Players like RB Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, DB Michael Carter II, Bryce Huff and Tyler Kroft were all back in the lineup against the Miami Dolphins. Naturally, this meant other Jets would be forced to exit stage left.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal but after the inactives were announced on Sunday, it appeared that two major contributors throughout the season were benched in Week 15. On Monday, December 20, head coach Robert Saleh all but confirmed it.
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Ty Johnson, Shaq Lawson Benched?
During his Monday press conference after the loss in Miami, ESPN’s Rich Cimini asked the Jets HC why running back Ty Johnson and defensive end Shaq Lawson were last-minute scratches.
Saleh responded: “Yeah, with Michael Carter [back], obviously we felt like we were in good shape there from [a] third-down perspective — Michael, Tevin Coleman — and then we wanted to give Austin [Walter] another run. Then with Shaq Lawson, with Huff coming back, wanted to go with Ronnie Blair also.”
In other words, neither was inactive due to injury or health. These were performance-based scratches.
Johnson and Lawson had been fully entrenched in rotational roles throughout the season but the argument could be made that both split time as starters. The running back certainly shared the load with Carter over the first half of the season and not only that, he had been above Coleman and Walter on the depth chart up until his recent struggles.
Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints, Johnson dropped not one, not two, but three catchable passes that killed the Jets’ offense early in the game. That wasn’t the first time the RB made crucial errors, with seven drops and two fumbles on the year.
Walter on the other hand has thrived since the Jets decided to bring him back. He also spent his 2020 campaign in Mike LaFleur’s system.
The run-stuffing defensive end was even more surprising considering he’s had a quietly decent campaign with New York. Joe Douglas also traded a sixth-round pick to bring him in after Carl Lawson suffered a torn Achilles.
As a run defender, Shaq Lawson has had a nice year with a 68.6 grade from Pro Football Focus and 11 defensive “stops.” Aside from his famous game-saving batted interception against Cincinnati, however, his pass-rushing ability has left a lot to be desired.
Blair is a similar type of player that knows Saleh’s system and is finally healthy. The two have near-identical run D marks and both have accumulated seven pressures and one sack over their past four games.
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Don’t look now but these two decisions from Saleh could be a sign of things to come in 2022.
With the postseason out of reach, every Jets outing from now until the end of the season should be looked at as an audition for next year, and neither Johnson nor Lawson are getting the job done right now.
In a recent article, we mentioned that an analyst called Lawson “expendable” next offseason. His contract makes him an obvious cut in 2022, being that he’s set to make $9 million with a potential zero-dollar out if he’s released.
It’s a no-brainer really, especially if Lawson is getting benched in favor of Huff and Blair — two players making a little over $1.05 million combined in 2021.
Johnson has the better chance of sticking around because he’s cheap. Many expected a breakout campaign out of the running back in this west coast scheme but it hasn’t come to fruition with a team-low 3.7 yards per attempt so far, plus constant mistakes as a pass-blocker and a receiver.
The former Detroit Lions sixth-round pick is set to earn $965,000 in 2022. He just turned 24 years old in September.