The New York Jets endured their third consecutive losing season, but managed to make some memories along the way.
10. 8/10: Bridge over Not-So-Troubled Water
Teddy Bridgewater’s Jets journey lastest a mere trio of preseason games. But the return of the former first-round pick to NFL action was one of the more inspiring moments of the NFL summer.
Bridgewater was signed to a one-year deal in the offseason. Formerly viewed as the savior of the Minnesota Vikings, injuries led to his departure after the 2017 season, a year that ended with Bridgewater watching an NFC Championship Game trek from the inactive list. With the Jets, Bridgewater proved he could indeed handle the intensity of an NFL game field, rising to the occasion against the Atlanta Falcons in the exhibition opener. He would lead the Jets to 10 points on two possessions, going 7-for-8 for 85 yards and a score in New York’s 17-0 win.
Serving as a veteran mentor to rookie Sam Darnold, Bridgewater ended the preseason with a 104.7 passer rating, completing 74 percent of his passes for 316 yards. The Jets would trade him to New Orleans for a draft pick shortly before summer’s end.
9. 12/9: Tru Story
For the most part, cornerback Trumaine Johnson disappointed in the first year of a five-year, $72.5 million contract. His struggles culminated with a Week 17 benching, a punishment for reported tardiness to meetings. However, he did manage to flash his potential in the Jets’ final win of the season against the Buffalo Bills.
In the Week 14 visit to Orchard Park, the Jets battled showstopping rookie Josh Allen and gave the rookie a rude welcoming to the AFC East rivalry. Johnson played his part, earning his first multi-interception game since 2014. His second takeaway wrapped things up, as the Jets escaped with a 27-23 victory. More on this one later.
8. 10/7: Maye Daye
The Jets’ first home win of the season, a 34-16 triumph over the Denver Broncos, was punctuated by safety Marcus Maye setting some NFL history in perhaps the most “Jets” way possible.
With Denver down 18 and embarking on a final drive of desperation late in the game, Maye wrapped things up with an interception of Case Keenum in the red zone. Not satisfied with a mere takeaway, Maye tried to go the distance, and nearly pulled it off on a 104-yard rush to glory. However, just before he reached the end zone, Courtland Sutton, an apparent bettor of Denver +18.5, stopped him one yard short, much to the chagrin of the tired defender. In the process, Maye set the record for the longest interception return in NFL history that did not end in a score.
7. 12/27: Q4
While the 2018 season went down as yet another year of defeat for the Jets, it served as one of personal victory of receiver Quincy Enunwa.
After missing the entire 2017 campaign, Enunwa returned to the field and earned his way into the Jets’ foreseeable future. Partaking in 11 games, in which he earned 449 yards on 38 receptions, Enunwa became the first lavish purchase of the Jets’ offseason, inking a four-year contract extension worth up to $36 million.
6. 10/14: My, Oh, Myers
Jason Myers began the 2018 season on the Seattle Seahawks, but with little chance to make the roster with Sebastian Janikowski joining him. Signed as an extra summer leg by the Jets in late August, Myers beat out Taylor Bertolet for the right to be the Jets’ leg. He went on to become the team’s most potent scoring threat.
Myers, a graduate of Poughkeepsie’s Marist College, set a team record in the Jets’ October showdown against the Indianapolis Colts, booting a team-record seven field goals in the Jets’ 42-34 win. That tally was part of a season where Myers successfully converted 33 field goals, good for third place in the NFL. The only more impressive than the quantity, perhaps, was the length, as Myers became the first kicker in NFL history to score on five attempts of at least 55 yards out in November. He wound up tying for the league lead in field goals from 50 yards out with Brett Maher in Dallas.
Myers’ efforts would be rewarded with his first career Pro Bowl nomination.
5. 10/7: The Crow Shows
Like Johnson, Isaiah Crowell’s debut season as a Jet was mostly defined by struggles. In setting up the big lead against Denver, however, Crowell likewise made some NFL history.
