Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson can teach us a lot about Mekhi Becton

mekhi becton, jets

D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s career arc can teach us a lot. Having excellent pieces at premium positions is the foundation of a rebuild. Mekhi Becton is one of these pieces. Not unlike the New York Jets’ current draft situation, the Jets had an extra first-round pick after trading a star player. The Jets used that pick to select the top center in the draft, Nick Mangold.

Seemingly from the start, D’Brickashaw and Mangold were great and changed the tone of the offense. However, things did not come together until the team signed Alan Faneca to what was the most lucrative contract for an offensive lineman. It was this unit that led to two consecutive AFC Championship appearances.

How This Applies To Becton

There has been some talk about getting the Best Player Available at left tackle. That would be Becton to the right side, whether through free agency or the draft. Becton’s advanced stats show that he is a better run blocker than pass blocker. However, that does not mean that moving him to the right side would maximize his strengths. His sample size is too small because of the injury this year, which drastically affected the lineup. More importantly, NFL tackles are not always interchangeable. It happens frequently, and fans that grew up playing Madden will be desensitized to the actual success rate of moving Offensive Lineman around. It does happen, it works, and in some cases provides a major boost to some players’ careers.

Becton was a high first-round pick and has never played particularly poorly at Left Tackle. Joe Douglas’s strategy of building a wall up from is working but will still take some time to finish. Undoubtedly, the Jets need more help on both line units. However, I’m inclined to leave a good run blocker and an improving pass blocker on the left side before we start making changes to his career.

Yes, he has struggled at times on the left side, but that is not indicative that everything will magically fall into place if you stick him on the right side. That’s not to say it does not work: Penei Sewell has improved tremendously on the right side. Moving a player up and down the line is a legitimate technique of evaluating talent, but in some cases, a player is simply meant to play one position.

Looking To The Jets Success From Past To Present

When the Jets took D’Brickashaw Ferguson in 2006, fans were pleased with a top prospect and filled an immediate need. Later that round, the Jets selected Nick Mangold, and some Jets fans were not happy using two first-round picks on one position group. However, many fans knew that when people say players could be here for a decade, these two had every possibility of being right.

In fact, they both had lengthy prolific careers. They were the catalyst for any success the Jets had during their time. Even with the two best lineman, the Jets have seen this century, it led to only two fantastic playoff runs. Nothing is guaranteed, so the Jets need to follow a plan.

Joe Douglas has gone to great lengths to fortify this unit. The offensive line and their depth have improved, but this was always a massive task. Mekhi Becton has a chance to be great, and Alijah Vera-Tucker can comprise a solid left side of the line. Becton deserves his fair shot to prove he is the NFL left tackle he was drafted to be.

Jets hint at bright future with hard-fought finale against Buffalo

jets, zach wilson

The Jets faced the AFC East champions on Sunday with a surprising result. The final score was expected. Robert Salah’s team played hard for the majority of the game, hinting at a bright future.

The Good

Starting with the positive, the defense held Josh Allen and the Bills offense in check for extended periods of time. At one point in the 3rd quarter, Allen was 2 out of his last 10 attempts. Allen ended the day 24 of 45 for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs had a big day with 9 catches for 81 yards and a score.

The Jets’ defensive backfield was the youngest in the league at the start of the season. The cornerback unit had only started 9 games before this season. All of those young players were on the field for a lot of time for the entire season.

The Jets managed no sacks in the game, 5 quarterback hits, and only 4 tackles-for-loss. The Jets defense will want to upgrade the front 7, especially the linebacker unit. Most observers would say the defensive line is a strength that you can build the defense around.

The Bad

The negative side was the offense. Zach Wilson’s play inspired no confidence whatsoever. Wilson was sacked 8 times for 79 yards, and more than a few were his fault. Wilson drifted deep and outside the pocket consistently all game long. Keelan Cole was his leading receiver, and Jamison Crowder left with injury.

The rushing game was another low point for the Jets. Facing a top Bills defense, they only managed 48 yards on the ground. Michael Carter and Tevin Coleman had good plays here and there, but they were working uphill all day.

