The free agent frenzy of 2019 is just a few short days away and while the Jets will be heavily involved in much of the bidding, Gang Green should look to lock up a few pending free agents of their own before the cash starts flying league-wide. Here are a few players the Jets would be wise to get locked up sooner rather than later.
DL Henry Anderson:
Acquired from the Indianapolis Colts for a seventh-round draft choice last season, Anderson was fantastic in his only season as a Jet as he registered a career high seven sacks which tied him with Jordan Jenkins for the team lead. With the team announcing their intention to stay in a 3-4 base defense, bringing Anderson back makes that much more sense.
By no means should this deal be for big years or big money, but cornerbacks, even those who are merely “solid” such as Claiborne have value in today’s NFL. Claiborne has been a quality corner for a couple of seasons now with the Jets, but the litany of injuries he suffered early in his career will always make him a big enough risk that no long-term deal should be on the table.
OL Brent Qvale/Dakota Dozier:
Neither is a big name, but we’ve seen how bad offensive line depth is around the league. The Jets need as few holes to plug as possible as the free agency and the draft approach, and both Qvale and Dozier have shown themselves to be decent back-ups/spot starters. Unless the Jets are that high on Ben Braden and Dieugot Joseph, expect them to try to retain Qvale and Dozier.
TE Clive Walford: Full disclosure, this could be strictly based on how impressed I was with Walford in training camp last season, but he’s a guy who has proven he can play a little bit in the NFL and is a better blocker than many of the tight ends we’ve seen in recent years. He has starting experience and could be a nice compliment to Chris Herndon if the Jets don’t take a tight end in the draft.
On the Bubble: WR Jermaine Kearse
After a career year in 2017, Kearse drew the ire of many Jets fans as he seemed to be “checked out” late in the year under Todd Bowles in 2018. However, both Kearse and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa voiced their displeasure with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates after the season, and it would appear Kearse was an afterthought in Bates’ attack, something that clearly got to Kearse as the season went on and the losses mounted. Given his reportedly strong relationship with quarterback Sam Darnold, the Jets have to decide which Kearse is the one they’d be getting on a new deal. If they think it would be the 2017 version, they should talk to him about a 2-year contract for small money. If they view him as the guy who fell on his face in 2018, then they should look to move on.
Despite coming off of a bye week, the Jets have no shortage of injuries as they’ll be without quarterback Sam Darnold while possibly missing starting left guard James Carpenter and starting safety Marcus Maye. Who could step up in their absence?
In the case of Darnold, Josh McCown will step in and get the start, but in what’s sure to be a blowout loss, Todd Bowles could consider giving some reps to young Davis Webb, though he probably won’t.
At left guard, the Jets have a few options with one being more intriguing than all of the rest. Starting center Spencer Long played left guard for the Redskins back in 2015 and according to pro football focus, had his best season as a pro in that spot. Over the course of a full season, Long gave up just one sack at left guard while earning a career-best grade of 80.4. Perhaps the Jets should take a look at Long in that spot as he could offer some value in possibly replacing James Carpenter next season. The Jets could also consider Dakota Dozier or practice squad lineman Ben Braden.
In place of Maye, look for Terrence Brooks to step in and get Maye’s reps. Brooks has been a solid rotational player since coming over from the Eagles last season and is the best of the remaining cover safeties on the roster.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson listed as questionable with an ankle injury which could mean more reps for Rishard Matthews or Deontay Burnett.
As the Jets prepare to kick off their 2018 pre-season, ,there are plenty of questions surrounding the team’s personnel. How will they generate a pass rush? Will Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye take “the next step”? When will Sam Darnold get the nod to take the reins? All of these will be answered in time, but there are also questions about head coach Todd Bowles, and left guard James Carpenter’s play could provide us with an answer.
Through his first three years at the helm for the Jets, one flaw in Bowles’ style, and one that seems to be often overlooked, is his unwillingness to bench, or in some cases adjust his game plan, when dealing with an under-performing veteran starter.
We saw it in year one when the Jets shocked onlookers by going 10-6, missing the playoffs by a hair. It was at 10-5 when the Jets needed to travel to Western New York and take on the Buffalo Bills whose season was over and had nothing at stake. On that day, time and again, the defensive-minded head coach had no answer for the Bills’ only real aerial target in Sammy Watkins.
As former star cornerback Darrelle Revis consistently gave Watkins cushions of ten to fifteen yards, Bowles did nothing, opting to leave “Revis Island” all alone. That day, the Island was flooded with completions from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Watkins who hauled in 11 balls for 136 yards. So wide open was Watkins, that his 15 targets outnumbered the rest of the Bills entire offensive roster as they saw just 13 passes come their way.
