The New York Jets lost to their cross-town rivals, the New York Giants, by a final score of 22-16 in the 2018 edition of the Snoopy Bowl. Which players came out of this ugly, penalty-riddled game in better standing with the team and who saw their stock plummet?
It was another ugly preseason outing for the New York Jets as special teams struggles and a myriad of penalties were ultimately the team’s downfall in their contest Friday night against the New York Giants.
In one of the most embarrassing performances by a position group in recent memory, the Jets special teams faltered with a long list of shameful blunders. This includes but is not limited to a missed extra point, a kick return fumble, a punt return touchdown allowed, and an illegal formation call on a kickoff.
Optimists will point to the fact that it’s only the preseason. Realists will understand that this is no new issue.
The same could be said for the team’s issues with penalties as they racked up a whopping 108 penalty yards on 13 infractions. The Jets were the fifth worst team last season in both penalties and penalty yards and that is something that must change if the team is going to have more success in 2018.
Elsewhere, however, the team looked pretty solid with encouraging signs from returning playmakers on offense and the bend-but-don’t-break style of a defense that is yet to allow a touchdown through three preseason games.
The following slides will give a detailed look at the individual players who excelled and those who disappointed with their penultimate preseason opportunity.
Offensive Players Stock Up
Sam Darnold: If it wasn’t already determined prior to Friday’s contest, it now seems all but certain that Darnold will be the Jets Week 1 starter under center. While his numbers don’t necessarily stand out, the rookie quarterback once again displayed his composure as his comfort level seems to grow with each passing week.
Darnold has plenty of arm talent to get by, but his intellect and ability to read defenses are far beyond his years. This was on display once again Friday as the USC product called a sharp audible on a third down play and opted to swing it out to tight end Neal Sterling in the flats who turned upfield and picked up the first down.
Darnold spotted two linebackers showing pressure in the A-gap and determined that neither would be able to make a play on the ball if he passed it quick enough to Sterling on the outside.
He was right.
These are not the type of adjustments that are typically made by rookie signal callers which put Darnold way ahead of the game as opposed to his fellow young counterparts.
Not only has he not lost it, but he’s likely already won it.
Quincy Enunwa: Enunwa returned to action getting his first snaps in a professional game since the 2016 season and he doesn’t appear to have lost a step in his absence. The 26-year old hauled in two passes for 28 yards solidifying his role as the team’s slot receiver going into the regular season.
Enunwa also impressed as a blocker, something he’s done very well throughout his career, as he led the way on Bilal Powell’s 10-yard touchdown run. There’s an argument to be made that Enunwa could very well be a better blocker than any of the Jets five tight ends at the moment.
Some might even suggest he’s a better blocker than some of the team’s reserve linemen.
While that might be a bit of a stretch, Enunwa’s blocking abilities and production as a receiver should be more than enough to keep him on the field at most times. Friday’s performance simply reintroduced his skillset to the team.
ArDarius Stewart: Despite being a third-round selection in last year’s draft, Stewart has seen his stock freefall this summer and his production has just about matched that. However, Friday’s performance was the showing that he desperately needed.
While he didn’t light up any stat sheets, the Alabama product caught four passes for 24 yards, by far his best performance of the preseason. Prior to this game, Stewart had been just about invisible in the Jets first two preseason outings, save for a 17-yard catch and run in the team’s game against the Washington Redskins.
Stewart will still be suspended for the first two games of the season which hurts his chances of having any significant role with the offense, but this performance and a strong showing in the team’s final preseason game should be enough to secure him a roster spot.
Brandon Shell: Don’t look now but Brandon Shell has been the team’s most efficient offensive lineman through the first three preseason games. While he may not be receiving the attention he deserves right now, Shell has quietly come into his own and is looking like a very solid starter.
Unfortunately, offensive lines tend to get judged as a unit and not as a collection of individuals which has left the South Carolina product without much acclaim. But make no mistake about it, Shell has played very well so far and that continued on Friday.
The 2016 fifth-round selection didn’t allow any pressure while he was in the game and was a sound lead blocker on a number of plays.
Shell may never become an All-Pro level player, but it’s at least reassuring to know that the team has a rock solid player at right tackle which is about all you could ask of a former fifth-round offensive lineman.
