The Jets’ winning streak was short-lived, as after two explosive home victories, injuries caught up to the team and they fell to the Vikings 37-17. With injuries mounting and previously thriving players hitting mid-season walls, the list saw a ton of movement this week.
Who have the top ten best Jets been on the year?
10. Sam Darnold, QB (Last week: 5th)
Darnold had his third game of the year in which his struggles decimated the offense. Did he get any help? Absolutely not. He ended up playing far too much time with reserve receivers and Eric Tomlinson running downfield routes, had to deal with awful snapping from Spencer Long, and was dealing with cold weather conditions for the first time as a professional - an issue that hopefully does not linger any further.
However, Darnold missed plenty of open throws and made his share of decision-making mistakes, passing up underneath yardage for risky downfield chances that either did end up in disaster or should have.
It’s hard to not be pleased with his start. He’s flashed a ton of promise and put together more good games than bad up to this point of the year. He’s a respectable 3-4 as the youngest starter in league history, having played 3 games in 10 days to start his career, two road primetime games, six of his seven games against defenses in the top half of the league in DVOA, and doing it all playing with a subpar offense.
Still, this list is about positive impact on this season. Darnold leads the league in interceptions and is 31st of 33 qualifiers in passer rating, ahead of only Josh Rosen and Josh Allen. He’s hurt the Jets badly in 3 of their 4 losses.
And that is perfectly fine. We knew Darnold would have games like that. It’s all part of the process.
9. Isaiah Crowell, RB (Last week: 3rd)
Crowell’s inability to pass protect or produce as a receiver has hurt this offense, and those issues will only be magnified with Bilal Powell out for the year.
I’ve credited Crowell with 6 total pressures allowed on 15 protection snaps this year - 2 of them sacks. In comparison, Powell allowed 1 pressure on 17 snaps.
Crowell hasn’t done anything outside of two great games - fitting the boom or bust profile he carried with him over from Cleveland. Save for the Detroit and Denver wins (321 combined yards), Crowell has gained only 138 yards in his other 5 games, averaging a lowly 2.46 yards per carry in those.
His vision was very spotty against Minnesota, and he failed to capitalize on 1-on-1s presented to him.
8. Steve McLendon, DT (Last week: Unranked)
McLendon reclaims his rightful property on the list. I actually think he has fallen off a little over the previous two games, but his overall body of work as a consistent run-stopper and matchup-winner up front is matched by few on this roster.
7. Leonard Williams, DL (Last week: 7th)
Williams has absolutely been a top-ten Jet this year, but going into his fourth season, you were hoping to finally see him make that leap from good to great. Instead, he’s actually having perhaps his worst season, deservedly lingering around the bottom of this list rather than staking a claim at the top. I’ve been on his side, but at some point he needs to start being who he was supposed to be when he was labeled by many “the best overall player” in the 2015 draft.
Williams hasn’t registered a sack in 5 of 7 games this year and has registered 0 tackles in 3 games. He had 1 this past Sunday.
Against the Vikings, he batted a couple of passes and registered a quarterback hit - but that play resulted in a pass completed for a first down.
Therein lies the problem with quarterback hits - one of Williams’ best arguments. He racked up 65 QB hits over his first three years as a Jet, which ranked 13th in the league and 3rd among 300+ pounders. Impressive.
However, of the top 40 overall players in QB hits over that span, Williams’ 12.0 sacks was the 3rd fewest - more than only Tom Johnson of the Vikings and Vinny Curry of the Eagles. Those guys are solid situational players, not top ten picks who lead their line in snaps and are expected to dominate.
Quarterback hits are not close in value to sacks. It is true that quarterbacks tend to be less efficient on average when throwing under pressure - but simply hitting the quarterback and allowing him to get rid of the ball still leaves the window open for a positive offensive play. It’s like contesting a jump shot instead of blocking it - well contested shots are very nice, but the only way to truly eliminate a shot’s chance of success is to block it. Against the Colts back in Week 6, Williams registered an impressive 3 hits. One of those resulted in a 4th down incompletion, but the other two resulted in a big first down and a touchdown.
Sacks are guaranteed drive-killers. Bringing down the quarterback while he still has the ball is substantially more beneficial than bringing him down without a ball in his hands. Williams is not dominating enough of his 1-on-1 opportunities to be the force that he has the potential to be. His high motor helps him rack up hits, but those aren’t good enough. I see him stonewalled by guards and centers much more often than he should be. Double teams and a lack of an edge rush play a part in his lackluster box score lines, but so does his own performance.
In addition to all of this sack talk, Williams often gets credited with “off the statsheet” impact - drawing doubles, creating pressure, and winning against the run. He has absolutely impacted games in those ways plenty of times - however, recently Williams has started to both play poorly against the run and fail to rack up sufficient pressure. Against the Vikings, he was a huge culprit on a few big runs, once even being fooled into chasing after Kirk Cousins on a handoff instead of playing the ballcarrier.
He’s a good player, I won’t deny that. And in spite of some struggles over the past couple of weeks, he’s still been pretty good this year. He can be a lot better than “pretty good”, though - and needs to be.
