Week 1 didn’t go the way that head coach Robert Saleh and the New York Jets planned but there was still plenty to be excited about.
For starters, this team showed no quit after a lifeless first half. Gang Green rallied around rookie quarterback Zach Wilson from that point on, outscoring the Carolina Panthers 14-3. Unfortunately, they were down 16 at half-time and came up just short.
The pessimistic fan had plenty to talk about on Monday morning, whether it was the putrid pass protection from the offensive line or the inability to keep up with a playmaker as dynamic as Christian McCaffrey.
There were also major injuries to starters like Mekhi Becton and Lamarcus Joyner.
This article is about positive thinking though, and sometimes it’s easy to gloss over the good when the bad slaps you directly in the face. Several Jets players accomplished high-caliber performances that managed to fly under the radar.
No, I don’t mean Wilson or Corey Davis — those players were on display front and center. I want to shout out the guys that didn’t get any recognition for their efforts.
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The Flashy Standouts
5. Matt Ammendola, Kicker/Punter
Okay, this first one admittedly did not go unnoticed, but it was awesome all the same. Punter Braden Mann went down after a nasty collision and he was unable to return — Mann has actually been ruled out for a minimum of four to six weeks with a knee injury.
That set the stage for Ammendola, a kicker starting his first career NFL game. To make matters worse, he had to immediately step in and punt out of his own end zone. The strong-legged kicker blasted it 50 yards, and so the legend was born.
From that moment on, Ammendola caught fire punting five more times and angling two inside the 20 while also crushing one for a 65-yard boomer. He didn’t end up attempting a kick but his phenomenal punting kept the Jets in the game. Oh, by the way, Ammendola admitted after the game that he had never actually punted before in his career. WOW.
4. Michael Carter II, Nickelback
‘MC2’ may not have been flashy, but we did already identify him as a standout performer during our Heavy on Jets roundtable chat on September 13. The slot-corner was probably the only Jets rookie that did not look like one in his first NFL appearance, including Wilson.
Pro Football Focus awarded the Duke product with a 63.6 coverage grade, 73.3 run defense grade and a 79.7 tackling grade. Carter totaled five combined tackles with one for a loss and one pass defended. The latter was a key breakup on a Terrace Marshall Jr. third-down attempt.
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3. Braxton Berrios, Slot Receiver
With Jamison Crowder sidelined, the Jets were once again asked to call upon backup slot receiver Berrios, and he delivered per usual with five receptions off seven targets. This stat tied Davis for the most on the team in Week 1 and averaged 10.2 per catch.
The capper was a 25-yard gainer, but Berrios was more integral as a reliable check-down and move-the-sticks option for Wilson. The two have had chemistry since OTAs and it was nice to see the returner get so involved in the passing game. At the same time, his skill set just isn’t on the same level as Crowder and the veteran’s return should aid the rookie QB a ton.
2. John Franklin-Myers, Edge Rusher
Quinnen Williams joked with reporters that Franklin-Myers‘ fellow D-linemen rag on him because he always gets the highest PFF score every week and that was no different in Carolina. The defensive end also tallied the franchise’s first and only sack of 2021 so far, which can be seen below.
‘JFM’ was the only Gang Green defender to surpass an overall mark of 80.0 or higher (80.7), and while PFF isn’t the end all be all, the 2020 most underappreciated Jets player passed the eye test too.
He was the only defensive lineman that I noticed getting to Sam Darnold and this Panthers backfield with consistency logging two tackles for losses and one quarterback hit. Franklin-Myers also improved his production against the run with a 68.9 grade. This was an area he struggled with during the preseason.
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Top Undercover Performance From Week 1
1. Bryce Hall, Cornerback
We talked about Carter earlier as the top rookie performer, and Brandin Echols held his own too. But the gem of the secondary was actually Hall. When a cornerback plays well, you barely hear his name, and the Virginia product was practically a ghost in this one. He had the highest coverage grade for all Jets’ defensive backs with a 66.9 and only allowed one catch for nine yards, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini and Next Gen Stats.
That catch actually came on a man-coverage opportunity against McCaffrey, meaning Hall allowed zero wide receiver receptions on Sunday. The 2020 draft pick had a slow preseason but he’s paramount towards the success of this secondary and defense as a whole in 2021.
He may not have been Darrelle Revis in his prime against the Panthers, but this lockdown performance was an encouraging sign that Hall can indeed transform into the CB1 the Jets are searching for. Two tickets to “Hall Island” please.
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