The New York Jets are on the road again after winning two out of three home games in a row. The Jets travel to Chicago to face a Bears team that is coming off a close loss to the New England Patriots. Here are the top five players to watch this week.
The New York Jets are on the road again after finishing up a three-game homestand where they won two of three games. The Jets defeated the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts but fell to the Minnesota Vikings in a 37-17 blowout in Week 7. Now, the Jets travel to Chicago to face a Bears team that fell to the New England Patriots in a close 38-31 loss.
The injury bug has bitten the Jets hard this season. The secondary, wide receiver group, and most recently running back Bilal Powell was put on injured reserve because of a neck injury. The injuries caught up to the Jets against the Vikings and without their top playmakers, it was a long day for Gang Green. But the show must go on and that means new players need to step up in starter roles.
Guys like rookie tight end Chris Herndon have made an impact the last two weeks with a touchdown against the Colts and Vikings. Cornerback Darryl Roberts is another player that had a solid performance against the Vikings elite wide receiver duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Hopefully, this injury bug will pass sooner rather than later but if it sticks around for a while, more guys need to step up if their name is called.
The Jets will take on a Bears team that is currently last in the NFC North (3-3) but has Pro Bowl talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is developing into a franchise quarterback this season with help from first-year head coach Matt Nagy. Tarik Cohen is a jitterbug at running back who can score in an instant whenever he gets the ball in his hands. Linebacker Khalil Mack (currently battling an ankle injury) has been a game wrecker for the Bears defense this season. Mack has recorded five sacks and four forced fumbles but has been quiet the past two weeks with only three combined tackles. No matter, Mack is still an elite defender and only needs to make one big play to wreck a game for an opposing offense.
The Jets are looking to get back to .500 (4-4) when they travel to Chicago, while the Bears will look to end their two-game skid. On paper, the Bears have a better team but are banged up on both sides of the ball too. Here are the top five Jets to watch during the game.
5. Tight End Chris Herndon
With all the injuries to Quincy Enunwa, Terrelle Pryor (who was recently released), and now Robby Anderson, someone has had to step up as a pass catcher; that man has been Chris Herndon. Herndon will be called upon once again this week as a reliable target for quarterback Sam Darnold.
Herndon has been the man for the job the past two weeks with two touchdowns, one against the Colts and this past week against the Vikings. Herndon has six catches for 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns the last two weeks. The rookie tight end was targeted seven times against the Vikings and caught four balls for 42 yards and a touchdown.
Anderson is battling an ankle injury and if he is not able to play against the Bears, that leaves the Jets with Jermaine Kearse and recently signed free agent Rishard Matthews as the top two wide receivers. Kearse was held without a catch last week and Matthews is learning the playbook on the fly. So you can expect Herndon to be Darnold’s most targeted pass catcher this week if Anderson can’t play.
The injuries at wide receiver have hurt the Jets and Darnold’s progression but according to Herndon, you just have to keep it moving. Herndon is not afraid of a little adversity and stressed the season just keeps going according to NewYorkJets.com contributor Randy Lange. Here is what Herndon has to say to Lange:
“It’s a little adversity,” Herndon said of the wideout injuries, “but one thing about it is the season keeps going. You can’t complain and make a bunch of excuses. You’ve just got to work with what you have and just go out and do the best you can. … We’re going to take care of our bodies and just use this week to get better and get prepared for Chicago.”
Herndon is putting in a good week of practice and is continuing to prepare to be a go-to guy for the Jets as the season goes on. Expect Herndon to continue his run of good play against the Bears.
Next: 4. Running Back Trenton Cannon
4. Running Back Trenton Cannon
Along with wide receiver, the injury bug has affected the Jets running backs as well. Powell suffered a season-ending neck injury against the Vikings that will require surgery. The Jets are down to Isaiah Crowell at running back and rookie Trenton Cannon. Cannon will step into the Powell role against the Bears this week.
Cannon is a rookie running back from Virginia State University who flashed during the preseason with his speed and big play ability. However, he had problems fielding punts and kick returns in the preseason and was replaced by Andre Roberts as the return man. Now, Cannon gets his chance to prove that he can become a reliable offensive weapon against the Bears.
He shined last week catching the ball out of the backfield, four receptions for 69 yards and must continue to do that this week. While Crowell handles the early downs, Cannon will be brought in to spell Crowell and the Jets could possibly design some swing passes for the rookie. This may be Cannon’s one game to prove that he deserves more touches going forward. Running back Elijah McGuire is eligible to return from the Injured Reserve list in Week 9 after breaking his foot in the preseason. McGuire flashed as a rookie last season, totaling 492 scrimmage yards and two total touchdowns.
