New York Jets: A fullback could create new offensive avenues

Employing a fullback would be a familiar way for the newly minted New York Jets coaching staff to find an offensive spark.

The modern NFL is one ruled by “Big Offense”, an athletic denomination ruled by a deity known as fantasy football. Scoring four touchdowns in a losing effort has become more common and no less frustrating. Three of the seven highest-scoring games in NFL history have come in the last decade.

These phenomena and more have made the New York Jets’ offensive ineptitude all the more impressive from a macabre standpoint.

Enough has been written about how the Jets have lacked a true franchise quarterback solution since the Nixon resignation, but last year’s edition hit astonishing new lows. They failed to break the 300-yard plateau in all but five of their games last season. The two-touchdown threshold was crossed only seven times. New York has been victimized for two of the six shutouts tallied over the past couple of seasons.

In short, the Jets’ offense could use whatever help it can get. New assistance can spawn from the annals of NFL history if they’re willing to try. Reviving old properties appears to be good enough for Hollywood, so why can’t it work for the Jets? No one’s saying, of course, that the Jets have to go too far…so don’t expect to see, say, the T-formation or goalposts in the middle of the end zone at MetLife Stadium next season. But the team could be well-served by employing the services of a fullback as they start to traverse a new era.

Now, the fullback hasn’t fully gone the way of the single-bar facemask just yet, but it’s certainly an endangered species. We’re certainly far beyond the days where the man in the role was a household name on a championship team like Daryl Johnston, Mike Alstott, or even William “Refridgerator” Perry. But there appears to be a correlation between teams that employ a fullback in their modern roster and recent success.

“Not every team uses my position,” Derek Watt, then of the Los Angeles Chargers, told Nick Wagoner and Eric Williams of ESPN in 2019. “But teams that do, at least a handful that remained in the playoffs late last year, a majority of them had a fullback on the roster. I’m not saying that correlates to anything, but those teams that made it deep in the playoffs did have a fullback. That’s just an observation.”

Watt, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was sixth-round pick of the Chargers in 2016 and worked his way into the lineup during the 2018 season. A year after, Watt earned 10 touches (7 carries, 3 receptions), all but three of which went for first downs. To his point about fullbacks and postseason endeavors, three of the eight Divisional round participants (Baltimore, San Francisco, Minnesota), used a fullback on over 30 percent of their offensive (Patrick Ricard, Kyle Juszczyk, and C.J. Ham respectively). Others, Tennessee, have used tight ends (like Jonnu Smith) in the spot. The tournament’s Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, has kept 2014 All-Pro Anthony Sherman on retainer for the past eight seasons.

The Jets are no strangers to fullback endeavors, as the turn of the century has seen them employ crucial contributors like Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson. Names from the past include Brad Baxter, Roger Vick, Mike Augustyniak, Clark Gaines, and future Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer John Riggins. New York has mostly eschewed the concept since the end of the Rex Ryan era, when he tried to replace the retiring Richardson with Lex Hilliard and John “The Terminator” Conner. XFL draftee Tommy Bohanon was briefly considered during Todd Bowles’ time with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

Adam Gase attempted to turn 2019 draftee Trevon Wesco into a bit of a power option, and the concept somewhat paid off during his rookie season. Wesco earned three first downs on four touches during his debut campaign, but Gase mostly abandoned the concept when a fullback gambit failed to yield a first down in an early crucial juncture of the Jets’ loss to Arizona last October.

With the Gase era mercifully over, you’d think the Jets would be wise to cut off all ties from the previous regime, include those established in the starting lineup. But the Jets are now armed with a coaching staff that knows how to work the position and how to tinker with it to achieve maximum firepower.

