Sam Darnold
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Michael Nania lists the New York Jets’ best and worst players against the San Francisco 49ers, and stacks up the 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 Jets’ best and worst-performing players from their previous 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’ 31-13 defeat at the hands of the massively depleted 49ers. The Jets lost by 18 points, so the scores below add up to -18. At the end of the piece is a ranking of the season-long scores for each player.

Duds

Ashtyn Davis: -1

Davis played 13 defensive snaps after logging none the previous week, but his only notable impact on the game was a poor angle on the game’s first offensive snap that led to an 80-yard touchdown by Raheem Mostert.

Frank Gore: -1

Gore did some nice things in pass protection, but he is leaving yardage on the field as a rusher. This offensive line is doing a solid job in the run game, and Gore’s aggressive, downhill mentality is leaving too many open holes unused. So far, Gore is averaging 3.2 yards per carry this season, the same average that Le’Veon Bell posted behind a far worse offensive line in 2019.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Gore is currently ranked 34th out of 44 qualified running backs with an average of -0.74 rushing yards per attempt versus expectation.

Gore is a nice veteran presence and change-of-pace back, but behind a line that is actually creating sizable holes, his hit-the-hole style isn’t necessary. An explosive and/or elusive back with some patience would have much more impressive rushing numbers right now.

I think Bell will put up some excellent numbers behind this line once he returns. His patient approach made him a net negative behind a bad offensive line due to his lack of explosiveness rendering him unable to bail out the bad blocking with a grand slam every once in a while, but behind a decent-to-good line, his vision will allow him to churn out positive runs at a well-above-average rate, just as he did in Pittsburgh.

Bell’s production versus what the average running back would do in the same situation has a direct correlation with the quality of his blocking. This is because his best skill – identifying the best lane available – increases in value when there are more holes to choose from, and his greatest weakness – long speed – is the only one that can truly make up for consistently bad blocking.

Until Bell gets back, Adam Gase would be wise to give La’Mical Perine a chance to show what he can do with an RB1 workload, or at least a 50-50 split with Gore.

Chris Herndon: -1

While Herndon’s numbers would look far more respectable if Sam Darnold hit him on a few plays where he was wide open, he still needs to be knocked for his drop in the end zone on a would-be touchdown off of an outstanding Darnold pass.

Look for Herndon’s production to pick up once Darnold starts doing a better job of cashing in when his talented young tight end gets open, but for now, Herndon’s timely mistakes (Buffalo fumble, San Francisco drop) have been costly.

Connor McGovern: -2

McGovern has been more impressive in the run game than expected, creating some strong lateral movement along the line of scrimmage, but his pass protection has been disappointing. He has looked a lot slower recognizing stunts and blitzes than he did in Denver. McGovern was tagged with four pressures allowed against San Francisco, and through two games, he has given up six, second-most among centers behind only Denver rookie Lloyd Cushenberry III (7). McGovern’s pressure rate of 10.0% (6 pressures on 60 protection snaps) is the position’s worst.

Josh Andrews: -2

Andrews replaced McGovern after the former Bronco left with a hamstring injury, and looked atrocious. His snaps were errant (one led to Darnold being late on a quick out to Chris Hogan on fourth down) and his blitz pickups were very late.

Marcus Maye: -2

Maye was not necessarily atrocious, as he was involved in a great number of stops short of the first down marker (seven tackles short of the sticks plus one pass deflection), but he was victimized by Jordan Reed in coverage for two touchdowns. Reed had scored two touchdowns over his past 15 games. In addition, Maye missed three tackles.

Maye is going to be an excellent strong safety, but it has to be understood that he is not going to replicate Jamal Adams as his Buffalo performance suggested he might be capable of doing. While Maye is a fundamentally sound and highly intelligent player, Adams has both of those traits in addition to numerous game-breaking abilities that Maye does not have, including impeccable snap timing, quick burst, solid long speed, advanced pass-rush technique, and ruthless physicality.

Athletically and physically, Maye just isn’t on Adams’ level. Both players know how to play their position the right way, but Adams adds in unique gifts that put him over the top as a superstar. Maye does not have the special traits that push him from a great player to a game-changing presence. We saw that against San Francisco as Maye made more mistakes than Adams ever did in any one game from 2018-19 (Adams never allowed more than one touchdown or missed more than two tackles in a game over that span).

The Jets have a good starting safety in Maye that they should look to keep around for the long haul, but his Week 1 production may have led us slightly astray regarding the extent of his potential.

Bradley McDougald: -2

The biggest concern with the swap of Jamal Adams for McDougald was run defense, and that downgrade showed up in a big way on Sunday. McDougald took poor angles on both the game-opening 80-yard touchdown by Mostert and the 55-yard pickup on 3rd & 31 by McKinnon later in the game.

Blessuan Austin: -3

Austin has the tools to become a good player, but he has to clean up his tackling technique. He missed three tackles in the season opener and then botched another three in Week 2, leaving him tied for the NFL lead with six misses.

Neville Hewitt: -3

Hewitt is not a starting-caliber linebacker. It was obvious throughout 2019 and still is. His awareness against the run is poor, and in zone coverage, he is completely stagnant, simply running to his zone with no feel for the threats around him.

