The New York Jets’ 34-27 victory over their crosstown rivals flashed breakout games by forgotten Mike Maccagnan-era holdovers. Is it something to build on?
General manager Mike Maccagnan ran the New York Jets for five forgettable years (early 2015-mid 2019). His supposed strength was as a “tape room warrior” for the draft — which of course is the lifeblood of any franchise. But five years of Maccagnan drafts have yielded just four current starters.
Not one player remains from the 2015 Draft.
An astounding 70 percent of the ballers he selected and developed in Florham Park no longer play pro football. Bart Scott said that Maccagnan’s team featured elite athletes weak on football acumen. Such an incredible waste of time and resources.
When Maccagnan came in 2015, the strength of this team was its deep defensive front. In 2019, not one of those players remains.
Beyond poor personnel decisions, it was the costly contractual moves that doomed this GM.
He lavished $39 million guaranteed to a mentally checked-out Darrelle Revis, then snubbed Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison to give $86 million to Muhammad Wilkerson. Then came $72M to Trumaine Johnson (now on IR, his Gang Green career effectively over). Maccagnan’s epitaph should read “Christian Hackenberg.”
But all that looked a bit different after the Jets beat down their crosstown rivals at MetLife Stadium last week. Many of Maccagnan’s remaining players dominated in the nice victory:
True, most of Trader Mike’s moves backfired. But the GM could’ve easily drafted Josh Rosen or Josh Allen. Sam Darnold amazed in training camp and preseason, before his freak mononucleosis. That coincided with the “Kelechi Osemele Incident” that fueled the O-line implosion. The scouting report on the Jets’ second-year gunslinger is that he never makes the same mistake twice. Versus the “visiting” G-Men, he displayed confidence and resilience and made zero turnovers in the win.
To put it nicely, Adam Gase is a poor communicator. How else could trade-deadline phone banter devolve into disrespect of an All-Pro safety? Before the game, Jamal Adams buried the hatchet with his coach and GM. Then he went on the field and put on a clinic (eight tackles, two sacks, one TD). On the sidelines, Adams told Gase he was gonna cause a turnover. His ensuing strip-sack and heist of “Danny Dimes” will go down as one of the great plays in New York sports history.
The 2016 third-rounder has developed into a top-tier weak-side linebacker. He leads this defense with 13 tackles and five sacks and is on track for a career season. At MetLife last Sunday, Jordan Jenkins put a bruising on the Giants QB with two sacks and two tackles. GM Joe Douglas needs to lock long-term with this team’s few high-impact players. On defense, that’s Adams and Jenkins. Unfortunately, they and Marcus Maye are the only current starters drafted by the previous GM.
The only productive seventh-round pick of the previous regime has been this fourth-year Aussie punter via Sam Houston State. This season, Edwards ranks top 10 in the league at 46.7 per; his 55 punts most in the league. Against Big Blue, he punted five times for 45.8 per including two inside the 20. Maccagnan paired Edwards with long-snapper Thomas Hennessy perhaps the best LS in the game — perfect with his snaps, and then seen downfield, either in on or near the tackle.
When Gase seized the job as “HC of the NYJ,” ideas of his offense include lots of HB/FB formations for dynamic runs and swing passes. In fairness, Darnold’s key weapon Chris Herndon‘s season is over before it began, Ryan Griffin is more of a traditional TE, and Trevon Wesco is a rookie fourth-rounder who needs time. But the two times TW touched the ball — as FB short-yardage rushing and as TE receiving — he moved the chains. Wesco has all the intangibles and will get his chance.
Maccagnan had two third-round picks last draft. The first one, Jachai Polite, was the worst NFL washout in memory. Chuma Edoga, who blocked for Darnold at USC, got forced into action with the injury to Kelvin Beachum. Beachum’s return last week stabilized the line, and Edoga shifted to his RT position. This game’s early-exit of RG Brian Winters could’ve rattled the rookie’s solid effort, but credit Maccagnan veteran free agent Tom Compton. Edoga’s play also reflected poorly on another Maccagnan high-profile pick, Brandon Shell, New York Jets starting RT since 2016.
For most of the first half, CB Nate Hairston got burned like toast mano-a-mano by Giants rookie WR Darius Slayton. That’s when Coach Williams brought in Blessuan the Queens kid for his first-ever NFL action and protected him in more of a Cover-2 scheme. It all coincided with the “D” stepping up. Insiders say were it not for two nasty ACL surgeries, the rangy Rutgers sixth-rounder could’ve been a first-round shutdown corner. But you gotta worry about this guy’s NFL future.
The 2018 third-rounder outta Fort Hays State underwhelmed as a rookie and then spent the first six games of 2019 suspended for PEDs. Now, the 25-year-old Canadian is fighting for his NFL future. Against the Giants, Nathan Shepherd got his chance, stepping in for Leonard Williams, and dominated (three tackles, one sack). In fact, his rare blend of size and speed and motor gives this D-line a fierce dimension they thought they’d drafted sixth overall in 2015 with “The Big Cat”.
So, while we wait for Quinnen Williams to transform into that next Mean Joe Greene… 31-year-old Steve McLendon improves with age — but Coach Williams’ defense requires moving parts. And this 2018 fifth-round Far Rockaway product via UConn has really made the most of his opportunities. Against the Giants, Foley Fatukasi stuffed the middle for 30 percent of the snaps, as per Pro Football Focus, and had two solo tackles, including one for a big fourth-quarter loss.
Kyle Phillips is already Maccagnan’s top defensive UDFA signing. The Tennessee rookie has thrived under Williams, versatile enough to wreak havoc all across the front-seven. He’s played over 50% of the snaps in every game this season, with 15 solo tackles, including five for loss. He’s an underrated grinder who fits new GM Douglas’ blue-collar vision moving forward. Phillips is one of the good stories to come out of a very disappointing season. There’s nowhere to go but up!