Going into this game, the New York Jets (3-5) knew that they could not do in Chicago what they did the previous week against Minnesota — flat-out beat themselves. But the song remains the same.
The Chicago Bears are a team on the rise, amassing young roster talent. Perhaps these New York Jets are just a year or so behind in their own rebuild. Perhaps.
In the previous three games, QB Mitchell Trubisky, second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, passed for 1,003 yards and 11 TDs and ran for 181 and a TD. In that regard, the Jets defense, with no margin for error, did a decent job (16/29, 220 yards, 2 TDs). They just got worn down by the end of the game.
The Jets caught a huge break on the other side of the ball with blitzing terror Khalil Mack on the bench after wrecking his right ankle in Week 6. The previous two weeks, the Bears lost to better teams because their defense allowed 69 points. But that fact mattered little because Sam Darnold has few weapons at his disposal.
The Jets were down just 7-3 at the half — which was in itself a small victory. The game imploded in the third quarter after Todd Bowles declined an offensive pass interference penalty, believing in his defense to make a stand. Three plays later, Trubisky and Tarik Cohen carved up the field for 46 yards, to go inside the Jets 10. The defense held to make it 3rd and 10, until Leonard Williams‘ mindless neutral zone infraction — followed by Buster Skrine‘s inability to spin his head around on a TD pass to Anthony Miller, to trail 14-3. New York never had a chance after that.
Oh, and don’t forget those five pre-snap penalties by the offensive line. Bowles postgame said they “shot themselves in the foot.” Blame a few of those missed snap-counts on the rookie QB, but it’s up to the veteran linemen to have his back. Are these Jets the worst-coached team in pro sports? Where’s the sense of urgency?
Next Sunday the Jets (3-5) travel to South Beach to take on the Dolphins. Even with this week’s crushing loss, the 2018 season rides in the balance in Miami; if they can regroup and win, they next take on Buffalo and can step back into the conversation. But another loss could hasten an ugly downward spiral. Here’s five Halloween-themed takeaways from this 24-10 road loss.
5. Bark at the Moon
The Jets are not a good team, but they have a great young quarterback. However, if they wish to develop Sam Darnold, (14/29, 153 yards, 1 TD) in a similar fashion to what the Bears have done for Trubisky (or the Rams for Jared Goff), they must both surround their young gunslinger with professional skill players, and keep him upright.
TE Neal Sterling left the game early with a concussion; his second of the season. This week’s signing of wideout Rishard Matthews — the seven-year vet outta Nevada who forced his way off the Titans — has a chance to excel with Darnold as this season progresses.
There was one ray of sunshine, perhaps a peek into the future. Sam’s 29-yarder to former USC mate Deontay Burnett (with a team leading 4 receptions for 51 yards) placed the Jets in the red-zone late in the third quarter. That resulted in another beautiful Chris Herndon TD — the rookie’s third straight game with a six-pointer — a play that offered a sweet pass, great blocking, and a perfect route, which temporarily put the Jets back in the game, down 17-10.
Time to address the running game, with longest-tenured Jets vet Bilal Powell’s career on the precipice after last week’s neck injury. Isaiah Crowell hasn’t endeared himself to management, between his “Dude Wipes” incident during that awful loss in Cleveland, and his indifference over a devastating pass drop in the Vikings loss. Despite it all, he now has a shot to excel for the rest of this year as an old-school one-man rushing machine — unlike this game (13 carries for 25 yards).
But the Jets couldn’t move the rock because the Bears knew Darnold had so few throwing options, and were just stacking the box. Also, this running game was not best served by some of the play calling. Like why so few physical Crowell north-and-south runs against this Mack-less defense?
Next: 4. Scary Monsters
4. Scary Monsters
An offensive line serves two primary roles, opening rushing lanes and creating passing time. Two of this regime’s better unrestricted free agent signings were of legitimate linemen, guard James Carpenter and tackle Kelvin Beachum. Brian Winters and Brandon Shell ain’t All Pros, but they’re developing into solid pros. This unit is by no means as awful as the Giants, Jaguars, Texans, et al.
Those fans fuming over center Spencer Long’s recent showings don’t get that he is a quality baller coming off major surgery and facing an assortment of new injuries, who was hurting this team by “manning up.” There’s probably a good retort to be written, being that Long’s bad snaps were due to a “hand injury” to his middle finger!
Jonotthan Harrison did a nice job in for Long, under tough conditions. This game’s O-line issue was cut-and-dried — the Bears were simply too powerful, notable Akiem Harris keeping Winters and Shell in check all afternoon.
