The New York Jets limped their way to the end of the season as they fell to their division rivals, the New England Patriots, on Sunday by a final score of 26-6. Who’s at fault for the team’s New Year’s Eve defeat?
The New York Jets 2017 season came to an end not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In a slow-moving, sloppy game, the Jets found themselves on the losing end of a divisional matchup with their archrivals and resident schoolyard bullies, the New England Patriots. The Tom Brady-led Pats were no match for Bryce Petty and the Jets as the so-called “bullies” repeatedly put their inferior foes in their place as they marched on to the NFL Playoffs and a first-round bye. The Jets, however, enter the offseason on a lukewarm note.
In all honesty, it was hard to feel much of anything as a fan during this game. The sluggish atmosphere complete with the evident disinterest from both sides extracted an apathetic attitude from the viewers.
As another season of Jets football comes to a close it’s important to remember that despite the fact that they overachieved for most of the season, this team still has a long way to go. They have clearly not been the same team since Josh McCown was lost for the season with a broken hand, but it should be noted that there will be five players on this list, not just a certain overmatched quarterback.
And with that, let’s take a look at those five players who “earned” a spot on our final pessimistic list of the season. Perhaps we can even finish with more enthusiasm than the Jets did.
Next: 5. The Offensive Line
5. The Offensive Line
The offensive line has been a frequent resident of the negative portion of this list series for most of the season and while Sunday’s outing wasn’t their worst, it’s enough to land them on here one last time.
The Jets entered Sunday’s game without two of their starters on the right side of the line. Guard Brian Winters had been placed on the IR and 4th-year lineman Dakota Dozier started in his place while Brandon Shell was ruled out with a concussion which led to the combination of Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana getting the job done at the right tackle position. Center Wesely Johnson, still recovering from a hip ailment, split time with Jonotthan Harrison at center to add to the team’s injury woes.
All in all, they performed about as well as the Jets offensive line has performed all year long: Somewhere in between “below average” and “disgraceful.”
The team allowed four sacks in total, one of which resulted in a Patriots safety. Petty, backed up deep in his own territory, rolled out directly into linebacker Eric Lee who had broken off of Ijalana’s block and subsequently sacked Petty to give the Patriots two more points on the scoreboard. The ancient waiver-wire addition of James Harrison accounted for two more of New England’s sacks.
Elsewhere, the Jets failed to establish any sort of a running game for the umpteenth time this season as Bilal Powell managed just 46 yards on 14 carries. Take away his one 24-yard run and Powell averaged less than two yards per carry. Elijah McGuire also had himself quite the eventful day with more negative yards than actual carries. A four carry, negative-six yard performance was the story of McGuire’s afternoon highlighted by a negative eight-yard rush in which Dozier whiffed badly on defensive lineman Lawrence Guy.
The offensive line is one of the Jets biggest concerns heading into the offseason and general manager Mike MacCagnan should do all he can to revamp this unit before the start of next season. Whether it’s in the draft or through free agency the Jets must address the offensive line this offseason as they simply cannot afford another season with this starting five.
For now, at least there will be no more entries about how “the offensive line lost the Jets the game.”
At least until next year.
Next: 4. Robby Anderson
4. Wide Receiver Robby Anderson
It’s a little hard to judge a receiver’s performance in any particular game when they have someone as inept at throwing the pigskin around as Bryce Petty.
Regardless, Anderson managed just one catch for a measly two yards and was a non-factor for essentially all of the game. Entering Sunday’s contest, Anderson was 61 yards short of the illustrious 1,000 receiving yard mark and a solid performance against the Patriots would allow him to reach that noteworthy feat.
Needless to say, this is not how Anderson saw his afternoon going.
The speedy wideout was only targeted three times and was credited with one carry for one yard. The combination of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore was enough to shut down Anderson and render him essentially useless for much of the game.
However, it isn’t only his lackluster performance that lands him on this list. After all, we’ve certainly established that even Antonio Brown would struggle to contribute with Petty under center. Instead, it is the budding star’s attitude that ultimately sealed his fate this week.
Anderson is a special talent. He is hands down the most exciting player on this Jets offense and should hopefully be a cornerstone piece to build around for the future. Watching Anderson develop from a speedy, but raw undrafted free agent receiver out of Temple to not only an elite deep threat but an excellent all-around receiver has been a joy to watch over the past two seasons.
But he’s still immature. We’ve seen this a couple of times this season and we were once again reminded of it on Sunday.
Midway through the third quarter, Petty attempted to hit Anderson on the outside but the pass led the young receiver too far and Anderson wasn’t able to get his feet down in bounds. A little shove by the aforementioned Butler didn’t sit too well with the skinny wideout and Anderson proceeded to spike the football while standing on the Patriots sideline. A hilarious moment then ensued as reserve defensive back Johnson Bademosi pulled off a flop for the ages as the ball struck him directly under the helmet.
Bademosi’s delayed reaction provided people still watching with the most exciting moment of the game (seriously), but ultimately Anderson is fortunate he didn’t receive a penalty for his mini-tantrum. It’s little outbursts like this that show that Anderson still has some growing up to do, despite his talent.
