With a game of real football finally in the books, here’s my ranking of the top ten most impactful Jets on the year (in the Detroit game) heading into the home opener against the Dolphins.
The weekly rankings are based on my perception of season performance to that point over player reputation/talent level.
The Jets made this extremely difficult with the way they played in Detroit. Here’s how I shaped out my list!
10. Brian Winters, RG
There were a huge amount of question marks answered (momentarily) in Monday night’s victory, but the biggest might have been the offensive line. It wasn’t the stoutest of challenges, taking on a Detroit defensive line littered with question marks, but this unit did almost everything possible to reignite confidence they can be a reliable unit.
Winters had a great game. He looked healthy and back to his nasty self. His pass protection was clean throughout the game, as he flashed some solid awareness helping out teammates in key situations. In the run game, while he did not stand out on many of the Jets’ big plays, he was consistently delivering punishing blows off the ball, putting multiple defenders on the ground (sometimes at once). Very encouraging start for a few of the linemen, starting with Winters.
9. Spencer Long, C
The Jets offensive line was a complete mess on the road last year. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, as the Jets ranked 30th in fewest sacks allowed and 32nd in rushing on the road last year. Communication was a big issue, and the center is always a huge part of that.
Spencer Long came in and led this offensive line to an impressive performance on opening night in a loud road environment. Like Winters, he was very clean in pass protection, mostly dominating the nose tackles that lined up over him. In the run game, Long made a key block on Isaiah Crowell’s 62-yard touchdown, and flashed as a good fit in this running scheme.
8. Brandon Shell, RT
In my opinion, Shell was the best of the five Jets linemen in Week 1. He looked much improved throughout the preseason, and translated much of what made him stand out in the exhibition period to the big show. The Jets are taking advantage of his plus athleticism and getting him on the move in the run game, and they had a ton of success running behind him. He was imperfect, but on the whole very sound protecting Sam Darnold. I’m excited to see Shell continue progressing.
7. Morris Claiborne, CB
Claiborne had one heck of a game. He proved that the notion he can thrive as a #2 opposite Trumaine Johnson is very much plausible. He allowed only 31 yards and 1 first down on the 7 targets in which he was the primary defender. Claiborne’s athletic interception early in the game set the tone for what was to come - and he broke up 2 additional passes as well.
Detroit has a legitimately strong wide receiver group, and it was possibly their biggest threat to the Jets entering the game. Claiborne can’t do much better than holding outside threats Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to 1 catch on 6 targets with a total of 3 passes defended.
6. Andre Roberts, WR/PR/KR
Who would’ve thought you would ever see a special teams player sniff being a top-ten contributor in any game for the New York Jets ever again? Likely nobody on the face of this earth - but here is the vet returner who most people overlooked as nothing more than “experienced.” Roberts’ electricity in the return game was huge. His 43-yard return after Detroit’s first offensive drive set up the first scoring drive of Darnold’s game, effectively putting the Jets in control for the rest of the night. His 16-yard return after that put the Jets on Detroit’s side of the field and set up the deep touchdown to Robby Anderson.
And, of course, his 78-yard drought-snapping, toe-tapping return was a thing of beauty, effectively putting the knockout punch in Detroit. Credit to Charone Peake, Trenton Cannon, and Terrence Brooks for their blocking on that one.
Roberts picked up 137 yards on those 3 returns, a 45.7 yard average. It was only the 8th performance of 3 returns for a 45+ yard average in NFL history.
If Roberts can stay on this list, he’ll likely be having one of the best punt returning seasons of all-time. I’m here for it - but he’ll probably be gone next week. Nevertheless, it’s hard for a punt returner to help his team more than Roberts did this past week. So he gets a cozy spot for now!
5. Sam Darnold, QB
His astonishingly terrible pick six to start the game knocks him down from a claim to the throne - but Sam showed us the noise about his ability to bounce back was nothing but truth.
Over the rest of the game, Darnold completed 16 of 20 passes for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no additional picks, throwing in a clutch 6-yard first down run on 3rd & 2. That would culminate in a 141.3 passer rating.
The pick does count, though, and it put the Jets in a hole that had them in a 17-17 tie with a lethargic opponent early in the 3rd quarter. Overall, Sam still posted highly impressive numbers of 9.4 yards per attempt and a 116.8 quarterback rating. No matter how those numbers are arrived at, they’re impressive for a 21-year old rookie starting his first game on the road in prime time.
