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Positive Takeaways from Jets-Dolphins

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

This is the NFL. With only 16 games in a season, every game carries such an intense amount of emotional weight.

When you demolish a team on the road, on Monday Night Football to start a new era, the elation is glorious.

When you follow up that win with a loss in your home opener to a less than fearsome divisional opponent, that stings.

The negativity has flown freely throughout the world of the Jets in the hours since this ugly loss, but you know what?

It was one game!

Let’s discuss some of the positives!

  • Pass rush: Through productive blitzing and good execution, the Jets managed to sack Ryan Tannehill 4 times. Another one was wiped out by penalty. The Jets had only managed to collect 4+ sacks once in their past 32 games (Thursday night vs. Buffalo last season).

The 46 sack yards the Jets collected is the second highest total in all of Todd Bowles’ tenure.

  • Quincy Enunwa: The Jets need to find someone else who can consistently move the ball through the air, but Enunwa has given Darnold no reason to make anybody else his favorite target. He looks healthy and back to his beastly self, grabbing imperfect passes out the air, racking up YAC like few others can, and moving the chains time after time. He had 6 first downs against the Dolphins after collecting 4 against the Lions, giving him 10 through two games.
  • Trumaine Johnson: I’ll get deeper into his coverage performance in this week’s coverage report, but as far as I remember Johnson did not allow much of anything against Miami. I recall him getting a lot of press opportunities while the Jets went blitz-heavy, and he responded very well. A good bounceback game after a shaky opener in Detroit.
  • Sam. Darnold. You cannot help but be thrilled with what he has done so far. The mistakes sting harshly when you are watching as a fan, but throughout the entire offseason and in between every game, we discuss that this season is all about Sam going through the rookie bumps and bruises and getting his feet wet in the NFL. We all knew these mistakes would come. What you wanted to see was his ability to bounce back.

He barely could have bounced back any better over these first two games. He shook off an ugly pick six to lead a road whooping on prime time. This week, Sam threw a poor interception early and another one in the red zone following a takeaway (though Terrelle Pryor is arguably the primary culprit there).

Sam still managed over 300 yards and a yards per attempt rate of over 8.0, doing everything he needed to put the team in position to complete a 20-point comeback and at least tie the game if not take the lead. With simple execution from his teammates, the Jets easily could have scored the 20 points needed to get back in the game. You wanted to see what he could do with 40 attempts instead of 20, a poor supporting cast, and poor circumstances? Darnold showed you he’s already plenty capable of producing in adverse conditions.

I really loved one play in particular. The Jets were down 20-6 with 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter and were facing a 3rd & 22 at the Miami 37. With two false start penalties, they had a surreal sequence where they advanced the ball 1 yard over the past 4 minutes. The Jets needed something humongous to give them a realistic shot at getting back in the game. A field goal would not only be a low-upside 55-yarder (though Jason Myers ended up making it, credit to him), but it would barely slice into the lead at all, still keeping it at 2 scores (and ultimately the Jets would not get down the field 2 more times). This was the perfect time to take a what-the-heck prayer down the field and see if the Jets could manage a huge play to keep the comeback on. Darnold rolled out and tossed up a ball for Terrelle Pryor near the right pylon. Risky for sure with two defenders there - but it was the time to gamble, and Darnold understood that. The ball sailed directly through Pryor’s hands. A dime and perfect understanding of the situation.

If Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan had Darnold’s performance against Miami, you could say it was a decent quarterback performance. The two turnovers were very costly and the offense only scored 12 points after all, but he made a ton of money throws and created a lot of opportunities for his teammates in spite of poor offensive line and receiver play.

However, Darnold is not Rodgers. This was his second NFL start. He continues to show resiliency, flash his upside with big time throws, and do what he can to lift up his supporting cast. The script is playing out exactly as expected and hoped. He’s making timely mistakes. But he is bouncing back from them in tremendous ways. He is giving this franchise a great deal of hope.

With 534 passing yards at this point, only Cam Newton, Warren Moon, and Andrew Luck have thrown for more over the first two weeks of their NFL careers.

Darnold is a year younger than all of those guys were.

What did you like in this mostly sloppy game?