Sitting at 3-9 and currently in last place in the AFC East, the 2018 season is all but over for the New York Jets. Currently holding the number three pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and expected to have near $100 million in cap space, many Jets fans have already turned their attention towards the off-season. While Gang Green should be active come season’s end, the remaining four games on their schedule could be very telling for the team’s direction in 2019. As such, here are some things Jets fans should be paying attention to as the 2018 campaign draws to a close.
What New York Jets Fans Should Look for in the Last Quarter of the 2018 Season
Consistency From Right Tackle Brandon Shell
Right tackle Brandon Shell has outperformed his fifth round price tag thus far. Drafted 158th overall in 2016, Shell has been a serviceable starter at the right tackle spot in 2018. Shell currently sits as Pro Football Focus’ 51st graded tackle. His grade of 64.3 in 2018 indicates he is an average starter. Even so, Shell has been inconsistent thus far, with grades dipping below 60 and clear lapses on the field. Still, he has shown improvement and has been rather consistent in pass protection during his short career. If Shell can demonstrate over the last four weeks that he has the ability to be an anchor at right tackle, the Jets would have gotten extreme value for his services.
Clarity at the Cornerback Position
The Jets brought back Morris Claiborne for 2018 and also signed Trumaine Johnson to a five-year, $72,500,000 deal. These moves had fans expecting a lockdown cornerback tandem in 2018. Unfortunately, the team has not quite gotten that level of production. Johnson has missed five games during the 2018 campaign and been inconsistent when on the field. Claiborne has earned an overall grade of 64.6 from Pro Football Focus, which is average, but he has outperformed his one-year deal in terms of his coverage thus far.
What Jets fans should look for from the tandem during the final four games of the season is clarity. Should the 28-year-old Claiborne continue to stay healthy, the Jets would be wise to consider bringing him back in 2019. Johnson, on the other hand, needs to show that he can handle number one cornerback duties. His 72.4 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2018 has him rated as an above average cornerback. Coming off one of his more impressive games of the season, Johnson will need to show he can provide at the level which he is being paid.
Development From Sam Darnold
After missing the past three games with a foot injury, all eyes will be on rookie Sam Darnold in his expected return against the Buffalo Bills. Darnold has had an up and down rookie campaign and will almost inevitably be the main focus among fans during the last four games of the season. But what aspects of Darnold’s game will demonstrate progress?
First, Darnold needs to show that he is healthy. He has been extremely effective outside the pocket in 2018, and a foot injury certainly hinders that aspect of his game. If Darnold can show he is healthy, then progress can be indicated by a single aspect of his game; turnovers. Despite missing three games, Darnold is still first among quarterbacks in interceptions thrown. Many of these have been a result of trying to do too much when trailing. Darnold will need to show consistency in his decision making, regardless of game flow, in order for fans to have a reason to feel comfortable going forward.
The New York Jets 2018 season has largely been a bust. Understandably, many fans will be inclined to turn their attention towards the 2019 off-season. Still, there are plenty of things for fans to keep an eye out for as the season winds down. Analyzing these aspects of the game can help to gain a better understanding of the prospects for the 2019 season.