If the Jets are to reintroduce a fullback to their lineup on a consistent basis, their timing will likely never be better. Robert Saleh and his San Francisco (including new offensive boss Mike LaFleur) imports know what it’s like to reap the benefits of a fullback’s work, having played witness to the rise of Juszczyk (pronounced YOOZ-check) over the past four seasons in the Bay Area. Each has ended in an invite to the Pro Bowl, including the virtual edition held last month. Those in Baltimore previously saw what Juszczyk was capable of when he first joined the team as a fourth-round pick in 2013. But Juszczyk truly began to hone his powers with the 49ers, his dominance perhaps summitting last season. Not only did Juszczyk score a career-best six touchdowns, but his blocking helped pave the way for a rushing unit decimated by injuries. Two of those rushers, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., earned at least 4.8 yards per carry with triple-digit carries. In the aforementioned 2019 playoff run, Juszczyk became the first fullback since Alstott to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

During his opening statements, Saleh hinted that the Jets hope to emulate the offensive gameplans Kyle Shanahan has established. In addition to the work he put in with Juszczyk over the past four seasons, Shanahan would also utilize Patrick DiMarco as a receiver during his time in Atlanta under Dan Quinn.

“Mike LaFleur has been with Kyle for I think he’s going on eight years now of professional football, which has been his entire career and nobody in the world knows it better than he does,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “To be able to have him and to get John Benton along with us as run game coordinator, we’re really excited about them being able to install the system and implement the vision that we all want to see.”

Wouldn’t you know it, a certain 49er is up for free agency.

Juszczyk is set to hit the open market following the expiration of a four-year, $21 million deal inked in 2017. Nothing more needs to be said about the Jets’ blessed cap space situation, so a slightly larger deal would definitely be something worth investigating. The work Juszczyk did with his blocking last season would also help soothe some concerns the Jets have about their primary run game, which is out of sorts after the highly publicized Le’Veon Bell departure. His blocking can bestow confidence to a rushing attack that’s currently poised to be led by 2020 fourth-rounder La’mical Perine.

Taboo as the position may be, it’s a risk the Jets almost can’t afford not to take. Even if they miss out on Juszczyk, the upcoming draft provides several attractive backup plans like Senior Bowl standout and Cotton Bowl Classic MVP Rhamondre Stevenson out of Oklahoma, who could be worth looking at with one half of their third-round pair.

The modern NFL’s focus on offense makes the Jets’ ineptitude all the more shocking. It may be time to go against the trend in a more positive, refreshing way.

“When you look at the teams who are doing well, particularly late in the season, they typically have a power formation—or what I call ‘big-boy football,'” Earnest Byner, a former fullback and three-decade NFL veteran as a player and coach. told Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report in 2016. “When it comes down to it, those teams are going to get you into a box and beat you up.”

“this sets the tone for a comeback of two-back offenses. When you need him, you better have a guy who can put a helmet on the linebacker to get the runner to the second level.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Monday’s win vs. San Francisco

An offensive explosion allowed the Buffalo Bills to exorcise their Glendale demons and come away with a win over the displaced 49ers.

The Buffalo Bills struck prime time, offensive gold against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night in a most unusual location.

Josh Allen threw for 375 yards and four scores, helping Cole Beasley earned a career-best 130 yards. Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White also had interceptions as the Bills rolled to a 34-24 victory over the Niners at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals and one of the most heartbreaking defeats in recent Buffalo memory. 

The win on Monday broke several dubious records in Buffalo history. It was good for their first win in a Monday night setting since October 1999, and the team also clinched their first pair of consecutive winning seasons since 1998-99. Stefon Diggs’ 92 yards allowed him to hit the plateau of 1,000 for the season, giving the Bills receivers with four digits in back-to-back years for the first time since 2011-12 (both Steve Johnson with John Brown accomplishing the feat last season). Buffalo (9-3) also maintains a one-game lead on Miami for the modern AFC East division lead.

ESM is ready to hand out game balls in the aftermath of a memorable victory…

3rd Star: TE Dawson Knox

4 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD

I’m Dawson Knox, and this is a 10-point swing.

Knox tied his career-best with four receptions, none more important than a four-yard touchdown reception that gave Buffalo the lead for good. The second-year tight end has now scored touchdowns in back-to-back contests and is turning into a reliable red zone option. It’s perhaps a play that will only gain recognition and accolades in the Bills’ film room this week, but Knox would also come up big on another Buffalo scoring quest. Late in the first half, Knox stepped in front of quarterback hunter Dion Jordan as Allen rolled out to his right. It bought Allen enough time to find Beasley for a 20-yard gain that set the Bills up in San Francisco territory. Two plays later, Tyler Bass booted a 37-yard field goal that created a two-possession lead going into the halftime break.

