The Jets entered their bye week at 4-6, following an ugly 15-10 loss at the Bucs last weekend. The defeat in Tampa was telling of what Todd Bowles’ squad is at this point: young and inconsistent. Still, the Jets have found some pieces that look to be future stars, and there’s no doubt they’ve overachieved through the first 10 games of 2017.
Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets are 4-6 at the bye week.
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Here are grades for all the Jets’ position groups, as the team enjoys its weekend off.
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At 38 years old, Josh McCown is putting together a career season. He became the oldest player in NFL history to set a career high in touchdown passes when he tossed his 14th last weekend against the Bucs, and he’s on pace to reach 3,000 yards for the first time in his 15 NFL seasons. Quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said this week he expected this type of play from McCown, but many on the outside of One Jets Drive are rightfully impressed.
RUNNING BACKS: C+
Obviously, production from running backs is largely contingent on blocking and play-calling, and the Jets have been up-and-down in both those departments this season. But the stats are unavoidable here. The Jets are in the bottom half of the league in yards per attempt (4.0, 19th) and yards per game (101.6, 20th). The yards per game stat is even a bit misleading. They’ve surpassed 100 yards in four of 10 games. In the other six games, the Jets are averaging just 56 yards. The three-headed backfield of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Eli McGuire has been middling.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
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After Quincy Enunwa went down with a season-ending neck injury in August, there was talk of this year’s Jets having the worst offense of all time. Clearly that turned out not to be the case, and solid play from the wide receivers has been a major reason why. Robby Anderson (586 yards, five touchdowns) is proving to be a dangerous deep threat — and a more complete pass-catcher than many thought. Jermaine Kearse, who joined the Jets in the Sheldon Richardson deal in September, has brought a veteran presence and sturdy hands. Rookies Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart have yet to see considerable playing time.
TIGHT ENDS: B+
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When Austin Seferian-Jenkins was cut by the Bucs last season after a DUI arrest, the Jets jumped at the opportunity to claim him off waivers. Seferian-Jenkins got his life together in the offseason, dropping weight and giving up alcohol. He’s responded with a comeback campaign, and entering the bye week, has nearly doubled his previous career high for receptions. Seferian-Jenkins leads the team with 39 catches. Eric Tomlinson, meanwhile, has established himself as a valuable run-blocking asset. Tomlinson also has six catches for 111 yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C-
There may be some recency bias here, considering the offensive line played its worst game of the season Sunday against the Bucs. McCown got hit a staggering 14 times in the loss, and the Jets rushed for just 56 yards on 19 carries. Through 10 games, the Jets’ offensive line has allowed the sixth-most quarterback hits in the league. The run-blocking has been inconsistent
DEFENSIVE LINE: C
Outside of Kony Ealy, who leads all defensive linemen with nine passes defended this season, the production just hasn’t been there for the Jets up front. Leonard Williams is playing better than his conventional stats show. He’s only recorded 1.5 sacks, but his 17 QB hits rank third in the league. The same can’t be said for Mo Wilkerson, who has been a non-factor outside of three good games this year. Wilkerson accounts for an $ 18 million cap hit this season but has only shown flashes of his Pro Bowl self, totaling just two sacks and an interception. The Jets are 23rd in the league in run defense, allowing 117.9 yards per game.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: C+
The Jets’ outside linebackers entered 2017 with some new life, courtesy of Kevin Greene, the energetic and passionate Hall of Fame pass rusher who joined Bowles’ coaching staff this offseason. But while there’s been marginal improvement — the group has already matched its sack total from 2016 with 5.5 — the Jets’ outside linebackers are still not having as much of an impact as they should.
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INSIDE LINEBACKERS: B
Demario Davis told the Daily News this week that 2017 was “the year where I was going to re-write my legacy” and he’s certainly started to do that through 10 games. His 82 combined tackles are tied for the third in the league. After longtime linebacker David Harris got cut in June, Davis assumed the role of defensive signal-caller, and he’s helped guide the young unit to some legitimate success. On Davis’ side, second-year former first-round pick Darron Lee (two sacks, six tackles for loss, three passes defended, two forced fumbles) has broken through after a rough start to the year.
Rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye have been as good as advertised this season. Adams (two sacks, two fumble recoveries) is a bona fide playmaker who should be a cornerstone of this defense and a leader in the locker room for years to come. The LSU product has played all over the field — in coverage on tight ends, in the box, blitzing, deep — and is the type of versatile player Bowles loves using in his scheme. Maye is an ideal complement, mostly playing center field while also dishing out some vicious hits.
Morris Claiborne, whom the Jets signed to a one-year deal this offseason, was playing at a high level before injuring his foot in Week 8 and has been a key factor in the Jets’ improved pass defense. However, Juston Burris has been a huge disappointment in his second season, and Buster Skrine continues to struggle with penalties. Skrine has drawn the second-most penalty flags in the league this season with 11.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
According to advanced metrics, the Jets had the worst special teams in the league last season, so coordinator Brant Boyer should be praised for turning things around in 2017. This year, per the same metrics, the Jets have the 16th-best special teams in the league. Boyer says a big reason for that is stability. Josh Martin, Bruce Carter, Rontez Miles and Julian Stanford have anchored the unit. Terrence Brooks has also added speed. Lachlan Edwards is developing more consistency and could grow into one of the game’s elite punters.
HC TODD BOWLES: A
When everyone was predicting an 0-16 campaign and discussing tanking for a franchise quarterback, Bowles was motivating his young group and focusing on winning games. Even after a listless loss at the Bucs, Bowles has exceeded expectations this season. He’s helped change the culture at One Jets Drive. He’s found a way to get the most out of his players. As far as we’re concerned, he’s aced the test in 2017
OC JOHN MORTON: C+
Morton is a disciple of Jon Gruden and Sean Payton, and as such, has a tendency to get pass-happy in his play-calling. After a Week 8 loss to the Falcons, Forte called out Morton for abandoning the run in monsoon conditions at MetLife Stadium. Credit to the rookie offensive coordinator for adjusting the next week against the Bills, but his unit was nothing short of atrocious last week against the Bucs. The Jets are 21st in the league in scoring.
DC KACY RODGERS: B-
The Jets are 21st in total defense and 16th in scoring defense. But Rodgers avoids a C here because the defense, outside of Week 2 in Oakland, has kept the team in games. A big reason why? The Jets have forced 17 takeaways, third-most in the NFL
GM MIKE MACCAGNAN: B
Maccagnan assembled the 2016 roster that eventually burst into flames. Locker room discord turned a once-promising season into utter disaster, and an offseason roster purge commenced. However, Maccagnan deserves credit for garnering enough talent to allow Bowles to be competitive this season. He claimed Seferian-Jenkins. He signed Claiborne. He drafted Adams and Maye. He traded for Kearse, Brooks and Davis. He claimed Ealy. As Bowles would put it, Maccagnan worked some gymnastics, and he’s put together a young core that has an opportunity to be special.
Now about finding that quarterback…