The 2018 season didn’t go exactly according to plan for the New York Jets and the disappointing play of these five players likely didn’t help matters.
The New York Jets experienced their fair share of disappointment in 2018. From a midseason injury to their young quarterback to an underachieving defense, the team was witness to multiple letdowns exemplifying the theme for the season.
This doesn’t mean that the Jets don’t have a potentially bright future. But it does mean that they’re further away from success than initially anticipated.
Some of their biggest disappointments came courtesy of failed free agent signings while others were simply players who failed to live up to expectations. These players must step it up in 2019 if they are to remain a part of the Jets future going forward, that is if they’re even given that chance.
After all, no roster spot in the NFL is guaranteed regardless of contract size or professional experience. With that, let’s take a look at the five most disappointing Jets players of 2018.
5. Brian Winters – Offensive Guard
Brian Winters is far from the most deserving player on this list but that doesn’t mean that he should get off scot-free either. The Kent State product put together a subpar season after expectations were high heading into 2018.
Winters played his worst season as a professional in 2017 but was given a slight pass after it was revealed that he was playing with a torn abdominal muscle since the team’s Week 2 matchup against the Oakland Raiders. After all, playing injured will take its toll on anybody, let alone an abdominal tear to an offensive lineman hindering every movement made.
With that, Winters was expected to bounce back to his 2016 form in 2018 and live up to the sizable contract extension the Jets had given his just a few years prior. While he didn’t perform as poorly as he did in 2017, Winters certainly didn’t play at the level Jets fans would have hoped for.
The former third-round pick earned just a 62.6 Pro Football Focus rating grading out as the #35 best guard in the league. On top of that, Winters was responsible for six offensive penalties – three holds and three false starts.
Winters was a key part of the Jets struggling interior offensive line in 2018 and although he was likely the best of the three interior linemen, he was still a step below both Kelvin Beachum ad Brandon Shell.
The Jets will likely work to rebuild their offensive line in the offseason meaning Winters could soon find himself as one of the weakest spots on the line if all goes according to plan. If the Jets are going to have more success along the offensive line in 2019, they are going to need Winters to live up to his contract.
Next: 4. Spencer Long
4. Spencer Long – Center
Back-to-back offensive linemen on this list should tell you everything you need to know about the Jets current situation and what they must work to fix in the offseason. However, the team must be wary as all offseason “fixes” don’t always work out as planned.
Case in point: Spencer Long.
The Jets signed Long to replace the lackluster Wesley Johnson in free agency and it’s safe to say it hasn’t worked out for either party. The former Washington Redskin trudged through an injury-riddled campaign and put together one of the worst years of his five-year career.
Long graded out poorly with Pro Football Focus earning a grade of 45.4 making him the 37th best center in football. Considering there are only 32 starting centers in the NFL, that’s pretty bad.
His issues came to the forefront during the team’s Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins when his nagging finger injury got the best of him. Due to head coach Todd Bowles‘ refusal to remove him from the contest, Long was guilty of numerous bad snaps that essentially cost the team the game. While it’s unfair to fully blame Long for that outing, the remainder of his season didn’t impress too much either.
The Jets will have a decision to make as the team could opt to cut Long and take on no dead cap if they choose to do so by the February 6th deadline. If so, the team could be in the market for a new center come 2019 as the search for Nick Mangold‘s successor continues.
Next: 3. Leonard Williams
3. Leonard Williams – Defensive End
At some point, the excuses are going to have to stop for Leonard Williams. For the second consecutive year, Williams failed to meet expectations putting together another lackluster season for the Jets.
As time goes by, the former sixth overall draft selection is looking more and more like a one-year wonder than a true franchise cornerstone. Fans have made excuses for Williams for the past two years but it’s time to face the facts.
The man they call “Big Cat” has totaled seven sacks over the past two seasons, the same amount he recorded in his Pro Bowl 2016 campaign. Despite picking up 60 or more tackles in his first two seasons in the league, he has failed to even record 50 over the past two years with just 42 in 2018.