Next: Offensive Players Stock Down
Offensive Players Stock Down
Trenton Cannon: There may not be a player that has seen his stock soar only to have it fall just as quickly as Trenton Cannon. The speedy tailback was a training camp standout who shined early in the preseason despite his issues returning punts.
But at this point, the buzz around him has inevitably worn off due in part to his issues holding on to the football. The Jets originally drafted Cannon to be a special teams contributor and the possible solution for the team’s return game woes.
Cannon struggled early on as a punt returner which was to be expected as he had never done such regularly at the collegiate level. However, the flashy sixth-round pick fumbled a kick return on Friday showing that the fumble concerns aren’t just limited to punt returns.
The team went ahead and signed veteran Charcandrick West just before their last preseason game and the former Kansas City Chief could push Cannon for a roster spot if he’s not careful. If he’s not going to contribute on special teams, West is the more established option as a change of pace back while Elijah McGuire recovers from a foot injury.
Unfortunately, this could mean that the team decides to try and sneak him on to their practice squad and ultimately the loss of a roster spot for the promising rookie.
Chad Hansen: Chad Hansen’s stock hasn’t just fallen, it’s flat-out nosedived into a deep, dark abyss and may never be heard from again.
Much like Cannon, Hansen was an early spring standout with reports of him shining in OTA’s and minicamp. But the former California Golden Bear has seemingly fallen out of favor with management and is one of the final players on the receiver depth chart.
He was once again invisible in Friday’s contest, partially due to the fact that he received no significant snaps and was only on the field for a handful of plays. Hansen needs a big performance in the team’s final preseason game on Thursday to secure a roster spot as there are plenty of receivers impressing that deserve it more based on merit alone.
It would be surprising to see general manager Mike Maccagnan simply cut a promising fourth-round pick just one year after drafting him but Hansen could be the odd man out if he doesn’t prove his worth on Thursday.
Eric Tomlinson: Tomlinson certainly didn’t do himself any favors in Friday’s game as the veteran tight end had a rough go of it committing multiple untimely penalties and getting beat multiple times as a blocker.
While none of the tight ends did much in the game, Tomlinson’s name repeatedly popped up for all the bad reasons as the UTEP product struggled mightily in the one area of the game he’s supposed to excel at.
Tomlinson has a reputation for being a blocking tight end and while he may be the best blocker on the team, that might not be saying much. None of the Jets tight ends offer much as blockers with Tomlinson and Clive Walford being the only two semi-capable of the five.
If Tomlinson continues to struggle as a blocker and/or can’t stop committing penalties, his days as a Jet could be numbered. With the many promising young, athletic options the team has a tight end, Tomlinson needs to fill a niche and excel in a specific role.
If not, the team could opt to cut him and go with more youthful and agile players at the position.
Brent Qvale: With Kelvin Beachum still nursing a foot injury, Qvale was once again awarded the start at left tackle and it wasn’t a pretty thing to witness. The former undrafted free agent was bullied in the run game and looked lost at times in pass protection.
Qvale was dominated by stud defensive end Olivier Vernon with the starters and even allowed a sack to reserve end Kerry Wynn. The Nebraska product was given the chance to show that he can be a very capable backup and perhaps even a swing tackle of value to the team. Instead, Qvale has shown that he may not even be backup quality.
While his roster spot may not be in jeopardy, the Jets could always turn to the waiver wire or look elsewhere on the roster to find someone to fill his role as the team’s primary backup offensive tackle. And it might just be in the team’s best interest to do so.
In actuality, Bertolet finds himself on this list because of a missed extra point that will severely hinder his chances of making the final 53-man roster.
With Cairo Santos released due to an injury, the Jets went out and signed former Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Jason Myers. However, it was Bertolet who ran with the first team as his familiarity with the team allowed him to have the slight advantage over Myers to begin.
Unfortunately, Bertolet missed his only kick of the night, an extra point that was pushed wide right. If the Texas A&M product was to make any progress towards winning the kicking job, missing an extra point certainly wasn’t going to help and this could ultimately wind up costing him a roster spot.
Next: Defensive Players Stock Up
Defensive Players Stock Up
Leonard Williams: Williams solidified his status as the most talented player not only on the defense but perhaps the entire team with another strong showing in Friday’s game. The former USC standout was a menace in the run game limiting the Giants success on the ground as he stuffed up the middle of the field and even flashed in the opponent’s backfield.
