The New York Jets won a football game against the Buffalo Bills today, 13 - 6. Those who are focused on the Jets’ second half of the season rebound will likely view this as closing the season with a rush. Those who are focused on the quality of play we saw on the field against a Bills team that was resting many of their best players will likely view this as closing the season with a whimper.
We ordinarily do a recap that reviews what went right and what went wrong. Who played well and who played poorly in this game. Today I am going to break with that tradition. I’m going to break with that tradition because today neither team had anything on the line. Neither team had most of their starters on the field, whether due to injuries or resting for the playoffs. In short, I view today’s game as the equivalent of a pre-season contest, where the players aren’t starters and the results don’t matter. And I’m not much interested in analyzing a pre-season game.
So today we will instead focus on the season as a whole. And in yet another lost season, yet another losing season, yet another season without meaningful December games, I think we’ve had enough to be negative about. So today, there will be no bad section. Today we list only the good things, the things that give us hope for the future, even if it’s just a faint, fragile kind of hope. Forthwith:
Gregg Williams. He held together an injury ravaged defense and managed to lead it to better than average play most weeks despite no NFL caliber cornerbacks other than Brian Poole and no edge rushers worth mentioning.
Brian Poole. Billed as a cornerback who excelled in run support and struggled in pass coverage, Poole did well in run support, but also excelled in coverage. One of Mike Maccagnan’s best moves as a GM.
Steve McLendon. In a season where a veteran could easily have packed it in and collected a paycheck, McLendon played well, just like he does every year. Another one of Mike Maccagnan’s best moves, McLendon has been an unsung hero of the Jets for years. He won’t be around for too many more years, so he’s maybe not a reason for hope, but I felt he deserved to be recognized.
The young defensive line. Nathan Shepherd developed into an effective rotational guy, as did Foley Fatukasi and Kyle Phillips. Top draft pick Quinnen Williams struggled a bit to start the year but started to show some signs of justifying his selection as the year wore on. These guys are young, inexpensive and effective, anchoring one of the better run defenses in the NFL. They should continue to get better and provide at least one strength on the cheap going forward.
Tarell Basham. Ok, small sample, guilty as charged. But I like what I’ve seen of Basham the last month or so and I think I want to see if he can build on that next year.
Neville Hewitt and James Burgess. These two were backups to start the year, but ended up being starters most of the year. As starters they more than held their own. When one or both of them return to backup roles next year, we will know we have competent depth at inside linebacker, another position of strength going forward.
Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Adams had his second consecutive Pro Bowl season and is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Maye held down the last line of defense and did it well. Together they are one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. Another position of strength going forward, though the Jets could probably use at least one upgrade at backup safety.
Brant Boyer. For the second consecutive year the Jets had one of the more effective special teams units in the NFL, despite massive turnover from last year’s top unit. Boyer is proving to be one of the better special teams coaches in the NFL and a rising star.
Jamison Crowder. Crowder lead the team in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. He’s not a star, but he is quietly effective in the slot.
Braxton Berrios. Not flashy, but reliable and effective as a returner.
Sam Darnold. This one is a lightning rod. Some people are convinced he is destined for greatness. Others are convinced he is destined for bust-ness. I’m somewhere in the middle. To me Darnold exhibits certain traits that are special, things you can’t teach. His pocket awareness and ability to extend plays with his mobility are special. At times he makes enormously impressive throws, throws few others would try. He can get hot and look almost unstoppable. He is also very inaccurate at times, with poor judgment, questionable mechanics, and he can be slow getting through his reads, holding onto the ball too long. With little help from an atrocious offensive line and mediocre weapons, Darnold is probably being asked to do too much at this early stage of his career. For now I think he is reason for hope, though far from a sure thing.
Those are my reasons for hope going forward. How about you? Please let us know what your reasons for hope are. And though we can’t compel you, let’s try to keep this, for just this one time, focused on the good, shall we?