Jets quarterback Sam Darnold talks after the team’s 24-10 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018.
Andy Vasquez, Staff Writer, @andy_vasquez
The New York Jets are in a familiar spot. And that’s not a good thing.
For the third straight season are 3-5 at the midpoint of the season.
“It’s very frustrating,” coach Todd Bowles said Monday. “We’ve got to put our heads down and we’ve got to correct this and we’ve got to try to come out and win some ball games. The season is not over. Whether halfway through it, three and five, you don’t like where you are but we dug ourselves this hole, we have to dig ourselves out.”
So who’s responsible for this hole? Here’s how each position graded out in the first half of the season.
Sam Darnold has shown great flashes of potential in the first eight games of his rookie season. He’s also gone through some struggles, which is to be expected from a rookie quarterback. But even with an offense depleted by injury, Darnold has played far better than the Jets’ last two first-round quarterbacks did in their rookie year. There’s room for improvement, but there should be. Any objective Jets fan should be happy with that they’ve seen from Darnold so far.
Isaiah Crowell ran for a franchise record 219 yards in the Jets’ Week 5 win over the Broncos. But in the three games since, the Jets have run for only 235 yards total. In four of the Jets’ 5 losses they’ve failed to crack 100 yards rushing. The running backs need to be more consistent, and with Bilal Powell out for the rest of the year, Trenton Cannon and Eli McGuire (eligible to return from injured reserve this week) need to step up and Crowell must be better.
This is difficult to judge, because the Jets have been so banged up in recent weeks. But overall, the pass-catching depth hasn’t been good enough and it’s probably cost them a chance to win some games. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson have both had their moments, but Jermaine Kearse has struggled and just about everyone has been injured. Rookie tight end Chris Herndon has been a nice surprise. But still, the Jets need more from their pass catchers.
The Jets’ offensive line is better than it was a year ago, but that’s not exactly saying much. They’ve done a good job of protecting Darnold, allowing 17 sacks, and only 25 quarterback hits which is the third-fewest in the league. But Spencer Long’s snapping problems in the shotgun have led to turnovers. And the offensive line hasn’t been able to consistently generate a push for the run game. There is certainly room for improvement.
The Jets haven’t been able to rely on any sort of consistent pass rush from their defensive line in the first half of the season. Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson are the only defensive linemen who have even registered sacks through eight games. Williams (three sacks) is looking more and more like an above average player, but not the game-changer the Jets thought they were drafting at No. 6 overall in 2015. The Jets have also struggled against the run, allowing 114.9 yards per game, 21st in the league .
Brandon Copeland has been a pleasant surprise, tying for the team lead with three sacks after winning a starting role. Meanwhile, Darron Lee is off to the best start of his career with three interceptions and five passes defended and Avery Williamson been solid. But there have been too many mistakes, like the disastrous first half in Jacksonville and Williamson’s blown coverage that led to a touchdown in Chicago. This group definitely has some potential, but needs to be more consistent.
Jamal Adams has improved in his second year and is starting to play like one of the better starting safeties in the NFL with six passes defended, two forced fumbles and an interception. CB Morris Claiborne is also off to a strong start with two interceptions and nine passes defended. High-priced free agent Trumaine Johnson struggled before getting hurt and has already missed a quarter of the season and injuries have become a concern with Marcus Maye, who has also missed four games. If this group gets healthy it could take a big leap I the second half, but all said the first half was just average.
The Jets have had a couple of special teams games where they’ve struggled. But overall, the unit has helped a lot more than it has hurt — which is something the Jets haven’t been able to say about special teams in a long time. Andre Roberts broke the Jets’ first punt return for a touchdown since 2012. Jason Myers kicked a team-record-setting seven field goals in the win over the Colts.
Story continues after gallery.
We’ll start with the good: The chemistry and camaraderie in the locker room is better than it has been in years, and the team plays hard. But it doesn’t matter unless it translates into wins. And it hasn’t. Bowles’ Jets have been far too inconsistent, following great games with terrible ones and vice versa. The pre-snap penalty problem has not been solved. And hardly a week goes by without a questionable game-management decision from Bowles. Given the injuries, it’s still too early to judge offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates who has shown flashes of good and bad. Overall, the team still is finding ways to lose more than finding ways to win.
The Jets have talked a lot about taking the next step in 2018, but through eight games they’re 3-5 — exactly where they were in each of the last two 5-11 seasons. After Sundays loss to the Bears they remained defiant that they are better than those teams in year’s past and headed in the right direction. But we can only go by what we’ve seen so far, and there’s no evidence to prove it. The Jets have looked good at times, but the squandered opportunities stick out the most. Halfway through the season, the record speaks for itself. This is a below-average team.
Instant Analysis:What went wrong for the Jets during in a 24-10 loss to the Bears
Takeaways & observations: What we learned in Jets’ loss to Bears