The Jets predictably fell to the Bears in Chicago, as their depleted offense could not generate much of anything and their tired defense could not do enough to turn the tides in spite of numerous mistakes by quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Regardless, some players still made major moves on the power rankings.
Who have the top ten best Jets been on the year?
Previous rankings: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8
10. Isaiah Crowell, RB (Last week: 9th)
Crowell hangs on by a thread on the strength of his two tremendous games.
Crowell has averaged 27 yards per game on 2.7 yards per carry in the six games outside of Week 1 and Week 5, in which he averaged 161 yards per game on 12.8 yards per carry.
Crowell just doesn’t create anything when the blocks aren’t there. When they are, he is as capable of busting one loose as anybody, but when they aren’t, he is a stuff machine (as discussed in the offseason). This Jets offensive line is not good at run blocking, and thus with the Jets featuring a back who can’t create much on his own, the rushing output has been very bad when the team has needed it most.
His pass protection is also absurdly poor. I’ve credited Crowell for a shockingly bad 8 pressures allowed this year over 17 protection snaps. 3 of those pressures were sacks, tying him for the second most sacks allowed on the entire team by my count.
9. Leonard Williams, DL (Last week: 7th)
I wrote about Williams ad nauseam last week. He’s having a down year in a season that was supposed to finally be his breakout from good to great.
Williams posted 2 tackles and no sacks against the Bears - marking his 5th outing of the year with no sacks and 2 tackles or less (3 of those were 0-tackle games). Comparatively, that already matches Muhammad Wilkerson’s total in 13 games last year.
The off the statsheet impact has not even been there as much. I’m less impressed with Williams in run defense than usual, and he also is barely creating any pressure.
He’s making the Jets’ decision on whether to extend him a very difficult one.
8. Chris Herndon, TE (Debut)
Herndon caught only one pass against the Bears, but it was a 16-yard touchdown, marking his third consecutive game with a score.
Since 2000, he is only the 4th rookie tight end to score in three consecutive games in the first half of his debut season, joining Heath Miller, Hunter Henry, and Evan Engram.
Comparing him to the futile history of the position in Florham Park, he is the first Jet tight end to score in three straight games since Dustin Keller in 2010.
Herndon has been one of the most positive developments of this season for the franchise. His receiving is finally complimenting his pass protection ability (1 pressure across 20 protection snaps). I’d really like to see the Jets make him more of a focal point in the pass game. He deserves to regularly play more than half of the offensive snaps - he’s played 53.4% on the season.
7. Henry Anderson, DL (Last week: 6th)
Anderson is a fine defensive lineman. Ideally, he is not one of your team’s seven best players.
Nevertheless, Anderson is starting to surpass Leonard Williams as the most effective interior pass rusher on the team. He’s making key plays at strong rates and generating some pressures in the passing game. A nice piece for any defensive line - but again, ideally not the best piece.
6. Darron Lee, ILB (Last week: 4th)
Not much different to say about Lee this week compared to any other. His coverage is ahead of his run defense. He was only targeted twice by the Bears and yielded only one catch for 10 yards, with no first downs allowed. On the year he has allowed only 12 first downs and 256 on 42 targets, for a 6.1 yards per target average and 29% first down rate - both numbers very strong.
Nevertheless, while he has looked much quicker with his reactivity in coverage, that progression does not seem to have translated to the other phase yet. He does a nice job sticking to his gap assignments but rarely makes instinctive plays on the ball to make a splash play - like he has done in coverage quite a bit this year.
5. Sam Darnold, QB (Last week: 10th)
Darnold leaps from 10th on the list to 5th after posting a season low 153 yards. What gives?
Well, I thought Darnold actually had one of his better games of the year in Chicago despite his measly stat line. Those were extremely unfavorable conditions he was playing in. On the road, against a great defense, with zero (0.00) help on offense.
In situations like that, rookie quarterbacks very often try to do too much and they self-destruct, losing the game for their team before it even begins. Darnold did not do that.
He took what was given to him and minimized the damage, posting his second zero-pick game and taking only one sack despite being under as much pressure as he’s been in this year. He usually threw the ball away instead of launching it into danger. Every now and then, he created some offense, rushing for a career-high 22 yards and making a few nice plays outside of the pocket. His touchdown throw to Herndon was money.
Thanks to his performance, the Jets somehow managed to stay within one score late into the fourth. Darnold easily could have panicked and gift-wrapped the struggling Bears offense field position, points, and momentum, but he didn’t do that.
Am I going to start planning a parade for that Darnold performance? No. He simply did a nice job executing to the best of his ability in harsh conditions, and increased the team’s chances of victory as much as he could.
