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:
With Austin Seferian-Jenkins inactive, Neal Sterling stepped up with a surprising break-out performance. Seferian-Jenkins had just 69 yards in five games since the bye week and his highest yardage total of the season was 67 yards in a game where he had five of his six catches inside the last three minutes. Sterling eclipsed those totals yesterday with an eye-opening 74 yards on five catches. Could he be a sleeper candidate to contribute next year?
Sterling caught 12 passes for 110 yards in his second season last year with the Jags, albeit with a long of just 17 yards. However, he had just one catch in 11 games with the Jets entering yesterday's action.
However, he stepped up big with some nice plays, including this catch-and-run down the middle:
Sterling also had a great catch on a pass thrown slightly behind him, which he turned upfield for a 15 yards gain. He had two other first downs; one underneath and the other on a fourth down play where Bryce Petty was able to elude a sack.
Interestingly, Petty completed just four passes for 22 yards to players who were on the team last season, so he didn't really benefit from having established chemistry with any of his pass catchers.
Sterling didn't contribute much as a blocker this week as he ran a route on 26 of his season-high 32 snaps (only about half of which saw him lined up as a tight end). However, he had shown some progress there in recent games and ended the season with a positive grade as a blocker.
Over the weekend, Rich Cimini from ESPN stated that the Jets are not expected to make a strong push to re-sign Seferian-Jenkins. With Jordan Leggett coming off a redshirt, Sterling's progress and Eric Tomlinson fitting in well as the blocking tight end perhaps that makes sense.
Having barely played all season (15 snaps before yesterday), Ben Ijalana saw the bulk of the work at right tackle, despite the fact Brent Qvale made the start. The two rotated throughout the game with Ijalana playing about 60% of the snaps.
Ijalana was beaten a handful of times in pass protection, including on this play for a safety where he initially did a good job on Eric Lee but then lost him once Petty held onto the ball for a little too long:
Ijalana was also driven back off his spot and into Petty on one play, beaten around the edge once and beaten inside for a clean pressure.
In the running game, Ijalana had one play on a stretch zone run where he didn't sustain his block on the move and the run was blown up behind the line.
On the whole, it's been a disappointing year for Ijalana, who started 13 games last year and looked set to have a big role this year but ended up ninth out of nine rostered linemen in terms of playing time despite having the sixth highest cap number on the entire roster.
He seems like an obvious cap casualty or potential restructure for the offseason and it's perhaps a credit to Brandon Shell and Brent Qvale that they did well enough to stay ahead of him all year.
As for the Jets' other tackle, Kelvin Beachum put together a really nice season as he was easily the Jets' best pass protector, basically halving the amount of pressure he surrendered compared to last year with the Jaguars.
However, his season ended on a sour note as James Harrison got sacks on each of the last two plays:
On each play Beachum slowed him up enough that Petty could have had time to get rid of the ball or take off. This underlines that Beachum - who had only given up two sacks before last week - might not have had such good numbers if Petty had been forced to play more often this year.
Other than those plays right at the end, Beachum was only beaten a couple of times, including one where he was driven back in the pocket.
As a run blocker, no Jets lineman graded out well this year. While Beachum had his moments, he didn't grade out very well either. Tackles often don't when the line as a whole is struggling. He did get out in front of Elijah McGuire well on a jet sweep that went for 11 yards though.
Beachum is under contract for the next couple of years (although his contract will void at the end of next year if he makes the pro bowl). On the basis of his 2017 performance, it's a reasonable contract and Beachum's return is to be expected.
Previously: Reviewing the rotations.