2nd Star: WR Cole Beasley

9 receptions, 130 yards, 1 TD

Jon Feliciano may have rocked Beasley to sleep during first half action on Sunday, but the veteran was anything but sleepy on Sunday. Beasley continues to take on a larger role in the Buffalo offense, enjoying a career-night through mostly early endeavors in the first half. He has been one of the biggest contributors to the Bills’ division title trek, having reached triple digits in four games this season (yet another career-best), including three of the past six. His time couldn’t be much better, as his personal rise has coincided with John Brown being forced to miss some time with an injury.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

32-of-40, 375 yards, 4 TD

The Bills’ ongoing national tour…they’ll host their first Sunday night game since 2007 next week against Pittsburgh (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC)…is a chance to prove themselves to the NFL at-large. Their roaster features several parties trying to make their professional cases on a wider scale, perhaps none more prominent than Allen, who, despite nearly every analyst suggesting the contrary, is proving himself as one of the most reliable franchise quarterbacks in the league.

Allen certainly got off to a good start in that endeavor, joining Jim Kelly as the only Buffalo representative to throw four touchdowns in a Monday night game and misfiring on only four of his passes. The journey will get a little more difficult next week against what’s sure to be a furious Steelers defense, but it’s one he seems well-equipped for. His name may not be as attractive as that of Patrick Mahomes, but MVP talk might be part of the holiday conversation in Western New York.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Prime time, holiday endeavors will be the biggest test yet

The possibly-ready-for-prime-time Buffalo Bills have a prime opportunity to prove they belong amongst the NFL’s elite.

If one had to guess which NFL fanbase would have the most trouble belting the lyrics to “Waiting All Day For Sunday Night”, there would surely far worse estimates than Bills Mafia.

The rock anthem, inspired by Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You” is routinely performed by Carrie Underwood (taking over for fellow new century music icons Pink and Faith Hill) prior to the opening kick off NBC’s Sunday Night Football coverage. It’s probably ingrained into the minds of Dallas Cowboys fans, who have waited all day for Sunday night on a record 49 occasions.

Buffalo Bills supporters haven’t had to be as patient.

Since NBC took over the Sunday night package from ESPN in 2006, only two Bills games have been broadcast over the peacock-branded airwaves. Buffalo is part of a most unholy trinity, as Cleveland and Jacksonville have likewise “earned” only a mere pair of invites.

But, as the Bills (8-3) start to close in on their first division title since 1995, they’ll finally be able to make up some ground.

The Bills’ December slate features four games that will be available on a nationwide scale. That includes two appearances on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, which sandwich a Sunday night date from NBC. Buffalo’s game against Denver was also recently chosen to fill a Saturday the week before Christmas. Time will tell, but it’s quite possible that the Bills’ Week 17 finale against Miami (8-4) could also get the Sunday night treatment, especially if the AFC East division title is on the line.

This trek to potential glory starts on Monday, as the Bills travel to Glendale, Arizona to battle the displaced San Francisco 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC).

. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to understand why a majority of Bills games have been staged in the relatively mundane 1 p.m. ET timeslots on CBS and Fox over the course of the new century. Buffalo, while passionate, is one of the smaller media markets in the NFL (ahead of only Green Bay in the Nielsen market size) but the team’s lack of on-field success and marquee talent surely played a bigger factor.

Needless to say, the modern Bills are looking forward to their moment in the spotlight.

“This is what you want. This is how we built the program to be. The better you get, the more prime time games you have. I think it’s an exciting time for our fanbase,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said of the prime time overload on The Howard and Jeremy Show on WGR 550 SportsRadio. “”When you get to a point where you’re respected by the league and you’ve got a good club, that’s what you work for, and that’s what you get. I think that’s exciting for our organization and our fans.”

The interconference matchup will come up big on both sides. Buffalo is looking to maintain its single-game lead on the Dolphins for the division title, while San Francisco (5-6) is looking to carry one momentum brought upon by a win over the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, one that ended a three-game losing streak. The Niners currently sit a half-game behind Minnesota for the final NFC wild card spot.

