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Jets vs. Jaguars Week 4: Top 5 players to watch

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs the ball in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs the ball in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 10: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs the ball in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 10: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs the ball in the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

The New York Jets travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars on Sunday. Coming off back-to-back losses, can the Jets right the ship in Jacksonville? Here are the top five players to watch.

The New York Jets were handed one of the most embarrassing losses in team history in Week 3, as the Cleveland Browns defeated Gang Green 21-17 for their first win in 635 days. The Jets went up 14-0 before they collapsed in Cleveland. Untimely penalties, boneheaded mistakes, and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield did the Jets in. Mayfield entered the game shortly before halftime to relieve an injured Tyrod Taylor and put on a passing clinic against the Jets.

It is a tough loss to swallow for the Jets, but now the focus shifts to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars come into the game 2-1 with arguably the best defense in the NFL. The Jaguars rank fourth in total yards allowed (286.3) and third in passing yards allowed (171).

The Jets are equipped with a good defense as well and are ranked in the top 10 in a couple critical categories. Allowing the third fewest passing yards per attempt (6.1), third lowest quarterback rating (67.9), and have the 10th ranked scoring defense.

The Jets just played three games in 11 days and used their mini-bye week to rest up and hopefully scheme up ways to score against this intimidating defense. This is a crucial game for the Jets because if they lose, they will drop to 1-3 and will have lost three in a row since their opening night win. That 48-17 victory against the Lions seems like a long time ago.

This should be a hard-fought, low scoring game as both teams excel on defense and struggle on offense. Here are the top five players to watch in the Week 4 contest on Sunday.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets avoids a tackle by Joe Schobert #53 of the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets avoids a tackle by Joe Schobert #53 of the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

5. Quarterback Sam Darnold

The first three weeks of Sam Darnold‘s career as a starting NFL quarterback has been a wild ride. After a solid debut in a 48-17 Week 1 victory against the Detroit Lions, Darnold crashed back down to earth after losses to the Miami Dolphins and the Browns. After three weeks, Darnold has thrown for three touchdowns, five interceptions, 701 yards, and has completed 60 percent of his throws.

Darnold has indeed looked like a rookie quarterback to begin the season, making some impressive completions but also missing some wide open opportunities. Reading defenses and finding the open man will become easier over time but for now, Jets fans need to understand that Sam is going through growing pains. Spreading the ball around could make things easier on the rookie signal caller but that is easier said than done against the Jaguars defense.

The Jaguars feature two of the best cornerbacks in the game in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye who are capable of shutting down any passing attack. Mentioned above, the Jaguars have the third-ranked pass defense (171 yards a game) so yards will be hard to come by for Darnold. However, if Darnold is able to stay patient and take what the defense gives him he could surprise an aggressive secondary.

It will be tough sledding for Darnold as he takes on an elite defense but one thing he has maintained throughout is his poise. After stepping away from the game for a couple days, Darnold believes he has done some good things early in his career. According to NewYorkJets.com Team Reporter Ethan Greenberg, Darnold stressed he just needs to keep working on his fundamentals and he will be alright. Here is what Darnold had to say:

I think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my poise in the pocket,” Darnold said. “Sometimes I rush, but in the first couple games, I thought I found completions. I didn’t do as good of a job with that in the Cleveland game, but I just have to continue to do things that are working, continue to find completions, but take my shots when they’re there.”

This season is about Darnold developing and this game against an elite defense will only help him become a better quarterback for the future. The Jaguars will throw different blitzes and coverages at him, it will be up to Darnold to make the right reads and continue developing in the right direction.

Next: 4. Running Back Bilal Powell

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets carries the ball in front of Chris Smith #50 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets carries the ball in front of Chris Smith #50 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

4. Running Back Bilal Powell

Last season, the Jets hosted the Jaguars in which they pulled out a 23-20 victory. If you were to give a game ball to any Jets player, you would have no choice but to give it to running back Bilal Powell.

Powell was the best Jets player in that game, recording 190 total yards from scrimmage with a rushing touchdown (163 rushing, 27 receiving). That was Powell’s most yards from scrimmage in a game last season and the Jets will need him to provide that same spark again on Sunday.

The Jaguars are a quick, aggressive defense and the Jets would be smart to use that to their advantage with quick screens and draw plays with Powell. Also lining up Powell in the slot could help the offense out because it would put a slot corner or outside linebacker on Powell. That is a matchup that Powell can win a majority of the time.

Powell is a slippery back who is hard to bring down, along with his running mate Isaiah Crowell who ran for two touchdowns against the Browns. According to a stat from NFL Matchup on ESPN, Crowell and Powell are ranked in the top 12 in yards after first contact. Crowell averages 4.50 yards per rush and 121 after first contact while Powell averages 4.48 and 53 after first contact.

