Michael Nania stacks up the New York Jets roster according to each player’s impact on the team’s performance to date.
Each week this season, I will be laying out my picks for the team’s best and worst-performing players from the previous Jets game – but with a twist. Each player listed as a “stud” will receive a positive score ranging from 1 (solid) to 5 (dominant) based on their impact level, while each player listed as a “dud” will receive a negative score ranging from -1 (below average) to -5 (horrendous). The sum of all players’ scores will be equal to the Jets’ scoring margin from the game.
As the season progresses, we will have a solid look at each player’s contribution to the team’s overall scoring margin up to that point.
Here are my studs and duds from the Jets’ 27-17 defeat in Buffalo. The Jets lost by 10 points, so the scores below add up to -10.
Tarell Basham: -1
First off, it needs to be mentioned that the scoring margin in this game was highly misleading. Although the Jets ended up losing by only 10 points, they could have easily lost by 20 or even 30 if the Bills did a better job of finishing off drives offensively. There will be games where the scoring margin does not quite match the true performance disparity between the Jets and their opponent – this is one of them.
Basham posted a decent three hurries over 22 pass-rush snaps, but he struggled mightily to bring down Josh Allen in the backfield. He was credited with two missed tackles, but certainly overran or misjudged angles on some other plays.
The Jets’ lack of a productive edge rush was a glaring issue throughout this game, and Basham was a part of it.
Henry Anderson: -1
Anderson had a couple of nice run stops at the line of scrimmage and created three pressures over 21 pass-rush snaps, but those pressures were unproductive as he usually ended up chasing Allen around in the backfield before comically diving and whiffing. The Jets desperately need the 2018 version of Anderson (tied for 12th among interior defensive linemen with 48 pressures) to return if this pass-rush is going to be competent.
Arthur Maulet: -1
Brant Boyer‘s group had issues in the punting game against Buffalo, yielding 13.8 yards per return to Andre Roberts over five chances. Numerous players made mistakes in punt coverage, but none more than Maulet, who missed tackles or overran in pursuit on four different productive Roberts returns.
As I laid out here, I think Maulet deserves to be promoted back into the defensive starting lineup at cornerback, but his play on special teams in Week 1 was not good.
Kyle Phillips: -1
Phillips tied with Basham for the lead among Jets edge rushers with 22 pass-rush snaps, and he picked up a measly total of one hurry. In addition to generating almost no pressure, the second-year Jet struggled to contain Allen in the pocket, running himself out of the play to open up gigantic scrambling lanes.
While he can be counted on for high-motor run defense, Phillips’ pass-rushing left a lot to be desired in 2019, and he did not appear much better in his 2020 season debut.
Nathan Shepherd: -1
Shepherd ranked second on the interior defensive line with 34 defensive snaps, and got 22 opportunities to rush the quarterback. With the edge rush clearly overmatched, the Jets needed the interior defensive line to make some noise. Shepherd failed to come through, collecting zero pressures.
This team’s edge rush group is unlikely to catch lightning in a bottle due to its severe lack of talent, so the Jets will be relying on their interior defensive line to create pressure all season. Shepherd is one of the only players on the roster with a legitimate chance of becoming a consistent one-on-one winner in the pass-rushing game – he flashed elite efficiency in 2019. Whether or not he fulfills that potential will play a massive role in the amount of pressure you see the Jets defense generating on Sundays.
Gregg’s unit needs more from the Canadian behemoth.
Jordan Willis: -1
Willis is the third edge rusher whose lack of production contributed to the cushy pockets that Allen enjoyed in Orchard Park. He picked up one hurry over 21 pass-rush snaps.
Can Bryce Huff or John Franklin-Myers be any worse than what the Jets have at this position? The two intriguing young rushers – on the 53-man roster but chosen as inactives for Week 1 – deserve a shot at some point, preferably sooner rather than later.
Interestingly, Jordan Jenkins played only 36% of the defensive snaps, the lowest portion he has played since his 2016 rookie season (excluding a game he left due to injury). This was an interesting decision by Gregg. Jenkins is no Von Miller, but he is relatively average, which is certainly better than Phillips or Willis. On Sunday, Jenkins was efficient with three pressures (all hurries) on 15 pass-rush snaps.
Keep an eye on how Gregg handles Jenkins’ playing time after a lackluster performance from the rushers ahead of him on the depth chart.
