After each game, we've been highlighting three defensive and three offensive players and looking in detail at their performance. We'll conclude today with the defense:
Perhaps less is Mau
One final look at Arthur Maulet gives us a chance to ask the following existential question:
Who exactly is the Jets' number one cornerback?
The answer is obviously "Brian Poole" but let's treat slot cornerback as a different position from cornerback and it becomes a lot more difficult to answer.
Obviously it was supposed to be Trumaine Johnson. Then Johnson got benched, fined and ultimately injured, by which time Darryl Roberts was clearly the number one by default. Roberts himself was then fined, injured and benched with Maulet and Bless Austin moving into the starting line-up.
Of the two, Austin was the more impressive, making more plays while Maulet wasn't targeted much in the early going. However, Austin was then benched too - for Maurice Canady, who Gregg Williams singled out for praise during the week. Maulet obviously became the de facto number one when Austin was benched, but over the past few weeks, Canady has outperformed him and Maulet potentially could have been close to a benching himself by the end of Sunday's game.
Considering the fact that Austin was benched for getting beaten deep while playing prevent defense, we can assume Williams wasn't too happy with Maulet on this play, which came on 3rd-and-10 with under two minutes left and ultimately led to the Jets having to endure an onside kick to clinch the win:
Maulet did make some good contributions with seven tackles including two tackles for loss and an interception on a wayward screen pass. However, he gave up over 100 yards in coverage with Duke Williams having a career-day and doing most of the damage on him.
Maulet also had a couple of missed tackles, including one on Williams, who fought him off at the catch point to turn a 10-12 yard pass into a 23-yard play.
Overall, Maulet gave up 165 yards on 20 targets over the past two games, having only given up 122 yards on 20 targets over the rest of the season. While he's put himself in the mix for a role if he returns next year, he's not been so good that he'll be certain to be back.
Still in the 'gesstation period
James Burgess has a lot in common with Maulet. Both are restricted free agents at the end of the season and improved their chances of returning over the last several weeks. Also, they each had their first interception of the season on Sunday but, despite this, were the two lowest-graded Jets according to Pro Football Focus.
Burgess had nine tackles to finish up the season as the Jets' leading tackler with 80. One of these was for a loss, one was for no gain and one was an assist on a pass for a short gain.
Burgess didn't have a bad game in coverage, giving up just one first down catch over the middle on five targets. As noted, he picked up his first interception of the season, dropping off into a trap coverage where Matt Barkley obviously didn't see him.
While he was productive, the main problem for Burgess was that he missed three tackles and was slow to read and react against the run on a few occasions. Two end-around plays saw him getting caught inside as he was a step late to react and he also completely misread this play:
It's difficult to know what the Jets plan to do with Burgess next season. He was productive, but had a lot of negative plays and graded out as below average. However, alongside CJ Mosley, perhaps some of his mistakes would be ironed out.
The Jets will also get Blake Cashman back and still have to make a decision on Avery Williamson, who has an $8.5 million cap number in 2020. On paper, Burgess isn't as good as Williamson and might fare better in a situational role. However, the Jets may feel otherwise, especially with the cap savings releasing Williamson would free up to help them upgrade elsewhere.
Basham? I barely knew 'em!
Tarell Basham has had a strong finish to the season, posting an 89.6 grade over the final four games according to Pro Football Focus. This continued on Sunday as he registered an impressive strip-sack which was surprisingly overturned by the replay booth to highlight a performance which also saw him bat down two passes at the line, register three other pressures, assist on a tackle in the backfield and recover a fumble.
The strip-sack was an impressive pass rush rep from Basham who took on the block and then leveraged off him smoothly by slapping down on his outside hand and closing explosively for a big hit on Barkley:
Basham also did a solid job against the run, although his only other tackle came on a short pass. On special teams, he was called for an illegal blindside block but this too seemed like a bad call by the officials.
Although he only had two sacks, Basham ended the season with a team-high 39 pressures which is seven more than any other Jet. It's worth noting that Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson had 53 and 48 respectively last season, although no edge defender recorded as many as 39.
With the Jets yet to make a decision on Jordan Jenkins and certain to draft or sign a big-name edge rusher, it remains to be seen where Basham will fall on next year's depth chart. However, he's under contract for the minimum and should therefore be retained as a low-cost, high-value rotational piece.
Previously: 3-on-D: Smith, Qvale, Wesco