The New York Jets begin the second half of their season against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The team currently sits at 3-5 and knows that another loss could make them irrelevant in the playoff picture before Thanksgiving. Here are the five players to watch this week.
This Sunday, the New York Jets will travel to play the Miami Dolphins, (4-4), in a crucial AFC East battle for both teams. The Jets, (3-5), have lost two straight with games at home against the Minnesota Vikings and on the road against the Chicago Bears. Jets fans aren’t surprised the team lost these two games but what is worrisome is the way they have been losing. The Jets have been outscored by a combined score of 61-24 with the offense unable to sustain drives and the defense being relied on too much to win games.
Now, part of the problem is the injuries to the Jets skill players. The Jets top two wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are dealing with ankle injuries. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor was dealing with a groin injury when the Jets cut him a couple of weeks back. However, The biggest blow came at running back when Bilal Powell went down with a season ending neck injury against the Vikings. This has hurt quarterback Sam Darnold’s progression tremendously and he needs the weapons that are healthy to step up.
For the Dolphins, they are dealing with their own injuries on offense. Wide receivers Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills are dealing with injuries, with Wilson being put on IR due to a hip injury. Also quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been out the past three, now four games due to a shoulder injury (Brock Osweiler will get the start this week).
Both teams enter Sunday’s contest battered and bruised but they are still in the AFC Wild Card Playoff picture. According to the NFL.com playoff picture, The Dolphins are currently the 8th seed while the Jets are the 10th seed. Both teams have their byes in Week 11 and know they can’t lose another game before then. With that said, here are the top five Jets players to watch for this week.
5. Quarterback Sam Darnold
Darnold has learned an important lesson during his first eight games as an NFL starting quarterback, it is very hard to play in this league. Darnold has gone through the typical growing pains for a rookie quarterback this season with errant throws, poor decision-making at times, and his team just not being very good.
But Darnold has done some good things this season with the bright spots being his two wins at home against the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. In those two games, he threw for a combined 478 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. However, the last two weeks have not been kind to Darnold. He has thrown for a combined 359 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.
He is dealing with a banged up wide receiver group and lack of depth at running back. This week, he goes up against the Dolphins who he threw for a season-high 334 yards, two interceptions, and one touchdown in a 20-12 loss at MetLife Stadium. The Dolphins started the season 3-0 but have been disappointing for over a month. Their defense ranks just 30th in sacks (11), 27th in scoring defense (27.3 Yds/G) and 29th on third down (46.3 percent). This has all the ingredients to be a get right game for Darnold and the Jets offense even if they are banged up. Running back Elijah McGuire is expected to be activated off IR this week and he should provide a spark to this offense.
Darnold spoke with the reporters recently and stressed that he understands how important winning games will be going forward. Here is what Darnold had to say according to Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com:
“Obviously it’s a division game and going down there to Miami, it’d be huge to get a win,” he said. “But then again, it’s huge to get a win every single week. So just take it week by week.”
The Jets can start to slowly make a run for the playoffs in the second half of the season with a win and it starts with Darnold. If he is able to make good decisions with the ball and take what the defense is giving him, he and the Jets will be alright.
Next: 4. Running Back Isaiah Crowell
4. Running Back Isaiah Crowell
Ever since his 219 yard game against the Broncos, Isaiah Crowell has been M.I.A. the past three weeks. In Weeks 6-8, Crowell has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry (50 attempts for 128 yards) without a score since his franchise record-setting game in Week 5. Crowell needs to regain his Week 5 form and it needs to be this week or this season will get even worse.
Part of Crowell’s rushing woes had to do with an ankle injury that limited him at practice for two weeks, but he was able to practice in full all week last week so his ankle is feeling better. Crowell and Powell were supposed to be a 1-2 punch in the backfield but Powell suffered that season-ending neck injury. Rookie Trenton Cannon filled in as the change of pace back last week against the Bears but struggled to make an impact. This week, the Jets will be getting back Elijah McGuire who had a solid rookie season but suffered a foot injury in preseason and was put on short-term IR.
Fortunately for the Jets running backs, the Dolphins have been struggling to defend the air and the ground recently. The Jets offense rushed for just 42 yards against Miami in Week 2, but this is a defense that has had gaping holes of late. They are tied for 29th in rush defense, surrendering 143.1 yards a game. Crowell and company have a get right game in front of them and need to run over, through, and around it.
