It was a slow day for the New York Jets offense as turnovers and injuries cost the team a victory in their 37-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. What final grade did the unit earn?
The script for Sunday’s game went pretty much exactly how it was supposed to. The New York Jets were defeated by the Minnesota Vikings, for all intents and purposes a better football team than their counterparts, in a game where opportunities presented themselves but were unable to be capitalized on.
This shouldn’t be considered news nor should it be anything to alert the masses about. The Jets are a below average football team. We knew this going into the year and that fact hasn’t changed through seven weeks.
But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope for the future. Far from it.
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Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has flashed his franchise-altering potential at times this year and while his latest game wasn’t the greatest example of such, he’s progressed about as much as expected to this point.
Darnold tossed three more interceptions in Sunday’s game to bring his season total to 10, matching his 10 passing touchdowns. It’s been an up-and-down year for Darnold but at the end of the day, fans must remember that he is a 21-year old rookie quarterback starting on a team lacking star playmakers.
WIth Quincy Enunwa out with an ankle injury, players such as Andre Roberts, Charone Peake, and Deontay Burnett were forced to step up and take snaps from the receiver position. For those keeping score at home, that’s two special teamers and an undrafted rookie making his NFL debut.
So before any rash judgments are made, let it be known that it is just fine that Darnold threw three interceptions on Sunday, one off the chest of Peake on a perfectly thrown slant pass. It wasn’t his best showing, but it wasn’t a Nathan Peterman outing either.
Apart from Darnold, the remainder of the offense didn’t inspire much confidence either. The team failed to get the running game going as Bilal Powell went down early with a neck injury and Isaiah Crowell finished with just 29 yards on 11 carries.
Powell’s injury will be season-ending as the team has already announced his placement on the injured reserve leaving a gaping hole to fill in the ground game. Rookie Trenton Cannon did so a little bit on Sunday with his big play coming on a 35-yard wheel route in which the speedster burned past linebacker Eric Kendricks for a huge gain.
Cannon is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands but ball security concerns have relegated him to special teams coverage to this point. With Powell done for the year, Cannon could see more snaps going forwards as could second-year man Elijah McGuire who is expected to be activated off the injured reserve after this upcoming game.
McGuire showed some promise in his rookie season and had received rave reviews from Jets running backs coach Stump Mitchell in the offseason so it should be interesting to see how the team divides their backfield touches once all three are in the fold. It also isn’t out of the equation that the team adds another back with McGuire still out for the time being.
Part of the Jets failures in the ground game could be contributed to the offensive line who came back down to earth after a couple of very solid weeks. While tackles Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell mostly played well, the interior offensive line struggled with the primary culprit being center Spencer Long.
Long has been dealing with an injured finger over the last few weeks and his snapping has been affected as a result. The issue has progressively gotten worse and one has to wonder if the team should consider benching him until the injury heals.
It’s not as if Long has been downright atrocious as a blocker, but there’s an argument that he’s been the Jets worst performing offensive lineman to this point. Not only that, but Long’s ankle was rolled up on one of the final plays of the game forcing Jonotthan Harrison into action for the final few snaps.
Harrison played adequately in place of Wesley Johnson when given the opportunity last season and it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see the team rest Long until one or both of his injuries heal up. For the sake of the team, it’s probably best for him to sit some time out until he can properly snap the ball out of the shotgun.
One of the lone bright spots for the team’s offense on Sunday was the continued strong play of rookie tight end Chris Herndon who scored the team’s only receiving touchdown and tied for the team-lead in receptions. Herndon hauled in a 12-yard touchdown grab late in the first quarter on a beautifully designed and executed play.
Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates deployed a three tight end set forcing Minnesota to bring three linebackers into the game to match the physicality of New York’s front. This allowed Herndon to be matched up with a linebacker giving the Miami product the athletic advantage.
Herndon showed good footwork and made a great cut in on a dig route as he turned his head and hauled in a perfectly timed ball from Darnold for the touchdown. The fourth-round rookie is already the most complete tight end on the team’s roster and this writer would argue that he’s already a better receiver than Neal Sterling and a better blocker than Eric Tomlinson.
The Jets may very well have found their tight end of the future in Herndon and with the team’s injury woes at receiver, expect the Jets to use Herndon in both a blocking capacity and split out wide as a receiver. Ultimately, the Jets failed to capitalize on opportunities and the team’s depleted offense struggled with turnovers and stringing together positive drives. The final grade suffers as a result.