The Jets took a discouraging loss to the Browns in Cleveland last Thursday. There were some solid performances hidden beneath the mess, but of course, there were also some major eggs laid that laid a major shakeup on my top ten. This was probably the toughest ranking yet. Plenty of Jets have shown flashes at some point through the three games, but few have strung together a trio of solid performances - the makings of a mediocre roster.
The weekly rankings are based on my perception of total positive impact on the team over the season to that point, discounting player reputation or past performance.
Let’s dive in!
10. Morris Claiborne, CB (Last week: Unranked)
Claiborne was on the debut list but fell off after a poor game against Miami.
He returns this week after a decent game that has him surpassing a few players who had subpar outings against Cleveland. Claiborne did get bailed out by an Antonio Callaway drop in the second half that should’ve been a first down, but other than that he played well. Outside of that drop, I still charted him for allowing only 4 yards on 4 targets, and no first downs. Aside from Tyrod Taylor’s individual unforced ineptitude, I thought Claiborne was one of the biggest contributors to his struggles on the coverage side of things.
9. Sam Darnold, QB (Last week: 3rd)
I think Darnold played well enough over the first two games to maintain a spot in the top ten in spite of the horrendous game he played against the Browns.
Jeremy Bates and the offensive line drew a lot of criticism for the offense’s struggles in this game, but Darnold should not be absolved of the blame. I thought he was the biggest reason the Jets lost the game and could not generate any offense. He was ultra-conservative and did not throw to open receivers down the field throughout the game. His accuracy was terrible and his footwork under pressure was not what we have been accustomed to seeing from him. Poor outing, but typical for a rookie. His learning from this kind of game is exactly the purpose of this season.
8. Brandon Shell, RT (Last week: 8th)
Brandon Shell sits comfortably in the 8th spot for the second consecutive week.
He’s been spottier in pass protection over the past couple of weeks, but nobody has done enough to knock him off of this list. Shell still hasn’t allowed a sack, hit, or deflected pass. He’s only taken one penalty (a false start). In the run game, by my charting he maintains the best assist-to-stuff ratio on the team at 8-2.
His 6 pressures allowed over the past two games (3 each week) are concerning, but his body of work is strong to this point of the year.
Shell seems to have become very solid protecting against rushers to the outside. That already seemed like his best trait, but he looks to have taken another step to the point where he is really locking down in that part of the game. His pressures have mainly been against stunts and to the inside. We’ll see if these issues remain persistent.
7. Steve McLendon, DT (Debut)
McLendon has played well throughout all three games. Now that the novelty of his teammates’ splash plays has worn off, his consistent body of work makes him well deserving of a spot on the list. McLendon eats a ton of space up front and gets burst off the ball that creates easier opportunities for his teammates.
Poor JC Tretter.
McLendon has the half sack seen above, 4 run stuffs, and a pass deflection so far, all in only 85 snaps. The box score doesn’t even account for the amount of plays he creates for others.
6. Henry Anderson, DL (Last week: 10th)
Anderson continues to impress. Against Cleveland, he stuffed two runs, split a sack with Buster Skrine, and also stopped a screen pass at the line. His motor stands out every week, and he has been the best interior pass rusher on the team so far.
He’s got two tackles for loss and 3 QB hits so far. The quarterback hit total is already halfway to Muhammad Wilkerson’s last year.
5. Isaiah Crowell, RB (Last week: 5th)
Crowell found the end zone twice for the second time this season. He’s currently tied with Carlos Hyde and Todd Gurley for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with 4.
On the whole Crowell is still averaging respectable numbers of 57.0 rushing yards per game (about 2 yards shy of his career high), which is 15th in the league, and 4.5 yards per carry, which is 11th among qualified running backs.
However, I was a bit skeptical of his hole selection against Cleveland. Crowell picked up 34 yards on 16 carries (2.1 average) while Bilal Powell picked up 73 yards on 14 carries (5.2 average), and I don’t think that was coincidental. There were a few plays where I thought Crowell either picked the wrong hole or failed to break any tackles. He also had a foolish (albeit overblown by the media) unsportsmanlike conduct penalty post-touchdown, though it didn’t end up costing the team. It wasn’t a great game for him on the whole. He is now averaging 2.5 yards per carry over the past two games.
4. Bilal Powell, RB (Last week: 6th)
Powell has strung together three consecutive efficient games. He quietly picked up an efficient 60 yards on 12 carries against Detroit. Against Miami, while he was quiet running the ball (9 yards on 5 carries), he was electric catching the ball, grabbing 5 of 6 targets for 74 yards and a 28-yard touchdown.
