As Jets fans wake up this morning and shake off the cobwebs from what is likely a food-induced fog brought on from those extra helpings of mashed potatoes, they should take the time to be thankful for the fact that Gang Green has reversed a nightmarish trend. The Jets have turned a miserable 1-7 season in to one that has begun to show the team has a nice foundation in place to move forward with, starting with quarterback Sam Darnold and defensive back/linebacker Jamal Adams.
After missing a huge chunk of the season to kick things off, Darnold returned to the huddle and the early results were disastrous. Following a 24-22 win in his first game back against the Dallas Cowboys, the Jets offense produced point totals of just 0,15 and 18 against the Patriots, Jaguars and Dolphins respectively. It was after a loss to Jacksonville that Darnold approached head coach Adam Gase to explain what he does well and how Gase should focus his offense on what Darnold was most comfortable with.
Since the meeting, things have turned around with the Jets scoring 34 points in 3 of their last 4 games. Over his last three games, Darnold has completed 58 of 89 passes (65%) for 838 yards to go along with 8 touchdowns (7 passing, 1 rushing) and just 1 interception. After early fears that Gase had “broken” Darnold, it looks like the youngster spoke up and got Gase on track. In fact, prior to meeting with Darnold, Gase had seen his teams put up 34 points just 5 times in his previous 88 contests. Now the Jets have done it 3 times in as many weeks.
Who else should Jets fans be counting their football blessing for?
S Jamal Adams: Adams has made a case for himself as one of the top defenders in the NFL at this point as he has been dominant in every single phase of the game as a versatile chess piece. In pass coverage, Adams has earned a top 10 grade from the folks at Pro Football Focus at 88.2, he’s on pace to set the NFL’s all-time record in sacks for a defensive back with 6.5 thus far, has 8 tackles for loss after recording 9 all of last season and has forced 2 fumbles and found the end zone twice (1 fumble recovery, 1 interception return). The Jets entertained the notion of dealing Adams at the trade deadline and may explore that possibility again this offseason. With Adams’ improved play, he’ll give the Jets an elite player or a pair of first-round draft choices.
OLB Jordan Jenkins: Jenkins is a player the Jets need to work in re-signing as we mentioned here a few weeks ago. He has evolved into a very good all-around player and solid pass rusher. In his last 17 games Jenkins has 9.5 sacks and 43 quarterback pressures while providing good run support. He won’t make anyone forget John Abraham, but with so many holes to fill on the 53 man roster, the Jets can ill afford to let one of their better players walk away as a free agent.
RB Le’Veon Bell: Bell’s production has dipped this season as the Jets O-line has been a disaster in the run game, but we do see glimpses of the fact that Bell still has a lot left in the tank. Once the O-line is upgraded, look for Bell to put up huge numbers as an elite back and target for Darnold.
CB Bless Austin: It’s a bit early to pencil Austin in as the team’s number one or two cornerback next season based on his history of injuries, but if he can show that he can stay on the field and play at this level, he’s absolutely a starting cornerback in the NFL. Said to carry a likely round one or two grade if not for his injuries, the Jets rolled the dice and nabbed Austin in the 6th round (196th overall). Up to this point he has been lights out.
DT Foley Fatukasi: Another former sixth-round pick, Fatukasi has been flat out dominant in the trenches this season. After failing to get on the field last season under Todd Bowles, Fatukasi is a huge reason for the team leading the NFL in defense against the run and has shown some push as a pass rusher. Fatukasi has drown some early comparisons for former Jets great Damon Harrison.
WR Jamison Crowder: His overall numbers have been hindered greatly from missing Darnold for several weeks and the play calling early on, but Crowder has been a fantastic find when the targets are there. Crowder has topped 75 yards five times this season and has proven himself to be a reliable underneath target.
TE Ryan Griffin: Joe Douglas’ first big find, both literally and figuratively. The 6′ 6” Griffin was ignored through the first six games of the season when he had just nine catches. Since that time, Griffin has earned a brand new 3-year contract while picking up a season total of 28 receptions for 282 yards and a career-high 5 touchdowns.
D-Line: We singled out Fatukasi, but in all honesty this group has been impressive from top to bottom. Steve McLendon, Henry Anderson, Fatukasi, Kyle Phillips, Quinnen Williams and Nate Shepherd are winning at the point of attack frequently enough to dominate against the run, forcing teams to become one-dimensional.
S Marcus Maye: Maye and Adams combine to give the Jets an upper echelon tandem at safety. With the aforementioned Austin and Adams, the Jets could be just one cornerback away from an all-around elite secondary with Maye in the picture.
The positives don’t end there as the Jets have several players who should see increased reps to see what they can offer moving forward. Braxton Berrios immediately comes to mind along with TE Trevon Wesco, CB Arthur Maulet, and speedy WR Vyncint Smith.
One would expect Robby Anderson to make the cut as a strength, but more often than not, Adam Gase seems to have little use for Anderson as he heads toward free agency. Should CJ Mosley, Avery Williamson and Chris Herndon come back healthy in 2020, Darnold and Adams should get their first taste of postseason NFL football.