Fortunately for Cannon, he has a lot of support from his teammates as they approach this game, especially from wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Kearse had some high praise for the rookie back according to an article from Greg Joyce of the New York Post. Here is what Kearse had to say about Cannon:
I’m excited for Cannon. I feel like he’s a game-changer,” Jermaine Kearse said. “He has tremendous speed and has explosive ability. We got to see a little bit of him this past game, so it’d be pretty cool to see what aspect he could bring to the game this Sunday and see how he could change it for us.”
Tremendous speed and explosive ability are what this team is currently lacking right now due to the injuries. Cannon must make the most of his opportunities this game or he could find himself buried on the depth chart again. It will be interesting to see if Cannon can bring a game-changing ability to the table against the Bears.
Next: 3. Wide Receiver Rishard Matthews
3. Wide Receiver Rishard Matthews
Learning on the fly.
That is what wide receiver Rishard Matthews has been doing this week as he will play a vital role against the Bears. Matthews was signed as a free agent this week and has been cramming for this game while tries to get in a rhythm with Darnold. Matthews was brought in because the Jets are so banged up at wide receiver that he’s their last hope.
Matthews was a top target for the Tennessee Titans in 2017, leading the team with four touchdown receptions. Matthews was second in receiving yards (795) and third in receptions (53). Matthews asked for his release on September 27 from the Titans and the Jets picked him up due to their wide receiver injuries.
It is uncertain what Matthews role will be when Enunwa and Anderson eventually return from injury, but Matthews is willing to do whatever it takes to contribute. According to NewYorkJets.com contributor Randy Lange, Matthews just wants to gain the trust of his Jets teammates going forward. Here is what Matthews had to say:
“I fully understand the position I’m in. I put myself in this position,” Matthews said. “I played special teams to make it in this league. I don’t mind doing that, I don’t mind taking reps off the guys throughout the week so they can be fresh for the game. Whatever I’ve got to do to get the trust and contribute, I’m all for it.”
Learning on the fly is difficult but if Matthews can build off his 2017 season, he could help the Jets offense fly high again. Matthews has a chance to start building that trust with new teammates with a solid performance against the Bears.
Next: 2. Cornerback Darryl Roberts
2. Cornerback Darryl Roberts
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The Jets secondary has been hit the hardest by the injury bug this season and that has caused numerous backups to step up and try to make plays. One backup cornerback that stepped up last week was cornerback Darryl Roberts. Roberts had a solid game defending Thielen and Diggs.
Other than a deep touchdown where Thielen made a great catch with Roberts in his face, Roberts was good in coverage.
Roberts totaled 11 combined tackles and two pass deflections against the Vikings. With the secondary still dealing with a number of injuries, Roberts will have to carry over that strong play.
The Bears have an underrated wide receiver duo in Allen Robinson who is a good possession receiver and Taylor Gabriel who can break a big play at any time. Roberts might not have to carry as much responsibility this week as Buster Skrine who has been out the past two games with a concussion, cleared protocol. Skrine put in a full practice on Friday and is expected to play this week.
As the Jets secondary gets healthier as the season progresses, the regular starters will step back into their regular roles. But if Roberts is able to continue his solid play, the coaching staff has to be excited that they have depth in their secondary with a guy like Roberts. Coach Bowles likes to blitz on defense and Roberts is the type of corner who can play man-to-man defense.
Next: 1. Safety Jamal Adams
1. Safety Jamal Adams
“The President” has been playing like a man possessed on defense this season. With all the moving pieces on defense due to that injury bug, Jamal Adams‘ communications and leadership skills have needed to improve every week. So far, Adams has been up to the challenge during these desperate times for the Jets.
Adams leads the team in tackles (36), tackles for a loss (six), and a team-high seven tackles to prevent third/fourth-down conversions. With Adams leading the charge, the Jets have held their opponents to a 33 percent rate on third down, fifth best in the NFL. The defense must force the Bears into three-and-outs to have a chance to steal the win. If not, the Bears have the fourth best third-down conversion rate at 46.8 percent and could run the ball with Cohen and Jordan Howard.
After the Jets fell to the Vikings last week, Adams spoke with reporters and stressed that the team needs to play their game and not worry about injuries. Adams also noted that adversity is something you just have to overcome according to the Jets Media Relations Department. Here is what Adams had to say:
“When adversity hits, we have to attack it. Next man up,” Adams said. “Obviously we play a tough sport. Injuries do happen, but at the same time, we have to go out there and continue to play our ball. Be disciplined, knowing our jobs as individuals, part of that 11-man defense.
The Jets were in this exact spot last season, 3-4, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in a close game and finished the season 5-11. Adams has vowed that it will not happen this season because if it does, that will be three straight 5-11 seasons. It is up to Adams and this young team to change people’s perspectives about the team the rest of the season. The only way the Jets can prove to people they have the fight and will to compete with anyone is to defeat the Bears at Soldier Field.