One would hope that this is something Anderson could work on and that it hopefully won’t affect his future play. Anderson still figures to be a major part of this offense going forward, but a little more maturity would go a long way into fully establishing the team’s so-called culture change.
Next: 3. JoJo Natson
3. Return Man JoJo Natson
It is absolutely staggering how difficult it has been for the Jets to find an adequate return man over the past few years. At this point, no one’s asking for the next Devin Hester or Tyreek Hill. But it sure would be nice to have a guy returning kicks and punts who’s going to consistently get positive yardage. JoJo Natson is not that guy.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane and relive a few failed Jets return men over the past few years, shall we?
From the “speedy wonders” such as Saalim Hakim and more recently Kalif Raymond, to the ‘fair catch connoisseurs” that include the likes of Jim Leonhard and the recently released Jeremy Kerley, to the “wait, why are these guys returners again?” collection of Clyde Gates, Nick Marshall, and Jeremy Ross, the Jets returner archives are a who’s who of……no seriously who is who?
JoJo Natson seems destined to join that ever-growing list after another poor performance this past Sunday in Foxborough. Natson finished the day with 44 kick return yards on three attempts which amounts to an atrocious 14.7 yards per attempt. Considering you get the ball at the 25-yard-line with a touchback, Natson is effectively costing the Jets over 10 yards every time he takes the ball out of the end zone.
The undersized receiver didn’t fair too well as a punt returner either returning two punts for just four yards, including one return that saw him actually lose yards. The cherry on top came early in the second quarter when a quick shovel pass to Natson hit him directly in the hands and fell to the ground incomplete. The Jets and Natson alike were just happy it wasn’t ruled a fumble.
Natson may be shifty and quick, but his lack of size and poor decision making have cost him thus far as a return man in this league and it’s likely he’s played his last game in Green and White. The Jets will almost certainly move on in the offseason and it’s probably for the best.
And thus, the search for a viable returner continues on.
Next: 2. Juston Burris
2. Cornerback Juston Burris
There have been few bigger disappointments this year than that of second-year cornerback Juston Burris. Once thought of as a potential piece of this Jets defense and a future starter at outside cornerback, Burris has struggled through the 2017 season with poor performances coupled with inconsistent playing time.
Burris was penciled in as the starting cornerback in the nickel package to begin the year, a role he occupied for the first two games of the season before getting rocked by Michael Crabtree in the game against the Oakland Raiders. The NC State product was subsequently benched and replaced by Darryl Roberts and has struggled to see the field on any consistent basis since.
That changed on Sunday as Burris’ number was called when the team’s top cornerback Morris Claiborne went down with an injury and Burris was forced into the game. Perhaps after weeks of sitting on the bench, he could finally show his improvement and maybe work his way back into starting contention for next season with a strong performance against one of the top passing offenses in the league.
Or perhaps he could do none of that and show that he hasn’t made any progress over the course of the season and that it was the correct move to bench him.
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It’s been a frustrating year for Burris who took a massive step back in development this season after showing so much promise last year. He no longer looks like a viable starting candidate for next year and there’s a chance his roster spot could even be in jeopardy if he’s outperformed in the preseason.
Cornerback is a major need for the Jets heading into the offseason, especially with Claiborne set to hit free agency. Although talented, it’s been hard to rely on the former Dallas Cowboy due to his lengthy injury history.
One thing’s for sure, Burris was in prime position to stand out in a unit that has little-to-no depth and the fact that he failed to do so doesn’t bode well for his future with the team.
Perhaps it was just a sophomore slump, or perhaps his rookie season was simply a mirage.
Next: 1. Bryce Petty
1. Quarterback Bryce Petty
Bryce Petty is a likable guy. He has a certain goofball charm to him and his leadership on the field is highlighted perfectly by his selfless, soft-spoken mannerisms off of it.
But this is football. And Bryce Petty is a quarterback. And when it comes down to it, Bryce Petty is not a good football quarterback.
Sunday’s outing against the Patriots was a little better than his previous game, but that’s really not saying much. Sure there were some signs of optimism such as Petty once again being safe with the football and not forcing throws. He also made a couple of nice plays including a great throw to rookie ArDarius Stewart for 46-yards prompting cries of “HE’S ALIVE” from the Jets fanbase.
But ultimately, his past few games starting just reaffirm what we already knew about Petty. He’ll never be a capable starting quarterback in this league, and the way he’s been unable to move this offense at all over the course of his three starts, he may not even be a backup caliber player.
Petty’s flaws are the same ones that have followed him since he was drafted back in 2015 and the fact that he has developed so little during that three-year timetable is a pretty solid indicator that there isn’t too much room for growth at this point. The former Baylor Bear is slow to make reads, his footwork is a mess, and he is wildly inaccurate. History shows that those last two, especially, are hard to fix in a quarterback.
If this really was Petty’s last game as a Jet (and perhaps his final NFL start if the league knows any better), it’s a sad, but fitting way to go out. Petty is a standup guy who has great character and certainly doesn’t deserve the amount of flack he will likely get for his time as a Jet.
But at the end of the day, good character doesn’t equal success in football. If it did, Mother Theresa would be a five-time Super Bowl champion.
And we all know Tom Brady isn’t Mother Theresa.