The Jets are flying into Chicago this weekend and the Bears are still looking for their first win against the AFC East this year. The Bears and Jets have some recent shared history, including Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Josh McCown (still there!) playing in green after their time donning navy and orange. As you’ll see from the exchange I had with our sister site Gang Green Nation and Michael Nania, the Jets are similar to the 2017 Bears or the 2016 Rams.
Windy City Gridiron - 1. When I watched the draft this spring, I thought that the NY Giants made a monumental mistake in taking Saquon Barkley. Not because Barkley isn’t a rare talent (he looks to be a stud) but because they passed on Sam Darnold. How excited was the fan base that Darnold fell to the Jets and how has he looked in his rookie campaign?
Gang Green Nation: The excitement was tremendous. Fans wanted a quarterback badly from the very start of the 2017 season knowing the team was tanking. When they fell to 6th in draft position, there was a bit of skepticism as you were unsure which quarterbacks, if any, would fall to the Jets at #6. When the Jets made the trade up to #3, everyone knew it was for a quarterback, and the excitement leading into the draft was surreal.
Fans would’ve been happy with any one of Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, or Darnold, so long as the pick was not Josh Allen. However, most fans presumed Darnold would go to Cleveland #1 and that the pick was between Rosen and Mayfield. When Darnold fell to #3, it was a shock, and fans were ecstatic to have him in particular and to simply finally have that franchise quarterback they could rally around.
Production-wise, he’s been a typical rookie. Darnold has played great in each of the Jets’ three victories and also played well in a loss to Miami. However, in the Jets’ other three losses, against the talented defenses presented by Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Minnesota, Darnold was plainly terrible. He sits near the bottom of the league in completion percentage and passer rating and leads the league in interceptions with 10.
However, as I previously mentioned, that’s typical of a rookie - let alone the youngest ever. Few rookies are plus starters - after all, take a look at the rest of the rookie class. Mayfield is in a similar neighborhood with high highs and low lows, while Allen and Rosen have struggled mightily in poor situations.
Darnold has been remarkable off the field with his team and football-first mentality, and on the field has flashed with money throws, arm strength, aggressiveness, and bounceback ability that fans are not used to seeing from quarterbacks on this team. He’s going to continue to have his ups and downs this year, but long-term, the promise is high.
WCG - 2. The Jets may be where the Bears were a year ago – with a rookie QB playing for a defensive coach and no real weapons for him to throw the ball. Am I wrong on my assessment? Who should Bears fans be worried about making plays against this Bears defense on Sunday?
GGN: A month ago or before the season I would’ve lauded this skill group as underrated and a top-half unit, but they are very banged up. Their best skill player, WR Quincy Enunwa, will miss another game. Terrelle Pryor, not a good player but capable of occasional big plays, is off the team. Jermaine Kearse does not look 100%. The Jets are down to that declining Kearse and Robby Anderson as their top two WRs - they recently picked Rishard Matthews off the scrapheap to save Darnold from the situation he was in against Minnesota throwing to fringe roster players.
Don’t sleep on Anderson. He’s a legit deep threat. He toasts his way open downfield against top corners weekly - whether or not he racks up the production to match his play is a coin toss based on the quarterbacking performance. He toasted Xavier Rhodes this past week but was overthrown by Darnold. The downfield chemistry between these two is still a work in progress, but the flashes have been there.
At RB, Bilal Powell is now done for the year. He is a far, far better pass protector and pass catcher than Isaiah Crowell, who will likely take over the lion’s share of the carries. Rookie Trenton Cannon is very speedy and flashed with a 30+ yard wheel route reception last week - but has very shaky hands as a receiver and ball-carrier. We’ll have to see where he fits in with Powell out.
At TE, the Jets are uninspiring. They love to utilize all four of their tight ends in pass protection and as run blockers, but don’t have an established receiving threat. That could be changing - rookie Chris Herndon has begun to flash with touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. Earning playing time as a strong pass protector, he had an ugly drop early in the year in a key spot of the Miami loss, but is now making more and more big plays each week.
As for your assessment, I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve said a lot that the Bears are who I want the Jets to be next year - 2nd year QB, fresh new HC (preferably offense-minded), and a lot of new weapons.
WCG: 3. Todd Bowles is in his 4th year as Head Coach for the Jets and has a 23-32 record. (Fun aside – a fight over Todd Bowles is the reason the Bears passed on Bruce Arians as then-GM Phil Emery insisted Arians keep Rod Marinelli on as Defensive Coordinator but Arians wanted to bring in Bowles. That led to the Bears hiring Marc Trestman instead and
everyone lived happily ever after … let’s just move back to the questions) Back to the parallels with the Bears – it seems like the Jets may be in prime position to hire a creative offensive mind (John Defilippo?) as HC and stock the roster with weapons for Darnold. Is there a sense of inevitability to that plan or can Bowles save his job?
