The Jets lost to the Texans 29-22 on Saturday, falling to 4-10 this season. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:
1. Jets fans had to be thrilled with the way Sam Darnold played against the Texans. He looked like he belonged. He made good decisions, plays with his feet and the game looked like it slowed down for him.
Now the Jets must build around him. It was a stark contrast looking at what Deshaun Watson has around him and what Darnold does. Watson has an all-world wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. He has a good defense led by pass rushers J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. The running game was not on display on Saturday, but Lamar Miller is a good back when healthy.
At times, it felt as if Darnold were playing the Texans by himself. He seemed to be willing the Jets to first downs by scrambling or finding a receiver on third down. The Jets defense had some good moments, but the unit needs more impact players. The only one they have is Jamal Adams.
The Jets’ lack of playmakers on offense has been well-documented. Robby Anderson and Darnold seem to be developing a connection. But you look at Hopkins and look at Anderson and realize what the Jets are missing. Finding a receiver will not be easy this offseason. Players like Hopkins are hard to find. It might require a trade to bring in a top-flight receiver.
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan landed Darnold last offseason through a combination of a smart trade (moving up three spots to No. 3 in the draft) and luck (the Browns and Giants passing on Darnold). He might need the same thing this offseason to give Darnold the target he so desperately needs.
2. I did not have many issues with coach Todd Bowles in this game, but the one thing I can’t understand is why they did not have Trumaine Johnson cover Hopkins all game. The Jets played “sides,” meaning Johnson stayed on the defense’s left and Morris Claiborne on the right. That let the Texans dictate the matchups. On the NFL Network broadcast, they said Hopkins is the receiver teams “travel” with the most, meaning they assign their top corner to follow him all over the field.
Bowles said on Sunday morning that it was not just about matching up with Hopkins but with all of the Texans receivers.
The Jets gave Johnson a five-year, $72.5 million contract in March. Why wouldn’t they trust him to cover the other team’s best receiver, like Darrelle Revis did in his prime? The game was lost when Claiborne held Hopkins on Houston’s game-winning drive. Johnson should have been on him.
Robby Anderson makes all the plays for Jets but one
The Jets’ limited receiving corps showed some life against the…
3. Robby Anderson had a good game and has really come on lately. He had seven catches for 96 yards and one touchdown. He and Darnold seem to be clicking. However, Anderson’s game was defined by two plays he did not make. In the first quarter, Darnold took a deep shot to him in the end zone. He was double covered, but Nate Burleson made a great point on the play (Burleson had a good game): Anderson should have come back to the ball, leapt and tried to make a play over the defenders instead of falling forward. Maybe he gets a pass interference call or catches the touchdown.
The second play was the fourth-and-14 at the end of the game. It was a tough catch. Darnold threw the ball high. The defender hit him in the back as the ball got there. But if Anderson wants to be a top receiver, he needs to make the catch.
4. The Jets offense had some good moments in this game. The drive at the end of the first half and the go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter may have been their best two drives of the season. What remains puzzling to me, though, is how bad the Jets always look on their first drive of the game. This is the drive that is scripted and gone over all week. Yet, the Jets continually look lost at the beginning of the game.
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On Saturday, the Jets went three-and-out before your beer got warm. Two Elijah McGuire runs and a Watt sack of Darnold had them off the field in a flash. The Jets have not scored a touchdown on their first drive all season. Think about that: Not once in 14 games have they found the end zone on the drive they spend the most time thinking about and working on. They have six total points this season on opening drives, the lowest total in the NFL.
Surprising snap count: Andre Roberts played 29 snaps at wide receiver. It was a heavy workload for him. It may have had something to do with Rishard Matthews injuring his hamstring. I am not sure when that injury occurred.
Revealing stat: The Jets ran 75 plays and the Texans only had 53. It is hard to run 22 more plays than your opponent and still lose. The Jets should have won this game.
Game ball: Darnold gets the nod here for his best game as a pro. That is two straight weeks that Darnold has impressed. The present is bleak, but the future looks bright for the Jets.