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Will McDonald headlines ‘My Guys’ on the 2024 New York Jets

Will McDonald, NY Jets, Players, Roster
Will McDonald, New York Jets, Getty Images

These are “my guys” on the 2024 New York Jets

“That’s my guy right there!”

It’s a phrase we sports fans and writers like to say when one of our guys makes a play.

What exactly is a “my guy,” you might ask? I’ve come up with a simple definition: A player you hold in a significantly higher regard than the consensus.

The key to determining who your guys are is not to rank players based on how good you expect them to be. Rather, you must determine the margin between your expectations for them and the average person’s expectations. You can use a simple formula: My Expectations – Public Expectations = My Guy Rating.

If I could only choose three, these are “my guys” on the 2024 New York Jets.

John Simpson

John Simpson is arguably the sixth-most popular offensive lineman on the Jets. It makes sense, as his background is hardly that of a player who would excite the average fan. He is a former fourth-round pick who was cast off by the Raiders in the middle of his third season, landing on the Ravens’ practice squad. After one year as a starter in Baltimore, he landed a modest two-year, $12 million contract with the Jets. The Jets have paid more money to backup tackles.

Yet, I cannot help but find myself enamored with this graceful brute. There is plenty to love about the 26-year-old left guard.

Whenever I watch Simpson on film, I come away thoroughly impressed with his awareness in pass protection, his ability to anchor against the bull rush, and his pulling skills as a run blocker. The analytics unanimously support the notion that Simpson is a very good pass blocker, and while his run-blocking stats are subpar, they are countered by the sterling reputation he built in Baltimore as a mauling road-grader. His physical play style should fit well with a Jets team that projects to become more of a power-running team this year.

Most people probably expect Simpson to be a JAG (“Just A Guy”), but I see one of the NFL’s top 10-15 left guards in the 2024 season.

Chuck Clark

Chuck Clark was already a pretty underrated player going into the 2023 season. He was a low-key acquisition, as the Jets acquired him for a measly seventh-round pick.

Most importantly, the trade occurred at a time when people were desperate for some Aaron Rodgers news, which made the deal fly under the radar. In the midst of constant refreshing, fans were irked when they saw the words “Trade: Jets agreed to send” pop up on their screen, only to see they traded for… Chuck Clark.

With the Rodgers saga being the only thing on any Jets fan’s mind at the time, the Clark trade was swept under the rug for a while. By the time fans finally got a chance to dive into Clark, it wasn’t long until he was ruled out for the year with a torn ACL.

Fast forward to today. After already being an underrated player, Clark is a year older and coming off a major injury. The Jets’ decision to re-sign him was overshadowed by countless other offseason moves. Heck, he wasn’t even the most notable safety to be re-signed. Ashtyn Davis’ return generated more excitement.

Suffice to say, there isn’t much hype surrounding Clark. And I’m not saying there should be “hype” around him, per se, but I believe Clark will provide the Jets with a major upgrade at their weakest defensive position – even if he’s only an average player.

Jordan Whitehead led all safeties with 20 missed tackles in 2023. He and Tony Adams combined for 35 whiffs, tying them for the most of any safety duo. Enter Clark, who averaged only 7.0 missed tackles per year over his most recent three seasons (49 starts) – doing it as an every-down starter in all three seasons. From 2020-22, he had the ninth-lowest missed tackle rate among 64 qualifying safeties at 7.3%.

The Jets’ safeties yielded a plethora of big plays by taking recklessly aggressive angles as the last line of defense. That won’t happen with Clark. He excels at keeping everything in front of him in the open field. Breakaway plays that went for 40 yards in 2023 will be held to 20 yards with Clark.

Clark’s impact will be subtle, as he’s not a splashy playmaker. He had zero interceptions in his most recent season and averages less than one per 17 games for his career. So, even if he wins a starting job and plays well, it’s likely he still won’t garner much attention. And that’s why he’s one of my guys. I think Clark will boost the Jets’ defense in a fashion that will go unnoticed by many.

Will McDonald

He was the Jets’ 2023 first-round pick and is being counted on to replace the team’s biggest loss, so Will McDonald is hardly flying under the radar. Most people are aware he is one of the team’s most significant X-factors this year.

However, it seems that expectations for McDonald are generally held in check. While he has his subset of believers, most fans and writers are in wait-and-see mode on McDonald rather than penciling him in as a breakout star.

Count me as one of the believers. I’m calling it now: McDonald is going to explode this year.