6. Henry Anderson, DL (Last week: Unranked)
I think it can be argued that Anderson has had a better per-snap impact than Williams. He only has 13 tackles this year, but I think he is a guy who really does make an impact off the statsheet. He creates a lot of quick penetration that impacts plays in the passing game. In my opinion, he’s been the best pass rusher on the team this year.
He’s also got 3 pass deflections this year.
It’s a toss-up ranking in order the impact of Anderson, Williams, and McLendon this year, but what’s not a toss-up is the decision as to whether the trade for Anderson was a good move. What the Jets have gotten out of the former Colt is tremendous value for a 7th-round selection.
Hopefully for the Jets, Anderson keeps doing what he’s been doing. On the other hand, it’s not a great indictment on the state of the roster if a rotational DT with 13 tackles has a legitimate argument to be among the six best impact players on the team.
5. Brandon Shell, RT (Last week: Unranked)
Shell was on the list for the first three weeks of the year until a monstrosity of a performance in Jacksonville knocked him off. I’ve been itching to put him back on, and due to injuries and Kelvin Beachum’s struggles, he finally is back.
The Jets’ pass protection numbers as a team this year are adequate, which is not something many people expected. They rank average or better in protection stats such as sack rate, pressure rate, and total quarterback hits allowed.
Off the bat, I eliminate Spencer Long and Brian Winters as contributors towards that. They’ve really struggled. James Carpenter has been better but he has been very hot and cold.
Narrowing it down, Shell has been the MVP of that unexpected output. Over the past three games (since the Jaguars debacle), I’ve credited Shell with 5 total pressures allowed on 103 protection snaps. That’s 4.8% - very strong for a tackle. On the year, I have him for only 2 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, and 14 pressures, for a total pressure rate of 7.1%. Relative to position, it’s the strongest number on the Jets offensive line.
I’ve also credited him with 18 rushing assists to only 5 stuffs allowed - the best ratio among the offensive front.
His progression this year, as he has been figuring out to maximize his physical tools, has been fun to watch. Shell could be one of the few homegrown, long-term pieces the Jets have on offense.
4. Darron Lee, ILB (Last week: 8th)
While Lee’s run game struggles continue to persist, he also continues to make up for it with very strong coverage. While the Vikings were mostly focused on targeting Darryl Roberts, Lee still didn’t even allow a catch in the game. He deflected a pass in zone coverage.
3. Avery Williamson, ILB (Last week: 6th)
Williamson just does his job. He’s not a coverage stud, but he does his job well enough to keep everything in front of him and prevent anything huge. In the run game, he does his best to cover for a unit that otherwise has been struggling to stop the ground game.
He’s fit into the Demario Davis role near-perfectly.
2. Morris Claiborne, CB (Last week: 2nd)
Good and bad from Claiborne against the Vikings. On the negative side, he allowed a touchdown for the second straight week after keeping the end zone clean over the first five weeks. On the plus side, that play was very well covered and a borderline-miraculous completion. In addition, before that fourth quarter touchdown, Claiborne was only targeted twice for 6 yards.
You can’t help but love what Claiborne has done with Trumaine Johnson out. He’s been a stud this year.
It will be interesting to see how the Jets go about their exploration of re-signing him. So far, they’ve gotten what they wanted - one more solid year out of an erratic, injury-prone player. Extending him long-term would be very risky, but the Jets will also be looking for another starter once he hits free agency.
1. Jamal Adams, S (Last week: 1st)
Adams is still very comfortable up here, but his last two games have probably been his poorest. After allowing a few big gains in coverage against Indianapolis as well as biting hard on a fake to allow a big run, Adams made a few more mistakes against the Vikings. He showed uncharacteristically poor effort on Latavius Murray’s first touchdown of the game, engaging a blocker instead of the ball-carrier right in front of him and then just standing there as he whizzed by. Adams also over-pursued on a couple of other big runs.
Last week, I discussed how Adams balanced his mistakes with big plays. He did that again this week, racking up a whopping 4 stuffs in the run game (most among safeties in Week 7) and helping to keep a couple of short completions shy of the sticks.
Dropped off list:
Kelvin Beachum, LT (was 10th): His season’s body of work is still decent, but Beachum had his worst game of the year against the Vikings. Danielle Hunter was just too much for him.
Quincy Enunwa, WR (was 9th): Enunwa should have no problem jolting back up on to the list once he his healthy.
Bilal Powell, RB (was 4th): Powell’s season is over after being put on IR with a neck injury. Not only is his Jets career likely over, his football career might be as well. It’s a sad way for a great Jet to go down. He brought his hard hat every single game and never was even remotely a part of the circus acts that took place off the field. On the field, injuries prevented him from ever being trusted to handle an every-down role, but he was about as efficient, versatile, and reliable on a per-snap basis as they come at RB. It’s a shame he will have never gotten to see a playoff game in a Jets uniform.
Knocking on the door:
Chris Herndon, TE: Herndon has caught fire as a receiver with 6 catches for 98 yards 2 touchdowns over the past two weeks. Already standing out with his pass-blocking, Herndon now has a chance to become a key component on offense with the mounting injuries at wide receiver.
Here’s a look at the season progression of the list.
Which player currently on the list is ranked too high / least deserves their spot?
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Where does Sam Darnold rank among Jets players this season in terms of net on-field impact over the course of the first seven games?
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Outside top 10