In fact, Williams was outperformed by fellow defensive lineman Henry Anderson this season who tied for the team-lead with, you guessed it, seven sacks and only seven fewer tackles despite starting just three games. Anderson was the more productive pass rusher by a mile and more than held his own in run defense.
The argument that Williams is doubled more often than not is a hollow one that’s based on inaccuracies. In reality, Williams is only doubled on blocks anywhere from 15-20% of plays which is above league average but not nearly enough to make up for his lack of production.
Does this mean he’s a bad player? No, absolutely not.
Williams is a solid, above-average defensive lineman who would start for essentially any team in the league. But is that really what the Jets were expecting when they selected the consensus “best player in the draft” sixth overall in 2015?
I’d venture to say no.
With his rookie contract set to expire at the end of 2019, the Jets will have a major decision to make about what a fair offer will be for a player once viewed as one of the rising young stars in the NFL.
That is if the team doesn’t look to trade him this offseason.
Next: 2. Jermaine Kearse
2. Jermaine Kearse – Wide Receiver
While the Jets receiving core was always destined to be thin going into 2018, the team certainly didn’t anticipate the total disappointment of a season that they received from one of their most productive receivers of 2017.
Jermaine Kearse entered 2018 fresh off a career year where the former Seattle Seahawk hauled in 65 receptions for 810 yards and five touchdowns, all three career highs. Kearse was expected to give the team a reliable, veteran presence to work with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. A receiving trio of Kearse, Robby Anderson, and the returning Quincy Enunwa showed promise at one point, but injuries and a lackluster effort led to a dismantled receiving core by the end of 2018.
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Oftentimes Kearse looked disinterested running lazy routes or making little effort to grab passes within his reach. Whether he was frustrated by a slight downtick in usage or the struggles of the team as a whole, it was clear that Kearse wasn’t fully committed to his performances each week.
This led to his worst season in half a decade where the former undrafted free agent caught just 37 passes for an underwhelming 371 yards and one touchdown. Combine that with an awful 48.7 catch percentage and you have a career-low year for Kearse.
With his contract set to expire, it’s unlikely the team will look to bring him back as it’s likely that neither party will be interested in a reunion. It’s just a shame that Kearse couldn’t be more of a part of the team’s receiving core in 2018 especially given the injuries the Jets suffered at the position.
Perhaps another team will give him a chance to contribute in 2019, but his 2018 season tape leaves little to be desired.
Next: 1. Trumaine Johnson
1. Trumaine Johnson – Cornerback
Could it really have been anyone else?
To say Trumaine Johnson came under criticism in 2018 would be a massive understatement. The Jets $72.5 million man struggled in his first season with the team leaving many questioning the organization’s decision to sign him to such a large contract.
Johnson was public enemy No. 1 among many Jets fans and the media wasn’t too kind towards him either. In his defense, Johnson did step up his game a bit towards the end of the season and ended up finishing the year with four interceptions, his most since his breakout 2015 campaign.
But he’s No.1 on this list for a reason, and it’s not because of his late-season improvement.
For much of the year, Johnson looked like a total bust of a free agent signing consistently getting burnt downfield and rarely looking the part of even a solid No. 2 cornerback. His midseason quad injury only made things worse as the former Los Angeles Ram was forced to miss six games of action, during which the Jets pass defense seemed to play better.
His late-season play is encouraging but even during that stretch of games, Johnson was still never asked to shadow the opposing team’s top receiver. The Jets paid Johnson to be a shutdown, elite cornerback. Or at least that’s what his hefty contract would imply.
If he is unable to cover No. 1 receiving options then it makes little sense as to why the team is paying him $34 million in guaranteed money. Even if Johnson turns out to play like a solid, No. 2 caliber cornerback, his signing must be considered a failure.
And unless he is able to turn it around in a big way in 2019, Johnson will go down as one of the team’s biggest disappointments in recent memory.