This rise in national recognition is perhaps the biggest sign yet that both the NFL and the football-loving public are starting to truly see the football revolution occurring in Western New York. Last season, the Bills were granted one national game when the original schedule was released, bestowed the late afternoon Thanksgiving slot in Dallas. That victorious effort, among others, caused NBC to take notice, booting a matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Chargers in favor of the Bills’ Week 15 trek to Pittsburgh. The ensuing victory over the Steelers allowed Buffalo to clinch not only a playoff berth but also its first 10-win season since 1999. NBC will have the rematch against the undefeated Steelers next weekend, six days after their Monday doubleheader. Pittsburgh’s delayed kickoff with the Washington Football Team (5 p.m. ET, Fox) comes hours before the Bills do battle in the desert.

Buffalo’s other Sunday night showing came in 2007, when they served as the sacrificial lambs to the gridiron dieties from New England.

Monday Night Football has been slightly kinder to the BIlls, inviting them three times since 2010, though that still puts them in a last-place tie with the aforementioned Browns and Jaguars (though Cleveland will get their moment next week against Baltimore). The Bills have ended several streaks in this fledgling era of prosperity, but their Monday night futility still hovers. Buffalo hasn’t won on Garfield’s least favorite day since October 1999, when a trio of Steve Christie field goals earned them a 23-18 victory over Miami.

The second half of this modern Monday night double feature comes on December 21, when the Bills will possibly seek to put New England (6-6) out their misery.

But the Bills know that this onslaught of primetime coverage comes with a major responsibility. That stems not from the networks unwilling to put them on in years past, but from previously wasted opportunities earlier in the year.

Two of the Bills’ three losses have come with the eyes of the football-loving nation upon them. They previously fell in a one-sided Tuesday night display against the Tennessee Titans, a battle of unbeatens pushed back due to the ongoing health crisis. That defeat also had an effect on Buffalo’s originally scheduled Thursday night contest with Kansas City, which also ended with the Bills on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Germano-USA TODAY NETWORK

Receiver Cole Beasley has said that the biggest factor will be avoiding the temptation to look ahead to more dashing competition, particularly those of the postseason variety.

“We have to approach it the way we have all season, we try to go 1-0 each week,” wide receiver Cole Beasley last week, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ll deal with the playoffs if and when they get here. We have to take care of everything that’s in font of us before we can look ahead.”

There appeared to some signs of looking ahead, those signs that Beasley warned about, during last week’s visit from the Chargers. Buffalo prevailed in a 27-17 final, albeit in one of the sloppier efforts of the season. The Bills turned the ball over three times and earned 332 yards on offense, their worst output since tallying 206 in the aforementioned loss to Kansas City on October 19.

Monday’s game comes with its own share of distractions. It comes against a 49ers team fresh off a Super Bowl appearance struggling to tread water in the crowded NFC playoff picture and one that will start backup quarterback Nick Mullens in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppollo.

The Bills will also return to the scene of one of their most heartbreaking defeats in recent franchise memory. With San Francisco’s proceedings disrupted by local government orders made in the wake of rising disease cases, Monday’s game will take place at State Farm Stadium. The Bills seemed well on their way toward a major victory against the stadium’s regular tenants, the Arizona Cardinals, but everyone who has followed the NFL for five minutes this season knows how that one ended. The Kyler Murray miracle, a 43-yard desperation heave that landed in the outstretched arms of DeAndre Hopkins, affected the fates of both Monday participants. Buffalo missed out on a major opportunity to expand their lead in the AFC East, while the 49ers remain behind the Cardinals for crucial ground in the both the divisional and wild-card races.

“The biggest thing is just kind of looking back, having that nasty taste in our mouths,” linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said of the venue switch to Glendale in another report from Maiorana. “When we show up to the stadium, we’re going to obviously know what happened last time we were there. We’re motivated to get back there and redeem ourselves. I know it’s a different team, but at the same time it’s in that stadium.”

Buffalo will enter Monday’s game at their healthiest, as not a single player was give any injury designation in the official injury report released over the weekend.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Analyzing Sam Darnold’s trade market

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

The hot button issue of the New York Jets organization right now is whether or not to trade former number three overall pick and presumed franchise quarterback Sam Darnold in order to clear the way for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawerence. Now, in theory, as the Jets continue to lose, the likelihood of the New York Jets trading Darnold increases by the day. Here’s the thing though, Darnold has been bit by the injury bug in a big way during his first three years. Not only that, but with a career line of 6,934 yards, 39 TDs, 34 INTs, and an overall passer rating of 78.3, there are surely more proven commodities on the market. So, what does a potential market look like for Sam Darnold, and what kind of value could he hold?