4. Morris Claiborne, CB (Last week: 2nd)
Claiborne has not had that game yet in which he has been completely demolished and picked apart, but he’s inching closer. He continues to do a solid job overall, but the miscues he has benefited from are piling up, while his overall production has dipped over the past three weeks. He allowed 142 yards, 2 TDs, and 6 total first downs on 19 targets from Weeks 6-8, compared to 135 yards, 0 TDs, and 8 total first downs on 25 targets from Weeks 1-5.
With one half in the books, you can’t help but be enthused with what Claiborne has brought to the table. The question once again is; can he keep it going for 8 more games?
3. Avery Williamson, ILB (Last week: 3rd)
Williamson is the best run defender on the Jets and it does not really seem close. He consistently just does his job the right way - filling the Demario Davis role very well.
He’s already tied his career high with 4 passes defended, is on pace to set a new career high in tackles for loss with 4, and is on pace to set a new career high in total tackles with 56.
He did give up a season-high 3 first downs in coverage against the Bears, but over the course of the year he’s kept quiet enough in that phase to compliment his run defense and splash playmaking.
The best free agent signing of the offseason for the Jets, and a player who has a shot to last the entirety of his deal and bring positive impact every step of the way.
2. Brandon Shell, RT (Last week: 5th)
You can call me the president of the Brandon Shell fan club.
He’s had a tremendous year. After a strong finish to 2016, he earned the starting right tackle job in 2017. He really struggled in the first half of the year and battled injuries, but finished strong in the second half of 2017.
He’s built off of that strong finish and then some. Run blocking was his major weakness, but he’s legitimized that part of his game, as he is getting off the line quicker and hitting his spots in the open field with authority.
In pass protection, he’s become a stalwart. Since a nightmare of a performance in Jacksonville in which I tagged him for 6 total pressures allowed, he’s allowed only 6 more pressures over the next four games combined.
On the year, I have him tagged for only 2 sacks allowed, 1 knockdown allowed, and 15 additional pressures allowed, for a pressure rate of 6.6% - very impressive for a right tackle.
Between Shell, Darnold, and Herndon, the Jets should come out of 2018 feeling very confident in at least 3 of their homegrown offensive pieces.
1. Jamal Adams, S (Last week: 1st)
Adams is on a bit of a cold stretch, as he has missed quite a few tackles over the past couple of games.
Regardless, he closes out the first half as the unquestioned best performer on the roster. His run defense is even better than it was last year, and he’s become arguably one of the top few best safeties in the box. Pro Football Focus has credited him with 16 run stops, 3 more than any other safety in the league.
His playmaking has also taken a step up. He has already forced 2 fumbles after forcing only 1 last year, and has notched 6 passes defended to match his season-long total in 2017.
Coverage is where he has been most improved. This is still an area where he can improve - especially in zone - but he’s progressed from a liability to an asset in this phase.
Last season, I credited Adams as responsible for 5 touchdowns allowed, with only 1 interception thrown in his direction (which ended up in the hands of Juston Burris in Buffalo). So far this season, he has yet to allow a touchdown, and has already had 2 interceptions thrown his direction.
In addition, I have Adams charted as lowering his first down rate from 41% to 30%, and his yards per target rate from 7.5 to 5.7.
As best demonstrated by his doubled rate of passes defended, Adams looks much better playing the football. He was close on a lot of plays last year but would find himself tripping at the top of routes or gambling to make plays on the ball and failing. This year, those things aren’t happening, and Adams is finding ways to get his hands on footballs and make catches difficult for opponents.
In particular, he’s done a much better job in man coverage on tight ends. Over the first half of the year, I’ve credited Adams with allowing only 4 catches on 10 targets in man coverage against tight ends, allowing only 67 yards (6.7 per target), 3 first downs (30%), and notching one interception.
Adams is definitely not a perfect player, and he hasn’t even reached his own ceiling yet. However, he certainly looks like he is poised to be a star for the Jets for quite a while.
Dropped off list:
Steve McLendon, DT (was 8th): McLendon seems to have cooled off a bit recently.
Knocking on the door:
Darryl Roberts, CB: After a poor start to the year with his play as a reserve, Roberts has been red hot over the past couple of games. I’ve tagged him for allowing only 111 yards and 4 first downs on 20 targets against the Vikings and Bears - culminating in dazzling numbers of only 5.6 yards per target and a 20% first down rate. If he can keep this up, he’ll easily make up for his early-year struggles, and the Jets might have to find a way to get him on the field once Trumaine Johnson returns.
Here’s a look at the season-long progression of the list.
Has Leonard Williams been one of the top ten best Jets in 2018?
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