Bart Scott on WFAN wants the Jets to poach from the feckless Raiders veteran big nasty guard Kelechi Osemele, and pair him with Carpenter for the next few seasons. This writer sees strong developmental value in highly rated but undrafted practice squadders, guard Ben Braden, tackle Dieugot Joseph, and recently signed center Jon Toth.
Next: 3. Monster Mash
3. Monster Mash
This is not a great defense — busted zones and blown assignments once again reared their ugly heads. The Bears first quarter 70-yard TD screen pass to Tarik Cohen was a microcosm of this unit’s deficiencies.
New York brought the house on an all-out blitz, and got torched. The D-line, powerful enough to battle at the line of scrimmage, again couldn’t get to the QB. The inside linebackers, out of position, looked slow in pursuit. Secondary-men whiffed on key tackles. In fact, every time Bowles blitzed, the Jets got the worst of the situation.
This week’s return of Marcus Maye and Buster Skrine paid dividends. Darryl Roberts once again excelled, with solid coverage and tackling technique; but he can’t be left out on an island. Brandon Copeland has stepped in admirably, but gets exposed in full-time duty due to the lack of depth.
Strange as it may have looked, the defense excelled when they aligned with two DLs, four linebackers, and a nickel secondary. The final stat line says the Bears rushed for 179 yards but their big runs came on Trubisky scrambles (6/51). It’s the same old song and dance; Gang Green has allowed over 250 rushing yards to opposing QBs this season.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Next: 2. Horror Business
2. Horror Business
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GM Mike Maccagnan battled hard to assert full control of this roster. To that end, there have been decidedly mixed results.
The Jets’ tape-room-whiz General Manager has whiffed too often. Look at this Bears game: there was too much pressure on young Darnold, between the lack of weapons, the lack of throwing time, and all the moving parts with new players due to injuries. And that all falls back on the GM.
Maccagnan’s strength has been with under-the-radar moves. For example, this offseason’s most important defensive upgrades were the signings of LBs Avery Williamson and Brandon Copeland, and the swapping of this year’s seventh-rounder for Colts DE Henry Anderson.
Maccagnan will also have to bolster the secondary’s back end after yet another season-ending injury to safety Doug Middleton. His stand-in Terrence Brooks, acquired in a 2017 preseason trade with Philadelphia for Dexter McDougle, has been solid but sat the bench. This week the staff gave field time to recent pickup Ibraheim Campbell, a two-year starter for the Browns. Fan favorite Rontez Miles can’t return quickly enough.
Next: 1. Green Hell
1. Green Hell
Less than 24 hours before kickoff, Gang Green called up from the practice squad, former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer and Denver Bronco RB De’Angelo Henderson. In the end, someone had to go.
This writer extolled 2016 fourth-round CB Juston Burris during his rookie campaign. But in the end, the NC State product — not dissimilar to Calvin Pryor — was another headhunter weak on football acumen. Even with all the devastating 2018 injuries at corner, Burris never saw the field aside from special teams, with zero defensive snaps to date.
Ralph Vacchiano of SNY tweeted: “This is a remarkable stat: The Jets now only have 12 players left on their roster from the 22 picks GM Mike Maccagnan made in his first three drafts with the team.” And those numbers don’t account for perennial inactivee CB Derrick Jones and next-to-go WR Charone Peake. As for Peake — who should never see another offensive set — if he’s such a great special teamer, please explain how the former seventh-rounder went braindead and literally ran by Tarik Cohen’s dropped punt, laying there on the Soldier Field turf, deep in Bears territory?
Here’s the upside, Maccagnan scored superior talent between Sam Darnold, Jamal Adams, and Leonard Williams, he did quite well selecting Marcus Maye, Jordan Jenkins, and Darron Lee, and decently by taking Brandon Shell, Elijah McGuire, and Lach Edwards. This year’s late-rounders Chris Herndon, Nathan Shepherd, Parry Nickerson, and Trenton Cannon all show real promise.
The roster overhaul is making progress, but this 53-man is still at least 10-12 players away from competing. Maccagnan has been a savvy trader, and going into 2019 he will have an excellent draft position, and even more free agent loot — to target pass rushers, offensive weapons, and hungry linemen on both sides of the ball.
The Jets are at a strange juncture. On one hand, these are the growing pains of a rising franchise. On the other hand, you worry that the lack of discipline and execution could taint the young talent. The Dolphins are a mess and the Jets certainly owe ’em one, but based on Sunday’s performance, you can’t feel good about this season’s trajectory.