The Cost

It’s evident the Jets are tanking at this point. Roles are being cleared out for younger players to stake their claim to be here for the long haul, the incompetent coaches were not axed, and if a player needs extensive recovery time, they are getting it. Darnold is a prime example of someone who likely could’ve tried to play through an injury but was kept on the bench in order to protect him and, more specifically, his value in the long term.

In talking about Sam and his potential value, you cannot forget the fact that he is only 23 years old. Not only that, but he is still the same physically talented athlete who was selected out of USC just a short time ago. Darnold has regressed, though, due to poor coaching, injuries, and lack of talent at skill positions and in protection. At times though, despite all those circumstances, Darnold has looked like a special talent. There are still many within the league who agree with that statement as well.

If Darnold is to hit the trade market, there is hope the Jets can recoup significant compensation. Specifically, though, a first-rounder. If the Jets are unable to obtain a first for Sam, it is going to sting. Now, don’t get me wrong, the floated around a combo of a 2nd and a 5th would be great, but not for a 23-year-old quarterback. See, the Jets should play hardball with Sam, if they’re going to draft Trevor Lawerence, they should and will trade him, but at the same time, they can’t give him a way.

A 2 and a 5 offers great flexibility, but anything above that, particularly a 1st, would be a phenomenal deal. Josh Rosen was mediocre at best in his rookie season, and he fetched a 2nd, so Sam’s value should exceed that. Joe Douglas has shown in the past he is capable of making massive trades, a la the Adams to Seattle deal. Darnold may have flaws, but he could also be the missing piece for a franchise. A team like the 49ers, the Bears, or the Colts could pull the trigger on Sam because right now, there are not many other young and high potential options outside of the draft.

A team like the Bears may be reluctant to take a shot on Sam if they feel they’re a few pieces away. However, the Colts and 49ers have both shown they can be two of the top teams in the league when healthy, but both teams need a more talented and long term signal-caller. Jimmy Garoppolo and Phillip Rivers have had their moments just like Sam, but in Garoppolo’s case, he is likely nearing his ceiling. As for Rivers, he has played solid football this year, but his days are likely numbered on his career. Trading for Sam could rejuvenate one of those offenses that have felt so stagnant this year while also landing the Jets premium draft capital and signaling the true beginning of a new era in New York, led by Trevor Lawerence.

Report: There’s Nothing Wrong With MetLife Playing Surface

The playing surface at MetLife Stadium has come under fire this week after five San Francisco 49er starters suffered severe leg injuries in their 31-13 victory over the New York Jets last week.

Defensive lineman Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas both tore their ACL in the game and will miss the remainder of the 2020 season as a result. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained an ankle injury that will likely keep him out of this week’s game against the Giants, which is also to be played at MetLife.

In addition, the Niners’ top two running backs – Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman – left last week’s games with sprained knees and will likely be out several weeks.

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan had no recourse but to question the integrity of the playing surface at MetLife after the game. The complaints were that the turf, Act Global Speed S5 through 2019 Fieldturf which was installed this year, was ‘sticky’ and difficult to navigate. It didn’t stop San Francisco from routing the Jets, however.

The NFL took a second look into the matter on Wednesday and once again, revealed the surface is up to code.

“Yesterday, representatives from the NFL, NFLPA, MetLife Stadium, the Giants and Jets, Field Turf and the independent field inspector conducted an additional review of the field surface at MetLife Stadium. The group again verified that the field meets all applicable standards and protocols for NFL field surfaces.”

The Niners play of their home games on grass and perhaps were either wearing the wrong footwear or simply weren’t used to playing on the new turf. Jets players had no issues with the turf. Neither did the Giants or the Pittsburgh Steelers who faced each other at MetLife in Week 1.

New York Giants: Offensive line showing no signs of improvement in 2020

New York Giants, Will Hernandez

The New York Giants have had issues across their offensive line for years now. Entering the 2020 NFL season, the expectations were set higher for the Giants’ front line. New York invested heavily in their offensive line and upgraded the positional unit’s coach. But so far, these improvements have not shown up on the field.

