Packers vs. Jets: Week 16 team grades
The New York Jets lost a thrilling overtime contest to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday as the team blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead. What grade does each unit deserve following this disappointing defeat?
The New York Jets are a team that still has many glaring holes. Their defense has continuously failed to live up to expectations, their coaching staff is one of the least respected in the league, and they lack the killer instinct needed to put away games.
But one thing seems apparent: they have found their quarterback.
For the second consecutive week, Sam Darnold did his best to ensure a Jets victory this time throwing for 341 yards and three touchdowns, the youngest quarterback in NFL history to do so. The USC rookie didn’t tally a single turnover as his recent string of outstanding performances continued.
Once again, however, Darnold was let down by his supporting cast.
Not his top receiving targets Robby Anderson and Chris Herndon who each had career days, but by the playcalling down the stretch and a Jets defense that was meticulously picked apart by the Green Bay Packers offense.
While the team may still have a long way to go before they are considered contenders, it appears as though they have found their quarterback, and that’s something Jets fans have been begging for since the days of Joe Namath. With that, let’s take a look and see what grade each positional unit earned following their most recent defeat.
If you would have said before the start of the season that the Jets offense would be the unit carrying the team and making up for the defense’s deficiencies then you would have likely had someone laugh right in your face. But that’s exactly what’s happening as we approach the final week of the 2018 season.
The offense led the team to 31 points behind another stellar day from quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold passed for over 300 yards and tossed three touchdowns as the rookie again looked the part of a franchise quarterback.
It was expected that Darnold would hopefully follow in the footsteps of previous young signal-callers and take a big step forward in his sophomore NFL season but it appears that Darnold may be a little ahead of schedule. The USC product has begun to take that step forward since his return from injury and given his supporting cast and coaching staff, this should be very encouraging for Jets fans.
With an overhaul of his coaching staff, the addition of more offensive playmakers, and an improved offensive line, Darnold has the potential to flourish next season and beyond. Now, it’s on the Jets to capitalize.
What is clear, however, is that the team has a few other pieces to work with and build around on offense.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson put together another impressive performance catching nine passes for 140 yards, both career highs, and a touchdown. It appears that the team has finally begun to utilize Anderson in the ways that he should be used having him run comebacks, curls, and outs to capitalize on soft coverage. It is a little concerning that it has taken the team until the final couple weeks of the season to do this but better late than never.
The team also appears to have a budding star on their hands in tight end Chris Herndon. Herndon has statistically been a top-10 tight end since he became involved in the offense and he’s doing this all in his rookie season. If his brilliant one-handed grab early in the game is anything to go off of, then the Jets may have a very strong building block on their hands in Herndon.
The Jets were also aided by an excellent day of playcalling from offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates for a little over three-quarters of the game. That was, of course, until the team had the opportunity to put the game away in the final minutes and elected to run the ball three straight times (one was a reverse to Andre Roberts) and throw a screen pass to Herndon in the dirt.
Oh and this was all after a holding penalty on Brian Winters forced a 1st-and-20. Bates entire day of excellent playcalling was undone on just four plays as the team swiftly punted the ball back to Aaron Rodgers and the rest was just a formality.
Still, altogether, it was a very impressive performance from the offense that should have been enough to give the Jets a victory if not for the poor play of their defense.
Final Grade: A-
Next: Defensive Grades
Once again, it was the Jets defense that let the team down. Only this time, the unit played poorly for the entirety of the game and not only when it came down to crunch time as in the past.
The Jets were torched by Aaron Rodgers who threw for 442 yards and scored four total touchdowns en route to a dominant display by the Packers offense. To be fair, Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, despite the struggles he may have faced this year. But that’s the only excuse this unit should be given for how poorly they played.
Those 442 yards aren’t even counting the numerous penalty yards that were accumulated as a result of pass interference, defensive holding, and personal foul infractions that helped the Packers drive down the field even more effectively.
Moreover, the Packers, without their top running back Aaron Jones, were able to rush for over 100 yards as a team with Jamaal Williams rushing for 95 yards and averaging 6.3 yards per carry. This marked the highest average and second highest yardage total that Williams had ever posted in his career as the once-promising Jets run defense looks more like a unit of Swiss cheese at this point.
It didn’t help matters that defensive lineman Leonard Williams was ejected from the game in the first half for throwing a punch at Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. The lack of discipline from the Jets defense was on full display in this game as evidenced by Williams mishap and the countless other penalties committed by the unit.
Trumaine Johnson was among the many Jets defenders to have a rough game and that was despite not covering leading receiver Davante Adams for much of the day. The Jets again opted not to have Johnson shadow their opponent’s top receiver, something concerning given his hefty contract.
