The NY Jets have seen these three unexpected standouts excel thus far in 2020.
Now the latest news of a possible COVID-19 scare at the team’s facilities is just the latest unfortunate development in what has been a horrendous season for Gang Green.
But even in the darkest of tunnels, a little glimmer of light always manages to find a way to shine through.
As difficult as it may be, it’s important to try and search for optimism, no matter how little optimism there is. And in the case of the Jets in 2020, there is very little optimism to go around.
But while most of the roster has either underperformed or simply lived up to low expectations, there have been a few players here and there who have overachieved and manage to surprise some people this season.
We see this each year. Last season, the likes of Folorunso Fatukasi and Blessuan Austin emerged from out of nowhere to become key contributors down the stretch.
Which players are filling that role through four weeks this season? We take a look at the three most surprising standouts from the first quarter of the Jets’ season.
Next: 3. Jeff Smith
3. Jeff Smith, WR, NY Jets
We’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel here, but Jeff Smith sure looked good in Week 4, didn’t he? Sure, it may have been his only game of the season and just the second NFL game of his career, but you can’t say you weren’t surprised.
Smith returned from a brief stint on injured reserve and made his debut last Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. And he wasted little time making an impact finishing with a team-leading seven catches for 81 yards.
The former Boston College quarterback was a training camp standout last season, and after spending most of the year on the practice squad, made his NFL debut in December of 2019.
Unfortunately, the undrafted rookie suffered an ankle injury in his debut and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. The Jets remained high on him and even kept him on IR for the first three weeks of 2020.
Given what we saw this past week, it’s easy to see why.
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Smith’s sub-4.40 speed was on full display in Week 4 as was his incredibly nuanced route-running — especially for someone who’s only been playing the position for a few years.
Now, it’s only been one game, but expect the Jets to continue giving Smith opportunities to impress as the season goes on.
There haven’t been many pleasant surprises for the Jets this season, but Smith’s Week 4 performance ranks towards the top of that list.
Next: 2. Mekhi Becton
2. Mekhi Becton, OT, NY Jets
The Jets had high expectations for first-round pick Mehki Becton entering the 2020 season, but the vast majority of them were future expectations.
The Jets hoped that the supremely-gifted Becton could one day develop into one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Some rookie struggles were expected, but it was hard to deny Becton’s potential.
However, through four weeks, those rookie struggles have been few and far between.
Becton has stepped in day one and been the Jets’ best offensive lineman this season. For a 21-year-old considered a major project coming out of college, that’s something that few expected to be the case.
The No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft has received a very solid 72.6 Pro Football Focus grade thus far ranking him as the 24th-best offensive tackle in the NFL and the Jets’ second-best offensive player behind Jamison Crowder.
That grade dipped slightly this past week after he was forced to play through an injury. Nonetheless, his efforts against the likes of Bradley Chubb, Justin Houston, and Jerry Hughes haven’t gone unnoticed.
If this is how good Becton looks in his rookie season, imagine how good he might look in a few years from now. For that reason, his play this season remains one of the few surprising bright spots from 2020.
Next: 1. John Franklin-Myers
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
1. John Franklin-Myers, DL, NY Jets
John Franklin-Myers hasn’t made the same impact that Becton has, but no player has been a more surprising success this season than the former Los Angeles Rams draft pick.
Originally a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Jets scooped Franklin-Myers up off waivers in September of last year after the Rams waived him. Unfortunately, injuries would render his 2019 season a wash.
But Franklin-Myers came back and put together a strong summer that saw him not only make the 53-man roster, but soon find himself as a regular rotational defensive lineman.
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Despite receiving fairly limited playing time, he’s more than made the most of his opportunities.
Through four weeks, Franklin-Myers has amassed six pressures on just 19 pass-rush snaps — good for an average of 31.6 percent which far surpasses the positional average of 7.4 percent.
It’s a small sample size, sure, but it’s indicative of his stellar play so far this season.
Moreover, his 82.8 Pro Football Focus grade is the ninth-highest of all interior defensive linemen in the NFL with his 85.6 pass-rush grade ranks fifth at his position.
A foot injury suffered in Wednesday’s practice threatens to derail what has been an incredibly promising season, but there’s no doubt that John Franklin-Myers has been the most surprising standout of the Jets’ 2020 season to this point.