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TJW Mid-Season Awards 2022
"This is not a week off, It's a week to get away from the building, from the coaches, to get away from the physical aspect. As far as regenerating mentally, that is not off-message. Continue to take care of your body so we can attack the second half. I've seen players destroy their seasons because they went to the beach and ate nachos and ruined their entire season. The main thing is their bodies, don't waste days and come back ready." - Coach Saleh
I just hope everyone comes back healthily, so basically no Xavier McKinney situations. The Giants safety had to have surgery after crushing his hand when the Can-Am vehicle he was riding in “tilted over” and he fell on his hand. That’s some bad luck and we don’t need any more bad luck with the Jets.
There aren’t a lot of things going on in the world of the New York Jets as they all head their separate ways to get refreshed for the 2nd half of the season.
One nice little nugget is that the Jets now have the lowest blitz rate in the NFL, but they have generated more QB pressures than anyone else. That’s exactly how Ulbrich and Saleh designed this defense, so it’s great to see it working.
According to PFF - “The Bills flipped their script defensively, running a ton of man coverage in Week 9 loss to Jets. But Buffalo was torched when it fell back in zone, allowing 0.57 EPA/play.”
The bye week represents a good time to stop and take stock of what’s happened over the opening 9 games. The Jets have an outstanding opportunity to make the playoffs considering they likely need to win just 50% of the games remaining on their schedule. Let’s run through some award nominations for the season so far.
To make it more interesting, I restricted it so any single player could only win one award.
Most Valuable Player - Quinnen Williams
Williams isn’t playing at a pro-bowl level, he’s playing at an all-pro level. He is quite literally unblockable. His 35 pressures lead all interior defenders in football, 7 more than Aaron Donald who’s played one game less. His 8 sacks lead all interior defenders as well, one ahead of second-placed Vita Vea.
I can’t actually describe how good Quinnen has played, he has now vaulted his game from being pretty good to being one of the elites in football…and the Jets are going to have to pay him as that price just keeps on going up, and up.
He’s a complete player, stout against the run, and dominant in the passing game. There is no question that he is the team MVP this year and I’d argue he’s in the conversation for defensive player of the year.
Rookie of the Year - Sauce Gardner
Was there any doubt? Not only is he the best rookie corner in football, but he’s also one of the best corners in football full stop. He’s come up against some of the toughest receivers in football so far this year in the likes of Chase and Diggs and he hasn’t blinked once.
Sauce has been tested this year, quarterbacks have targeted him 46 times through 9 games, and he’s allowed just 20 to be completed (43.5%). He has 13 passes defended (#1 in football), 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 interceptions. He’s given up just 189 yards, or 21 yards per game.
By all accounts, he’s one of the best studies in the locker room and puts countless hours into watching tape of receivers to get tells on the release and any extra information that will give him the leg up. I don’t think Sauce has a ceiling, he can be as good as he wants to be, fortunately for the Jets they are playing alongside him and not against him.
Offensive Player of the Year - Garrett Wilson
Wilson was my and many people’s #1 rated wide receiver in the 2022 NFL draft and we’re seeing why. He has the versatility to work inside and out, he has a great catch radius, and good vertical ability but most of all his routes are clean and his release is lightning. The thing I love about Garrett is he’s putting up great numbers with up-and-down QB play, if Zach can really work on his placement and consistency, Wilson’s ceiling is a top 5 receiver in football.
So far through his rookie season, he has 42 receptions for 522 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s 9 more receptions than the 2nd placed receiver (Conklin) and 171 more yards than the 2nd placed guy (Davis). He’s worked in the slot (47.5%) and out wide (49.6%) and while it sounds as though he will work out wide more in the second half I still think he’ll see time in the slot.
One aspect of his game where we hopefully will see some improvement over the second half of the season is on contested catches, Wilson has caught just 3-14 (21.4%) and that’s a long way removed from his college numbers (61.5% in 2021, 48.5% career number).