Johnson had played well over the past two games before falling off against the Packers but even so, you would like to see the Jets use him more against top receivers. As it stands, Johnson feels more like a number one cornerback by default and not because of anything he has done on the field.
It was a dreadful week for the Jets defense only salvaged by an above-average day from the pass rush which picked up four sacks. That turned out to be the only positive takeaway saving this from a failing grade.
Final Grade: D-
Next: Special Teams Grades
Special Teams Grades
The Jets special teams got off to a rocky start against Green Bay but finished with a performance that likely should have won the team the game had it not been for the team’s defense.
Kicker Jason Myers missed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide left on the team’s opening possession but it was all up from there. Myers was later able to recover connecting on all five his extra point attempts and nailing a field goal from a modest 33-yards out.
But it’s hard to talk about the Jets special teams without mentioning return man Andre Roberts who continued his historic season with another incredible performance in this one. Roberts returned a kick 99 yards for a touchdown and returned another one for 51 yards setting up the eventual game-tying field goal to force overtime.
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That’s not even mentioning a 40-yard punt return that he had early in the first quarter that was negated by an Anthony Wint illegal block in the back penalty. Roberts and the entire kick and punt return teams have been absolutely phenomenal this year and the team can only hope that this carries over into next year when the games will hopefully count for more.
Speaking of Wint, the undrafted rookie forced a fumble on a kickoff to make up for his backbreaking penalty earlier. The FIU product was playing in his first career game after being promoted from the practice squad and it’s easy to say that Wint made a good first impression with his big hit on Packers return man J’Mon Moore.
The Jets special teams wonders didn’t stop there, however, as the team later ran a fake punt on a direct snap to Rontez Miles and converted on a crucial fourth down to keep the ball in the hands of their offense late in the fourth quarter. It was a gutsy call from head coach Todd Bowles and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer that paid off in the end, despite the team’s failure to score on the drive.
Boyer deserves immense credit for the job he has done with this unit as, by all metrics, the Jets special teams is the best in the entire NFL. It’s hard to remember how dreadful the unit looked even in the preseason of this year after the way they have played this year.
It was another almost flawless performance from the Jets special teams with Myers missed kick serving as the only thing keeping this grade from being an A-plus.
Final Grade: A
Next: Coaching Grades
It can be easy to pin an excessive amount of penalties on a head coach. After all, he is the one in charge of disciplining the team and keeping them focused on the task at hand. But it isn’t always fair for the coach to face that criticism as he isn’t the one actually committing the penalties.
That being said, when your team commits a total of 16 penalties for over 170 yards there is a major problem, and that extends beyond players simply making mistakes. It’s clear that there is a major issue at hand with the Jets roster and discipline and that is something that must change as the team goes into 2019.
Penalties were repeatedly the daggers for the Jets as Green Bay was able to gain free yardage regularly and that is something that must fall on Todd Bowles and the coaching staff, regardless of whether there were a few questionable calls or not.
On the other hand, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called one of his best games of the season maximizing Robby Anderson at receiver and opening up the playbook with pre-snap movement and expanded route trees for quarterback Sam Darnold to work with. But it was his work with the protection unit that may have been the most impressive.
With Brandon Shell out for the remainder of the season, Brent Qvale received the start at right tackle and the Jets knew what to expect with Qvale. The Nebraska product is a backup lineman in a league where backup lineman talent is at an all-time low. It was clear that the Jets needed to do something to help him out so they could keep him out of one-on-one situations as often as possible.
As a result, the Jets regularly utilized multiple tight end sets and even had backup lineman turned fullback Dakota Dozier stay in to help Qvale block in pass protection. When there was no in-line help, the Jets usually had a running back stay in to block to provide assistance.
This is the type of game planning and strategy that usually goes unnoticed but can make a large impact on the game itself so credit should be given to Bates and offensive line coach Rick Dennison for deploying this in-game strategy.
But unfortunately, Bates’ playcalling hit a wall midway through the fourth quarter as the team opted to essentially concede a possession and give the Packers back the football allowing Aaron Rodgers to lead the team back into the game. This came moments after the team had successfully executed a fake punt indicating that the Jets were willing to do whatever it took to win the game.
Apparently, Bates didn’t get that memo.
It’s a shame too because Bates had called such a great game to that point but no one will remember this game for that. All they will remember about Bates’ day is the ultra-conservative approach that led to an eventual Packers victory when the Jets had the chance to put the final nail in the coffin.
The final grade for the coaching staff suffers immensely for the considerable amount of penalties and the conservative playcalling down the stretch. However, Bates early playcalling keeps this grade from being any lower than it is.