The following season, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bowles handed the starting job to Fitzpatrick before he was signed, opting to forego a quarterback competition of any kind. When Fitzpatrick’s early failures led to the crumbling of the locker room and rapidly lost season, Bowles waited until the team sat at 1-5 before finally pulling the plug.
Last season, we saw Bowles’ unwillingness to bench a starting player once again when right guard Brian Winters struggled through what was easily his worst season as a pro. To make matters worse, we learned after the season that Bowles had been playing Winters despite his struggles being caused by a torn abdominal muscle.
It was a head-scratching move if ever there was one. Especially given the fact that Winters’ play was among the worst in the NFL at the position, and the Jets had a couple of options behind him in Brent Qvale and Dakota Dozier. Neither one a superstar, but both better than what Winters offered for much of the season.
Muhammad Wilkerson lack of effort was also an issue last season, but there’s really no need to re-hash that disaster.
Now, we move on to 2017, where the expectation is for the Jets to transition to a heavy zone-blocking scheme up front. The same type of scheme that left guard James Carpenter has struggled with in the past as he himself acknowledged after signing with the Jets as a free agent.
The Jets are in the midst of trying to build something special with a young quarterback, and if Carpenter plays as poorly as he did in Seattle and with the Jets last season, Bowles’ willingness to keep running a starter out there simply because he’s a starter will be tested.
Jets fans will be watching, and along with Bowles, hoping that Carpenter finds a way to make things work and make it a non-issue. If he doesn’t, and Bowles doesn’t make a change, he could be shooting himself in the foot once again.
While the majority of Jets fans were thrilled to see Gang Green nab a potential franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in this year’s draft, there were those who were none too thrilled over the team’s failure to use any of their choices to stock the pipeline to the o-line.
With all of the concerns about the unit, we take a look at the offensive line from top to bottom and discuss whether or not the picture is as bleak as some say.
LT Kelvin Beachum: Beachum is a perfect example of the old saying, “you get what you pay for”. He’s a middle of the road left tackle who makes middle of the road left tackle money as the 18th highest paid player at his position in the NFL at $8 million. The Jets should look to make an upgrade at the position, but you can live with Beachum for another season or two.
LG James Carpenter: No player on the Jets offensive line is more important than Carpenter this season. Prior to last year, he was viewed as one of the best players on the Jets’ 53-man roster. He consistently won his battles up front and was a big part of the success the Jets had in the ground game. Last season however, was a different story. On a seemingly weekly basis, Carpenter was consistently beaten by the man across from him. If he fails to return to 2015/2016 form, opponents will attack him up the middle consistently. There are also valid concerns as to how Carpenter will play in what is expected to be a zone-heavy offense.
C Spencer Long: Let’s get this out of the way right away. Simply parting ways with Wesley Johnson this off-season made the Jets offensive line better. Johnson was arguably the single worst center in the NFL and was the biggest culprit for the pocket consistently collapsing. Even if Long plays at a league average level, which he should, this is an enormous upgrade. Long missed some time last season with a torn quadriceps but prior to that missed just four games over the previous two seasons.
RG Brian Winters: After cashing in with a big contract following the 2016 season, Jets fans were worried when Winters came out last season, and much like Carpenter got beaten regularly throughout the season. As it turns out, we would later learn that Winters played the majority of the season with a torn abdominal muscle that he suffered in week 2. This year is a big one for Winters as he’ll have to return to form or run the risk of being released after this season as the Jets wouldn’t incur any cap hit while saving $6.5 million according to overtheap.com.
RT Brandon Shell: Over the course of his first two pro seasons, Shell’s play has been inconsistent, but has shown flashes of brilliance. There’s no denying that Shell has the ability to be an above average player, but the key for him will be doing the things he does well every week. A better pass blocker than run blocker, Shell lacks the skill set to move to the left side, so this is where he’ll likely stay. As is the case with Beachum on the left, you could do a lot worse than Shell on the right side.
LT Ben Ijalana: After a few years as D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s understudy, Ijalana finally got some live reps over the past couple of seasons at both left and right tackle. He’s been better on the right side and can be a liability on the left, but how many teams have a back up left tackle who can come in and play at a high level when you consider the fact that there aren’t even 32 starters who can do it?
RT Brent Qvale: A former undrafted free agent, Qvale is the opposite of the aforementioned Brandon Shell. A better run blocker than pass blocker, Qvale is what he is. A back-up level lineman who can start a game for you from time to time, but as you look around the league at how putrid many offensive lines are, retaining Qvale made sense for the Jets this season.
RG Dakota Dozier: Dozier has been moved around quite a bit in his time with the Jets as he seemed to bounce from guard to center and back again over his first few seasons. At this point, he’s a high character, spot starter who has looked excellent in the run game at times.
