The bye week for the Jets comes at the midpoint of the season. Of course there is a lot of football left to be played, but let’s give out some awards for the first half of 2022.
Most Valuable Player: Quinnen Williams
This is a category with a number of contenders. Rookie Sauce Gardner has played at an extremely high level since he set foot on the field. Breece Hall’s season is over, but for an award based on the season’s first half, he would need to be in the mix.
I’m going with Quinnen Williams, though. I have to admit that I had given up on the idea of Quinnen ever reaching a superstar level of play. Only time will tell whether this is sustainable or just a career year. What I do know is he is playing at a level as high as any defensive tackle in the NFL right now, and this has been a big part of the defense’s transformation.
Williams is currently on a 13 sack pace. Even that probably undersells how dominant he has been. Quinnen has been a complete matchup nightmare and has lived in opposing backfields. The Jets finally have a player on their front who keeps offensive coordinators up at night.
Rookie of the Year: Sauce Gardner
This is another crowded category. In almost other rookie class, Hall and Garrett Wilson would be runaway winners. I have to go with the rookie corner from Cincinnati, though.
If Quinnen Williams has been one of the top two key players in the Jets’ defensive resurgence, Sauce has been the other.
I don’t want to get carried away with what Sauce has done so far. I have seen some lofty comparisons with Darrelle Revis, which probably aren’t fair. Sauce hasn’t followed the other team’s best receiver the way Revis did, and the Jets are primarily a zone team.
However, Sauce has provided stifling coverage all season long. Shutting down the other team’s passing game has two elements, the pass rush and the coverage. Which is more important to have? In an ideal world you don’t want to choose. You want both.
Williams and Gardner give the Jets both.
Coach of the Year: Robert Saleh
It’s easy and uncreative to give the head coach credit for the team’s success. Still I think Saleh deserves some praise.
Saleh got a lot of grief for the team’s 4-13 finish last year. A lot of it was based on the defensive performance. Plenty of fans were complaining about the scheme.
I don't hear many complaints about the scheme these days. When you have the players to run your scheme effective, results suddenly become better.
I don’t really have any insider information on Saleh being good, but he has always struck me as a smart guy with a good big picture vision. I feel like much of the criticism sent his way was over the top, particularly the extreme degree to which his words at press conferences were parsed. I’m glad to see him having success.
Jeff Ulbrich and Brant Boyer would also be worthy choices.
Comeback Player of the Year: Corey Davis
Corey Davis was a lightning rod for criticism last year. It wasn’t all unfair. Davis had a disappointing first year with the Jets that ended with an injury.
Still Davis had a track record for being a solid player. I thought he would be able to bounce back.
Although Corey has missed the last two games with an injury, he had posted a solid 19 catch, 351 yard stat line in 7 games. That puts him on an 850 or so yard pace prorated over 17 games. Factoring in the inconsistency of the passing game, that isn’t bad at all.
Just as important, he clearly has Zach Wilson’s trust. A young quarterback needs targets he can depend upon. At no time was the chemistry clearer than in the Jets’ big comeback against Pittsburgh when Davis had three key receptions on the two game-winning drives.
Best Free Agent Signing: DJ Reed
Sauce Gardner gets most of the headlines, but Reed has been almost as good on the other side. This gives the Jets two lockdown corners on defense.
Reed must be small at 5’9” but he plays bigger. He is sticky in coverage and has shown the ability to high point balls in the air effectively even against tall receivers.
I was thinking this through. Nine games isn’t enough time to make any definitive proclamations, but if Reed keeps playing at this level, he might go down as the best free agent signing since the turn of the century. I couldn’t come up with a better Jets signing since the 1990s.
Unsung Hero: Michael Carter II
I noted above that Sauce Gardner gets most of the headlines. Reed gets the rest for Jets cornerbacks.
It kind of flies under the radar, but the Jets have a really solid third starting corner. It is Carter, who plays the slot.
There is even another player on the team with the same name who gets more attention.
Free Agent Signing the Jets Probably Wish They Could Have Back: CJ Uzomah
Tyler Conklin’s big game two weeks ago against New England saved him from this distinction. Instead his fellow tight end, Uzomah gets the nod.
I can’t help but think back to the start of free agency. The Uzomah signing was announced at a point where a lot of the top tight end targets were flying off the board. In an otherwise excellent offseason, I can’t help but wonder whether Joe Douglas panicked a bit and overpaid Uzomah.
Looking at his usage, there is no way the Jets could get their money’s worth, even if Uzomah was playing great. (He isn’t.)
He might be a locker room guy on a team where so many of the key players are young, but locker room guy isn’t a skill worth $8 million.
Biggest Disappointment: Elijah Moore
Some of the loftiest projections for Moore in 2022 were clearly based on projection and hope.
Still it’s difficult to be a fan of what we have seen from the second year wide receiver.
The odd thing is his season started out on a solid note. Maybe he wasn’t the go to guy fans hoped and dreamed for, but through 4 games he was on an 800 yard pace. He looked like a solid complementary part.
Then he wasn’t a part of the offense the next few weeks as the Jets started basing things around Breece Hall. Suddenly Moore wasn’t happy even though the team was winning and demanding out.
Just like that, you’ve got a major disappointment.