GGN: I think Bowles is in the middle of the see-saw right now. Coming into the year, in spite of his mediocre track record and lack of progression, he seemed safe. With a rookie quarterback, he looked like he would have a lot of rope. However, Bowles has had ugly performances in a few losses this year, making blatant playcalling errors defensively, watching his players commit timely penalties and ridiculous post-play ones, and failing to adjust. All of these things have been issues back to his first year in 2015.
The Jets did not have the expectation of winning games this year, but I think Bowles needs to get to at least 7 wins to save his job. The Jets have won 5 games each of the last two years. At some point, enough is enough regardless of circumstance. If he finishes in that 7-8 win range without the playoffs, I think it’s up in the air and will depend on the organization’s thoughts on him. If he falls short of 7, I think there’s a good chance he might be done. If he somehow gets a winning record, he will probably be back.
I can tell you this for sure - nothing short of a Super Bowl win will turn this fanbase back towards his side.
WCG: 4. On the other side of the ball, the Jets spent the 6th overall pick on Jamal Adams, safety out of LSU, who was my favorite player coming out of the 2017 draft. The Jets also, famously around these parts, took Leonard Williams one pick before the Bears spot in the 2015 draft with the 6th pick. How have those two popular Bears targets played so far and who else should we know from this defense?
GGN: Leonard Williams is a huge enigma and splits this fanbase. I don’t think anybody will debate he has been a good player. He plays hard, executes stunts, brings tremendous power to the table, and defends the run very well. He’s at the very top of the leaderboards in stuffs and quarterback hits since he entered the league. However, he has not really progressed since his rookie season. He goes long stretches without sacks and sometimes has games with a lot of 0s in the box score. Does the box score tell the whole story? Heck no. Williams creates a lot of pressure forcing mistakes by QBs and draws quite a lot of double teams that limit his production and help teammates. Howver, he simply has not been as dominant as he was pitched to be. Is he good? Yes. Has he been the team’s most consistent performer across the 3.5 seasons he has been here? Yes. But is he great? Maybe not. At just 24, perhaps there is still progression to be made for him. At the least, he’s a presence on every play who typically plays good run defense and gets in the face of the quarterback a few times a game.
Jamal Adams rocks. He had an up and down, but very promising rookie year. He defended the run well and contributed on a lot of turnovers, but struggled in coverage against tight ends as he yielded a multitude of touchdown receptions.
This year, he’s started to bring it all together. His run defense went from very good to elite - he is making multiple stuffs per game, most of them coming off of the edge. He cleaned up some his tackling issues and has been very efficient finishing plays this year. If you don’t block him on the edge, he’s going to make the play, and if you do, it better not be a tight end or wide receiver - he’ll smash them.
His coverage is so much better. In man, he’s less hasty and has stuck to his matchups. In zone, he has still made a few mistakes, but he’s done better making plays on the football. Last season, he was often overagressive and found himself tripping or being overpowered at the catch point and at the top of routes - those things aren’t happening as much.
Though still with improvement to make - Adams is a playmaker in every facet and he has proven capable of lining up anywhere. He’s been most dominant on the edge defending the run. He’s the best player on the team (ideally Darnold takes over that title down the line) and the organization and fanbase alike are very happy to have him.
WCG: 5. The NFL trading deadline used to be a nothing story, but in recent years has really heated up. Let’s pretend we’re the GMs of our respective beloved franchises. What trade makes sense between the Jets and Bears?
GGN: This is a hard section to fill out since the Jets are devoid of many enticing trade pieces.
I could see DE/DT Henry Anderson as an interesting trade chip. 27 but only in his 4th NFL season, Anderson was shipped out of Indy due to a throat injury and a switch from a 3-4 to 4-3. Now at home in his natural scheme and healthy, Anderson is a force. While not a strong run defender, he is a very solid interior pass rusher, has a great motor, and great awareness that has helped him deflect a few passes and get out to limit a few passing plays. I think he can help any 3-4 defensive front improve their pass rush as a rotational piece. For the Bears, he wouldn’t even have to be on the field more than 25%-40% of the time, but I think he could help them get even more dominant defensively. You could have him for a 4th round pick?
That’s not exciting, so let’s make things ridiculous. Give us Allen Robinson, Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, and Khalil Mack, and we’ll give you Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, Isaiah Crowell, Morris Claiborne, Jermaine Kearse, and two firsts plus two thirds. Deal?
WCG: Honestly, I think it would take an act of Congress to trade Mack at this point. However, I think Jordan Howard probably be available. Can we interest you in, say, Dion Sims or Marcus Cooper?!
Thanks to Michael and Gang Green Nation for the time and knowledge!