After each game, we're going to highlight three defensive and three offensive players and look in detail at their performance. We'll wrap up today with the offense:
The Jets have been banking on a return to form from guard Brian Winters after he battled through an injury-plagued 2017 in the first year of his big-money extension.
That faith was repaid in part on Monday night as Winters had a consistent first game of the year. He didn't get beaten in pass protection as he did a good job of reacting and helping out as the spare man. He also played his part in a running game that generated 169 yards and 4.7 yards per carry.
In the running game, Winters drove his man off the line a couple of times and made some effective second level blocks. The Jets had good success with the outside zone runs that are expected to be a staple of this year's running game, but Winters also showed that he can still pull and make effective blocks on the move:
It wasn't a perfect game from Winters but his mistakes were minor. He got stood up at the point of attack on one run that was bottled up and let his man get off his block a couple of times. It may be nitpicking, but he didn't get all of his block on Isaiah Crowell's long touchdown run, but he at least got enough of it that his man missed the key tackle.
For Crowell, it was an excellent start to his Jets career, as he rushed for 102 yards on 10 carries and also scored twice. His first touchdown saw him make a great effort to dive for the goal line without his knee being down and his second one saw him burst through the line and race away from the defense.
This might have been his most impressive run though, as he span out of a tackle and drove for extra yardage at the end of the run. This took the Jets from long-field goal range down to where Jason Myers had a chip shot to give the Jets their first lead:
Although Crowell wasn't targeted in the passing game, he might make some good contributions in that area if preseason is anything to go by. He also stayed in to block a couple of times.
Crowell won't bust a 62-yard run every week but he still averaged 4.5 yards per carry on his other nine carries, which is excellent production behind a line that was expected to struggle.
Shell have no fury
Brandon Shell held up well at right tackle as the Jets generally did a good job of limiting pressure. This was the only time he got beaten really and even on this play you can see that he did a good enough job of repelling the rush and forcing him to take a wide route around the outside that this gave Sam Darnold adequate time to make his throw successfully:
Shell is still developing as a run blocker but some of the positive moments he had in this game were arguably as good as anything he's ever shown at the NFL level. Crowell's first touchdown saw him set the edge and drive his man off the line and his second one saw Shell open up a huge lane by driving his man laterally out of the play. He also had a good reach block early on and got some good traction at the point of attack a number of times.
In the second half, with the Jets perhaps running the ball more to keep the clock moving than in the pursuit of big gains, Shell had a handful of negative plays where he allowed his man to get off the block and make the play. Whether he was tired, lost focus or was given assignments that were too difficult is uncertain, but the positive plays he made had a far bigger impact on the final result and hopefully he'd play more consistently in a closer game.
It would be interesting to learn whether Shell's improvements here are because he likes the scheme more or are part of his overall improvements as he has obviously continued to work on his game in the offseason.
PREVIOUSLY: 3-on-D: Anderson, Lee, Johnson