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:
Quinnen Williams continues to trend upwards as he put together another solid performance both against the run and in the pass rush.
Williams' clutch sack to knock the Steelers out of field goal range in the fourth quarter was probably the biggest play he's made as a Jet. It was an easy one, because he wasn't blocked, but he still looked explosive chasing that quarterback down from the backside.
Other than the sack, Williams officially had three other tackles - two run stuffs on plays that went for one yard gains and another stop against the run for a four yard gain to force a 3rd-and-4.
Williams has 2.5 sacks on the season now and he is becoming more consistently productive in terms of creating pressure over the second half of the year. In his last six games, he's had multiple pressures five times. He only did this once in the first half of the season.
Encouragingly, Williams is also starting to produce against veteran players like Ramon Foster. On one play, he shoved Foster aside to get to the quarterback and on this play he generated some good traction on a bull rush to force the quarterback to check down:
Interestingly, Williams had a few plays in the early going where he was well-controlled at the point of attack, including two where he was blocked to the ground. However, he seemed to adjust to that because the only negative play he had after halftime was when he missed a tackle in the hole.
While some still seem keen to paint Williams' rookie year as a disappointment, it compares favorable to that of Muhammad Wilkerson so hopefully he can emulate his development arc, at least as a pass rusher. Wilkerson had 15 total pressures in 298 pass rush attempts as a rookie, while Williams has 18 in 317 attempts.
Wilkerson exploded in his second season and started playing at an elite level, so it will be huge for the Jets if Williams can achieve something similar.
Big Playe Maye
Marcus Maye had one of his most memorable games as a Jet on Sunday, with his spectacular pass break-up in the end zone effectively sealing the Jets' win. Of course, he had earlier made another huge play with an interception in the end zone.
The wide angle gives a great look at how Maye reacted and covered a lot of ground to come up with the ball:
Maye didn't do much other than these two plays, but that's an ideal performance for a deep safety because his primary role is to be the last line of defense and Maye definitely looked more comfortable with Jamal Adams' return facilitating his move back into that deep role.
Maye ended up with four tackles, three of which were downfield on first down plays. He stopped one run on the outside for a six-yard gain and didn't give up anything in coverage. However, he did miss two tackles, including one where he could have had himself a sack.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Maye's season is that he has allayed durability concerns by remaining healthy throughout. Maye's 1,025 snaps leads the team with nobody else having even played 900.
The Jets' injury issues at inside linebacker have been well-documented this season, but James Burgess is putting a case forward for himself as a reliable back-up option for the future.
In Sunday's game, Burgess had eight tackles, a handful of which were near the line of scrimmage. That included a tackle for loss as he burst into the backfield and this nice play in lateral pursuit where you can see how his initial burst prevents the offensive lineman from slowing him down:
The two main issues Burgess has are that he sometimes gets caught out of position in coverage and often gets blocked out of plays at the second level. However, in the right role and with the right personnel around him, his quickness to the ball could make him a useful asset.
Burgess was still blocked out of two plays at the second level in Sunday's game and kicked out on the edge on another. However, this was probably his cleanest game of the year in coverage.
Other than one third down conversion where he was just unable to corral the receiver before the marker and one play where he and Adams blew a coverage, he didn't give up anything all day with his two catches and 13 yards surrendered both being season-lows. He had entered the game giving up 4.5 catches and over 50 yards per game on average.
Based on this season, if the Jets had to choose to retain either Burgess or Neville Hewitt, they'd probably go with Burgess. The next question is whether or not they bring back Avery Williamson. With Burgess on a one-year deal, that's something that might come down to cost.
Previously: 3-on-D: Smith, Qvale, McDermott