The Jets' season has unfolded unfavorably, no doubt. But a consolation for Jets Nation is how the young players continue to develop and, in the words of head coach Robert Saleh, "make freakish plays."
Such as LB Jermaine Johnson, who waited out Joe Flacco's pump fake, then swatted Flacco's real pass into the air, picked it clean and was off to the races at Cleveland.
"You've got to be a freak to be able to do something like that," Saleh said of Johnson's 37-yard interception-return touchdown. "Jermaine's got freakish athleticism and instincts. It reminded me of a play Nick Bosa made against Carolina in 2019. It was a screen play, he jumped up and picked it off, ran it back for about 50 yards. ... Freakish athletes make freakish plays, and he's definitely one of those."
Johnson has been hot all season, but lately he also recovered a fumble vs. the Browns and after blocking an early Commanders punt that produced the Jets' first TD the game prior.
It's somewhat arbitrary, but I went to the spreadsheets to see if any Jet had recorded two defensive takeaways and a blocked kick, all on separate plays, in one game or in back-to-back games.
Several were close but the only instance I could find was Burgess Owens, the 1973 first-round safety out of Miami who at the end of '74 blocked a field goal in a win over Buffalo and had two interceptions, one for a TD, in season-closing victory at Baltimore.
Hopefully, JJ has another big play or two saved up for the Patriots. Here are a few other players who've made big plays this season and have some interesting goals possible at Gillette Stadium on Sunday:
WR Garrett Wilson is on the verge of more Jets history. With seven receptions vs. the Patriots, he'd have 100 catches and join Brandon Marshall at 109 catches in 2015 as the only Jets with 100 in a season. And 92 yards would make Wilson the first Jet since Keyshawn Johnson in 1998-99 to register two 1,100-yard receiving seasons in back-to-back seasons. Others in franchise history to do 1,100 twice: Art Powell (1960, '62), Don Maynard ('60, '65, '67-68) and George Sauer ('67-68). Garrett would be the only Jet to do it in his first two years in green and white.
Breece Hall's 74 receptions for 579 yards are both second in Jets history for receptions by a RB, trailing only Richie Anderson's 2000 Pro Bowl season totals of 88 catches for 853 yards. Fourteen catches to equal Anderson is a lot to ask against a tough New England defense, except that we saw Hall grab 12 passes against Washington.
Moving up the franchise's list of scrimmage yardage leaders could be easier. Hall needs 66 yards to pass Thomas Jones at 1,460 yards in 2009 and climb into the Jets' top ten. An outstanding game of 176 YFS would move Breece ahead of Curtis Martin into seventh place, which is the beginning of Mr. Martin's neighborhood. No. 28 holds six of the top seven spots on the list, with his 1,942-YFS gem in 2004 the best in Jets history.
TE Tyler Conklin already has a career-high 605 receiving yards but needs three receptions to get to 62 and top his personal-best 61 catches for the Vikings in 2021.
DL Bryce Huff remains one of the NFL's top D-linemen in pressures/pass play, and his eight sacks put him in the catbird's seat with a game to go for the team lead ahead of Johnson's 6.5
Quincy Williams' strong season has already produced career season highs in tackles (131) and tackles for loss (15). But what's really interesting is that with teams staying away from CB Sauce Gardner, who has 11 pass defenses, Quincy. at 10 PDs and with his first career INT, could catch Sauce in PDs and finish ahead of him in picks.
Gardner still has 31 PDs in his first two seasons. Two more vs. the Patriots QB, Bailey Zappe or Mac Jones, would give him 33 to equal Darrelle Revis' first two Jets seasons in 2007-08 before Revis took off with 6 INTs and 31 PDs in '09.
We've mentioned the kickers a bit in our ITN stories this season. P Thomas Morstead, if he can maintain his averages of 49.0 gross and 41.8 net, will set the franchise season marks in those categories. And he'll easily be this season's 50-plus punt leader with 51 boomers, 12 more than second place. Greg Zuerlein's team record of 26 consecutive field goals without a miss came to an end on that blocked kick in Cleveland, which counts as a miss. But Greg the Leg is always in danger of starting a new streak and hitting a monster kick.
Which brings us to our final name in this piece, Xavier Gipson, who finally cleared 150 all-purpose yards vs. the Browns with 33 yards on four catches, an 8-yard rush, 30 punt-return yards and 82 kickoff-return yards. If X holds or improves his averages, he'll be one of only three NFL players in the last 10 seasons to average at least 8.0 yards/rush, 11.0 yards/reception, 10.0 yards/PR and 23.0 yards/KR. And that's quite promising for the Patriots and beyond.