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Jets vs. Lions: Week 1 offensive grades

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The New York Jets 2018 season kicked off in style as the team pummelled the Detroit Lions 48-17 in the season opener. The offense paved the way as the team scored their most points since 2012 in an absolute thrashing of the Lions.

If there were blueprints on how to start your football season off on the right track the New York Jets just rewrote them. The Jets stunned the NFL world with a dominant display of football in every way imaginable as the team coasted to a victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football.

It was the first career start for rookie first-round pick Sam Darnold and expectations were understandably high for the highly-touted young signal-caller. However, an interception returned for a touchdown courtesy of Detroit Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs threatened to spoil the rookie’s night after just one NFL pass.

But Darnold and the Jets, determined to silence their doubters and hush their skeptics, flipped the proverbial switch on and proceeded to not only defeat their opponents but embarrass them. The dust has finally settled after Darnold’s roller-coaster debut and it’s safe to say that he met and likely exceeded those hefty expectations.

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The same could be said for the entire New York Jets team.

The Jets came out firing on all cylinders on Monday night and dominated their foes on the national stage in front of the entire country. All three facets of the team, offense, defense, and special teams played extraordinarily well and contributed to the team’s overall success. But perhaps none was more integral then the play of their offense, more specifically the man commanding the unit.

While Darnold didn’t necessarily light up the stat sheet, his ability to bounce back from an early hole should give the Jets hope for the future at the position. The USC product finished the day 16-of-21 for just 198 yards and two touchdowns to go along with the interception but the numbers certainly don’t tell the entire story.

Darnold looked comfortable both in the pocket and on the move making a few memorable throws, most notably a third-down pass on the run to wideout Quincy Enunwa. His composure was evident and it clearly rubbed off on the rest of the offense, something the Jets haven’t seen from a quarterback in decades.

Darnold’s play was aided by the team’s offensive line who stepped up big time and put together their best game as a unit in quite some time. Both in pass protection and run blocking, the offensive line dominated the Lions front-four opening up the entire offense and setting the tone on offense.

All five men deserve praise, particularly the right side of the line featuring the newly acquired Spencer Long, the now-healthy Brian Winters, and the much-improved Brandon Shell. The trio proved to be key cogs in the equation and more than held their own against the Lions defensive line and far exceeded expectations.

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum struggled early on blocking All-Pro pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah but was bailed out when Ansah had to leave the game early with an injury. Beachum had been nursing a foot injury all preseason so his play going forward is worth monitoring.

The offensive line did wonders for the Jets rushing attack as running backs Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell were beneficiaries of superb blocking up front. Powell was his usual shifty self but Crowell, in particular, showed off his power and explosiveness breaking off a long 62-yard rushing score to cap off a 102-yard, two touchdown performance in his first game in the green and white.

The duo could become a serious one-two punch in the backfield, especially if the offensive line continues to give them as many running lanes as they did in this game. Powell and Crowell are perfect compliments of each other and should make for an intriguing tandem as the season progresses.

While the Jets receivers didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up, they certainly made it known that they aren’t a position group that should be overlooked. The returning Enunwa made his presence felt and established himself as Darnold’s favorite target early in the game. The Nebraska product finished the day with 63 receiving yards on six receptions including a 21-yard touchdown in which Enunwa showed off his ability to create yards after the catch.

Enunwa has always been an excellent catch-and-run receiver which combined with his sure-hands and already established chemistry with Darnold should allow him to play a significant role in Jeremy Bates West Coast offense this season.

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Outside of Enunwa, the receivers didn’t necessarily play too sizable of a role which is understandable in a game in which the team only needed to throw 21 times. Robby Anderson saw just one target come his way but managed to haul it in, a 41-yard bomb from Darnold which happened to be the rookie’s first touchdown of his young career.

The catch was exemplary of the speedster’s growth as a player showing off his stronger hands and improved ability to catch the ball in traffic. That being said, it remains to be seen what Anderson’s role in the offense will be going forward.

His skill set doesn’t exactly fit what Bates is looking for with his West Coast offense and Darnold’s deep ball still needs some work. That may mean that Anderson will have to find another way to contribute on offense.

Side note, that doesn’t mean pitching him the ball on an end around on 3rd-and-2.

At the very least, having his speed and big-play ability on the field should serve the purpose of keeping opposing defenses on their toes but you would like to see the team use him as more than a decoy in the coming weeks.

Terrelle Pryor and Neal Sterling also put together respectable games with the latter clearly emerging as the team’s top receiving tight end following a strong preseason. Pryor made the most of his touches as well but his role isn’t necessarily solidified as the Jets will welcome Jermaine Kearse back into the fold as soon as next week.

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All in all a very impressive showing from the Jets offense but one that was definitely aided by stellar plays from the defense and special teams. Still, an all-around great performance that falls just short of an “A” due to the early pick-six and the aforementioned questionable third-down call from Bates.

Final Grade: A-