The Giants have gone up against two of the NFL’s best front-sevens in the first two weeks of the season. New York’s new offensive line has been given two extremely tough tasks to kickoff 2020. But the Giants’ “new & improved” line has not handled these tasks well at all.

A Disappointing First Two Weeks

The New York Giants’ offensive line has surrendered an insane amount of pressure in 2020. Through two games, the Giants have allowed 56 pressures, the second-highest total in the NFL (according to Pro Football Focus). According to Football Outsiders, New York has also let up 7 sacks in two games, the second-highest total in the NFL.

Though Andrew Thomas has held his own against two of the best defenses in the NFL, he has still struggled through the first two weeks of the season. He is currently the lowest-graded of the top four offensive tackles from the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft class.

But the rest of the offensive line has struggled along with Thomas. If the Giants’ offensive line is going to make a turnaround, Week Three is the time to do it.

A Week Three Turnaround?

Originally, the Giants were scheduled to go against another dominant defense in Week Three of the 2020 NFL season. This week, the Giants will host the San Fransisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium. Andrew Thomas and the Giants’ line was projected to face off against the likes of Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, and Dee Ford. In reality, the Giants will face none of these talented defenders.

The 49ers were hit with the injury bug in a major way last week. Across the NFL, injuries were abundant. The Giants lost 2018 second-overall pick, Saquon Barkley, to a torn ACL in Week Two. The 49ers lost their 2019 second-overall pick, Nick Bosa, to a torn ACL as well in Week Two.

Solomon Thomas is another talented player on the 49ers’ defensive line. He also suffered a season-ending injury in Week Two. Dee Ford is also injured and out for Week Two, but fortunately, he will not be sidelined for the entire season.

The Giants will not have to face any of the 49ers’ top three defensive linemen in Week Two. San Fransisco signed veteran defensive end Ezekiel Ansah to help fill one of these holes. But overall, the Giants’ offensive line is fortunately not going to be completely overmatched like they have been the last two weeks.

Struggling against the Steelers’ and Bears’ front-sevens is understandable. But against this depleted and injury-riddled San Fransisco defense, the Giants should be able to turn things around. New York’s offensive line will be left with no excuses in Week Three. They need to step up and play a solid match against the 49ers to turn things around.

New York Jets enjoy one silver lining in awful week 2 loss

New York Jets, Quinnen Williams

When New York Jets‘ Quinnen Williams was selected with the third overall pick just a year ago, he was touted as the next superstar defensive lineman. The supposed “can’t miss talent” from Alabama (a defensive line factory) struggled in his rookie year.

With just over two sacks and only a few solid plays in his rookie season, he spent the offseason training and turning into a well-tuned machine. With his own personal lofty expectations of becoming a game wrecker, Quinnen was rather quiet in Buffalo. Until he turned it up today.

The New York Jets saw the potential of their stud interior defender: 

Quinnen took advantage of a big opportunity against a weakened 49ers offense. Since Jimmy Garoppalo lacked weaponry with star tight end and wide receivers George Kittle and DeeBoo Samuel out of Sunday’s game. When Brandon Aiyuk, Bourne, and Reed struggled to create separation, that created opportunity.

Williams took advantage of the lack of separation and bull-rushed through that offensive line multiple times. His first sack was a complete domination of LG Laken Tomlinson. His second was a bullrush through the heart of the line that forced a fumble on backup quarterback Nick Mullens.

Williams also nabbed a TFL and a few tackles. In just one game, Williams nearly replicated his 1st season sack total. Williams still needs to continue this success throughout the season, but for a guy being labeled a bust by some, his success must feel great. He’s no Aaron Donald, but the New York Jets had a dreary day, and Williams stood as a refreshing, bright spot.

49ers criticize MetLife Stadium turf after win over New York Jets

Following an injury-laden win over the New York Jets, members of the San Francisco 49ers took issue with East Rutherford’s playing surface.

Despite earning a one-sided win over the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers endured some tough losses in their Sunday visit to MetLife Stadium.

Four San Francisco starters left the 31-13 triumph over the Jets due to injury. Defensive stars Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas may have torn ACLs on back-to-back plays, each carted off the field in the first quarter. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed the second half with a high ankle sprain, as did running back Raheem Mostert.

