Jamal Adams, Le'Veon Bell
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo, Getty Images

The 2019 season is off to an awful start for the New York Jets, but there is hope. These seven players are the standouts so far.

Elite

Marcus Maye

Marcus Maye is off to a fantastic start to the season. In Week 1, he had an interception called back due to a penalty away from the play. He made a spectacular play later in the game that also almost led to an interception. He has really adapted well to Gregg Williams high safety scheme.

The lone black mark on his resume this year has been his most memorable play. The Odell Beckham Jr. 89-yard touchdown is what stands out to people. Yes, he whiffed on the tackle but it’s not likely that any player in the NFL is making that tackle.

Other than that single play Maye has been stellar this year. He was PFF’s top-rated safety in Week 1, and after three weeks he’s still graded out as one of the best in the NFL. If he can manage to stay healthy this year May looks primed to break out as one of the best young safeties in football.

Jamal Adams

Jamal Adams has been the opposite of Maye. He struggled to make an impact early. He struggled in Week 1 against the Bills. That game was the worst Jets fans have seen form Adams since his rookie year.

In Week 2, he looked more comfortable. He was back to laying big hits and shut down the Browns tight ends, for the most part. As the game went on though, he trailed off. He got worse and worse and capped that off with a benching due to penalties.

In Week 3, Adams was back to being himself. He had a huge game against the Patriots. Adams was a major part of stuffing the run. He hit Brady once in the pocket. He also had his first career pick-six. It was a great game. His play in earned him the highest safety grade by PFF in Week 3.

After a slow start to the year, Adams has once again become one of the elite safeties in football. His PFF grade has already shot past that of Marcus Maye. The Jets are lucky to have one the best safety tandems in the NFL.

Brian Poole

The most surprising name on this list is Brian Poole. When the Jets signed Poole in free agency to a one-year, $3 million contract, most fans and media treated it as a marginal signing. They believed he would be a slight upgrade to Buster Skrine, if at all. Instead, Poole has been playing the best football in his career.

Poole has not only been the best slot cornerback in the NFL to this point in the season, but he’s been one of the best corners in the NFL period. Eighty-six cornerbacks have played at least 50% of their team’s snaps this year. Brian Poole has allowed the second-fewest yards per snap among those players.

Poole leads the team in passes defended with three, which is 10th in the NFL. His 55.6% completion percentage is 21st in the NFL, and his 99.1 passer rating against is 31st in the NFL. Even more impressive is that Poole is eighth in yards allowed with 85, third in yards per reception at 8.5, and fifth in yards per target at 4.7.

It’s worth noting that Poole is going to turn 27 in October. If he keeps up this level of play over the rest of the season, he may leave the Jets no choice but to give him a big-money contract. He has been one of the most surprising breakout players of the early part of the 2019 NFL season.

Good

Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell has been the victim of the Jets poor offensive line. Despite his near-elite play rushing and receiving, it means nothing if he doesn’t have the blocking. The Jets offensive line has been the second-worst run-blocking team in the NFL.

Despite that, Bell is trying desperately to keep pace with his career norms. He has had little success running the ball. He has just 163 yards on 2.9 yards per rush so far this season. That includes being stuffed for 0 yards or fewer on a third of his carries. When he gets some sort of block, he is averaging about five yards-per-carry. He is on pace for 869 rushing yards this season.

He has the Jets lone offensive touchdown this year—a receiving score that put the Jets up 16-0 against the Bills in Week 1. Speaking of receiving, he has been fantastic there, yet again. H

Bell has 121 receiving yards so far this year on 6.1 yards per reception. He is currently on pace for 645 yards, which would be the third-highest mark in his career.

Bell is the same player he was in Pittsburgh. If the line could find a way to open up holes for him in the running game, Bell would still be looking like one of the elite backs in the NFL.

Even with the offensive line holding him back, Bell is on pace for 1,515 all-purpose yards this year. That would have put Bell 13th in the NFL last year, and seventh among backs. Bell would have ranked 10th in rushing plus receiving yards, and sixth among running backs. The only backs ahead of him would have been Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliot, Christian McCaffery, Todd Gurley, and Alvin Kamara. That’s still elite company.

Steve McLendon

Steve McLendon has been his normal, steady self. He knows what he is supposed to do and that’s stuff the run. McLendon has been one of the best run-stuffing defensive linemen in the NFL so far this season.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s what he’s done his whole career. There was a lot of thought about what McLeondon’s role was going to be when the season started. With Quinnen Williams coming in there was a real question if there was a role for McLendon. He has proved that there is with his play on the field.

Teams have not been able to run up the middle against the Jets with McLendon in the game. According to Football Outsiders, the Jets defensive line has the fourth-best adjusted line yards, meaning they have forced the fourth-largest loss of offensive yards simply because of the defensive line controlling the play. They also rank eighth in run-stuffs this year.

The big issue in the run game has been offtackle and outside zone. This takes McLendon out of the play, forcing others to make a play. The Jets rank 20th in run defense by the second level of the defense and 15th in run defense in the open field.

McLendon has led the charge for a strong interior run defense. He continues to be a leader on and off the field. A steady veteran that every locker room needs.

Good, but injured

C.J. Mosley

C.J. Mosley has only played one game this season, but what a game it was. He had a pick-six to score the Jets first points of the season. He also had a fumble recovery, marking the first time in his career that Mosley had two takeaways in a game.

Despite missing the final three drives, Mosley was second on the team in tackles. He even had two passes defended.

There is nothing more you could possibly ask from a middle linebacker than that. Mosley proved exactly why the Jets made him the league’s highest-paid middle linebacker this offseason (Bobby Wagner has since surpassed him).

Now all he has to do is get back on the field. No matter how well Neville Hewitt and Blake Cashman have played in Mosley’s place, it’s not the same. He is the signal-caller and one of the team’s leaders. Without him on the field, something will always be missing. He is currently expected to be ready to go against the Eagles.

Jordan Jenkins

Jenkins has also been hit with the injury bug. He had a fantastic start to the season in Week 1. He had a strip-sack against Josh Allen, and he showed up in the run game. Jenkins even graded out as one of the top-10 edge rushers in the NFL that week.

In Week 2 his season came to a halt due to a hamstring injury. Jenkins had to leave early and didn’t return. He hasn’t practiced since then, but there is hope he’ll play against the Eagles.

The Jets need Jenkins to be healthy. He is one of the team’s only established edge rushers, and his work in the run game has been great for most of his career. He finally seemed to be putting everything together in Week 1. Hopefully, when he returns, he keeps that momentum. It would be huge for the team if Jenkins was able to develop into a legitimate threat of the edge in both the run and pass games.

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