ESNY’s Michael Nania drills down into the most important numbers from the New York Jets’ preseason Week 3 loss to the Saints.
3 - number of times Sam Darnold was knocked down
With each of the three interior starters missing (left guard Kelechi Osemele, center Ryan Kalil, and right guard Brian Winters), the New York Jets‘ starting offensive line struggled to get on the same page in pass protection. As was the case for the second-straight game, Alex Lewis started at left guard, Jonotthan Harrison started at center, and Tom Compton started at right guard.
Those three have each looked solid for the most part thus far, showcasing the potential to provide quality depth, but they had a rocky start against New Orleans. Sam Darnold dropped back to throw only 13 times. While he did not take any sacks, Darnold was knocked down following three of his passes. Two of his attempts had to be thrown away.
It was a slight dip for a reserve group that has looked surprisingly good thus far. After all, they are backups for a reason. There is going to be a drop-off when a starter goes down.
At the same time, Lewis, Harrison, Compton, and even rookie tackle Chuma Edoga have all shown enough to inspire confidence that they can be a trustworthy second-team unit in 2019.
11.7 - yards per punt return this preseason for Greg Dortch
The former Demon Deacon made his presence felt once again, busting out a 27-yard punt return off one of the best punters in the business, Thomas Morstead. In 2018, Morstead’s punts were returned for an average of only 4.6 yards. In addition the 27-yard return, Dortch had a 12-yard return that was wiped out by a penalty.
Dortch has averaged 11.3 yards per punt return over his seven opportunities in the preseason thus far, which ranks 11th among the 35 players with at least four returns in this year’s preseason.
Since the preseason opener against the Giants, Dortch has handled the majority of the punt return duties, and done a great job in the role. It seems like he has already won the Week 1 punt returning job, a huge victory for the undrafted free agent rookie.
0 - number of incomplete passes thrown in Robby Anderson's direction so far
Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson began to generate some impressive chemistry down the stretch of the 2018 season, and they’ve been building on it in this year’s preseason.
Anderson has caught all five passes thrown this way this preseason, picking up a first down on four of those and gaining a total of 92 yards.
Against New Orleans, Anderson and Darnold had a pair of impressive hook-ups. First, Anderson beat Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore on an out route, picking up 19 yards off of a good throw from Darnold.
Later, Anderson toasted Patrick Robinson on a go route, gaining a few yards of separation. Darnold was hit as he let go of the ball, and it ended up being underthrown. However, while the ball was not perfect, it had just enough air for Anderson to make a play on it. He showed off his tremendous ability to track the deep ball, hauling in a 41-yard bomb.
Anderson is often labeled a one-trick pony, but he has shown on numerous occasions that he has the ability to make plays in many more ways than one. The question is, will he ever be able to do damage in the intermediate range with consistency? With the budding connection he has with Darnold, and a receiver-friendly head coach in Adam Gase, Anderson will have every opportunity to elevate his all-around game this season.
51 - Rushing yards by Trenton Cannon
Trenton Cannon may have secured his roster spot against the Saints. He notched 51 rushing yards on six carries, setting new career highs (including both regular season and preseason games) for both total rushing yards and yards-per-carry (8.5).
Additionally, Cannon showed off his value on special teams. He was in on a punt return that was stopped for just one yard and made a clean tackle on a kick return that was stifled four yards short of the 25-yard line.
Cannon’s special teams’ contributions have given him an edge over Elijah McGuire in the battle for a roster spot. Due to his lack of ability to make an impact on special teams, McGuire has needed to flash on offense, but it hasn’t happened. McGuire picked up only 21 yards on five carries against New Orleans. He was also the fourth running back to enter the game, one spot behind Cannon.
While his kick return game is still a work in progress, Cannon has been gradually improving at maximizing his game-changing speed. The upside presented by his top speed is tantalizing, and teams love to invest in prospects with next-level athletic tools.
One game remains. McGuire still has time to make his case, and Cannon still has to maintain his improving performance in order to seal his spot on the team. However, at this point, it seems that Cannon has gained a significant edge over McGuire in the race for a roster spot.