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:
A Sterling effort
Although Neal Sterling is now back in the line-up, this hasn't meant that Chris Herndon's playing time has dropped or that Jordan Leggett has gone back to the inactive list. Of course, part of this is because of all the injuries at wide receiver. However, even so, Sterling had fewer snaps than he did in each of his other full performances as the three other tight ends all played over 20 snaps each.
Sterling was targeted twice but both fell incomplete. One saw him almost bring in a downfield throw, but the defensive end dropped with him and was able to disrupt the pass which was off his hands. The other was a screen pass that was sniffed out by the defense and Sam Darnold had to throw it in the dirt.
Unfortunately, Sterling doesn't contribute much as a blocker either. He allowed two Isaiah Crowell runs to be stuffed, one as he got driven into the backfield, forcing him to redirect and the other on this play as his man stood him up and leveraged him into the path of the ball carrier:
Sterling won the starting role almost by default after the other tight ends were slow to develop having missed some time in camp. However, with their contributions improving as the season goes along, he might start to lose reps and ultimately get phased out.
Chris Burned 'em
The rookie Herndon was once again a bright spot with his four catches for 42 yards. He had one touchdown and another one was intially awarded to him but then taken away by the replay booth.
Here's the wide angle on that play. As you can see, Herndon doesn't exactly explode off the line or out of his break, but he goes to a spot and is open for Darnold's perfectly timed throw:
Herndon's touchdown was a good RPO play which saw Darnold read the fact he had a clean inside release on Harrison Smith, so he pulled the ball out and hit Herndon over the middle. The rookie did well to hold on despite a big hit in the end zone.
Earlier in the game, the Jets opened with a throwback screen to Herndon which went for nine yards. This was an improvement upon earlier in the season in Cleveland where they tried to get him involved on a similar play early in the game and the defense was all over it for a big loss.
Herndon was targeted seven times in all with Darnold underthrowing him once and throwing behind him once on his three incompletions to him.
Herndon has been struggling with his blocking and that continued in this game as he was ineffective in the running game. He also had a missed block and a personal foul while blocking on special teams. However, he's becoming a weapon in the passing game at a time when the Jets need exactly that.
From bad to Kearse
Having led the team with nine catches last week, it's curious that Jermaine Kearse not only was held without a catch, but actually was only targeted twice.
You might think that the fact he was forced into a starting role would mean that he was able to work out of the slot less, but that wasn't actually the case, as he was on the outside on 22 of 61 snaps last week and 24 of 64 this week. However, the Vikings used effective zone coverages to take away some over the middle stuff that meant Kearse wasn't even targeted from the slot.
Here's an interesting zone-beating look on 3rd-and-1 that provides some pleasing symmetry but not much else. Darnold sees the easy first down over the middle to Herndon and then tries and fails to force it to him as he steps up. Having stepped up, he ideally should have looked to one of the other four options, the obvious one being Kearse who uncovers out of the left slot:
On the two targets he did see, the first saw a defender disrupt Kearse's release so he was late to break over the middle. Darnold had to delay his throw and Kearse was sandwiched by two defenders as the pass arrived, with the safety coming up fast to pick Kearse up. This is a sure sign they were gameplanning to take him away.
The other target saw Kearse get a step on an out pattern but Darnold's wide throw was just out of his reach.
After the game, Kearse avoided throwing Darnold under the bus for not finding him when he was open, but was clearly frustrated not to have been able to do more to help his team. Getting Quincy Enunwa back should help Kearse, but they'll have to rely on others, including new signing Rishard Matthews, to create some space for him over the next few weeks.
PREVIOUSLY: 3-on-D: Jenkins, Roberts, Williams