Defensive Player of the Year - John Franklin-Myers
JFM is quietly having an outstanding season, but it sometimes gets overshadowed because of the pure dominance on show from Quinnen Williams.
Franklin-Myers leads the Jet's edge players with 25 pressures, as well as leading with 13 defensive stops, 3 more than Jermaine Johnson who has 10…which is pretty remarkable considering he’s missed multiple games and has his snap share limited.
What I like about JFM is his ability in all facets of the game, not only is he an outstanding pass rusher but he’s also missed just one tackle all season and has made a huge impact in the run game. The Jets have a top-10 run defense at the moment, in 2021 it finished 29th. A lot goes into that but we would be remiss to not mention JFM.
Franklin-Myers got his contract extension last season after an explosive start and then cooled off as the season progressed. Hopefully, he doesn’t cool off this year.
Best Free Agent Signing - DJ Reed
There was only ever one winner for this award. Not only has he been the best free-agent signing for the Jets, but I’d argue he’s been one of the best free-agent signings in the entire NFL. The Jets signed DJ for 3 years and $33 million, for the full contract that puts him outside the top 15 corners in football.
So far through 9 games, he has allowed just 52.2% of passes to be completed into his coverage and only 244 total yards, which works out at just 27.1 yards per game. He has 6 passes broken up and 1 interception, yet he’s still not allowed a single touchdown into his coverage.
His tackling and instincts are better than I thought and he’s a mentor to Sauce Gardner. The Jets have the best cornerback combination in the league, I’m pretty confident saying that and Reed is just as important as Sauce. This combination can be together for the next three years offering stability. It was a great signing then and it looks even better now.
Coach of the Year - Jeff Ulbrich
I know what you’re probably thinking, this award needs to go to Robert Saleh. I hear that, but what Jeff Ulbrich has done as the play-caller is worth noting. It wasn’t that long ago that many were calling for his head, I wrote a piece for Gang Green Nation about Ulbrich being on the hot seat. Fast-forward 4-5 games and things look different.
When Ulbrich joined Saleh in New York they spoke about the system they wanted to run, which was based on pressure and coverage. With a lack of talent last year we didn’t get to see this defense at full flow, now that Ulbrich has the pieces we’re starting to see the defense flourish, it’s now considered to be one of the best defenses in football.
Obviously, with Saleh being a defensive head coach they share the accolade, but Ulbrich’s name is on the defense. His rotation policy may not have been popular but if you look at the team MVP and defensive player of the year, it seems to be working. There’s still a long way to go but Ulbrich’s disguise of coverage against Josh Allen at the Bills won us the game. I wanted to give him some recognition considering the heat he took earlier this year.
Comeback Player of the Year - C.J Mosley
This was one of the more difficult awards because we have so many new players. C.J wasn’t bad last year but he was rusty. He had 168 tackles last year but some of that was because nobody else on the Jets wanted to tackle. This year he has 88 through 9 games, but he already has more tackles for a loss (3) than he did last year (2), but more than anything else, he’s made strides with his coverage.
Last year Mosley made very few plays in coverage, this year he already has double the number of passes broken up (4) as he had last year (2) and he’s allowing a 92 NFL passer rating instead of 116.3 like last year. He’s still the leader of the defense and a fine example to the younger players, but Mosley looks more like the guy we saw early on in Baltimore and the Jets are reaping the benefits.
Mosley was one of our best players last year so it’s strange to have him in here, but he’s returned to an elite level in 2022 and for that reason alone he deserves recognition.
Beat Reporter of the Year
Yeah, I don’t think I’m touching this one. I will say I’ve really enjoyed reading the coverage from the beat this year, it’s always easier when you’re winning. Rich Cimini always has some great stats and information, although I know he has a rocky relationship with a lot of fans historically, Zack Rosenblatt over at the Athletic has been a welcome addition. Dennis Waszak Jr never gets the credit he deserves, his piece on Laken Tomlinson earlier this year was exceptional.