Williams is the type of player who doesn’t ever get the credit he deserves and his value is really only felt when he’s gone. Once he was taken out of the game, the Giants began to find more success running the football and that is surely no coincidence.
This isn’t even to mention his lengthy 39-yard fumble recovery that came when the Giants were threatening inside the red zone.
More from The Jet Press
- NY Jets: Why the team should target cornerback Shaquill Griffin
- NY Jets reportedly non-tendering linebacker Harvey Langi
- NY Jets: Why the team should not cut Jamison Crowder
- NY Jets should try to sign Kenny Golladay in free agency
- NY Jets: Jonnu Smith would be a smart free-agent target
There is no roster spot at stake for Williams and no position battle to win. If anything, Friday’s game was a friendly reminder of just how good Williams can be and how important he is to the defense’s success.
Expect 2018 to be another fantastic season for Williams, even if the sack numbers only improve marginally.
Avery Williamson: Another player who established his role with the team, Williamson seems to grow more comfortable with each passing week and had his best showing to date against the Giants.
The former Tennessee Titan racked up a team-leading nine tackles and forced a key fumble with the Giants inside the Jets 10-yard line. While he did get beat in zone coverage on a couple of plays, his value in the run game was instrumental for the team’s success against the Giants rushing attack.
The coaching staff’s faith in Williamson appears to have grown as well as it seems that the Kentucky product is now the one calling plays for the defense, a job previously assigned to third-year pro Darron Lee. Williamson appears to have picked up right where Demario Davis left off last year and he will likely continue to grow with this defense as the weeks and months go on.
Next: Defensive Players Stock Down
Defensive Players Stock Down
Lorenzo Mauldin: Once again Mauldin finds himself on this list, perhaps not necessarily by his own doing. He didn’t exactly play poorly on Friday, mostly because he didn’t even really play. The Louisville product only saw the field for two snaps, both of which came late in the fourth quarter with the third-stringers and bottom feeders of the depth chart.
It’s clear at this point that the team does not hold him in a very high regard and it would ultimately be shocking at this point to see him make the final roster. Even in a pass rush room full of unproven youngsters and journeyman veterans, Mauldin’s draft pedigree probably won’t help save him a roster spot and it’s more than likely his days as a New York Jet are numbered.
The writing seems to be on the wall and it’s really a shame for the once promising third-round pick whose career has been hindered due to injuries and inconsistent play. Here’s to hoping he finds future success with another NFL squad, it just likely won’t be with Gang Green.
Darron Lee: Lee didn’t have an awful game by most standards, rather it was the same old Darron Lee we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
And therein lies the problem.
Lee was expected to take a major step forward this year with the departure of Demario Davis in free agency and management had faith that he could become the centerpiece on defense and a legitimate building block for the future.
Instead, Lee has looked like the same player he was last year with only minor improvements from his rookie season. The Ohio State product is still shaky in coverage and is rarely in the right place when defending against the run.
Lee has ample athleticism but lacks the discipline to be a solid NFL starter. He regularly overpursues on tackle attempts and too often finds himself getting blocked out of plays because he doesn’t fill the correct gap.
The most telling sign has been that the coaching staff has handed over the responsibility of calling plays on defense to Avery Williamson after it was determined that Lee would be the one to do so prior to the start of the preseason.
It’s evident that Lee hasn’t taken the step forward that the team would’ve hoped and it’s beginning to get to the point where the Jets have to analyze where Lee is in his career and if he will ever get much better. Is Darron Lee a part of the future?
That question may very well be answered this season and Lee will need to show much more than he has as of late to make that answer a resounding “yes.”
Juston Burris: The Jets are very deep in the secondary at the moment and Burris looks like he could be on the outside looking in as we approach the final week of the preseason. The 2016 fourth-round pick has struggled in training camp and the preseason as he has battled an injury and seen his position on the depth chart fall as a result.
Outside of the top three cornerbacks on the roster, the likes of Darryl Roberts, Derrick Jones, and Parry Nickerson all appear to be safer bets to make the roster than Burris who has been outplayed by each of the three. The Jets are unlikely to carry any more than six cornerbacks which would leave the NC State product joining a couple more former Jets draft picks in getting cut this preseason.
After allowing a long 47-yard reception to Giants receiver Alonzo Russell in this Friday’s game, Burris’ chances of making the final roster went from improbable to almost impossible. He will need to put together a heck of a performance on Thursday if he is going to save his roster spot and his Jets career.