C Jonotthan Harrison: Harrison came on in relief of Wesley Johnson last season and while he was an improvement, he didn’t play well enough to warrant consideration as a starter this season. He should be able to win the backup job over Travis Swanson.
C Travis Swanson: Swanson was a disaster in Detroit last season and was so bad that the Lions opted to let him walk before signing Wesley Johnson. Swanson may not even make the roster. If he does, and plays well, the Jets O-line staff will have worked a miracle.
Rookie to watch:
OG Dakoda Shepley: An undrafted lineman out of Canada, Shepley moves extremely well for a big man and plays with a mean streak. However, going from a small program in Canada to the NFL, Shepley will be lined up across from players with a much different skill set than he’s accustomed to. Even still, his progress is worth monitoring as he could fit nicely in the Jets zone scheme.
So are the concerns over the O-line among fans overblown? The weakest link (Johnson) is gone, and a previously injured Winters is set to return at full strength. As mentioned above, that leaves Carpenter as the biggest question mark, but the reality is that the Jets should be good enough up front to give their quarterbacks time to throw and their running backs room to run. While it won’t be at a dominant level, it will be far better than what plenty of fans seem to think.
Dozier, one of just three players remaining (Quincy Enunwa and Brian Winters) from John Idzik’s historically bad 2014 draft class has played respectably well when called upon to fill in front for the Jets.
Qvale, an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska, has played both guard and tackle for the Jets with 12 starts in his 44 appearances over four seasons.
With offensive line play struggling across the league, bringing back both Dozier and Qvale was a logical move for Gang Green.
As one might imagine, in a 14-7 loss, there were some stars to hand out on defense, to go along with some failing grades on the offensive side of the ball.
Bryce Petty was off target far too often once again. Petty would go 15-28 for 119 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Best thing you can say about Petty? He scrambled for 33 total yards and his lone INT was on a hail mary. That’s about it.
Running Backs: B+
Bilal Powell’s 57-yard TD run was the only thing that stopped the Jets from being shut out at home. Matt Forte’s lost fumble is the only reason we’re not giving the group an A.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Incomplete
When the quarterback is off target as often as Petty was, there’s not much of a chance for receivers or tight ends to make plays. Robby Anderson appeared to have a big TD catch early on when he hauled in an under-thrown Petty bomb, put he drew a flag for pushing off. There were also several plays in which Petty and his receivers did not appear to be on the same page.
Offensive LIne: B+
The Jets played the bulk of the game with 60% of their line being back-ups. Jonotthan Harrison got his first start at center and Dakota Dozier stepped in for the injured Brian Winters at right guard. Brandon Shell suffered what may have been a concussion just before the half and was replaced by Brent Qvale. Even still, the Jets rushed for over 200 yards and Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, one of the best pass-rush duos in the NFL, were kept quiet for most of the day.
Defensive Line: B+
Similar to the O-line, the D-line was without Leonard Williams for much of the game due to a back injury and Todd Bowles’ decision to bench Muhammad Wilkerson again. Even still, the Jets defense controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the day with the exception of a couple of big runs from Melvin Gordon that helped him to 81 yards on 19 carries. For the most part, he was kept in check.
Josh Martin was in Philip Rivers’ face for much of the day as he picked up multiple QB hits and pressures but didn’t come away with a sack. Jordan Jenkins was second on the team with six tackles and also batted a pass at the line of scrimmage. The play of the ‘backers was a big reason why the Chargers were held to just 14 points.
Yes, the defense held the Chargers to just 14 points, but too many chunk plays from Rivers to his tight ends (8 rec, 107 yds, 1 TD) were a big reason for the loss. As the season winds down, Juston Burris appears to be back in the regular CB rotation as he saw tons of reps for the second week in a row and turned in a solid effort.
Speical Teams: C-
Lac Edwards boomed several good punts on the day and there were no field goal attempts, but JoJo Natson’s mind-numbing decisions in the return game bring the grad down.
On offense, we saw too many empty backfields in short-yardage situations from John Morton when perhaps allowing Petty to work some play-action would have been a better call. Todd Bowles’ decision to start the game with an onside kick that the Jets recovered did not lead to points, but it was nice to see some aggressiveness. The Jets were also very active on defense, giving Rivers multiple looks and keeping him on his toes all day.
The New York Jets (5-8) prepare to take on the New Orleans Saints (9-4) on the road today at 1:00 in the Mercede-Benz Superdome. We’ve already picked our key match-ups here, but let’s take a look at key stats and story-lines that have emerged over the past few days.
