Gang Green Rookie Report: First Quarter of 2020

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Gang Green Rookie
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 20: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Mekhi Becton #77 of the New York Jets in action against the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 49ers defeated the Jets 31-13. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

At the quarter point of the 2020 NFL season, the New York Jets are currently 0-4. In April, Gang Green drafted nine new rookies. This was Joe Douglas‘ first draft as general manager of the Jets. Let’s look at how each Gang Green rookie has done so far.

Gang Green Rookie Report: First Quarter of 2020

Offensive Tackle Mehki Becton (1st Round, 11th Overall)

So far this season, rookie Mekhi Becton has played in all four games, starting three of them. Gang Green’s starting left tackle has also played in 65 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Viewed as a boom or bust prospect, Gang Green has definitely seen his boom potential a quarter way through the season. Per Pro Football Focus, Becton has played 169 snaps, only being penalized once and allowing just one sack. Currently, he’s been graded at 72.6, which is above average.

Mekhi Becton has been an excellent run-blocker for this Jets team. What was thought to be a liability, his pass-blocking has been phenomenal. Becton is clearly the team’s best player and is one semblance of hope for the team’s future. Every Jets fan should have hope for the big man. But unfortunately, the big man will be out for an unknown period of time due to a shoulder injury. If he didn’t play Thursday night, he could’ve been ready against the Arizona Cardinals.

Wide Receiver Denzel Mims (2nd Round, 59th Overall)

In need of receivers, Gang Green decided to take Baylor wide receiver, Denzel Mims. The team was fortunate enough to get Mims after they traded out from their original second-round selection at 48th overall. Amongst a loaded wide receiver draft class, Mims has been considered to be a project. His route-running and separation are his weaknesses.

Unfortunately, Denzel Mims has not seen any playing time due to injury. Projected as the team’s third wide receiver in camp, Mims went down with a hamstring injury early in camp. Gang Green placed Denzel Mims on injured reserve on September 7. He remains on IR today. The question is: What is Denzel Mims’ role when he returns?

Personally, don’t expect Mims to slide into a starting role so easily. He needs to make up for the practice time he has missed by working on his weaknesses and learning the offense as a whole. So far, Mims isn’t what Gang Green has hoped he would be.

Free Safety Ashtyn Davis (3rd Round, 68th Overall)

The Jets selected California free safety Ashtyn Davis with the pick they received in the Leonard Williams trade. No, Davis was not slated to replace star safety, Jamal Adams. Some thought this would be Marcus Maye‘s replacement since he is in a contract year.

Ashtyn Davis has been often referred to as a swiss-army knife on the defense. Davis could play both safety positions, line up by the line of scrimmage as an edge rusher, and can play cornerback and nickel. He also could be a return man on special teams. His track-star speed is one of his better attributes. He’s played five percent of defensive snaps and 30 percent of special teams snaps.

So far, Ashtyn Davis hasn’t really made an impact on the field. He hasn’t effectively been utilized to what he’s been hyped up to be. Well, at least when he was healthy.  Davis has been out for the past two games as he’s been dealing with a groin injury. Again, another 2020 Gang Green rookie draft pick that hasn’t lived up to his draft hype. Not even when he was healthy.

Defensive End Jabari Zuniga (3rd Round, 79th Overall)

The Jets have been trying to find a generational pass rusher since John Abraham was traded in 2006. From players like Vernon Gholston to Jordan Jenkins, no true pass rusher has matched Abraham’s status or even came close to that.

Gang Green drafted Florida defensive end, Jabari Zuniga, in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, in the attempt to find a true edge rusher. But, Zuniga was not the best available edge rusher when he was selected. The Jets could’ve easily selected Alex Highsmith or Curtis Weaver. Draft analysts have projected Zuniga to be a situational pass-rusher early on in his career. His college career-high in sacks was 6.5.

Anyways, Jabari Zuniga has not seen the field at all so far in his rookie season. Early in training camp, he suffered a quadriceps injury that has put him on injured reserve. One of his red flags before the draft was his injury history. He missed 12 games in 2017 and seven in 2019.

Recently, Zuniga was activated off of injured reserve. He could play against the Arizona Cardinals. Gang Green needs some sort of edge presence on the defensive side of the ball. Quinnen Williams hasn’t been consistent and Jordan Jenkins wasn’t worth the re-signing.

Running Back La’Mical Perine (4th Round, 120th Pick)

With rumors swirling around about Le’Veon Bell‘s potential departure after the season, Gang Green took a draft flier on Florida running back La’Mical Perine. In college, Perine never stood out as a flashy lead back. Hence, he was drafted in the fourth round not the first. He was never great at one thing. Perine was reliable both in the passing and running game. Considering his small size, Perine was also a decent pass blocker.

Interestingly enough, starting running back Le’Veon Bell came away injured after Week 1’s contest against the Buffalo Bills. Frank Gore and La’Mical Perine remained the only healthy backs. However, the Jets would sign Kalen Ballage a few days before their week two contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Foolishly, Ballage and Gore saw more meaningful snaps than Perine did. It had been that way before Ballage was cut on Saturday.

The thought process here is this is a lost season. Gang Green should see what they have in their young guys, especially Perine. There is no reason why Frank Gore should be running wheel routes nor getting 20 carries per game. He is way past his prime. So why should Gore get the more snaps? In the time that La’Mical Perine has played, he’s played well. Perine has been solid as a ball-carrier.

So far, Perine has rushed for 56 yards on 15 attempts, averaging 3.7 yards per game. I’m sure people would like to see more out of Perine in the passing game and I don’t blame them. He was a solid pass-catcher out of the backfield in college. Why not utilize him as a receiver? Now, Le’Veon Bell is expected to play against the Arizona Cardinals. Expect to see less of Perine.

Quarterback James Morgan (4th Round, 125th Overall)

At the time of the pick, selecting James Morgan was a head-scratcher. As of now, this pick still makes analysts and fans alike scratch their heads. The Jets didn’t need a developmental quarterback. Gang Green could’ve easily taken another wide receiver or another edge rusher at the time. I digress.

There has not been any talk about James Morgan through the offseason into the season. He’s just sitting on the bench and awaiting his opportunity. To my recollection, he has not been active for any games this season.

I believe the Jets should give this kid an opportunity. The team isn’t going to the playoffs this season. This season is more of an evaluative year. So, why not have James Morgan start while Sam Darnold is out instead of Joe Flacco? The team invested a fourth-round pick in Morgan and they should see what he has. Unless Joe Flacco goes down with an injury, you won’t hear from James Morgan this season.

Offensive Lineman Cameron Clark (4th Round, 129th Pick)

With the 129th pick, the Jets decided to add more depth to the offensive line. The team selected Charlotte offensive tackle, Cameron Clark. Incredibly, Clark’s size would actually measure him out to become a tackle or guard in the NFL. Clearly a depth pick, right? Well, nothing’s been really heard about Cameron Clark. Outside, of course, getting injured in training camp and being put on injured reserve with a knee injury. Take away Clark being injured. You’d think that he wouldn’t be useful this season since the offensive line was revamped. You’re dead wrong there.

It’s not so much that the offensive line wasn’t revamped. General manager Joe Douglas did revamp the unit in free agency and the draft as there are five new starters on the unit. Undoubtedly, the offensive line is better than last year. But, the interior of the offensive line has disappointed. Left guard Alex Lewis remains serviceable at his position. So far, center Connor McGovern is not what he was hyped up to be. He’s been mediocre. And the worst of them all has been right guard Greg Van Roten.

Van Roten was signed to a three-year contract worth $10.5 million. Yes, he’s not being paid a lot of money. But, he was expected to be an upgrade over the departed Brian Winters. Van Roten has been anything but that. He has negatively caught the fans’ eye. Van Roten is constantly allowing pressures, run stuffs, and missing key blocks.

When Cameron Clark gets healthy, Gang Green should not hesitate to slide him into the right guard position. Again, this is an evaluative year for the team. See what you have in the kid. Could he be a piece of the offensive line for the future?

Cornerback Bryce Hall (5th Round, 158th Overall)

Strongly considered to be a third or fourth-round pick, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall fell all the way down to the fifth round and into the Jets’ hands. Hall was highly considered one of the best corners in his class but an ankle injury in college tanked his draft stock. He has been compared to corners like Josh Norman, James Bradberry, and Kendall Fuller. All physical corners with good size and technique.

Bryce Hall is yet another Gang Green rookie that has yet to see the field this season. First, Hall was the first Jet to contract COVID-19. He was put on the COVID-19 list on July 28. Soon after being activated, he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. Not a good start to a rookie season for someone who was highly touted as he was. His timetable for his return is unknown at this point. But, the same was said for Blessuan Austin last season as a late-round pick who was coming off a torn ACL in 2019. Austin shined towards the end of 2019 and now is a starting cornerback. But, enough about him.

Right now, the Jets’ secondary is one of the worst in the league. It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Blessuan Austin this year. Pierre Desir has given fans nightmares about Trumaine Johnson. Brian Poole has underperformed after he had a fantastic season in 2019. Outside of possibly activating Lamar Jackson & Javelin Guidry to the active roster full-time, there are no healthy or reliable players to replace Desir.

If Bryce Hall is healthy this season, the Jets should give him a shot. Next season and probably for the future, Bryce Hall and Blessuan Austin could be the team’s starting outside cornerbacks. Bryce Hall can shed some light on a terrible secondary.

Punter Braden Mann (6th Round, 191st Overall)

Going into the draft, the Jets decided not to re-sign punter Lachlan Edwards. So, the team decided to draft Texas A&M punter Braden Mann. He was arguably the best punter in college football with his booming leg. Unlike most Gang Green rookies, Braden Mann has played every single game healthy. In four games, Mann has averaged 45.1 yards per punt, placing 23rd in the NFL. Not the greatest start for the rookie punter. But, he’s been getting a lot of leg work. The Jets offense has been terrible and constantly goes three-and-out. Maybe Mann gets better if his legs weren’t so tired?

Can This Gang Green Rookie Class Step Up?

Overall, this Jets draft class has disappointed. Not so much production or performance-wise, but mainly about staying on the field. So far, this doesn’t look good on Joe Douglas’ record. This was his first draft class and this class of picks better get well soon.

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