The first half of the season has been a disappointment for the Jets running game but maybe this game will give the team a kick-start it needs to make them wild-card contenders in the second half. Crowell was signed in the offseason because he was a reliable and durable back, it’s about time he starts showing it.
Next: 3. Tight End Chris Herndon
3. Tight End Chris Herndon
While the Jets two top receivers in Enunwa and Anderson have been dealing with ankle injuries, tight end Chris Herndon has stepped up as the top pass catcher for the Jets. Herndon has scored a touchdown in three straight games and has become a reliable target for Darnold. The rookie has been the one bright spot in the Jets passing game of late.
Herndon’s three straight games with a touchdown is a historic achievement in Jets history because no other rookie has ever done it. Not Dustin Keller, Anthony Becht, or any other notable tight ends in franchise history. The tight end position has been a wasteland for a few years now but Herndon is quickly becoming a major offensive weapon for the next decade.
The Darnold to Herndon connection is an exciting development because both are rookies and there is no limit on what these two can accomplish. Darnold spoke to reporters after the Bears game and noted that he and Herndon have developed a “good chemistry” with each other. Here is what Darnold had to say according to Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com:
“Me and Chris, we’ve developed a great chemistry,” Darnold said. “We’ve just got to keep going and continue to develop that chemistry with the other guys as well.
Offensive lineman James Carpenter also had praise for the rookie tight end, saying “he is playing good right now” and that the whole team needs to start playing that way going forward. Expect Herndon to continue being Darnold’s go-to guy and the connection to get even stronger. Maybe, just maybe, the other pass catchers will replicate Herndon’s play and nose for the end zone.
Next: 2. Cornerback Darryl Roberts
2. Cornerback Darryl Roberts
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With cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine slowly working their way back from injuries, Darryl Roberts has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets secondary. No one expected Roberts to be a major factor in the Jets secondary this season but his recent play has made him one. According to Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation, Roberts has been a shutdown corner the past two weeks as noted by the stat below.
This week, Roberts will be tasked with helping shut down the Dolphins trio of wide receivers in DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, and Jakeem Grant. Amendola is the Dolphins top wide receiver, leading the team in receptions (35) and second in receiving yards (337).
Roberts excelled in coverage against Kirk Cousins and Mitchell Trubisky the past two weeks and this week he gets a quarterback who is average at best in Brock Osweiler. Osweiler has thrown for 895 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions in four games (three starts) while completing 64.1 percent of his passes.
While those numbers are impressive, Osweiler is a streaky quarterback who plays great when he is in rhythm but if he is off, he is one of the most inaccurate quarterbacks in the league. Roberts and the rest of the secondary can make it a long day for Osweiler if they are able to shut down the Dolphins wide receiver group.
Next: 1. Safety Marcus Maye
1. Safety Marcus Maye
This week will be an intense AFC East divisional battle but it will also be a return home for safety Marcus Maye. The Jets safety is expected to a have a large number of family and friends come to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami to cheer him on against the Dolphins. This will also be Maye’s first chance to go up against the Dolphins this season as he was inactive with an ankle/foot injury in Week 2.
Maye has only played in four games this season as ankle and thumb injuries have forced him to miss games. However, Maye has made the most of his time on the field this season with 26 tackles, one interception, and a forced fumble. A broken thumb caused Maye to miss the Vikings game in Week 7 but Maye made a surprising return in Week 8 against the Bears and led the team with seven tackles. Last season’s game in Miami was a memorable one for Maye. He had seven tackles and an interception in a 31-28 loss. Maye will be looking to duplicate that kind of play in a win on Sunday.
Going into the second half of the season, Maye believes this Jets defense is close to being one of the best in the league and being on the same page. Here is what Maye had to say according to Ethan Greenberg of NewYorkJets.com:
“We have a lot more ball to play,” Maye said. “We do a great job of flying around. We’re always going to play fast and physical. Once we settle in and figure out what the offense is trying to do with us, we’re pretty good. Once we’re all on the same page, I feel like we can be one of the best defenses out there.”
All Maye and the rest of the Jets defense needs to worry about this week is being the best defense on the field. If they play fast and physical like Maye knows they can, that will play a major role in the Jets leaving Miami with a win.