Florham Park, NJ – The New York Jets have reached the middle of the road in the 2018 NFL season. After their loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, the Jets have a record of 3-5 and sit in third in the AFC East. The season started off with a magnificent defensive performance against the Detroit Lions, giving fans hope for a successful season. But since then, the team has had its shares of inconsistencies, recently losing to the Bears in a game where they couldn’t even rack up 200 all purpose yards on offense. Here is a look at the midterm ratings for each facet of this Jets team.
It was a bit of a surprise when the Jets named Sam Darnold the starting quarterback for the season, especially since he’s 21-years-old and how great a season Josh McCown had in 2017. So far we’ve seen Darnold do what an average 21-year-old quarterback would do in the NFL, working all the kinks out of his system and adapting to the fast paced action of the league. Week-by-week he has showed signs of development and maturity but he still hasn’t reached his full potential. This is fine as long as fans chalk the season up as a learning experience and not a playoff-bound season. Even Peyton Manning had a rough go in his first season completing only 56.7% of passes with 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. In all three Jets wins, Darnold has had a quarterback rating over 95 and in those games he has really shown what the future of this franchise could look like if all parts come together. But in other games, such as those against Cleveland and Minnesota, when the Jets were down late playing catch-up, he got out of his comfort zone and had to force passes which end up being intercepted or overthrown. Not all the problems of the offense come down to the rookie as his offensive line has not always given him time to make plays. As a result, Darnold has had to scramble out of the pocket and make throws on the run. This season, Darnold has thrown for 1,705 yards with a completion percentage of 55.8 along with 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
The running game has been completely inconsistent with performances that were outstanding at times and completely disappointing other times. Bilal Powell is out for the rest of season which is bad news since he does most of the heavy lifting from one year to the next. Being the longest tenured Jet, he embraced the starting role perfectly and has been elusive when he had the ball in his hands, finding the holes created by the offensive line. He rushed for 343 yards on 80 attempts for a 4.3 average per carry and caught 11 passes for 110 yards. New addition Isaiah Crowell has been a blessing for Gang Green but has been hampered with a foot injury. He is a tougher back to bring down as he uses his size and weight to push through opposing defensive lines. He is capable of breaking the big one just like he did in Cleveland when he had two touchdowns or Denver when he rushed for 219 yards and added a touchdown. Rookie Trenton Cannon has been non-existent so far. After having an excellent preseason, Cannon has faded away and seen less playing time. With Powell out now, he has his chance to prove himself worthy of a starting position. Against the Bears, he only rushed for 10 yards on six attempts.
The wide receivers and tight ends have been plagued with injuries. The receiving core was one of the most underrated coming into the season with Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enunwa, and Terrelle Pryor leading the way. Charone Peake and Andre Roberts joined the cast but their role was limited to serve on special teams. Early on, Enunwa had become Darnold’s favorite target but the Jet’s go-to receiver won’t be back till week 12 due to a high ankle sprain. Anderson has been less of a possession receiver but gives the offense a deep threat; Darnold has been conservative with his throws to Anderson because of defensive pressure. Anderson also had two fumbles earlier in the season that proved to be costly in games. Pryor was cut due to injury issues but with his height proved to be a big factor in the red zone. He was also able to snag balls that were normally over other receivers heads. Kearse has been used for shorter passes like quick outs. With a decimated receiver squad, the Jets promoted Deontay Burnett from the practice squad and signed Rishard Matthews from the Titans. Both are still getting used to Jeremy Bates’ playbook. Burnett seems like he can be a bright spot for the team, if his chemistry with Darnold is rekindled from their college days at USC. He had the most catches against the Bears. With the exception of Chris Herndon, the tight ends have been invisible. Neal Sterling and Jordan Leggett have a combined total of 10 catches together. Eric Tomlinson is being used as a blocking tight end who has performed up to par. Herndon is now becoming Darnold’s new favorite target scoring a touchdown in three consecutive games, breaking a rookie franchise record for most touchdowns by a rookie tight end in consecutive games and averaging 13.4 yards a catch.