Play From Start to Finish:
Earlier this week, offensive coordinator John Morton admitted to the media that he folded up his tent with almost a full quarter to go against the Broncos last Sunday when things weren’t going his way. If the Jets have any hope of ever evaluating a young quarterback, they can’t afford to keep playing with the sole purpose of avoiding injuries because things get tough. Instead, the team should use today (and the rest of the season) to let Bryce Petty air it out if and when the Jets are facing large deficits. If the fear is injuries due to defenders having their ears pinned back, why not go to a quick screen game to move the ball and slow the defense down a bit?
Muhammad Wilkerson Deactivated:
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has likely played his final game as a Jet. Having spent most of this season playing like a man who would rather be retired in showing up late for meetings and practices, Todd Bowles seems to have finally had enough and deactivated Wilkerson. Today’s impact should mean more snaps for players like Kony Ealy and Xavier Cooper. Simply having two players who will give 100% consistently should be a good thing for Gang Green.
Winters and Forte questionable:
Guard Brian Winters and running back Matt Forte are both listed as questionable. Given how bad Winters has been this season, and the fact that Forte is likely gone after 2017, why not start Dakota Dozier and guard and take a peek at rookie running back Akeem Judd? Dozier has played well when called upon and Judd, a 5′ 10” 225 downhill runner is the closest thing the Jets have on the roster to a power back. Given their struggles in short yardage situations this season, a player like Judd would make sense.
The Jets have a total of four players on their roster who played their college football in Louisiana with three of them coming from the secondary. S Jamal Adams, CB Morris Claiborne, and CB Rashard Robinson all played at LSU while RB Elijah McGuire was drafted out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
ASJ Back in Focus:
With Bryce Petty’s favorite target, Robby Anderson, likely to be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore for much of the day, this could be a good opportunity to re-introduce Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the Jets offense. He’s seen his production drop drastically over the past three weeks but in a game where the Jets figure to be playing from behind, using ASJ in the middle of the field to move the chains could be a good idea.
With the New York Jets preparing to take on the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, the team has listed three key players as questionable. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, guard Brian Winters and running back Matt Forte were all limited in Friday’s practice.
According to the team, Wilkerson continues to nurse a foot injury while Forte has a knee injury and Winters is hampered by an abdominal injury. If Winters can’t go, Dakota Dozier will likely get the start.
By starting off the season with a surprising 3-4 record, the New York Jets may have complicated matters for General Manager Mike Maccagnan if he’d had any thoughts of adding a few draft picks via trade before the Oct. 31st trade deadline. Moving any key players while technically in the playoff hunt is a tough sell, but should teams come calling, here are a few names who could generate some interest.
CB Morris Claiborne: Arguably the player who could command the most in return as Claiborne plays a premium position and has done so quite well for the Jets this season. He’s only on a one-year deal with the Jets but a lengthy injury history could prevent the Jets from making a long-term investment, but a team looking for a quick fix to make a playoff push may not be out of the question.
WR Jeremy Kerley: Kerley has had a nice season for the Jets in his return after a one year stint in San Francisco. He has been extremely valuable safety blanket for quarterback Josh McCown and could be a nice addition for any team looking for a shifty veteran receiver and sure-handed punt returner. Kerley’s departure would not only add a draft pick for the Jets, but would also clear the way for promising rookie Ardarius Stewart to see more regular playing time.
OT Brent Qvale: Qvale is a hard guy not to root for as a former undrafted free agent out of Nebraska. He has played well enough at times to possibly garner a look from one of the many teams around the league whose offensive lines are putting their quarterback’s lives at risk on a weekly basis. Qvale has experience at both guard and tackle. Ben Ijalana could also be dangled for a late-round pick.
RB Matt Forte: Perhaps Forte’s demise was slightly over-exaggerated based solely on his age and not so much on what he was actually capable of doing on Sundays. While he’s nowhere near being the player he was in his prime and unlikely to succeed as a featured back, Forte’s production has been better than many expected this season. Averaging a respectable 4 yards per carry in spot duty, Forte has also has nineteen receptions in just five games.
OG Dakota Dozier: Dozier is in the final season of his rookie contract and while he has played sparingly over the past two years, he has looked respectable in a few starts and as mentioned above, could add depth and a bit of versatility elsewhere as he has experience at both guard and center.
RB Bilal Powell: Powell has shown that when healthy, he’s essentially a better version of Forte. Both backs can run, catch and block well enough to play in several schemes, but being a few years younger would give him more value. Powell is a fan favorite, but he’s approaching 30 and his trade value will only decrease as the seasons go on. If the Jets are ever going to get something in return for Powell, the time may be now.
With the exception of Claiborne, few names would likely net the Jets any more than a fifth or sixth round choice, unless a team comes knocking for a player such as Kony Ealy, but parting with him is unlikely at this point. But for a rebuilding team, draft picks may end up taking priority over veteran players on a team with little hope.