McDonald already played like a star when he was on the field in 2023. On just 99 pass-rush snaps, he recorded four sacks (two full, two half) and 12 total pressures. Look where his efficiency metrics ranked out of the 132 edge rushers who played at least 90 pass-rush snaps:

  • 4.0% sack rate: 4th
  • 12.1% pressure rate: 50th
  • 16.0% pass-rush win rate: 21st
  • 22.7% true pass set win rate: 18th

McDonald is one of only three edge rushers to hit all four of these rates in a season since 2022. The others: Trey Hendrickson (2023) and Haason Reddick (2022). Nice company to keep.

If McDonald maintained these rates over 334 pass-rush snaps (Bryce Huff’s 2023 total), he would have 13 sacks and 40 total pressures.

Obviously, the sample size was extremely small. McDonald must prove he can maintain these numbers in a larger role, particularly his sack rate, which was world-class. I’d be shocked if he maintained the 4% mark, but even if he fell all the way to 3%, that would still give him 10 sacks on Huff’s snap count while ranking 21st out of 132 qualifiers last year.

However, with another year of development under his belt, McDonald is due for a leap. As a better overall player, he should be capable of maintaining these rates in a larger role – or even improving them. In particular, his pressure rate is due to catch up to his win rate. There were some reps where McDonald clearly won but didn’t record a pressure because he was unlucky to have the ball come out quickly.

While second-year leaps are never guaranteed, the Jets’ defensive coaching staff has proven numerous times that it excels at developing moldable young players. At the edge position, we’ve seen incredible year-over-year improvement from Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Huff under this regime. Why can’t McDonald – the highest draft pick of the trio – do the same?

On top of the intriguing stats, I love what McDonald displayed on film. The eye test matches the numbers. As Joe Blewett displayed in his review of McDonald’s film, his athleticism on the edge is downright elite. He is ridiculously bendy and flexible around the corner. When you watch him, you can’t help but see flashes of the NFL’s elite speed rushers.

With a large uptick in snaps and a full offseason to sharpen his game, I believe McDonald’s top-tier pass-rushing traits will be put on full display this year. Most fans and writers believe it can happen, but few are willing to go all-in and say that it will. I am, and that’s why he’s one of my guys.

Other popular choices

I put out a tweet asking fans to name the top three players they would choose as “their guys.”

The three players I chose were also common among Jets fans. McDonald may be the most popular overall. In addition, these six players seemed to be among the most common choices.

Tyler Conklin

I wrestled between Conklin and McDonald for my third slot after Simpson and Clark. This is a great pick. As I wrote about recently, Conklin is poised to see a huge jump in clutch plays with Aaron Rodgers. I expect him to be a fixture in the red zone and on third down.

Javon Kinlaw

While I personally am not high on Javon Kinlaw, I think he’s a great pick for this particular exercise. Remember the formula for MGR (My Guy Rating): My Expectations – Public Expectations. The Kinlaw signing has not received rave reviews. Expectations for him are relatively low. So, if you’re a fan of Kinlaw’s game to any degree, he’s definitely one of your guys.

Tony Adams

Another good pick. Adams had an up-and-down 2023 season, but he’s only started 16 games in his career, so a breakout could still be in his future. A good athlete with excellent technique in man coverage, Adams has the potential to become a big-time playmaker.

Jeremy Ruckert

Ruckert is a player worth placing stock into, and not just because he’s a fan favorite from Long Island. Ruckert displayed plenty of flashes as a blocker and receiver in 2023. In an offense that likes to use two tight ends, he should have opportunities to break out in 2023.

Garrett Wilson

An interesting pick that I saw multiple times. Fans who chose Wilson usually explained that their choice was a result of them viewing Wilson as someone who will become a total superstar in 2023 – we’re talking Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill-level production. If you see him playing at that level, then he can definitely be one of your guys. Just about every Jets fan is optimistic about Wilson, but viewing him that highly puts you in the upper tier of Wilson optimism.

Malachi Corley

Most Jets fans are excited about Corley, but considering he’s a rookie third-round pick, the majority of fans seem to be keeping their expectations realistic. If you love Corley enough to think he will be an instant stud as a rookie, then he’s a fantastic pick to be one of your guys. There tend to be a few post-first-round receivers each year who instantly shine in their rookie season. Why can’t the “YAC King” be one of them in 2024?

Other picks: Allen Lazard, Olu Fashanu, Kenny Yeboah, Brandin Echols, Qwan’tez Stiggers, Solomon Thomas, Eric Watts, Braelon Allen, Isaiah Davis, Joe Tippmann, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Irvin Charles, Breece Hall, Morgan Moses, Jamien Sherwood, Ashtyn Davis, Aaron Rodgers

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