John Franklin-Myers set several personal records at home
True to the tropes of many “journey”-centric stories, sometimes your endeavor lies in the place you started. New York Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers personified those cliches on Sunday afternoon in Houston.
Facing the Houston Texans, the Stephen F. Austin University alum earned his first professional interception and multi-sack game, allowing the Jets (3-8) to keep pace despite letting up an early two-possession lead.
While the offense mounted a comeback, Franklin-Myers then partook in a defensive effort that allowed only 45 yards in the second half, allowing the Jets to escape Houston with a 21-14 victory.
Franklin-Myers’ timing for a breakout game couldn’t have been better from both a personal and team level.
The signer of a $55 million contract extension earlier this season, Franklin-Myers was one of the faces of the Jets’ most recent defeat. His crucial roughing penalty set up the Miami Dolphins’ deciding touchdown at MetLife Stadium last weekend, dooming New York to its third straight defeat (and tenth straight divisional loss).
Returning to Texas, the site of his first football heroics, was the perfect place to get back on track.
Franklin-Myers said the defenders kept each other’s heads held up high when the Texans (2-9) threatened to break the game open with touchdowns on consecutive possessions.
“I think we did a good job of just staying in there, staying locked in, and (linebacker C.J. Mosley) got us all together and just spoke to us. (He said) ‘we know how to play football. This is what we do, X, Y and Z.’ … Foley (Fatukasi) is a great leader, Sheldon (Rankins) talks to us, and then Elijah (Riley), who’s a young guy, came here three weeks ago and just set the bar high for us. We got some great players, great leaders on this team.”
According to Franklin-Myers, 50 of the reported 65,120 spectators who ventured to NRG Stadium were there on his dime … a fine time, perhaps, to be working with a new contract extension.
“My house is 30 minutes from here,” Franklin-Myers remarked, per notes from the Jets. “It was great. It was great to play in front of them. They don’t get the chance to come to New York very often, so just seeing them prior to the game and then going to see them for a second (afterward). But it was great, it was a great opportunity.”
Though born in Los Angeles, Franklin-Myers made his original gridiron mark in the Lone Star State. He starred 48 miles northeast of Dallas at Greenville High School before making his mark as a Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack in Nacogdoches, Tex., which sits 163 miles southeast of Dallas and 148 miles northeast of Houston.
Franklin-Myers returning to the City of Angels as a fourth-round pick of the Rams. Though he partook in the Rams’ trek to Super Bowl LIII (where he earned a strip sack of Tom Brady), a trip to New York awaited in 2019 after he was part of the Rams’ final roster cuts and quickly plucked by the Jets.
Injuries took away Franklin-Myers’ first year in New York but he served as a rare consistent silver lining during the Jets’ woebegone 2020 campaign. Management rewarded his efforts with the aforementioned extension after he and Quinnen Williams oversaw a hot start for the Jets’ pass rush without the services of prized acquisition Carl Lawson.
Entering Houston, however, the good vibes of Franklin-Myers’ early efforts had mostly vanished thanks to some historically atrocious postings from the New York defense. Part of those problems stemmed from the dormant pass rush: following a seven-sack effort in an Oct. 3 win over Tennessee, the Jets tallied only seven sacks over their prior six games. That included two blank slates, including one against the Dolphins last weekend.
Led by Franklin-Myers’ work, the Jets broke through for five takedowns of Tyrod Taylor on Sunday in Houston. He was involved in two, earning the first multi-sack game of his career and allowing him to officially double his prior personal best of three set last season.
“We just rush. We play off each other, we play together well. We kind of know what each other is going to do,” Franklin-Myers said of the Jets’ success in containing the mobile Taylor. “That helps us out when we play a guy like this because we’re all over the place, we’re playing off each other and making plays.”
Franklin-Myers praised the efforts of the defensive coaching staff that oversaw an effort that yielded only 202 Houston yards, the lowest single-game output from a Jets defense since November 2018 (168 yards at Miami).
“I think it starts with the coaches. They put a great plan together and now I think there’s no gray area for those guys,” Franklin-Myers said. “The coaches took it on themselves to make sure these guys are put in great positions and they were. Those guys just made plays. They were flying around, knocking people down, knocking the ball out. Even in some of the run game, just flying to the ball, making tackles, TFLs. I mean, it was great to see that from those guys.”
But the talk of Sunday’s game centered around Franklin-Myers’ interception on the Texans’ first possession, one that ended a 12-play, 62-yard trek that entered New York territory. He broke through on a blitz alongside Fatukasi, who laid down a hit on Taylor as he got the ball away.
Taylor avoided the sack, but Franklin-Myers tipped the low throw to himself and proceeded to take the ball back 32 yards to the Houston 37. New York would end the ensuing drive with a Matt Ammendola field goal that gave them their first lead since the end of their Oct. 31 upset win over Cincinnati.
Franklin-Myers’ 32-yard runback was the longest for a Jets defensive lineman in the Super Bowl era and third-best in overall franchise history behind AFL representatives Verlon Biggs (44, 1965) and LaVerne Torczone (40, 1964).
The runback, Franklin-Myers said, was a product of Fatukasi’s pressure. Obviously, the end zone was his destination, but he was caught from behind by Texans running back David Johnson, forcing the Jets to settle for an Ammendola triple.
As much as Franklin-Myers wanted to score (he hinted that Sunday’s runback was his first opportunity to score since a pair of inexplicable rushing attempts at Greenville) he said that Johnson’s pursuit caused him to make a business decision.
“I ran and got it, and I tried to score, I really did. I tried to score, but shoot, I had to be smart there,” Franklin-Myers recalled from his runback. “I think everybody wants to try to score a touchdown, but it’s more important to have the ball, you know, the possession. We all want to score the touchdowns, you know, like, ‘Let me get out of bounds. I don’t want to risk fumbling, I don’t want to risk nothing.’ So it is what it is, I’ll have another opportunity.”
Even if Franklin-Myers failed to show up in the scoring summary, head coach Robert Saleh sang his praises during his postgame availability claiming the defender was “worth his weight in gold”.
Considering Franklin-Myers is officially listed at 288 lbs., it’s pay for New York.
“He has a very high standard for himself, and I know he was beating himself up all week for (the penalty against Miami),” Saleh said. “At the same time, he comes out to practice every single day, he works his butt off and he’s working his tail off on game day. It was really cool for him to get the production he got.”
Franklin-Myers and the Jets return to action next Sunday afternoon at home against the Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags