These five players’ fates should have been sealed on Thursday night
The New York Jets were embarrassed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in just about every facet of the sport on Thursday night.
In my opinion, these five players played their way off the 2023 squad on Thursday night:
P Braden Mann
Braden Mann launched a 27-yard punt in the third quarter, adding another shank to his overgrowing collection. He now ranks sixth-worst among punters this season with a net average of 40.0 yards.
The Jets have given Mann time to figure things out after drafting him in the sixth round of the 2020 draft, but it’s time to cut the rope and move on. New York’s punting unit has been abysmal this season, largely due to Mann’s wild inconsistency. Sure, he booms an occasional 50-plus yard bomb, but not nearly frequently enough to cancel out his staggeringly high propensity for shanks.
EDGE Carl Lawson
On Thursday night, Carl Lawson had a mismatch made in heaven against backup left tackle Walker Little, a second-year player who has struggled mightily in pass protection and is susceptible to power-rushing players like Lawson.
Lawson failed to take advantage.
Outside of a great bull rush on the Jaguars’ first third down of the game, in which Lawson got into the backfield and recovered a fumble forced by Quinnen Williams, Lawson hardly did anything. He only recorded two pressures over the rest of the game, and those two pressures were minor-impact plays that barely affected Trevor Lawrence. Little held Lawson in check for the most part.
The Jets can cut Lawson to save $15 million in cap space while being charged only $333K in dead money. That’s a no-brainer move at this point. After failing to maximize the best mismatch he has seen this year, Lawson is firmly capped out as a league-average edge rusher at best. Maybe the Jets try and negotiate his number down, but there is no way he returns at his current cap number.
LG Laken Tomlinson
Going into the game, we discussed how the Jets were presented with a golden opportunity to be successful in the run game since Jacksonville would be without two of its best run-stuffing defensive linemen: Foley Fatukasi and Trevon Walker.
Not only did the Jets’ offensive line fail to take advantage of those losses, but they completely embarrassed themselves. New York produced some of the worst run-blocking you will ever see in an NFL game.
The Jets’ running backs carried the ball 10 times and gained 11 yards. Only two of those 11 yards came before contact.
Producing two yards before contact for your running backs in an entire game is inexcusable in any NFL game, let alone when you are facing a team that is missing two starting defensive linemen.
Laken Tomlinson deserves a lot of blame for the woeful run-blocking. Tomlinson continues to be a crushing liability for the Jets. He creates no push in the run game and consistently commits mental gaffes in pass protection.
On Thursday night, Tomlinson should have been a bully in the run game against an interior defensive line that was soft at stopping the run across two previous games without Fatukasi this season. Instead, Tomlinson is the one that got bullied.
I’m not sure what the problem is with Tomlinson, since he has been fully healthy this season and is playing in a scheme he is familiar with. Health and physical traits do not appear to be problems. It just seems like his technique, awareness, and fundamentals have all mysteriously gone out the window after he looked like a good starting guard in San Francisco.
Getting out of Tomlinson’s contract requires the Jets to pay a hefty price, but at this point, it’s a price worth paying. If they cut Tomlinson pre-June 1, they save $8.8 million in cap space but will be charged $8.52 million in dead money for 2023. But if they cut him with a post-June 1 designation, they will save $13.1 million in immediate cap space while being charged only $4.26 million in dead money for 2023; pushing $4.26 million in dead money into 2024.
Eating all of that dead money will hurt the Jets, but not as much as it hurts to have Tomlinson on the field.
C Connor McGovern
Generally, I am pro-Connor McGovern. He is a good run-blocker with great athleticism, and he fits this run scheme very well.
But McGovern’s pass protection is becoming too spotty for me to trust him going forward. Thursday night felt like a possible nail in the coffin. McGovern gave up a season-high 5 pressures, including 2 sacks. He was taking one-on-one losses in pass protection all night long, serving as the primary culprit for the woeful protection that fans witnessed.
On the year, McGovern is now tied for the fourth-most pressures allowed among centers with 23.
McGovern is an impending free agent. He likely won’t be cheap to retain due to his starting experience, athleticism, scheme compatibility for the increasingly popular wide-zone, and his age (right in his prime at 29).
I am starting to lean towards the idea that the Jets should start over at this position, specifically focusing on someone who is better in pass protection. Even more specifically, they should target a center who thrives on the mental aspects of pass protection. Blitz pickups and stunt pickups have been a constant issue throughout McGovern’s Jets tenure. Deep into Year 3, he still hasn’t stepped it up in this department.
WR Braxton Berrios
Thursday night was a damning one for Braxton Berrios. Despite the Jets having two wide receivers sidelined (Denzel Mims and Jeff Smith), they did not give Berrios a single offensive snap. It’s the first time all season that he didn’t appear on offense.
Clearly, the Jets are as fed up with Berrios as the fans are. It seems that Mike LaFleur finally adjusted according to the pitiful production Berrios has generated as a receiver this season:
Braxton Berrios receiving numbers this season:
**Ranks among 106 WRs with 30+ targets**
Yards per route run: 0.7 (105th)
EPA per target: -0.34 (105th)
Yards per target: 3.9 (105th)
Drop rate: 10.5% (95th)
DVOA: -43.4% (105th)
Should not see any more targets this year.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) December 21, 2022
The Jets would have to eat $3.2 million in dead money to release Berrios, while they would save $5 million in cap space. That dead money number really isn’t ideal; it is not looking great that New York gave Berrios a total of $7 million guaranteed. We are already considering eating a hefty sum of dead money to dump Tomlinson and Berrios would add another considerable chunk to that.
Still, cutting bait with Berrios is probably worth it. He has been a colossal liability this season. He’s not even worth having around for his special teams ability anymore. Berrios has been lucky to get away with two muffs in recent weeks, rarely gets past the 25-yard line on kickoff returns, and is making questionable decisions when fielding punts near the end zone.