The Jets defense has also played inconsistent ball this season. Upfront, the defensive line has been pretty quiet for a majority of the season. Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson are the only two players that have registered a sack, Williams with three and Anderson with two and a half. Steve McLendon and Nathan Shepherd are nowhere to be found this season and need to step it up in the second half.
The rushing defense started the season with an aggressive stance but has since fallen apart. They have let up over 100 yards per game in 5 games this season and opposing rushers ran for over 5 yards a carry in three games. Against the Bears, the defense let up 179 rushing yards.
With a 3-4 defense, pressure on the pass rush normally comes from the outside linebackers. Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland have both had solid first halves and have been pleasant surprises coming from the Jets weakest position on defense. Jenkins has recorded two and a half sacks and Copeland has three. Darron Lee and Avery Williamson have controlled the center of the field and each have shown improvement. Lee had his first pick six of his career against the Lions on opening night. Williamson has tied his career high of four pass defends in a season and has been a highly underrated player for the defense.
At the cornerback position, the Jets have been bitten by the injury bug… big time! Trumaine Johnson, Buster Skrine, and Derrick Jones have each missed games this season but their replacements have been filling the gaps well enough to keep the team in games. Morris Claiborne has two interceptions so far and has shown his ability to thrive in man coverage, matching up with opposing receivers. The same can be said about Trumaine Johnson as he has been able to prevent multiple deep connections, which include plays in the Lion’s and Brown’s games. Skrine has been his usual self taking penalties and slow off the snap to his cover his receiver. Darryl Roberts has been quite a surprise though. He was used for depth but due to injuries is finally given a well-deserved starting role that he is taking advantage of. He has been able to shut down quality receivers such as Stefon Diggs and needs to keep bringing his A-game going forward.
The safety position has been adequate this season. Jamal Adams has been a leader for the defense and is primarily used for the pass rush. He was also able to record his first interception of his career this season against the Lions and at times has been outstanding. Marcus Maye has missed time with multiple injuries but his replacements, Terrence Brooks and Doug Middleton, have been able to fill his position as extra defenders against the pass.
Andre Roberts has been returning punts and kicks this season and it seems like the Jets finally found a steady return man. Against Detroit, he was able to return a punt for a touchdown. Three times this season, he has been able to run back returns over 40 yards and is averaging an incredible 18.1 yards a return. On kickoff returns, he’s seen two returns for over 40 yards and 11 returns for over 20 yards. He is averaging 23.1 yard a return. The only issue with Roberts is his ball-catching skills on punts, especially punts on windy days. He seems to have a difficult time tracking the ball when it is windy out.
Kicker Jason Myers has been nothing short of outstanding and basically won the game for the Jets against the Indianapolis Colts in week six. He was named AFC Special Teams player of the week because he kicked seven field goals, which broke a Jets franchise record for most in one game. He has made 18 out of 19 field goals with multiple attempts beyond the 50 yard marker and has turned into a player that can be trusted to get three points on the board.
Punter Lachlan Edwards has been Lachlan Edwards. As one of the most underrated punters in the league, he has 12 punts that have landed inside the 20 and is averaging 46.5 yards a punt. He had a season high punt of 62 yards against the Vikings. Like Myers, Edwards is another trustworthy special teamer who will help the Jets give opposing teams a tough starting field position.
The Jets second half of the season starts on Sunday in Miami against the Dolphins. Gang Green suffered a 20-12 loss to Miami in week two due to some second half mistakes by the offense. Their defense, was lights out though and kept them in the game. This is a perfect time for the Jets to learn from their mistakes and go out and get a divisional road win. After Sunday, the Jets don’t have it easy. They still need to play the New England Patriots twice, the Green Bay Packers, and the surging Houston Texans.