The Weird

Bills punter Matt Haack largely had an awful day. He had not been called on the prior 23 drives of the Bills offense. With 5:40 to go in the 2nd quarter, Haack shanked a punt for 28 yards. Offsetting fouls allowed the Bills to punt again, and Haack shanked another punt for 21 yards. He punted again 2 minutes later, with a 22-yard result. When Haack then punted a ball for a touchback, an audible cheer happened every successful punt thereafter. He did later manage to bobble the snap, got away from the rush, and pooch punt it for 8 yards.

Another interesting special teams tidbit from the Bills was that returners Micah Hyde and others would let the punt bounce before fielding the ball. They would act as if the returning team wanted to stay away, let it hop, grab it and run upfield. Hyde did this on 3 returns for 29 yards. The weather may have been a factor, and it was unique to see.

Outlook

The Jets have 2 top-10 draft picks and the 4th most salary-cap space. Joe Douglas and the front office are poised to have another impactful off-season. Many players got their chance to put a lot on film this season. The Jets can look forward to the next seven months of team building.

New York Jets acquire Shaq Lawson from Texans

shaq lawson, jets

The New York Jets have replaced an injured Lawson with a healthy one, adding veteran end Shaq Lawson in a deal with the Houston Texans, per multiple reports.

The addition of Shaq Lawson will certainly not fill the entire void left behind by Carl Lawson’s injury, but he’ll make an impact nonetheless.

The former first-round pick hasn’t lived up to the expectations, only starting 24 of his 64 NFL games. In those games, he has amassed 20.5 sacks, 56 QB hits, 29 tackles-for-loss and 6 forced fumbles.

It is unclear what his exact role will be initially, but he should command substantial playing time alongside Bryce Huff, John Franklin-Myers and rookie Hamilcar Rashed Jr., among others. The Jets’ defensive end group now gets a little bigger and, hopefully, a little stronger.

Lawson, 27, spent the first five years of his career in the AFC East with the Bills and Dolphins before being dealt to Houston in March. He now returns to the division he knows so well.

Jets cornerbacks are due for a much-improved season

New York Jets, Bless Austin

The New York Jets defense has received a fair amount of notice this offseason. With the addition of Carl Lawson, the return of CJ Mosley and the continuing emergence of Quinnen Williams, there’s a lot to be excited about. However, one hasn’t received nearly as much praise, to say the least.

That would be the cornerbacks.

Sure, it’s easy to understand why that is: they’re young, unproven and lack “big names.” Nevertheless, this group is due for a much-improved season.

Now, let’s see why they are, highlighted by three key players:

Bryce Hall

Let me preface this by saying that I have very high hopes for Bryce Hall. And why wouldn’t I? The former Virginia corner was one of the best pass-defenders in college…when he wasn’t injured.

In 2018, when he played all 13 games, he led the nation with 22 pass breakups and was tied for first in the nation with 24 passes defended. Those are two of the key stats for cornerbacks and based on what he did compared to everyone else, you can’t get any better than that.

His first season in the NFL was a different story. Along with only playing in eight games, he allowed 37 catches on 52 targets. In case it needs to be said, that isn’t great.

He did show some on-field potential, though, especially for a young player with injury concerns. In those eight games, he had 36 tackles and an interception. Now, in case this needs to be said, or shown, his first interception was a beauty.

Hall will be one of the top-two corners for the Jets this season, and he should be ready for it. At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, he has the size, and the speed, to trace top receivers. He also has a knack for finding the ball and stopping it from finding receivers’ hands.

Now, he has to put it all together on the field consistently. In year two, he’ll be ready for the challenge and the fifth-round pick with first-round talent will help this secondary leap forward.

Bless Austin

Along with having a great name, Bless Austin will most likely be alongside Bryce Hall as the top-two corners. His case is an interesting one, though, as it feels like his numbers should be better than they are.

Across his first two seasons, he has played in just 18 games, starting 16. He has eight passes defended in those games and has allowed 71 catches on 110 targets (64.5%). He’s a good tackler with great movement and speed, so it’s odd that his numbers aren’t better.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, though.

