The Jets are not where they wanted to be as the team enters its bye week. Once again in the AFC East basement at 1-4, the Jets face an uphill climb to get back to respectability. However, they’d been competitive in a few of their losses despite losing several key players to injury. With some of these players now set to return, could the Jets start turning some of those losses into wins?
The pair whose return seems most imminent are linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye. Head coach Robert Saleh discussed the chances of this pair returning for the New England game in Week 7 and seemed optimistic about the possibility.
Davis, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason, has yet to play this season after suffering an ankle injury in preseason. This led to additional playing time for youngsters like Jamien Sherwood and Del’Shawn Phillips, who were overmatched in the early-season games.
However, Quincy Williams has impressed his teammates and coaches with his high-energy play since moving into a starting role a few weeks ago. He has several big hits and three forced fumbles in the last two games, and the team will be hoping he can build on that if he remains in the rotation. At the same time, Williams is only listed at 225 pounds and still learning, as he occasionally overruns plays, misses tackles or is caught out of position.
Davis’ return will bring some much-needed size and physicality to the linebacker unit, which could also help to free up CJ Mosley to be even more effective. With Davis taking on blocks and Mosley freed up to make plays in space, the Jets should be able to stop the run more effectively than they have without Davis.
Maye was sidelined two weeks ago with another ankle injury that was expected to keep him out for 3-to-4 weeks. The team never added him to injured reserve, keeping alive the possibility of him being active for that New England game. Adrian Colbert, Jarrod Wilson, Ashtyn Davis and Sharrod Neasman have been holding the fort in his absence, so adding him back should provide an immediate upgrade.
Also due back soon, albeit with a less-certain timetable, is left tackle Mekhi Becton, who required surgery on a Week 1 knee injury. Although the offensive line has started performing well, Saleh says Becton will be back in the line-up as soon as he’s ready, which should provide an immediate boost for the running game. The team will have to decide whether Morgan Moses remains at right tackle or moves to the bench with George Fant moving across from the left.
Offensive lineman Conor McDermott and defensive end Kyle Phillips could also return soon, although these would mostly just improve the depth at those two positions.
Finally, punter Braden Mann is due back imminently as his injury in the opener was expected to sideline him for 4-to-6 weeks. Veteran Thomas Morstead has done well in his absence, although that’s in part due to the excellent job the punt coverage unit has done, spearheaded by elite gunner and special teams captain Justin Hardee. Mann, the punter of the future, should return soon and will likely see his numbers improve on what he achieved in an uneven rookie year.
For some players, there will be no return this season. The main loss here was Carl Lawson, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in training camp. However, also losing his backup at defensive end, Vinny Curry, was a double-whammy. On the bright side, youngsters John Franklin-Myers and Bryce Hall have stepped up in their absence with Franklin-Myers earning a lucrative contract extension just last week. The run defense may have taken a hit, but the pass rush looks as good as ever.
The other defensive starter out for the season is Lamarcus Joyner, who lasted less than 10 snaps in the opener. The team will hope for Davis to step up and take over his role without too much disruption.
The outlook overall is that the Jets are well-equipped to handle any losses they’ve had to deal with so far but that the return of these healthy contributors should provide an injection of talent and depth that can only lead to improvements in the long run.
One of the team leaders, wide receiver Corey Davis, said after Sunday’s game that his teammates are disappointed and angry because the team hasn’t played as well as they know they’re capable of.
“We know we’re a better team than 1-4,” he said.
With these players back in the fold, they should have a better chance of proving this.