Derrick Jones
(Photo by Al Pereira/ Getty Images)

The outcome was not ideal for the New York Jets on Sunday but at least they got some positive performances from some of their young stars.

Michael Nania

Sunday was a game to forget for the New York Jets.

Not only did the New England Patriots do a number on their AFC East opponents but the Jets’ season ended in disappointment once again, with a 4-12 record.

However, there are some positives to come out of it. While securing a decent draft pick, they also got some pretty awesome performances out of some of their younger players on both offense and defense.

Derrick Jones

After living on the inactive list throughout the entirety of the first 16 weeks of the season, Jones finally found his way onto the field for regular season action in the team’s season finale against the Patriots.

Jones played extremely well in the preseason, allowing only 3-for-9 passing for 21 yards in his direction over two appearances. However, he reportedly struggled in practice, contributing to his failure to find playing time.

Finally getting his shot due to the absence of starting corners Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne, Jones picked up where he left off in August. He was targeted four times and yielded only 18 yards on three catches, none of those resulting in a first down. Tom Brady had a lot more success and felt much more comfortable challenging other players on the Jets defense.

It was only one game for the young corner, but it was a promising one that continued the momentum he built earlier in the year during the exhibition period. Jones played well in all three of the games he appeared in throughout 2018.

The Jets are in a bind at cornerback. The highly disappointing and immovable Trumaine Johnson is the only starting-caliber corner under contract for 2019. The team absolutely would like to finally focus on other needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball and at edge rusher. Having the role of cornerback wide-open as another hole the team needs to address would not be ideal.

As is the case with every position, any help from within the Jets can get at cornerback would be a tremendous plus. Jones should be one of the top competitors in the competition at cornerback throughout the summer of 2019. If he can translate his small sample size of quality play under the lights to consistency on the practice field, he could draw serious consideration to make the Week 1 roster as a weekly regular, even if only as a backup.

Deontay Burnett

Burnett caught all five of his targets for 71 total yards, racking up four first downs through the air.

It was Burnett’s second game of the year eclipsing 60 receiving yards while catching each of the targets thrown in his direction. Since 2016, he’s one of only two rookies to do that multiple times in his first season, joining Michael Thomas of the Saints who did it three times alone in 2016.

Burnett’s opportunities were fleeting this season, but in both this game at New England and also the Jets’ visit to Chicago back in Week 8, Burnett was the best skill player on the field for the Jets as he flashed a few acrobatic catches for big yardage through the air. Against the Bears, he caught all four of his targets for 61 yards and three first downs.

 

Keep in mind that Burnett, who was 21 years and 17 days old when he made his NFL debut in Week 7, was the youngest wide receiver to appear in a game this season. That youth, combined with the natural chemistry he has developed with Sam Darnold going back to their USC days, makes his potential to become a long-term piece as a Jet very tantalizing.

It’s never wise to overreact to small sample sizes, especially from completely unproven players. However, Burnett put forth some very bright flashes in two games this year – the only two outings in which he played over half of the team’s offensive snaps. His brief moments of brilliance seem like they really could be a sign of bigger things to come.

The Jets have already extended Quincy Enunwa and could bring back restricted free agent Robby Anderson. They’ll likely look to add another weapon at wide receiver as well. That could block the path for Burnett to claim a starting spot, but that doesn’t mean there will be no place for him on the roster where he can make an impact. Depth is extremely important at the pass-catching spots. Jets fans should know having watched Darnold throw to Andre Roberts, Jermaine Kearse, and Charone Peake this season. Burnett can still add a lot of value as the fourth or fifth wide receiver on the depth chart.

It would be a huge plus for the team if Burnett could become a quality long-term backup alongside his fellow Trojan.

Can these youngsters help carry the team going into the 2019 season? There’s no guarantee but this past week was a great place to start for both Jones and Burnett.

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