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What can we learn from how potential free agent targets played against the Jets in 2019?

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Heading into free agency, something worth considering is whether any potential offseason targets performed particularly well against the Jets last season. If an opposing player seems especially difficult to deal with and affects your gameplan, that’s going to stick with a coach and might lead the team to place a higher priority on that player in the free agent market.

EDGE Markus Golden

Golden is a potential target for the Jets because he generates pressure at a solid rate, even though he perhaps doesn’t offer as much setting the edge or dropping into coverage as Jordan Jenkins. If Jenkins leaves, the Jets are already good against the run, so replacing him with a more productive pass rusher like Golden could be a smart move.

In the Jets-Giants game, Golden got pressure on Sam Darnold a handful of times, including one sack coming unblocked off the edge. He also made a few plays against the run including one where he fought off a Trevon Wesco block to stuff Bilal Powell in the backfield.

Golden’s most impressive pass rush rep was this one where he used a quick inside jab step to gain leverage and overpower Chuma Edoga to get to Darnold (who, to his credit, still completed an amazing pass):

You could imagine Adam Gase or Gregg Williams seeing a play like that and recognizing that the Jets’ pass rushers weren’t winning one-on-one matchups regularly enough. Getting a guy like Golden could mean the Jets are able to generate pressure in passing situations more often without having to send extra players.

Guard Joe Thuney

Thuney played against the Jets twice last year. In the first game, with Luke Falk in at quarterback for the Jets, he didn’t play a major role as New England sleepwalked to a comfortable win. However, he did an outstanding job in the other meeting.

That game, which the Jets entered with optimism high as they had just beaten Dallas and were welcoming back CJ Mosley, ended up being a dominating win for New England with Thuney making a significant contribution to the Patriots’ first touchdown by getting out to the second level and sealing Jamal Adams off near the goal line.

Thuney had several other impressive plays as a run blocker, including this impressive pulling block:

He also contributed in pass protection, as he didn’t give up a single pressure all day and did an excellent job of moving from assignment to assignment. Here, though, he shows excellent technique one-on-one to enable Tom Brady to make a key completion:

Thuney was extremely impressive in this game, which wasn’t unusual for him in the 2019 season. It’s not surprising he’s reportedly near the top of the Jets’ wishlist.

Cornerback Byron Jones

Jones had a fine season last year and the Jets are rumored to be interested in signing him, even though he’s expected to command around $16-18 million per season.

His performance in the loss against the Jets last year wasn’t necessarily one of his best of the year but his athletic ability and natural ball skills were on show as he recovered to break up this pass:

Jones only gave up one first down catch, although it did go for 33 yards. Demaryius Thomas ran away from him on a crossing route. Jones was matched up against Thomas in the slot and playing off coverage on the play, neither of which were playing to his strengths. He also got called for a pass interference penalty on Thomas.

For most of the game, Jones shut down his side of the field, which is basically what he’s been doing for the past two seasons. If the Jets can sign him, they’ll hope for more of the same.

Tackle Cordy Glenn

Glenn, released last week after the Bengals failed to find a trade partner for him, is one of the few starting tackles available that played against the Jets last season.

In the Jets’ embarrassing loss to the winless Bengals last season, Glenn played a key role at left tackle having only made his first appearance of the season the previous week. Glenn didn’t allow a single pressure as the Bengals built an early lead and hung on for the win.

Here’s an example of Glenn doing a good job in pass protection to enable Andy Dalton to complete a throw:

Despite the clean slate in pass protection, Glenn benefited from the fact that Dalton usually got rid of the ball pretty quickly and also got some double team help from the tight end and his left guard, so it perhaps wasn’t as impressive at it sounds. He also had an inconsistent game as a run blocker.

Even so, Glenn gave up four sacks in his other five appearances last season, so this may have been his best game of the year.

Conclusions

The concern here might be that a player’s dominance against the Jets might not have been representative of his season as a whole and could lead to them overpaying.

However, in the above four cases, this only really applies to Glenn. Based on the above, if the Jets were to target Glenn based on his performance against the Jets last season, that might be a mistake.

In reality, we’d expect the Jets to do their due diligence on a player’s full body of work including all 2019 games and also looking back at prior seasons. Although, by the same token, there may be players who excelled against Gase’s Dolphins or Williams’ teams in the past that they still rate highly.

We would hope that Gase and Williams wouldn’t be swayed by one singular performance and that Joe Douglas would take their advice into account but draw his own conclusions anyway. Nevertheless, perhaps these performances will factor into how Gase and Williams will decide to use these players if the Jets are able to sign any of them.