Analysts and fans tend to focus solely on stats and not enough on players’ non-stat impacts. Bless Austin is a guy who can make plays that don’t necessarily show on the stat sheet but drastically impact the outcome of a game.

Austin is due for a breakout third season and has all of the tools to have one. His passion and grit show on the field, whether his stats reflect it or not. It’s about time his stats do reflect his play, though, as something tells me this will be the year.

With no career interceptions, but impressive ball skills, this is the year that Bless Austin should make a name for himself.

Jason Pinnock

Jason Pinnock is a real x-factor this season. The fifth-round pick from Pittsburgh had six collegiate interceptions, along with 25 pass breakups. That’s all good, but here is where it gets really exciting.

All cornerbacks “know” how receivers move, but Pinnock really knows (notice how there are no quotations). This is because he was a receiver in high school, and he was a pretty damn good one. As a senior, he had 59 catches for 1,172 yards and 15 touchdowns. So, one might say he knows how to track the ball in the air pretty well.

You can see these skills clearly if watch him play, even for a short time.

Having experience playing receiver isn’t enough to be a successful corner, and he knows that. To complement his talent, skill and experience, he studied.

In a March interview with TheSpun.com‘s Chris Rosvoglou, Pinnock explained how he admired, and studied, two legendary cornerbacks.

“During my childhood, I’d say it was Darrelle Revis. I was a fanatic of his for years… I had the opportunity a few times to talk to him,” Pinnock said. “He helped my game out a lot just through a few conversations. As far as being in college and high school and getting to that level, I watched Richard Sherman. I’ve been breaking him down play-by-play since 2017.”

If Pinnock can replicate any of Revis and Sherman as a rookie it’d be really promising. His expectations may not be all too high being that he’s a fifth-round pick, but Jason Pinnock should be a major part of the exciting, young secondary this season.

Oh, and it helps that the Jets have an improved pass rush this season as well.

New York Jets sign Alijah Vera-Tucker to rookie deal

alijah vera-tucker, jets

The New York Jets have finally signed Alijah Vera-Tucker to his rookie deal, making him the first of their top-three picks to do so. It’s a four-year deal, with a fifth-year option, fully guaranteed for $15.8 million. He also has a signing bonus of $8.9 million.

Vera-Tucker is expected to be the starting guard alongside Mekhi Becton on the left side of the line from the get-go. The former USC guard has high expectations coming in as a rookie and now the contract talk can finally be pushed into the rearview mirror.

The Jets, who traded up to draft Vera-Tucker with the 14th overall pick, made acquiring him a priority in April.

“We felt we had a unique opportunity to get a top-10 player in our minds as our board was stacked,” General Manager Joe Douglas said after making the trade to move up in the draft. “To go up and get a guy like Alijah Vera-Tucker, a player that has started at tackle, has started at guard and has been highly productive at both, that versatility and that production is something we really value.”

The Jets will now move their focus to signing their other top-two picks: Zach Wilson and Elijah Moore.

Did the New York Jets ‘finally’ solve their offensive line woes?

alijah vera-tucker, jets

Just one spot ahead of the New York Giants, the Jets ranked 31st in pass blocking efficiency last season, per PFF. In run blocking, they landed at 20th, thanks to a surprisingly successful performance by right tackle George Fant. Hopefully, with the insertion of UNC stand-out running back Michael Carter, the Jets will finally have a more committed running approach. With head coach Robert Saleh coming from the Kyle Shanahan system in San Francisco, it is possible they utilize a rotation of backs, exposing mismatches and running lanes.

However, the success of the Jets’ offense heavily relies on the protection of Zack Wilson in pass blocking. Considering how poorly they performed last year, the organization realizes it was a priority to upgrade the blocking personnel as much as possible. They brought in multiple new players, including USC versatile lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, veteran Morgan Moses, and a few depth pieces to help mitigate fatigue and supplement injuries.

Offensive line coach John Benton attested to the scheme fits in the trenches and the new faces the team has brought in:

“I get the feeling that everyone’s pretty excited about it [the wide-zone scheme]. It seems to be a good buy-in at this point across the board. The guys fit the scheme real well. I think they’re excited to see where it can go.”

