After each game, we've been highlighting three defensive and three offensive players to look in detail at their performance. We'll wrap up today with the offense:
Burnett to the ground
One player who really stepped up in the last game of the season was wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Making the most of his opportunity with Rishard Matthews and Quincy Enunwa on injured reserve and Jermaine Kearse out with an injury, Burnett led the Jets with five catches for 73 yards.
Burnett's first four catches were all third down conversions and, in fact, represented the only four third down conversions the Jets had all day.
Here's one of the most impressive connections and, yes, this is another sail concept and a great throw on the move:
Burnett had two excellent games with the Jets this year, racking up nine catches on nine targets for 134 yards in Sunday's game and the Bears game in week eight. However, in his other three games, he played a total of 57 snaps and caught just one nine-yard pass on six targets.
Hopefully Sunday's game is a more accurate representation of what Burnett can do. He'll still be 21 on opening day next year and obviously has chemistry with his former college teammate Sam Darnold. If he can add some strength and play with more physicality next season, he has might have a chance to crack the rotation.
Jonotthan Harrison managed to go through the whole season without surrendering a sack and, obviously, had much better success than Spencer Long in terms of his snap efficiency. However, the prevailing notion that he was an upgrade over Long is misguided.
Although he didn't give up a sack, Harrison was ultimately the main player at fault on two of them as he gave up interior pressure to flush Darnold from the pocket but he had nowhere to escape to. One was the play where Darnold's fumble was returned for a score and this was the other:
As for the running game, obviously that wasn't very good on Sunday as Elijah McGuire was stopped for less than two yards on 12 of his 18 carries. Harrison got stood up at the point of attack on a few of the runs that were bottled up.
As for the season as a whole, Long and Harrison each played eight games at center and the disparity in the running game is pretty stark. Accounting solely for running back carries, in Long's starts, the Jets rushed for 900 yards on 189 carries (4.8 yards per carry) but in Harrison's, they gained just 539 yards on 165 carries (3.3 ypc).
Ultimately, although the botched snaps by Long were frustrating, the evidence suggests his blocking was much better than that of Harrison and also that the offensive line played better as a unit when he was in there. Of course, there's one other variable that we're not accounting for and that's that Long played mostly with James Carpenter at left guard, whereas Harrison played mostly with Long at left guard. So, let's investigate that...
Take a Long, hard look at yourself
In Sunday's game Long mostly held up in pass protection, but had mixed results in the running game. He had a good pulling block on a Trenton Cannon first down run and a combo block on a long run by Elijah McGuire, but also missed a couple of blocks in space and at the point of attack.
On this play, Long failed to get to his target at the second level and the run was blown up for a loss as a result.
As a general rule, though, Long was more consistent as a run blocker but less consistent in pass protection having moved to guard. This is exactly what we expected having scouting him in both roles during the offseason.
To put a number on that, Long gave up two sacks and no hits in eight games at center but two sacks and three hits in five games at left guard.
Two prevailing notions among Jets fans are that Long is a better guard than he is a center and that he's a better guard than James Carpenter. Again, both of these would appear misguided.
As you'll recall, the Jets averaged 4.8 yards per carry in Long's eight starts at center. In his five games at guard, they averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.
Of course most of Carpenter's starts coincided with Long being at center so he was a bigger factor in that disparity than he gets credit for. Also, tellingly, Carpenter's worst two single-game grades of the season according to Pro Football Focus were in the two games where he had Harrison at center rather than Long.
As for pass protection, Carpenter's 10 starts saw him give up just one sack and four hits and, in fact, the eight starts with Long at center saw him give up just one sack and one hit.
It's widely assumed that Carpenter won't return when his contract is up at the end of the season and the left guard spot is obviously somewhere they need to find someone young to take over. However, he's still only 29, so perhaps it makes sense to bring him back if the price is right.
As for Long, the finger injury obviously messed up his season. However, regarding him as a potential upgrade over Carpenter at the left guard position would be unwise. The ability to back up either spot might be useful, so if they can find an upgrade at center and convince him to take a pay cut, then perhaps that could be his role going forwards. Don't rule out the team sticking with him and backing him to have a better year in 2019 though.
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