The Jets need to establish the running game early to alleviate some pressure off Darnold and let him ease into the game against Jacksonville. Using the Jaguars speed against them with quick screens and draws will be key.

Next: 3. Wide Receiver Robby Anderson

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Terrance Mitchell #39 of the Cleveland Browns intercepts a pass intended for Robby Anderson #11 of the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Terrance Mitchell #39 of the Cleveland Browns intercepts a pass intended for Robby Anderson #11 of the New York Jets during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

3. Wide Receiver Robby Anderson

Other than Quincy Enunwa, no Jets wide receiver has become a consistent playmaker for Darnold. Robby Anderson needs to step up and be that guy for Darnold. Anderson is off to an extremely slow start to the season after recording over 900 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017.

Now, some of that has to do with Darnold being a one read quarterback at this point, targeting Enunwa on most of his throws. On the other hand, some of it has to do with Anderson’s recent fumbling issues. Anderson has fumbled in back-to-back games with one fumble against the Dolphins and the Browns. Anderson recently stated that he is trying to do “too much” with the limited targets he is getting from Darnold. Anderson has been targeted just 10 times for six catches, 90 yards, and a touchdown.

That one touchdown stands out though because it was a 41-yard seam route against the Lions in Week 1. There needs to be a lot more of those Darnold to Anderson hookups because when that happens, the playbook opens up all the way. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, Darnold, and Anderson need to come together on a couple of these big plays on Sunday to help stretch the Jaguars defense. If they are able to hit on a couple deep throws, that just opens up more room on underneath routes for Enunwa who has excelled working the short/intermediate routes.

Anderson wants to regain his 2017 form and become another playmaker for Darnold to make it easier on the rookie. According to Darryl Slater of New Jersey Advance Media, Anderson believes last year he proved he can be that playmaker and can do it again this season. Here is what Anderson had to say:

I just want to pick up from last year. I feel like I’ve proven. I’ve showed what I can do. I just want to do it, so I can help us win, put us in better positions, open up things for the running backs, for the other receiving weapons. I just want to contribute and be a factor and help. I don’t want to come across as selfish, but I want to contribute. I know what I did last year. I know the type of things I can do for our offense.”

Next: 2. Linebacker Avery Williamson

2. Linebacker Avery Williamson

More from The Jet Press

There were not a lot of Jets players that played well last week against the Browns but without question, the best player for the Jets was linebacker Avery Williamson. Williamson was an absolute beast, collecting 14 combined tackles and two sacks.

Williamson was brought in as a free agent in March with the expectation that he could become the next David Harris. So far, Williamson has proved he has the ability to be that and a little more.

Williamson has been a tackling machine so far, 21 combined, and is constantly getting into the offensive backfield. Williamson will be counted on to do the same thing against the Jaguars. If Williamson and the rest of the Jets defense are able to shut down running backs TJ Yeldon and Leonard Fournette, that will force Blake Bortles to have to carry the offensive load. Usually, when that happens, Bad Bortles comes out. In the Jaguars 9-6 loss to the Tennesse Titans last week, Bortles went 21-of-34 for only 155 yards.

The Jaguars, like the Jets, want to establish their ground game early and take the pressure off their quarterback. Whichever team can establish the run early, that will go a long way in deciding who wins the game.

Next: 1. Head Coach Todd Bowles

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets on during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets on during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

1. Head Coach Todd Bowles

Yes, I included Todd Bowles in the top 5 players to watch for in Week 4 because this is a critical week for him. Bowles is currently on the hot seat and needs a statement win. If he is able to guide the Jets to a win against one of the AFC’s best teams on Sunday, that could help his case on why ownership should bring him back in 2019.

The loss against the Browns is the most embarrassing defeat in the Bowles era so far. The Jets were up 14-0 and collapsed after that due to dumb penalties and bad decision-making by Bowles. This season has a chance to spiral out of control very quickly as it did back in 2016 after Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions in a 24-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bowles received a contract extension late last season but that doesn’t mean much in a place like New York. It’s a win now or get out type of city and Bowles hasn’t done much winning since his 2015 season when he got the Jets to 10-6. He has followed that season with back-to-back 5-11 seasons.

Related Story. Jets vs. Jaguars: Top 3 keys to victory

The Jets drafted Darnold to be their savior but he also needs the right coach to help him get the team back to the playoffs. Most Jets fans and NFL analysts are really starting to question if Bowles is the guy for the job. The Jets need to win this week or their 2018 could quickly unravel. Bowles is on the hot seat, let’s see if he can turn down the heat a little with a big win in Jacksonville.

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