Against Cleveland, Powell brought legitimacy to the offense. While Isaiah Crowell scored both of the touchdowns, Powell was the one keeping the chains moving as he picked up 73 yards on 14 carries (5.2 average). He gained at least 7 yards on half of his carries.
Powell is averaging a career high in scrimmage yards per game at 72.7, and his current total of 218 ties him for 18th in the league among running backs.
It seems we’ll never get to see Powell get the chance to try and translate his efficiency to an every-down role, but perhaps the Jets know better than us that it’s best to limit his touches due to health concerns. Either way, Powell just continues to get better as his career goes on. He’s contributing every week and doing very little to hurt the team. As he has been throughout his entire Jets career, he’s been somebody you can rely upon in the midst of an otherwise completely unreliable franchise.
3. Darron Lee, LB (Last week: 4th)
Lee’s run defense still hasn’t caught up to his coverage, but it took a step in that direction. After notching only 1 run stuff through 2 games, Lee racked up 4 against Cleveland. There were still some mistakes here and there that led to big plays, but he was finally making the splash pursuit plays as a run defender he has been making in coverage.
I thought Lee was most responsible for a 17-yard gain to tight end David Njoku in zone coverage, his biggest hiccup of the year. Otherwise, Lee still only allowed 7 yards on 3 targets. He’s been nowhere near the magnet he was last season. His ability to keep this run going is a major X-factor for this defense.
2. Jamal Adams, S (Last week: 2nd)
Adams continues to flash. He’s been impressive in the box, making things happen as a blitzer and providing both pressure and great run defense on the edge.
Adams can become even more dangerous with his partner in crime back in the lineup, Marcus Maye. The Jets were getting exposed by Baker Mayfield in the middle of the field with only Doug Middleton deep. When Adams played deep to compensate, the Jets couldn’t get pressure without over-complicating their pressure packages, and they were still taken advantage of.
Maye should represent a substantial upgrade over Middleton and allow the Jets to be more comfortable getting creative with Adams near the line. Maye had hiccups of his own towards the end of last season, but had a promising rookie season overall and can develop into a quality coverage piece.
1. Quincy Enunwa, WR (Last week: 1st)
Sam Darnold has leaned on Quincy Enunwa more than just about any quarterback has leaned on their top receiver, and Enunwa hasn’t let him down.
29 of Darnold’s 93 attempts have gone to Enunwa, giving him the third-highest target share in the league. Enunwa has validated that favoring by leading the team in first downs every game, with 4, 6, and 4 over the first three weeks. His season total of 14 receiving first downs was tied for 7th in the league entering Week 4.
The Cleveland game was a great example of the plus impact Enunwa has. The protection was shaky and Darnold had absolutely no rhythm or confidence to attack downfield. Enunwa was the only legitimacy the Jets mustered in the passing game, as he took all four of his receptions from behind the line of scrimmage past the first down marker. Enunwa just makes things happen with the ball in his hands. (Credit to Jermaine Kearse for his consistent help on these plays as a blocker)
He currently ranks second among wide receivers in yards after catch behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, and second in the league in yards off of screen passes behind Albert Wilson.
Enunwa also threw in a pair of run game assists as a blocker and now has 4 of those on the season.
He’s only 29th in the league in receiving yards, but Enunwa’s efficiency, individual playmaking ability, and plus impact in a variety of ways has been very impressive. He’s back and fully healthy, and has progressed even further beyond where he was in 2016. Excluding his injury-wiped 2017, Enunwa has increased his receiving YPG average by 25.0+ for the third consecutive season.
You definitely want to see Sam Darnold start to spread the ball out more, especially to Robby Anderson, but you can’t blame him for leaving on a weapon playing as well as Enunwa.
Dropped off list:
Trumaine Johnson (was 7th) - Johnson was very lucky to not be beaten for a 70+ yard touchdown by Antonio Callaway as Tyrod Taylor underthrew him. Credit to Johnson for breaking it up, though.
Leonard Williams (was 9th) - Williams’ total of splash plays is smaller than Henry Anderson and Steve McLendon even though he has played substantially more snaps. I saw him washed out on multiple big runs in the Cleveland game. You were hoping to see Williams finally take a step up from good to great - instead he’s taken a step down from good to average, at least over these first few games.
Knocking on the door:
Avery Williamson - After an uninspiring first two games, Williamson went off against the Browns with 1.5 sacks and 14 total tackles, including 4 run stuffs. I don’t think it was as dominant a game as his statline suggests, as there were a couple of run plays he was a key culprit on and he was taken advantage of in a few mismatches in coverage. It was a promising step forward, but he still has more work to do to reach the level Demario Davis played at last season. Keep in mind that Davis also struggled over the first two games last season before breaking out in Week 3.
Should Sam Darnold be in the top ten right now?
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Which player not on the list is most deserving of a spot?
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