Against San Francisco, Hewitt was one of the main culprits on both rushing touchdowns allowed.

Greg Van Roten: -4

Van Roten is clearly the weak link on the offensive line right now. Against the 49ers, on plays by the Jets offense which culminated in a result that would be considered poor, I tagged Van Roten as one of the players to blame on eight of them, twice as many as any other lineman (George Fant 4, Lewis 3, McGovern 3, Andrews 2, Becton 2).

In both phases, Van Roten is really struggling to maintain blocks. He often enters his blocks with decent position and pad level but fails to establish adequate hand placement and thus frequently allowing his defender to shed and make a play. Van Roten is also having a hard time coming off of double teams and picking off linebackers at the second level, getting out there too late, allowing linebackers to shoot through and make plays in the backfield.

Henry Anderson: -5

Once a steal of a trade pickup, Anderson has become the worst value on the Jets roster. He ranks third on the team with an $8.3 million cap hit this season, yet does essentially nothing on the field.

Anderson logged 13 pass-rush snaps against the 49ers and picked up no sacks, no hits, and only one hurry. Over 21 snaps against the run, he contributed to zero tackles and made a huge mistake on Mostert’s 80-yard touchdown scamper, as Robby Sabo detailed here.

Anderson’s name appears in the play-by-play only one time.

With 1:05 left in the second quarter, the Jets were trailing by only 11 and had San Francisco in a 3rd & 8 situation at the edge of field goal range (Jets’ 36-yard line). A hobbling Jimmy Garoppolo ended up missing low on a throw due to excellent coverage by Brian Poole buying time for Jordan Jenkins to create solid interior pressure. Success! The Jets forced San Francisco into a long field goal attempt and will get the ball back down by two scores with enough time to try and slice into the lead going into halftime.

Instead, Anderson decided it would be cool to shove Garoppolo after he released the ball. Roughing the passer.

San Francisco went down and scored to take a 21-3 lead into halftime.

Alec Ogletree: -5

It would be unfair to expect Ogletree to look like Ray Lewis in a game where he was coming off the practice squad just 10 days after signing with the Jets, but Ogletree is an eighth-year veteran who has 94 starts of NFL experience and is in his prime at 28 years old. Plus, he played under Gregg Williams for three years with the Rams. Expecting some competent starter-caliber play out of Ogletree seems fair, even if he has never been a good starter.

In his Jets debut, Ogletree hardly even looked like he belonged on a practice squad. His movement speed was alarmingly slow, and he struggled in just about every facet both against the run and in coverage.

We still have not been given a good answer on why Avery Williamson did not start on Sunday. If the Jets are interested in winning games, they will put Williamson back out there in an every-down role. When Blake Cashman returns, there will be enough depth to rotate Williamson out for a few snaps per game (Cashman could play in certain passing situations or nickel/dime packages that call for 1 LB), but as things stand currently, Williamson would not be a downgrade compared to Hewitt or Ogletree in any situation and should be on the field at all times.

Studs

Jordan Jenkins: +1

A solid game for Jenkins. He had three stops in the run game on carries for two yards or less and added a strong open-field tackle to hold a Tevin Coleman dump-off to no gain. Jenkins also picked up a sack as he avoided falling for a play fake and maintained integrity on the edge to shut down a tight end screen. It was not a “legitimate” sack, as nobody blocked Jenkins and Nick Mullens went down himself, but Jenkins showed good discipline and recognition to blow up the play.

John Franklin-Myers: +1

In his Jets debut and first game since Super Bowl LIII with the Rams, Franklin-Myers showed off a lot of the pass-rushing upside that he displayed as a rookie in 2018. He picked up three quarterback hits over only 17 pass-rush snaps (17.6% pressure rate), each one from a different position (5-tech, 4i-tech, 3-tech).

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Braxton Berrios: +1

Berrios hauled in 6-of-7 targets for 59 yards, a beautiful touchdown from Darnold, and two more first downs. He was consistently open throughout the game and could have had some production if Darnold hit him a couple more times. Berrios did have one drop on a tough diving attempt off of a great throw from Darnold, but overall, he filled in for Jamison Crowder decently well.

I don’t have Chris Hogan listed here despite grabbing 6-of-8 for 75 yards and five firsts. Why? There were a few plays where he made an off-the-stat-sheet mistake. He missed a block on a 3rd & 1 that resulted in a stuff on Gore (which led to the infamous 4th & 1 stuff where Gase did not allow Darnold to check into a QB sneak), committed a penalty on a crackback block, blocked nobody on a third down bubble screen, and dropped a wide-open catch on what would have been a 10-yard first down pickup to continue a promising open drive, which instead resulted in a punt.

It was a solid game from Hogan, but the little things added up to cancel out some of his receiving production.

Overall, I think the Jets offense was hampered far more by Adam Gase’s play-calling than the route-running quality of the skill positions. Looking through every play, there were a ton of instances in which a passing play was shut down because Gase’s concept was beaten by the defensive call, and very few where the options were limited because a receiver flat-out could not separate from their defender. Gase is failing miserably at the simple concept of calling pass when the defense expects run and vice versa.

This skill group is definitely not good, but as depleted and shaky as it is, the Jets offense would be looking significantly more competent with a better play-caller at the helm.

Sam Darnold: +2

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