Nate Hairston: -2
Hairston replaced Pierre Desir and was hardly much better, allowing 3-of-3 passing in his direction for 33 yards and three first downs while sprinkling in a 12-yard pass interference penalty. Hairston did cover on 32 snaps, so his average of 1.03 yards allowed per cover snap was decent, but the Bills were clearly able to pick on him with ease whenever they felt like throwing to the outside.
In his short Jets career, Hairston has allowed a whopping 11.3 yards per target. It does not make much sense for him to be getting playing time over the more productive Maulet (7.1 yards per target allowed as a Jet).
Quinnen Williams: -2
Williams is the number one player that the Jets are counting on to lead the pass-rush, and like Shepherd, he was not up to the challenge in Week 1. He led the interior defensive in total snaps by a wide margin with 50, and led the team with 32 pass-rush snaps. With all of those chances, all he could muster up was one quarterback hit that warranted a roughing the passer penalty. He also had an offsides penalty.
There was one play where Williams obliterated left guard Quinton Spain and probably would have had a sack if Josh Allen did not get the ball out immediately, and Williams also did some decent things in the run game (outside of this whiff). But his pass-rushing impact cannot be this lackluster throughout the season. Even if he is not going to be the special game-changer that just about every draft expert believed he would be, the Jets need Williams to at least be an average pass-rusher, or their defense is going to be catastrophically bad at creating pressure.
Pierre Desir: -4
Desir was atrocious in his Jets debut, lining up so far off the line that he may as well have been trying to cover Stefon Diggs from out in Syracuse. He allowed 4-of-4 passing for 43 yards, two touchdowns, and two first downs, tossing in a holding call on third down and a 33-yard pass interference penalty.
Neville Hewitt: -4
Hewitt is just not a starting-caliber linebacker. The Jets had to deal with it throughout last year and they are going to have to this year (unless Gregg makes the smart move of putting Blake Cashman and Avery Williamson together when/if both are healthy).
Hewitt was routinely sucked up by play action, allowing passes to whizz over his head and through the area he should have been covering. He was late to hit his spots in the run game, as usual.
Harvey Langi: -4
Linebacker was the one position where the Jets could not afford injury. There was not a third player on the roster who truly played the position. So, when Cashman went down after just three snaps, the Jets defense was in for a rough day.
Langi deserves some slack since he is more of an outside linebacker/edge player and was completely out of position in this role, but nevertheless, he was a major liability, looking lost in every facet throughout the game. He had a tremendous touchdown-saving pass deflection late in the game, but that hardly made up for the rest of his mistakes.
The Jets desperately need a healthy Williamson back this week, and Cashman’s Week 5 return from injured reserve cannot come soon enough, either. The second-year Minnesota product has a lot of things to improve on off of his rookie year, but his ceiling is lightyears above Hewitt’s while his floor is not any lower.
As for Langi, he deserves to be on the roster for his special teams prowess, but inside ‘backer is not his cup of tea.
If Williamson does not suit up, the Jets need to promote Alec Ogletree from the practice squad, who at least actually plays the position and has started plenty of games there (93 starts for the Rams and Giants). Ogletree is a massive missed tackle machine and struggles against the run, but is a productive blitzer and gets his hands on the ball very frequently at the line of scrimmage.
Sam Darnold: -5
Darnold left way too many plays on the field that should have been easy to convert. Anything more than the minimum score felt too generous. I broke down his performance in great detail here.
George Fant: +1
I was very impressed by Fant’s debut. While he was imperfect, struggling a bit with power moves and anything to the inside, he was absolutely fantastic against speed and outside moves. Fant consistently carried rushers up the arc with ease to create enormous scrambling lanes for Darnold.
Fant will be our best look into Joe Douglas‘ pro scouting ability this season. The Jets had a massive hole at right tackle, and instead of spending on a big name like Jack Conklin or Bryan Bulaga, Douglas went with a career backup from a famously bad offensive line in Seattle. It was a decision panned by many, but as Joe Blewett pointed out, there was legitimate progress from Fant on tape that promised his best days may be ahead of him. Douglas clearly saw untapped potential in Fant that he felt the team could develop, and decided to bet on his own evaluation.
If Douglas hits on Fant, it would be an extremely promising showing of big-time scouting talent for the rookie general manager. Finding value in under-the-radar signings like Fant is how championship teams are built.
Le’Veon Bell: +2
Although Bell rushed for an ugly 14 yards on six carries (1.6 per attempt), he still found a way to make a profound positive impact on the game in other ways.