A vital part of any rebuild is the youth movement, and a year after the New York Jets reeled in a seven-player draft, they are looking for that class to show strides.
The class had some studs and some duds from New York’s Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills. There are still 15 games and plenty of time for the youngsters to improve, but we got a glimpse of the group’s progression in Week 1.
LB Darron Lee
Lee was picked on quite a bit in the passing game, a discouraging sign for the 22-year-old who was good in his rookie year at everything except coverage. That trend continued in Week 1. Lee allowed four catches on six targets for 54 yards and a touchdown — a 134.7 opponent’s passer rating. He looked fine against the run and also picked up a sack (which was due in large part to the Jets coverage, but it still looked pretty on the stat sheet).
For the most part, Lee looked like the player he was last year and New York needs him to be more. He has the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends, but hasn’t shown it yet at the professional level. A crucial year for Lee is not off to a booming start.
QB Christian Hackenberg
Ah, the one player we have yet to see — maybe that’s a good thing. What was interesting is the fact that Hackenberg earned the No. 2 quarterback spot, as Bryce Petty was inactive. Head coach Todd Bowles said that it was a “coaches’ decision” to keep Hackenberg active. When asked about Petty’s health, Bowles said, “he practiced fully.”
Petty was still listed as the QB2 on the Week 2 depth chart, but the Jets have proven that means absolutely nothing.
LB Jordan Jenkins
Unlike Lee, Jenkins cannot be blamed for the Jets’ struggles defending the run and LeSean McCoy. Jenkins had a quiet game, but was decent in sealing the edge. Kony Ealy and Josh Martin both had nice games, so Jenkins was overlooked, but he looked like a capable starter. According to Pro Football Focus, Jenkins’ 78.9 grade was the second-best for any Jets defensive starter and his 88.9 run defense grade ranked fifth among the league’s edge rushers.
CB Juston Burris
Burris was one of the more impressive Jets on the defensive side of the ball despite playing in fewer than half of their snaps. The 24-year-old was targeted once on 21 coverage snaps, did not allow a completion and even picked off a pass on the game’s opening drive — he may have even taken it back for six if it wasn’t for safety Marcus Maye.
There was nothing flashy for Burris in the season opener, but Morris Claiborne is dealing with a sore ankle and Buster Skrine got beat deep again. Burris may see his role increase as the year progresses.
OT Brandon Shell
Shell was graded by Pro Football Focus as the best offensive lineman on the team last week (67.2), which isn’t saying much given the poor overall showing by the unit. The South Carolina product allowed one pressure in 42 pass block snaps, a rare offensive bright spot for New York.
P Lachlan Edwards
Perhaps the MVP of Week 1, punter Lachlan Edwards had one of the most impressive 2017 debuts in Buffalo. Edwards punted six times for a grand total of 297 yards — a 49.5 average — a long of 58 yards and two punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. Outside of a 29-yard shank to open the second half, Edwards looked tremendous.
Edwards may be punting a ton in 2017, so Week 1 was a pleasant re-introduction to the Aussie.
WR Charone Peake
Peake’s one offensive snap is indicative of something: he may not have much of a role in 2017. Back in the preseason, it seemed as if Peake could earn first-team reps, but the acquisition of Jermaine Kearse and emergence of rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen may limit Peake’s opportunity.