As the Jets go through this rebuilding year, there is still a ton of things going on in these games that matter going forward. This is an audition of sorts for nearly every player on the roster, as with heaps of cap space and prime draft position the team has the ammo to fill any hole it wants. The questions that need to be answered are, which holes are the biggest? Where should the premium resources be invested? 2017 is all about answering those questions.
With that mind, let’s take a look at which Jets have been the team’s best players so far. This doesn’t mean the team’s most talented players (i.e. Madden rating) or players with the most upside long-term. We’re talking about the players who have played the best football in Weeks 1-2 of 2017. I’ll look to update this list every few weeks. Here is my current top ten.
10. Mike Pennel, DT
This might be a surprising sight on the top ten, but as I scanned the roster I was really hard pressed to find players who were truly doing well at their job. Pennel has only seen 34 snaps through two weeks, about 25%, but in that short time he’s made 8 tackles. He’s done a pretty good job in the run game when he’s been in there.
I looked through Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder to break down which players are getting tackles that matter. I looked for run plays gaining 3 yards or fewer without resulting in a first down. Pennel has 7 tackles of that variety, tying him for 18th in the entire league despite only being a situational player.
To put into perspective how good that is (despite the limited sample size), Damon Harrison ranked second in the league last year with 67 of those tackles, or one about every 10 snaps. Pennel’s current rate is one every 4.9 snaps. While it’s been a rough performance for the run defense overall, I think he has done a good job playing his role. Try to find someone not on the list who’s played better.
9. Jordan Jenkins, OLB
Jenkins had a solid rookie year and has mostly kept it up this year. He hasn’t made any impact plays quite yet but continues to a solid job playing his role. He’s a strong edge setter, but it’s hard for that impact to be noticed when the guys inside are never able to finish the play.
Here he easily disengages Charles Clay and takes down LeSean McCoy for no gain.
8. Kony Ealy, DL/Edge
Ealy is another player who has done a nice job on the edge even if he hasn’t quite gotten the big plays yet. He was constantly in the Bills’ backfield in Week 1, and a couple strong plays on the edge against Oakland. Going through the defense individually, it’s really eye-opening how the poor play of a few (looking at you, ILBs) has cancelled out some solid performances from so many others and made this defense look awful as a whole.
Here Ealy works the stunt with Leonard Williams to perfection to create a “sack” that Darron Lee gets credit for.
7. Leonard Williams, DL
Williams hasn’t had the production so far, but he definitely had a strong game in Buffalo. He was winning consistently and getting into the Buffalo backfield with the ease we’ve been used to. In Oakland, he was double teamed consistently, and often taken out of the game. Not to make excuses for him, as it was a mostly poor performance from him (why he’s 7th on the list right now), but he’s not getting a lot of help.
6. Josh Martin, OLB/ST
Martin’s gotten a lot of extra playing time this year and has taken a step forward. He’s a similar player to Jenkins, bringing power to the edge and showing some passing rushing ability at times as well. He’s fourth on the team with 9 tackles, 3 of them for a loss, tying him for the current league lead. To boot, he’s also tied for the league lead with 4 special teams tackles.
5. Brandon Shell, RT
I highlighted Shell after a mostly solid opening game in Buffalo. Following that, going into a game against arguably the league’s best pass rusher, he took the spotlight as one of the key X-Factors against the Raiders. He mostly delivered, playing a big part in keeping one of the NFL’s most dangerous defensive weapons relatively quiet.
GIF: An encouraging day for RT Brandon Shell, who relatively held his own vs. Mack. This on McCown to Kearse TD in 2nd Q. pic.twitter.com/dwMmD8H4yF— Joe Caporoso (@JCaporoso) September 18, 2017
4. James Carpenter, LG
Carpenter continues to be one of the offense’s most consistent players. Pro Football Focus had him as the team’s best player against the Raiders, not knocking him for a single pressure allowed in the pass game. He continues to stay healthy, consistent, and solid, if not overwhelmingly dominant on a regular basis. He’s a strong player.
3. Marcus Maye, S
While far from perfect, Maye has handled the immediate pressure extremely well. Not only is he a day one starting safety, but he’s doing it on a defense asking a ton out of him. He’s moving around a lot and has gotten the opportunity to clean up a lot of messes. Maye has shown a confidence and fire in his tackling, bringing the boom you want out of a player at his position.
Here he covers half the field to lay a smashing hit on a player who has 5 inches and 50 pounds on him.
That’s Maye at his best, but after some coverage hiccups in Orchard Park, he had an improved game there as well. Pro Football Focus marked him for just 1 reception for 16 yards on 28 coverage snaps.
2. Jermaine Kearse, WR
Let’s give Kearse some credit. Most saw him as a throw-in to the second round pick in the Richardson deal, but he’s had a very efficient start to 2017. He’s obviously McCown’s favorite target, catching 11 of his 15 looks, giving him nearly twice as many receptions as any other Jet. Among the 62 wide receivers with at least 10 targets, Kearse ranks 16th in yards per target and 10th in catch percentage. His 2 touchdowns is tied for 2nd. Kearse is producing at a solid level right now in spite of a subpar offense, and is looking good doing it. He can really go get the ball when it’s in the air and flashes a wide catch radius for his size.
1. Jamal Adams, S
Adams is firing on all cylinders right now. Run game, pass game, he is always in the right place at the right time and has the uncanny ability to see things before they happen. There are a barrage of GIFs I can put here to show you how great he has been, but I think this one sums it all up best.
Such great relentless pursuit and effort to save a TD from Jamal Adams on this play: pic.twitter.com/ndKWMMH1fJ— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 19, 2017
What’s not to love here? This is elite football. Speed. Instincts. Hustle. Fundamentals. It’s all there. Seven Jets didn’t come near the play. Three missed the tackle. Of those three, two were jumped over by the player who ended up saving the touchdown. He was the one who was farthest from the play at the snap.
He’s Jamal Adams.
Do you agree with the rankings? Is there anybody you would put on the list who didn’t make it?