, the Giants are not likely to get that far, coming off of a 4-12 season with a new coaching staff implementing new schemes in the middle of a world pandemic. So there is the best-case scenario where the Giants add their fifth Lombardi Trophy to the locker room, and then there is the realistic best-case scenario.

Realistically, the Giants competing for a playoff spot in December is their best-case scenario. New York has been eliminated in November for years now, never truly competing for a playoff spot throughout the season. That needs to change in 2020.

Giants fans are tired of losing. Giants players who have been on the time for more than one season are tired of losing. Losing has become the new normal for the New York Giants, despite being one of the most historic franchises in the NFL.

In order for the Giants to be a competitive team during the final weeks of the season, a few things need to happen. Firstly, the team needs to end the season with seven or more wins. That has not happened since 2016, four years ago, nearly half a decade ago.

Secondly, the Giants need to see their second-year quarterback develop. Daniel Jones showed a lot of promise and potential in his 2019 rookie campaign. But, he was a rookie, and he made plenty of rookie mistakes. Hopefully, Daniel and Jason Garret iron out those mistakes and mold a more polished quarterback in 2020.

Thirdly, the Giants’ defense simply has to be better. They were really bad defensively in 2019. Just be better. Seeing some improvement in the secondary and out of the pass-rushers will be a big step in the right direction for this young Giants football team.

Worst Case Scenarios (BAD)

The best-case scenarios are not completely realistic for the Giants this year. This is not a team that anyone should expect to see win the Super Bowl. But the worst-case scenarios, on the other hand, are considered by some to be very realistic.

I am a believer in Daniel Jones. I think he will improve this year. But not everyone is a believer in our team’s young quarterback. And, I’m never wrong, but what if I do turn out to be wrong about this one? What if the nonbelievers are right? If Daniel Jones goes through a sophomore slump, the Giants are going to be put in a really awkward position.

If for whatever reason, Daniel Jones actually plays worse this season, there is a good chance the Giants, given the state of the rest of the roster, could end up with the top pick in next year’s draft. Now, no one wants to see Daniel Jones fail (except for Pro Football Focus). We all want to see him succeed with the Giants and be the next face of the franchise. But the Giants are in a tricky position this year.

A hectic offseason impacted by COVID-19, a general manager (who drafted Jones) on the hot seat, and a young roster with plenty of injuries scares already piling up. That is what the Giants are dealing with heading into 2020. If all of this culminates into the perfect storm, the Giants could somewhat realistically see their season go straight down the toilet. In this worst-case scenario, New York could find itself with the first overall pick in 2021.

The first overall pick in 2021 will be Trevor Lawrence, no matter who is picking, as long as he declares. If the Giants end up with that pick, that likely means Daniel Jones played really poorly in 2020 and Trevor Lawrence will probably be too good to pass up next offseason. Lawrence is the next generational quarterback prospect, according to most analysts. Those are so rare- Joh Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck are the only collegiate quarterback prospects that consistently receive the “generational” tag. In this worst-case scenario for the Giants, there is no choice but to move on from our beloved Danny Dimes.

Good thing this is just a scenario. This will not happen, I am certain of it (though there are some people pretty convinced that this will happen). The Giants are an improved team with an improved coaching staff this season. I expect to see them have a season closer to the best-case scenario than to the worst-case scenario.

New York Giants And 4th Overall Pick Andrew Thomas Agree To Terms

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have agreed to terms with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas. The Giants and Thomas are in agreement on a four-year, fully guaranteed $32.345M contract with a $21.1M signing bonus, according to Ian Rapoport.

Andrew Thomas, the three-year starter out of Georgia, is the fourth top-five pick to get his deal done. Thomas will take a physical today then sign the contract.

The New York Giants desperately needed an upgrade at offensive tackle this offseason. Last season, the Giants’ starting offensive tackles allowed a combined 96 pressures. Nate Solder accounted for 56 of those pressures and also allowed 11 sacks on the season. Andrew Thomas is now in a contractual agreement to be the Giants’ left tackle of the future.

Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle).

The Giants report to training camp tomorrow. New York is working to get its entire rookie draft class under contract. Sixth-round pick Cam Brown signed his rookie contract earlier today. Seventh-round pick Tae Crowder has also signed. TJ Brunson, Matt Peart, and Darnay Holmes have also agreed to terms with the Giants. There are only a few rookies left for the Giants to sign, including second-round pick Xavier McKinney. Expect to see the Giants complete these deals with their rookies very soon.