JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Looking for No. 1: Did the Jets take the wrong guy with the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NFL draft?
Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams still is looking for his first sack. Jacksonville Jaguars pass-rusher Josh Allen, whom the Jets will face Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at TIAA Bank Stadium, already has five — only two shy of the Jets’ team total. It’s ridiculous, of course, to draw a conclusion after only two months, especially since Williams missed two games with an ankle injury that was more serious than reported. He also plays the interior, which is not always conducive to gaudy stats.
That said, Williams believes he’s ready to change the narrative.
“That breakout game is very close,” the former Alabama star said. “It’s very close because I’ve been getting better and better every week. … I feel I’ve been stepping into myself now, getting to how it was in college. Each week, my technique gets better and better. Each week, my studying gets better and better. It’s been amazing.”
It can be fun (and sometimes painful) to play the what-if game with the draft. The Jets knew they were going to get an elite defender at No. 3. End Nick Bosa, Williams and tackle Ed Oliver were their favorites, likely in that order. (Bosa was picked No. 2 by the San Francisco 49ers.) Allen was a notch below in their eyes. He was highly productive at Kentucky, but the Jets’ former regime — fired three weeks after the draft — felt his stats were padded against the lesser teams of the SEC. What?! Obviously, the Jets didn’t listen to me; my choice was Allen.
“He still has a long way to go from a technical standpoint, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he grows into one of the better players around the league,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said of Allen, who plays a big role in Jacksonville’s defensive-line rotation.
Allen wanted to play for the Jets because he’s from Montclair, New Jersey, but he fell to the No. 7 pick. The Jets, like most teams, were blown away by Williams’ “freak” factor. We’ve seen glimpses here and there (his fourth-and-2 stop against the Dallas Cowboys was awesome), but nothing on a consistent basis. Williams promises to change that. Soon.
2. Trader Joe: The trading deadline is Tuesday and, yes, general manager Joe Douglas and the Jets are open for business. The Jets are listening to teams that are interested in defensive lineman Leonard Williams and wide receiver Robby Anderson, sources said. My sense is they would be willing to discuss any player on the roster, save for the obvious few exceptions. It could be the start of a roster turnover that continues through the offseason.
3. Exorcising the ghosts: Sunday’s spotlight will be on quarterback Sam Darnold, who attempts to rebound from the worst game of his career. One of his strengths — one of the traits that attracted the Jets to him — is his ability to rebound from adversity. You saw it last season, as he almost always showed resilience after a clunker of a game. This will be a huge test because the Jaguars, even without cornerback Jalen Ramsey (traded) and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (surgery), still have playmakers on defense.
Two things to watch:
Darnold’s footwork: It was sloppy against the New England Patriots, as he displayed happy feet in the pocket and threw off his back foot while facing pressure. (He has been pressured on 35% of his dropbacks, the third-highest rate among qualified quarterbacks.) He spent the week trying to clean that up; it was a major coaching point in practice.
His ability to read the blitz: The Jaguars aren’t an exotic blitzing team, but they will send pressure. In fact, they send five or more rushers on 29.5% of dropbacks, ninth in the league. No doubt, they went to school on the New England tape, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they incorporate more Cover Zero blitzes. Darnold needs to see the field better than he did against the Patriots, who intercepted him three times on blitzes.
“It’s up to us to make them pay if they want to bring the house,” he said.
4. Favre backs Sam: Darnold, taking a lot of grief because of his miked-up comment about “seeing ghosts,” received public support from Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. Speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Favre said:
“I don’t know Sam Darnold. I feel like, just my interpretation of what I see, I think he’s going to be really good if he can survive the onslaught. Seeing ghosts is, ‘I thought the guy was blitzing’ or ‘I saw the safety back up into deep coverage,’ and then you watch the film and that’s not the case. It’s really nothing other than being a young player, being exposed to a lot of stuff. … You’ve got to go with all your guns blazing, and if he makes mistakes, he makes mistakes.”
Spoken like a true gunslinger.
5. Throw to 26: If coach Adam Gase wants to help Darnold, he should get Le’Veon Bell involved in the passing game. How about a screen pass to slow down the pass rush? How about letting Bell leak out of the backfield as a safety valve? Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a killing by dumping off to Bell when he was under heavy pressure.
Bell, who had 27 catches in the first four games but only two since Darnold returned, said he has talked to the coaches and Darnold about “getting me more involved” in the passing game. Good idea, especially with the Jaguars down three linebackers.
6. Medical missteps: Kelechi Osemele is gone, but he won’t be forgotten. The Jets’ handling of the situation raised eyebrows around the league, with one personnel executive saying Saturday before Osemele’s release, “It’s a bad optic for the team and it sends a bad message to the locker room. What are they thinking?”
We may never know the full story — the Jets have refused to comment — but it’s hard to side with the team based on what we do know. It shines a light on some questionable decisions on Gase’s watch: Linebacker Avery Williamson blew out an ACL while playing with the second-team defense in a preseason game, prompting a public apology from Gase. Linebacker C.J. Mosley played for three-plus quarters last Monday night even though it was clear he was limited by a previous groin injury. He aggravated the injury, and now there’s a chance he will miss the rest of the season.
Players notice this type of stuff.
7. So long, C.J.? The prediction here is that Mosley (groin) will be placed on injured reserve. If that happens, his 2019 tally will look like this: Two incomplete games, 108 snaps, nine tackles, one interception, one touchdown and $19 million in total compensation — crushing on many levels.
9. Hidden gem: The Jets found a keeper in rookie defensive end Kyle Phillips, undrafted out of Tennessee. With his playing time increasing in recent weeks, he leads the defensive line with 21 total tackles. The coaches believe Phillips has a bright future.
10. The last word: This is a special game for Quinnen Williams and his family. His brother, Quincy Williams, is a rookie linebacker for the Jaguars and was a third-round pick. Quincy (hamstring) is expected to sit out, but that won’t stop their father, grandmother, two siblings and dozens of friends from making the trip to Jacksonville. One loved one will be missing — their mother, Marquischa, who died of breast cancer at the age of 37 in 2010. Quinnen was only 12.
“If she was here, I don’t think she’d leave the field,” Quinnen said, smiling. “I know she’d want to be in the end zone with a camera person’s jacket on, as close as possible to see if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing on the field. … I know she’ll be watching. She’ll have the best seat in the house. I know she’ll be watching no matter what she’s doing.”