Projected starting offensive line for the Jets:

LT: Mekhi Becton

LG: Alijah Vera-Tucker

C: Connor McGovern

RG: Alex Lewis

RT: Morgan Moses

Depth:

OT: George Fant

OG: Dan Feeney

OG/OT: Conor McDermott

OL: Chuma Edoga

OG: Greg Van Roten

Simply looking at the expected starting group, it is with confidence we can say Wilson’s protection should be improved. Considering what Sam Darnold had to deal with last year, being sacked 35 times over just 12 games, it was about time the team allocated significant resources toward the bolstering of the unit.

Tucker has shades of Quenton Nelson embodied in his style of play, and Becton is a big left tackle with the ability to maul pass rushers at the point of attack. A veteran like Moses should provide substantial experience and an upgrade at right tackle, despite Fant having a solid 2020 season. However, having adequate depth shouldn’t be overlooked; Fant will return to his swing tackle role, which he played with the Seattle Seahawks before joining Gang Green.

Ultimately, with the injection of new talent, players who have performed well in the past, like Conner McGovern, should return to form with more consistency around him. If the line can hold up and develop chemistry as the season progresses, Wilson could find himself exceeding expectations in his rookie season, which would be a sign of optimism for the future.

New York Jets receivers will surprise everyone in 2021

The New York Jets completely revamped their offense for the upcoming season. Rookie Michael Carter and veteran Tevin Coleman joined a running back group that will surely be by-committee. As for the passing game, that’s where it gets really, really fun.

Obviously, the team drafted BYU product Zach Wilson to be their quarterback of the future. However, he can’t throw the ball to himself. The receiving group the Jets built around Wilson is truly one to be excited about.

Well, for some people it is.

Pro Football Focus seems to feel differently. They ranked receiving groups for the upcoming season, keeping every addition and subtraction in mind for each group. The Jets landed at number 28. I may be biased, but that just doesn’t seem right.

Mark my words: the New York Jets receivers will surprise everyone in 2021.

The upgraded group starts with new addition Corey Davis, the former fifth overall pick and four-year vet from Tenessee. After an underwhelming first three seasons, Davis had an underrated 2020 season. Although missing two games, he posted career-highs in yards (984) and touchdowns (5) and tied his career-high in receptions (65).

According to PFF, he also posted a career-high grade of 86.9, along with his career-highs in recorded stats. Davis is a guy who does most of his damage in the intermediate level of the passing game, but can cause serious problems for defenses after the catch as well. The clear-cut number-one receiver is a big addition to this exciting, young offense and may very well make the Titans regret letting him leave.

Second-year wideout Denzel Mims has the ability to be a future number-one target, but he should be the number-two if things go as hoped. Personally, I have very high hopes for Mims. At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, he is the big, outside target that pretty much every quarterback loves to have.

His ability to go up and win 50/50 balls, along with making guys miss after the catch, is a beautiful combination to see. However, having the ability isn’t enough. He needs to put it together over the course of the season.

Mims did earn a PFF grade of 70.4 last season and averaged 15.5 yards per reception, but only played nine games. If he stays on the field, he should take a big jump forward for the Jets this season.

Next comes Elijah Moore. The rookie has a lot of hype around him already, reportedly “turning heads” within the team. The ever-explosive slot receiver had a great junior season at Ole Miss, totaling 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games.

Moore earned 2020 All-American and All-SEC First Team selections and the Jets were able to get him in round two of the draft. Being the best slot receiver in the draft, he may end up being a major steal compared to the other receivers drafted. Moore will be more than a regular rookie option. He’ll have a major impact going forward.

Rounding out the top-six receivers on the team are Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole and Braxton Berrios. Crowder should be competing for slot time with Elijah Moore, and should still be a productive option on offense. If nothing else, he could mentor Moore as well. Berrios, who would probably be most productive as a slot guy as well, will have his work cut out for him to earn meaningful time on the field.

Keelan Cole is a bit of a mystery. Across his first four seasons in the league, he had over 500 yards twice and five touchdowns once. He won’t be one of the top-target options, but he’ll easily provide capable depth for the group.