While the missing starters didn’t seem to affect the Niners (1-1) on Sunday, long-term ailments could severely hinder their quest to return to the Super Bowl.

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan suspected the artificial turf at MetLife Stadium as the culprit behind the injuries.

“I know our players talked about it the entire game,” Shanahan remarked, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “Just how sticky the turf was. That was the first time people played on it, I think. It was something our guys were concerned about right away. And the results definitely made that a lot stronger.”

Shanahan wasn’t the only San Francisco representative displeased with the playing surface. Defensive end Arik Armstead’s postgame tweet implored the NFL to investigate the situation.

The host Jets (0-2) were not spared from the medical carnage. Top receiver Breshad Perriman left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.

“I don’t exactly know why (the injuries) happened,” Shanahan added, per Mehta. “But as far as the feeling that was on the sidelines, I know that’s as many knee injuries and ankle stuff and people getting caught on a turf as I’ve ever been a part of. From what I saw, the other team did too.”

The issue is particularly troubling for the 49ers, who will face the New York Giants at the same site next Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox). ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that 49ers players “are both afraid and anxious” about making the return trip.

MetLife Stadium has used FieldTurf Synthetic Turf since 2016. Other stadiums that employ the surface include the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Niners are set visit the former on November 15.

The Jets hit the road to battle the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Their next game in East Rutherford will be a Thursday night contest against Denver on October 1.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that shaped the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs San Francisco

The New York Jets’ ugly loss to the defending Super Bowl finalists on Sunday was perfectly defined in four plays.

This time, even the scoreboard couldn’t mask just how ugly the start of the decade has been to New York Jets football.

The San Francisco 49ers opened the Jets’ MetLife Stadium slate with an 80-yard touchdown run from Raheem Mostert, foreshadowing the carnage to come in what became an 31-13 victory on Sunday afternoon. San Francisco rushers tallied 182 yards overall, while the Jets countered with only 277 yards, 17 first downs, and Sam Ficken field goals.

Following a 27-17 loss on opening weekend in Buffalo, one whose final score hid just how one-sided the affair truly was, the Jets (0-2) fell behind right from the literal get-go, falling to a San Francisco team that lost Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, and Raheem Mostert to injury throughout the course of the game.

ESM recalls the four plays, one from each quarter, that played the biggest factor in the Jets’ fate…

1st Quarter: Monstrous Mostert

If one was writing a script in San Francisco’s favor about Sunday’s game, one could say a touchdown from the first play from scrimmage would be too on-the-nose for horror-seeking Jets fans. Alas, terror beyond imagination came to wild, screaming life upon San Franciso’s takeover.

Before his medical departure, Mostert ripped off an 80-yard score before many watching from home took their seats. It put the Jets in a major hole early on, one the team never escaped. Most major upsets are energized by the underdog keeping pace with the favorite and forcing them into an early deficit. The Jets did the exact opposite against the defending NFC champions.

2nd Quarter: 4th and Done

The middle stages of the second quarter was somewhat fueled by green hope. New York narrowed the score to 7-3 and even Jordan Reed’s first touchdown, one that expanded it to 11 didn’t seem like a dagger at the time. After San Francisco established a two-possession lead, the Jets embarked on a methodic 11-play, 55-yard drive. It began with a 13-yard run from Frank Gore, good for one of four first downs the Jets would earn on the drive. Things stalled, however, with a one-yard fourth down at the cusp of the San Francisco red zone.

Gase should be praised for his gutsiness by going for it. A field goal, let’s face it, was going to do the Jets no good. It’s great to see Ficken converting his opportunities, but infiltrating Niner territory by that margin was no guarantee. Any opportunity, especially one as manageable as a one-yard fourth down, should be capitalized on.

But the single-back option with Josh Adams in to was highly ill-advised. Not only has Gore proven himself reliable in short-yardage situations in his advanced age, but the single-back formation with no wall in front of Adams proved costly. The days of Richie Anderson and Tony Richardson are long gone, but the Jets effectively used tight end Trevon Wesco in a role similar to a fullback at several points last season. Providing no protection to Adams allowed an immediate San Francisco invasion that more or less shifted momentum permanently.