Darnold was just as poised as looked in the preseason. His pocket movement was tremendous - I loved how he moved the deep safety on the Anderson touchdown with a shoulder fake. It was great to see him answer the question of whether he throw the deep ball with touch, though his mechanics had him underthrow the ball a tad. He consistently opened up his own windows with subtle movement inside of the pocket. The Jets designed a lot of rollouts for him, on which he thrived, but he also created his own magic escaping the pocket.
Quite the debut. There is obviously still plenty to work on. His downfield mechanics can improve. Whatever happened his mind that led to him throwing that pick needs to disappear. He has to prove he can carry an offense throwing more than 21 passes and without getting so much help from the defense and special teams (the Jets had the second-best average starting field position in the league.)
Regardless, he bounced back. In a huge way. And that is what you wanted to see this year.
4. Quincy Enunwa, WR
I’ve loved the potential of Enunwa in this offense and with Darnold, and he lived up to the hype big-time. He caught 6 of 10 targets (nearly half of all targets) for 63 yards, the final go-ahead touchdown, and 3 additional first downs.
Enunwa’s touchdown reception was just fantastic. He was opened up on a rub, but it’s what he can do with the football in his hands that makes him special. 6’2 wide receivers are not supposed to be as fast, strong, and elusive as he is. He is one of the best YAC wide receivers in football.
Another one of his skills of which he is superior at the wide receiver position is in the blocking department. Enunwa most notably helped spring Sam Darnold’s designed 3rd down conversion run in the first quarter, but he was consistently packing a punch in the blocking game.
He’s a weapon.
3. Jamal Adams, S
Adams has All-Pro safety tools, and he put them all to use against Detroit. He was great against the run last year, but had work to do in coverage.
He answered a lot of those questions in Detroit, allowing only 2 of 6 targets his way to be caught for 17 yards and 1 first down. He had an interception of Matt Cassel in garbage time, but added 2 additional pass breakups for 3 total passes defended - already half of his 2017 total of 6. All in all, the Lions had a 2.8 passer rating targeting him.
Adams will see tougher matchups down the road in man coverage against tight ends - all of his targets in this game were in zone - but he started off the year great.
2. Isaiah Crowell, RB
At the same time the Jets answered a ton of questions about potential issues, they also showcased some perceived strengths that very well could be as strong as we might have thought. For me, I was excited to see Isaiah Crowell’s big play ability. As I’ve written on a few times, his most elite tool is his ability to break out huge runs. Crowell got the Jets on the board with a very nice 6-yard touchdown, showing great vision to find the correct hole. After that, he broke tackle after tackle on a 14-yard third down run that set up a go-ahead Jason Myers field goal. Finally, his 62-yard run bursting through a small hole added salt to the Lions’ wounds.
Crowell just played great running back - breaking tackles, picking the right holes, and busting out big plays. It’ll be interesting to see how the Jets manage him and Powell week-to-week.
1. Darron Lee, LB
Lee’s performance was a microcosm of the entire game for the Jets. Streaks snapped, questions answered, doubters silenced for one night.
Lee had a shaky first half, missing a tackle on a curl that ended up resulting in a first down, but he dominated the second half. He snagged a Matt Stafford pass (off a hit from Henry Anderson) and took it to the house to break the Jets’ seemingly never-ending defensive touchdown streak and break the game open. From there, he just took off. Sometimes it only takes one play. He made another interception on an incredibly athletic grab, and was all over the place making plays short of the sticks. In coverage, he allowed 1 first down on 13 targets.
Lee might’ve been my last guess to hold this #1 spot - but he deserves it for now. Can he keep it up?
Knocking on the door:
Henry Anderson - Anderson caught fire pressuring the QB in the second half. He created the Lee interception as he finessed Frank Ragnow and hit Matt Stafford.
Steve McLendon - He was seemingly the only pressure on Stafford in the first half. Created a few plays others got credit for.
Leonard Williams - Williams tallied two quarterback hits but no tackles. He was quiet in the first half but like the rest of the team was better in the second. I expect him on the list throughout the season.
On vacation, be back soon:
Trumaine Johnson - Rough debut for Tru, but he should find his way near the top of the list as the weeks go on and he continues to keep footballs out of the end zone.
Avery Williamson - A nice debut for Williamson. No splash plays in a night full of them, but he seems like a great fit replacing Demario Davis.
Robby Anderson - Anderson’s 41-yard score was his only catch, but it was great to see he and Darnold prove they are capable of making the connection down the field work. He has a good shot of sticking on the list.
Who will finish the season at #1?
This poll is closed