The New York Jets’ season has taken a quick turn for the worse since their startling 3-3 start, as they’ve now lost two-straight games heading into Thursday night’s primetime affair with the sneaky-good Buffalo Bills (5-2).
The Bills are off to their best start to a season in six years, under first-year head coach Sean McDermott, while Todd Bowles’s Jets are actually playing better than even the most ardent supporter could’ve imagined, yet have still left some things to be desired in a season that many thought would be a tank-fest.
It’s difficult for any Gang Green fan to complain this season, considering the expectations of an intentionally tanking season. But because of the early success, fans started to get their hopes up and even had some players whispering of playoff aspirations. That may be a bit grand, especially in the ultra-competitive AFC, but a win against the Bills could go a long in helping their chances.
The odds are stacked, even if they’re home, as the Jets (3-5) are taking on a familiar foe that is also much better than even their staunchest supporter had hoped. Buffalo furthered strengthened its primary weakness when they obtained reinforcement in the passing game before Tuesday’s trade deadline by acquiring wideout Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers for a third and seventh-round pick in next year’s draft. The imposing Benjamin (6-foot-5, 243 pounds) will add some spark to an inconsistent Bills’ passing attack, providing he suits up, Thursday night.
Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane noted it’ll be up to McDermott to determine whether the newest acquisition plays, but if he does, there’ll be a lot of attention paid his way by a Jets’ secondary that has had some production — and health — issues of late.
The Jets added a cornerback via trade, Rashard Robinson, for a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft, but the former San Francisco 49ers starter has some holes in his game. The former LSU star, who played with star rookie safety Jamal Adams in college, has great length, being 6-foot-1, but is a slight 196 pounds, meaning he can be pushed around and out-jostled for position when the ball is in the air. The jump ball, by the way, is what the hulking Benjamin does best, so look for Bowles to bracket and provide help over the top via one of his two stud rookie safeties.
Robinson is talented enough to stay in man coverage, but he also has been bitten by the penalty bug this season, leading the league at his position with 10 infractions. It should also be noted that he entered this season as the No. 1 corner for the Niners but was benched last week for rookie Ahkello Witherspoon.
Adding the talented 22-year old, though, was a necessary move by the Jets, whose back end has suffered through a malaise lately. Starter Buster Skrine sat out, last week, with a concussion, but was cleared to play against the Bills. But even when Skrine was in the lineup, he wasn’t at his best, as he allowed three touchdowns and was called for three penalties in his previous game.
Skrine’s bookend, Morris Claiborne, may not be available, however, as he’s dealing with a sprained left foot. The team’s top corner, Claiborne missed practice on Wednesday for the third-straight day. He’s listed as questionable, but with a short week, it’s likely he won’t play.
That’ll leave guys like Darryl Roberts, Juston Burris, and the newcomer Robinson as the candidates to eat up those reps – which means most eyes will be on the fill in holdovers and the newbie Jet to see if they can help stop the aerial assault that Buffalo plans to unleash on them.
Gang Green notes:
-Pro Football Focus (PFF), a site that tracks and grades every individual player and team, ranked Robinson 104th out of 114 qualifying cornerbacks through eight games. Robinson’s overall grade is 41.8, but when compared to his former San Francisco defensive teammates, he graded out favorably. He’s allowed just 17 receptions for 223 yards from his 34 targets, with just 34 of those yards coming after the catch. On average, he’s allowed .91 yards per coverage snap and has a passer rating of 78.6 on throws into his coverage. All those numbers were team highs for Niner corners.
-Roberts, who will be battling Robinson for that extra playing time, has allowed a passer rating of 93.6 and 1.17 yards per coverage snap.