An injury-riddled NY Jets team is set to take on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5.
In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best decision.
Darnold injured his shoulder on a first-quarter sack, but returned just a few plays later in the second quarter. Becton, on the other hand, came in as an emergency replacement despite not being deemed healthy enough to start.
The rookie first-round pick pulled himself from the game after just 16 snaps and now likely won’t even be deemed healthy enough to be an emergency replacement 10 days later. Clearly, that decision backfired.
Jets fans are already searching for reasons to continue watching this abysmal team and losing two of their most promising or at least interesting young players certainly doesn’t help matters.
Instead, it will be veteran Joe Flacco who gets the call against a Cardinals team that has lost two in a row. But we all know what Flacco is at this stage.
With both Darnold and Becton out, which players should Jets fans keep an eye on this week? Let’s take a look and see.
Next: 3. Jeff Smith
NY Jets Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
3. Jeff Smith, WR, NY Jets
The Jets are latching on to any semblance of optimism at the moment. Any young players who perform even moderately well are being hoisted up on a platform and hailed as saviors of the season.
Or at least saviors of the fanbase’s interest levels.
One such player is Jeff Smith who made his season debut last week after missing the first three weeks with a shoulder injury — coincidentally the same exact injury that Darnold recently suffered.
And in that game, Smith made quite the first impression hauling in a team-leading seven catches for 81 yards. Entering the game with just one career game played, it was certainly a coming-out party for the former undrafted free agent.
But good games come and go. The question now is can he string together back-to-back impressive performances?
He’ll likely be given another opportunity to shine in Week 5, especially after his showing last week. With the likes of Breshad Perriman and Vyncint Smith still out with injuries, the Jets will surely give Smith his fair share of snaps this week against the Cardinals.
Will he live up to the unwarranted hype? That remains to be seen.
Next: 2. Blessuan Austin
2. Blessuan Austin, CB, NY Jets
Blessuan Austin is currently listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a calf injury. But if he plays, he’s certainly a player to watch.
It’s been a rough season for the former Rutgers star who entered the year with plenty of hype. After a surprisingly excellent finish to his rookie campaign, many were hailing Austin as a future building block of the defense.
But his showing in 2020 hasn’t been indicative of such.
Austin has surrendered a whopping 10 receptions on just 15 targets this season and is currently ranked as one of the worst cornerbacks in all of football, according to Pro Football Focus.
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The 24-year-old Queens native has earned a woeful 44.2 PFF grade this season which ranks 96th out of 110 qualified cornerbacks. That’s aided by his strong run defense grade as well, with his coverage grade checking it at an ugly 35.8.
Moreover, Austin is one off the league lead in missed tackles with eight total through what is essentially three games of action. He hasn’t just been bad in coverage, but he’s been one of the NFL’s worst tacklers to this point.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier for him this week — if he suits up — as he’ll likely be matched up with three-time All-Pro, DeAndre Hopkins.
Another difficult week is expected, but perhaps he could surprise everyone and play his best football of the season in Week 5.
Next: 1. Le'Veon Bell
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, NY Jets
The return of Le’Veon Bell should be a bigger deal than it actually is. The Jets are set to return their star running back after missing the last three weeks with a hamstring injury.
Bell is in arguably the best shape of his life and should provide a huge boost to a struggling offense. But this is the Jets we’re talking about. This is still an offense run by Adam Gase. An offense that is likely the least-talented in the NFL.
Surely Bell makes them better, but will he really make that much of an impact?
Arizona has actually struggled against the run this season allowing 124.5 yards per game, good for 19th in the league. But it’s not as if the Jets have found much success of their own running the football.
The offensive line, while improved in pass protection, remains one of the worst run-blocking units in the NFL. Moreover, it would be foolish to expect Bell to be utilized to the best of his abilities after he hasn’t been to this point.
But his return should mean something. And for that reason, he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on.
Just make sure to curb any and all expectations to avoid almost certain disappointment.