Crowell wound up tallying 219 yards on the afternoon, good enough for a new Jets record. To one-up that accomplishment, Crowell needed a mere 15 carries to pull it off, his tally energized by runs of 36, 54, and 77 yards, the most latter of which went for a touchdown. His 14.33 yards per carry was the best-ever average by a runner with at least 15 carries.
4. 9/10: The Lions Sleep Tonight
The second it happened, the social media chorus began. “Same old Jets!” “Darnold’s a bust!” “Time to start over!” Indeed, Sam Darnold’s first career NFL regular season throw could’ve gone better, as Detroit Lions defender Quandre Diggs took it back 37 yards for a score in Week 1’s Monday night festivities.
Alas for the Lions and the unforgiving critics, football is a team effort and the Jets’ unity set the stage for the best possible start to the 2018 season.
After Detroit’s infamous interception, the Jets’ defense responded in kind with five aerial takeaways of their own. Two of them went down in Darron Lee’s stat column, including one that went to the end zone. That touchdown was part of a barrage of 31 unanswered Jets points. Six more of that tally came from Andre Roberts, who began what became a Pro Bowl season with a 78-yard punt return touchdown. Jamal Adams likewise set the pace for an all-star season with his first career interception
Darnold himself would get in on the scoring fun with two touchdown passes to Enunwa and Robby Anderson. The Jets would take their Week 1 showdown by a 48-17 final, and all was briefly well in Florham Park/East Rutherford.
3. 12/9: Scramblin' Sam
If you’re a Sam Darnold fan, you’re going to enjoy the remainder of this article, provided, of course, you’ve made it this far. If you’re, say, a Giants fan, thank you for the clicks, but you may want to turn back now.
Darnold had struggled in the early portions of his rookie season, the literal growing pains capped off by a foot injury suffered in an October loss in Miami. He would return in the aforementioned Week 14 game against Buffalo, where his return nearly ended before it truly began. An injury scare nearly denied us of Darnold’s unofficial breakout party, but he’d miss one mere series before returning.
The game seemed to feature typical Darnold rookie fare: The Jets were trailing late in the third quarter after a drive in opposing territory ended with a Darnold interception, his league-high 15th of the season.
The Jets could’ve folded and moved on from there, but Darnold would go on to lead a 12-play, 85-yard drive that tied the game. The trek finished off with Darnold avoiding a furious Buffalo rush with his legs, buying just enough time to find Anderson for the tying score.
2. 12/9: Big Mac
Darnold and the offense had one more big trick up their sleeve for the big finish in the Buffalo game. When Buffalo retook the lead, the initial goal was to get in Myers’ distance to play for overtime. With one more hookup with Anderson, however, that plan got an immediate upgrade.
Set up via a stellar return from Roberts, the Jets went to work at their own 39-yard line with just over two minutes to go. Darnold would set the Jets up in prime scoring position with a 37-yard pass down the right sideline to Anderson, positioning the Jets five yards away from the end zone. It took all four downs, but the Jets, eschewing conservatism, finally broke through on a fourth-and-goal plunge from Elijah McGuire, giving the Jets the win.
1. 4/26: Hey, Darnold!
Our top moment of 2018 could very well be the top moment in plenty of other years if recent trends keep up.
With the third overall pick of April’s NFL Draft, the Jets chose USC quarterback Sam Darnold. While Darnold understandably worked through some freshman struggles, the Jets believe they have a bright future and a high ceiling with Darnold under center.
“(There’s a) very bright future here. (I’m) very confident in the guys in this locker room,” Darnold said when the Jets packed their gear on Monday. “The record isn’t what we wanted it to be this year, but we’re very confident in where we’re headed. I know it’s hard to say after a year like we had, but very confident in our guys and our ability to win games. We just got to fix some details here and there with some of the games, in terms of the losses.”
“We just got to look ourselves in the mirror as players and figure out what we can improve and do that in the offseason and come here ready to work for whoever is leading us.”