After each game, we've been highlighting three defensive and three offensive players and looking in detail at their performance. We'll begin today with the offense:
The Griffin who stole Christmas
Last year, Ryan Griffin had a 100-yard game against Washington following a string of solid performances with Chris Herndon out. The Jets responded by giving him a three-year contract extension later that week.
While it was not a big money deal, Griffin has really disappointed since signing the new contract. He caught just nine passes for 51 yards the rest of last year, which he ended up on injured reserve. This year, he has just nine catches for 86 yards.
What's been weird about the usage of Griffin is that most weeks they don't even attempt to get him involved. This was the 10th time this season he's had zero catches and he wasn't even targeted in nine of those games.
Sunday was no different as he had zero targets for the fourth out of the last five games. In fact, they only dropped back to pass seven times with him in the game.
As a run blocker, Griffin made some solid contributions though. He made one good block pulling to the left, had a good lead block on Frank Gore's touchdown and took out the nose tackle to create a running lane on this play:
Griffin also sees action on special teams but he overpursued on one return and missed a tackle on another on Sunday.
Although Griffin made some good contributions as a blocker, we saw in 2019 that he's capable of producing in the passing game. Every few weeks, they'll remember he exists and toss him a couple of short passes, but they've made no effort to make him a featured target.
Is it even worth retaining Griffin if he's just going to be a blocking specialist? If that's his only role, he's arguably overpaid.
Sam-ta Claus is coming to town
Now that the possibility of landing Trevor Lawrence appears to be lost, there's been even more debate about Sam Darnold's future with the Jets.
Statistically, this was Darnold's best game of the season and only the second time he's thrown a touchdown pass without also throwing at least one interception.
The Jets were very careful with the football, though, only throwing more than 15 yards downfield three times and with 120 of his 207 passing yards generated after the catch. They also got super-conservative with the lead in the fourth quarter as Darnold was just 2-for-7 for eight yards in the last 17 minutes.
Basically, he generated a lot of yardage by getting the ball out quickly and dumping it off, but this has been something he's failed to do in previous games. He did make a couple of nice throws, though. In fact, this pass to Chris Herndon was arguably one of his best throws from the pocket all season:
Darnold arguably made more good plays with his legs than his arms. The Rams pressured him 18 times, including 10 by Aaron Donald, but Darnold was only sacked twice, including once on a play where he rolled out and probably should have got rid of the ball but ended up fumbling the ball out of bounds. He showed good elusiveness to avoid being sacked on a few plays.
Crucial to Darnold's performance though was not so much the number of things he did right but the lack of negative plays. He had only nine incompletions, of which four were deliberately thrown away, two were batted down at the line and one was dropped on a well-placed throw to Braxton Berrios in the end zone. So that leaves just two missed throws (although the two deflected passes were a little dicey).
So, will the Jets try to run it back with Darnold or are they still going to draft a new quarterback (or even target a veteran) even if they don't land the first overall pick? We suspect how the next few games goes will only serve to muddy the waters even more, rather than providing us with any clarity.
Good (bloc)king Wescoslas
Tight end Trevon Wesco continues to be employed mostly as a run blocker. They've run the ball just under 70 percent of the time when he's been in the game this year.
As ever, Wesco has also been getting reps at fullback although the Jets haven't been using a fullback very often since he returned from injured reserve.
On Sunday, Wesco didn't have a major impact in a running game that only generated 3.0 yards per carry. He showed some good aggression in finishing this block on Michael Brockers, only to get flagged controversially for a personal foul at the end of the play.
Like Griffin, Wesco wasn't targeted on Sunday and, in fact, has only been targeted twice all season. He caught a short fourth down pass in week five against Arizona - in the same game where they ran a fullback dive with him and he got stuffed on a short yardage play. He literally hasn't touched the ball since then.
Although neither Wesco nor Griffin was targeted, Herndon had one of his better games of the year with three catches for 48 yards. It's frustrating, though, that they seem so reluctant to even attempt to get Wesco involved in the passing game and clearly puts a limit on his upside after he was supposedly drafted on the basis of his potential to develop in that area.
The other issue is that he's clearly a very capable blocker with strength and power at the point of attack but he's never established himself as particularly consistent and therefore hasn't earned the right to be on the field more often.
Since he'll still be on his rookie deal, it makes sense for Wesco to be back next season, but the Jets will need to see more from him if he's going to see his role increased.
We'll be back with the 3-on-D tomorrow...