For a New York Jets team that ranks 29th in receiving grades since 2018, the only place to go is up (for the most part). Even though the group is drastically improved as a whole, the question remains if the young players can improve on the field. They should be expected to and the group should be expected to be good.

The problem is, they aren’t expected to do that, clearly. As a result, the receivers will end up surprising people this upcoming season.

 

How do you think the receiving group will be this season? Let me know and keep the conversation going by tweeting me @brendancarpESM!

New York Jets to open season against a familiar face

The New York Jets‘ Week 1 game has finally been released and it should be an interesting one. On Sept. 12, the Jets will travel to Carolina to face Sam Darnold and the Panthers.

Sam Darnold, who was dealt to Carolina after a subpar three seasons in New York, will be getting an early chance to show what they moved on from. For the Jets and Zach Wilson, it’ll be an early chance for them to show why they moved in a new direction.

Darnold isn’t the only former Jet on the Panthers’ roster, though. They also have WR Robby Anderson, S Justin Burris, OL Pat Elflein, RB Trenton Cannon and LB Frankie Luvu on their team.

As for New York, new additions on offense, including WR’s Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, will look to make it a better day for Zach Wilson than Sam Darnold.

The Jets haven’t defeated the Panthers since 2001, winning 13-12. However, they have been good recently in road openers, winning four of their last six. They’ll look to make that five of their last seven.

New HC Robert Saleh will look to start his era with a win on the road, and what better way to start than against the former “franchise quarterback.”

New York Jets snag Pittsburgh cornerback Jason Pinnock

The New York Jets continue to look to round out their defense and establish depth in the secondary. This time in the form of 6 foot, 200 plus pound corner Jason Pinnock. Pinnock was a part of a talented high school football squad where he excelled at corner but also had 1,000 plus receiving yards and 15 TDs. Pinnock committed to Boston College originally before rescinding his commitment and choosing between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. After picking Pitt, Pinnock never looked back.

Despite battling injuries early in his career, Pinnock showed flashes in his first three seasons, Pinnock still played in 21 games racking up 34 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 3 INTs, 14 deflections, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. He played a bulk of his snaps as a rotational corner and on special teams for those years before taking over as a starter last season.

Pinnock put up good numbers last season with 20 tackles, 3 INTs, and 1.0 TFL. Pinnock then put on a show at his pro day with a sub 4.50 forty and impressive vertical numbers. The physical makeup is there to be a good corner, but Pinnock needs to develop his football IQ rather than rely on physical skill. If he can developmentally, he can be potential outside corner option.

Although some have wondered why the Jets waited to invest in the secondary, the reports have stated Robert Saleh wants to go after late round guys and develop them to his liking, a la K’Wuan Williams and Akello Witherspoon. If he can get half that production out of Pinnock or Carter Jr., that would be a success.

New York Jets land durable Duke safety Michael Carter

No, you’re not seeing double, the New York Jets selected Michael Carter Jr, but this one plays on the other side of the football. The Duke corner is 5 foot 9 1/2 and 186 pounds. The 4 year player at Duke did everything the right way. Carter waited in the wings, but quickly earned starting reps. His growth in his Sophomore season earned him the Willis Aldridge Award for best defensive back in the Blue Devils program. He then repeated as the winner in his junior year as well. Carter played the most snaps on the team in that season while taking reps at kick returner as well.

Carter has versatility and athleticism that will allow him to take reps at safety if needed, but more than likely slot in nicely as a corner for a team with minimal depth at the position. Carter runs a 4.30 40 yard dash and can keep up with some of the best burners at the next level. He also adds a dimension to Brant Boyer’s special teams unit given he could compete for the returner role.

Carter has had production at the defensive back position posting 41 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2 INTs and 8 passes defended last season. He also ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in passes defended and was a third-team All-Acc recipient.

Off the gridiron Carter is exceptional as well. Continuing the trend of high character additions, Carter was team captain his senior season and well regarded by the entire Blue Devil team. He’s got maturity and leadership traits that you long for in a developmental player. Carter may earn reps early due to a lack of depth, but his potential at slot corner (a position the Jets don’t have an answer at right now) is very tantalizing.