MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Crossing the line: When he’s walking the sideline or standing behind microphones, Todd Bowles is an automaton, rarely showing emotion. Behind closed doors, though, the coach can get fiery and animated — and he did this week, chewing out his offensive line after its dreadful performance against the Chicago Bears. The next day, Bowles called out the line in a meeting, challenging the unit to raise its effort and level of physicality. Well, that’s the G-rated version of his rant. It became a theme throughout the week.
Expect to see a highly motivated offensive line Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, who lately have been making opponents look like modern-day versions of The Hogs.
“He wouldn’t be the coach he is if he didn’t [get vocal],” tackle Kelvin Beachum told ESPN. “He’s not a guy who lets stuff slide. He nipped it in the bud. He took care of it internally.”
The line was so bad that the Jets ran for only 57 yards and 2.4 per carry against the Bears. The line also was responsible for three of the five false-start penalties. Echoing Bowles’ message, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates told reporters, “I think Coach said it best: They played harder than us.” It’s unusual for a coach to publicly question effort. Bates tried to walk back the comment, but it didn’t matter: The players had been hearing it all week in preparation for Miami.
Beachum said they have to get back to playing “our style” of football, which he defined as winning their double-team blocks on a consistent basis. He said, “We didn’t play up to our standard. We understand that. We know that we need a bounce-back game, and we’re tuned in to make sure we do that.”
Bowles did the tuning, and now it will be interesting to see how the big fellas rebound against the NFL’s 27th-rated defense.
2. Spring ahead: General manager Mike Maccagnan sat down with reporters Thursday for his midseason “state of the union.” Three takeaways:
• Maccagnan all but confirmed what we’ve suspected for some time: The Jets are operating on a three-year rebuilding plan, and next year is when they expect the breakthrough. With a league-high $100 million in cap space, he says he believes they will be in a position to “springboard this thing forward.” After two years on a slow build, it should be playoffs-or-bust in 2019 for this regime.
• For the second straight year, Maccagnan said they would be “very active” in free agency. That gets the fan base excited, especially in another losing season, but you have to be careful with free agency. You know what they say: You get hamburger at filet-mignon prices.
Problem is, the Jets are beholden to buying players because their recent drafts haven’t produced. Consider some of Maccagnan’s picks in Rounds 2 to 4: ArDarius Stewart. Chad Hansen. Christian Hackenberg. Devin Smith. Lorenzo Mauldin. They’re all out of the league. Maccagnan says he feels “pretty good” about his drafting record, adding, “I mean, there are definitely picks that haven’t worked out, but that’s part of this business.”
In fairness to Maccagnan, he appears to have secured the biggest piece — a quarterback.
• Maccagnan, who gushed about Bowles in his 2017 midseason media session, was noticeably less effusive this time. He also seemed uncomfortable when asked if he believes they’re joined at the hip, hemming and hawing his way through a non-answer. Interesting. Remember: Maccagnan didn’t hire Bowles. They were hired by owner Woody Johnson in an arranged marriage. They report directly to ownership, not each other. Was Maccagnan trying to separate himself from Bowles? I think Maccagnan is safe, no matter what. Bowles has more job security than you think, but, no, I don’t believe he’s tied to Maccagnan in the eyes of ownership.
3. Pryor engagement: I know some Jets fans are wondering why the team, hurting at wide receiver, didn’t re-sign Terrelle Pryor. Some have speculated it was because they didn’t like his attitude. Well, yes, he’s a diva, but Bowles said that’s not the reason.
By rule, any team that releases a player with an injury settlement must wait at least three weeks beyond the negotiated settlement recovery time. In this case, it amounted to a four-week wait in total. Pryor, who had a slight groin tear, didn’t want to wait another two weeks for the Jets, so he took the Buffalo Bills’ offer and passed their physical.
The bigger question is, why did the Jets cut him in the first place, knowing it was only a one-week injury (based on the negotiated settlement)? They say it’s because they needed to replace him with a healthy body at receiver in Week 7 (Deontay Burnett). If that’s the reason, and if it had nothing to do with skill or attitude, the move was short-sighted. They could’ve cut from another position to make room for Burnett.
4. Weary travelers: One of the biggest blemishes of the Bowles era is the inability to win away games. Since last season, the Jets are 2-10 on the road and 6-6 at home. We all know they’re not packing a championship-caliber team on those charter flights, but there’s no excuse for 2-10, including eight losses by double digits. How a team performs in a hostile environment often speaks to its mental toughness.
Under Bowles, dating to 2015, the Jets are 9-19, tied for 26th in winning percentage.
Since 2017, their point differential is minus-100, but it’s not because they’re reckless with the ball. In fact, their turnover margin is a respectable zero. They’re just … well, bad.
If they don’t win another road game, it will mark the first time since 1995-96 (the Rich Kotite years) they’ll have back-to-back, one-win seasons away from New Jersey.
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5. Leo is lasting: Defensive end Leonard Williams isn’t putting up crazy numbers, but he remains part of the Jets’ future. The same can’t be said for every player drafted ahead of him in 2015. It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for three of the top five:
Jameis Winston, first overall: Benched.
Dante Fowler, third: Traded.
Williams (sixth) and Brandon Scherff (fifth) are among only a handful of 2015 first-rounders who have lived up to expectations.
6. Chasing records: Tight end Chris Herndon has a receiving touchdown in three straight games, a rarity for this team. He’s only the third rookie in team history to accomplish it, joining Keyshawn Johnson (1996) and Thurlow Cooper (1960).
Get this: No tight end in Jets history scored more than three touchdowns in his rookie year. Right now, he’s tied with players such as Rich Caster, Dustin Keller, Mickey Shuler, Anthony Becht and Kyle Brady.
7. The last word: “The first time I met Sam was our freshman year, the first day of PRPs (player-run practices). He came out and he was just killing it then, too. I remember he threw me a couple. I think it’s funny how you see the same guy, then and now. Nothing about him has changed. He always has the same facial expression.” — Burnett, who played with Darnold at USC