The 49ers immediately capitalized on the error. In what became Jimmy Garoppolo’s final drive of the game, they went 80 yards in 13 plays to score on Reed’s second touchdown just before the halftime gun.

3rd Quarter: What the Fick?

A dishonroable mention should be dispensed to the Jets’ defense allowing a 3rd and 31 to end in a first down through a 55-yard run from Jerick McKinnon, one that yielded a Robbie Gould field goal. Alas, the ensuing offensive possession perhaps provided an early look at the Jets’ 2020 mindset…one of quitting.

The failed fourth down attempt in the latter stages of the second quarter perhaps ruined the Jets’ Sunday psyche from there on out. With San Francisco’s offense mire in incostincy under the watch of backup Nick Mullens, a glimmer of hope emerged for the Jets when they made another red zone trip in the middle stages of the third quarter, down 24-3. The opportunity was arranged by Pierre Desir’s first interception in green.

If a field goal was meaningless in the second quarter, it was downright unspeakable in the third quarter. Even a short conversion from Ficken would make only a cosmetic difference at most. As Bob Dylan once famously wrote, when you’ve got nothing you’ve got nothing to lose. Alas, an 18-point lead can’t be erased in two possessions…the Jets, after all, don’t compete in the XFL (which allowed for nine-point possessions).

Yet, the gutsiness Gase displayed in the first half had completely evaporated by the second. The choice to kick a field goal in a 24-3, third quarter setting was indicative of a team that had completely quit on a Sunday opportunity. Things were probably beyond saving, but to see the Jets flat out admit hopelessness was troubling.

4th Quarter: BB-Late

Last week Adams earned himself an opportunity through a garbage time score. This time, Braxton Berrios made the most of an opportunity as the recipient of a great play from Sam Darnold. The quarterback partially made up for an otherwise brutal day by escaping the relentless San Francisco rush, find Berrios on the run to complete the 30-yard score. It’s a play that will likely ultimately be forgotten in the long run, but Darnold was at least able to provide a single highlight, one that could to an expanded role if Breshad Perriman’s injury winds up being long-term.

The Jets return to action next Sunday afternoon against the Indianapolis Colts (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

3 keys for a New York Jets win against San Francisco in week 2

New York Jets, Jimmy G

The New York Jets were utterly embarrassed this Sunday in Buffalo. The team looked poorly coached, poorly prepared, and not ready to face even the worst teams in this league. Heading into today’s game, there are there key factors that will decide whether or not the team starts the season at 1-1 or 0-2.

Take Advantage of Injuries

Today’s game will be a tough one for San Francisco. With George Kittle out for the game, the 49ers will revert to Jordan Reed as their starting tight end. For those that don’t remember, when he wasn’t battling concussions, Reed was a productive tight end in Washington. Still, he is no Greg Kittle. The Jets need to take advantage of the lack of weaponry that Jimmy G has and let them rely on the run. The Bills rushing attack, outside of Josh Allen, could not get going against the Jets front 7. Quite frankly, if the Jets can keep that offense at bay, this could be a close game.

As for the other side of the football, Richard Sherman is out, and that could also be a huge help. Without Sherman, the Jets will have an opportunity to face the 49ers backup corners, which ended well for Atlanta last year. Granted, the Jets have no Julio Jones, but they can have success like the Falcons had when Julio put up over 100 yards. The Jets receivers need to create space and make Darnold’s life a little easier in order to win today.

Run Gore To The Ground

I hate to say it, but in the few reps Gore had last week, he looked like the best running back on the field. The 37-year-old back is a workhorse, and I think him complimenting a healthy LaMical Perine could be a nice rushing attack until Lev Bell is back. The issue is, this is one of the best defensive lines in the game. Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas make up that talented group, and all four can be game wreckers. If Gore can continue the momentum he had in camp today, the Jets could pick up some yards on the ground against this tough defensive line; if not, it will be a long day. 

TACKLE

The Jets’ biggest issue has fallen somewhat under the radar. The Jets could not tackle last Sunday. Consistently, the Jets were creating pressure in the backfield. Yet, they would get back there and fail to wrap up the receiver, quarterback, or rusher. This led to a long day of exploiting that poor play. The Jets need to come out with much better tackling today, or else the 49ers will run wild on this Jets team.