Every Jets fan on the planet knows that Jets GM Joe Douglas has the herculean task of rebuilding a roster that needs upgrades at a number of positions in both starting and reserve roles. However, while the Jets may not truly be as good as they’ve looked on their current three game win streak, they’re also not as bad as they looked when they were off to a 1-7 start.
Injuries have forced Adam Gase to start a slew of players who previously rode the pine, many of whom have turned out to be upgrades over the previous starters, leading to the possibility of Douglas having fewer holes on the roster than previously thought. Here’s a look at a few of those standouts.
CB Bless Austin:
After just three games, Austin has earned rave reviews from fans and teammates alike as he has consistently shut down opposing receivers, leading to increased production from the front seven. The high praise from onlookers has a correlating grade with the folks at Pro Football Focus as well. As good as fans think Austin has been, PFF says he’s even better. In terms of cornerbacks with at least 150 snaps played, Austin grades out at a whopping 87.5 which is good enough to rank him third among all cornerbacks in the NFL.
Small sample size indeed with just 154 snaps played, but per PFF, among CB's with at least 150 snaps, Bless Austin grades out as the 3rd best CB in the NFL at 87.5. Hell of a start to his career for this young man.
— Glenn Naughton (@AceFan23) November 25, 2019
DL Folorunso Fatukasi: A sixth-round pick last season who didn’t see the field as a rookie, Fatukasi has been dominant in year two and gives the Jets a high-level player who can step in and play along side and eventually replace Steve McLendon. McLendon is an underrated player by fans, but is an integral part of the defense. When he steps down in a year or two, the Jets won’t have to worry about who will step in and control the point of attack in the middle of the defense.
TE Ryan Griffin: Griffin earned a contract extension late last week and the Jets will have a nice 1-2 punch at tight end next season when Chris Herndon returns. Prior to Griffin stepping up, the Jets had a sidelined Herndon and a bunch of question marks. As Trevon Wesco’s reps are starting to see an uptick, the Jets top 3 tight ends could be set for the next several years.
DL Kyle Phillips:
Outside of third overall pick Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, an aging Steve McLendon and an imminently departing Leonard Williams, the Jets D-line was loaded with questions heading in to next off season. Phillips is consistently making plays around the line of scrimmage and in opposing backfields. The undrafted free agent out of Tennessee is legitimately one of the biggest surprises of the season. The Jets could also add Tarell Basham and Nathan Shepherd as players who are doing enough to stick around in the future as they’re all playing a role in the Jets defense currently being ranked number one in the NFL.
CB Arthur Maulet:
Maulet doesn’t get the attention Austin has received thus far, but he has easily been good enough to show he can play in the NFL. As recently as a few weeks ago, Jets fans viewed cornerback as a spot with zero NFL caliber players going in to next season. With the emergence of Austin and Maulet, he need for additional corners is still present, but Austin fills the role of a starter if healthy while Maulet could do the same, or at the very least, provide depth.
ILB Neville Hewitt:
Hewitt has done a fantastic job when called upon this season as a myriad of linebackers have fallen due to injury. Hewitt should hang around for a while with the Jets and give Joe Douglas a reliable and versatile veteran who can be used in a variety of ways.
C Jonotthan Harrison:
Harrison isn’t going to make anyone forget Nick Mangold, but in looking at how the offense performed at the end of last season with him at the pivot and the recent success with him starting this year, it’s fair to say he’s a guy you can go to war with and not struggle to move the football. Jets fans were clamoring for a 100% overhaul of the O-line for much of this year, but we’re now seeing that some of the guys they have up front can be solid starters.
RT Brandon Shell:
This one is unlikely as Adam Gase seems to have little time for Shell, but he’s a serviceable player who can compete for a backup role next year unless another club promises him a starting job. There’s no doubt that the Jets O-line has been better this year when Shell is starting over Chuma Edoga, but the Jets seem determined to get Edoga on the field. Shell only found his way on the field in each of the past two weeks due to an Edoga injury. According to PFF, Shell has allowed just 1 QB pressure on 42 pass blocking plays in those two games.
LT Kelvin Beacuhum:
The Jets will (or should) be bringing in a stud left tackle in the first round of the draft this offseason, but if they can convince Beachum to take a one-year deal as an insurance policy, it would be a prudent move. You could do worse as a starter at left tackle and wouldn’t do much better as a back up.
Still plenty of work to do, but it appears the cupboard isn’t as bare as fans feared just a few weeks ago. Obviously the emergence of Austin and Maulet are the two biggest developments, so Jets fans will be watching closely to see if the past few weeks were an aberration, or if these are players who can be counted on moving forward.