Running back Austin Walters was not the only one who played in front of friends and family in his homecoming at Houston last Sunday. Defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers did, too. Both had big games, though JFM's might have been the biggest of the big.
And there were two fellow Texans helping the Jets beat ... the Texans!
In the cauldron that is an NFL game, JFM said that he had a score to settle -- with himself -- after his roughing-the-passer penalty in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins game gave Miami a chance to score the game's pivotal touchdown. He certainly made up for that play, intercepting a pass on Houston's first drive and contributing a 2 sacks, 3 tackles and 2 QB hits in the Green & White's five-sack game as the defense held the Texans scoreless in the second half.
"It was another opportunity after having that play last week that arguably cost us the game," JFM told Bart Scott and Dan Graca on this week's edition of "Inside the Jets" recorded on "Victory Monday." "I knew I had to be better."
And JFM certainly did. His flight path to the Jets, via Stephen F. Austin University and the Los Angeles Rams, has not always been without turbulence. He was drafted by L.A. in the fourth round (No. 135 overall) in 2018. His season was kind of a rookie dream come true -- a trip to the Super Bowl, a sack of Patriots' QB Tom Brady. And then he was "fired," using his word, after the Rams brought on a new defensive line coach.
"I think it just was a prime example of being complacent," JFM said. "I was a rookie and I had a sack in the Super Bowl, I knew we were going to the playoffs and thought that we'd be going to win games the rest of my career and I was going to get paid. I just got a little complacent [in L.A., where he was born]. I know now that just can't happen.
"Complacency is dangerous, it makes us all soft and we forget about why we do things. I have a great opportunity after signing a $55 million contract. Guys say to me that now you can go buy anything. But now I want more for this team and for myself. I can't get complacent. Guys say, 'Man you got stability, you're good.' No I'm. No I'm not. I'm going to keep going and fighting as if I was on the cusp. I won't get comfortable any more. I have to help this team win games. As D-linemen, we know as we go the team goes."
That was never as true as in Houston. After falling behind by 14-3, the Jets defense limited the Texans to only 45 total yards in the second half. In the game, the Jets allowed the Texans 202 total yards, the lowest by an opponent since the Dolphins had 168 at Miami in 2018.
On the interception of Tyrod Taylor, as Houston appeared to be driving for a score on the opening possession of the game, JFM deflected the pass, then snagged it and headed the other way. He veered to the left sideline and was caught from behind as his D-line teammate Shaq Lawson beseeched him to lateral the ball.
"Shaq was like 'hey John, I was running why didn't you pitch it to me,' " JFM said, showing off his ear-to-ear smile. "I said, can't you block, I want to score myself. We're all ballhawks. A catch is a catch."
JFM and Lawson, each with an interception, have half of the team's picks.
When the final stat sheet was tallied, it showed that Franklin-Myers became the third Jets player to have two sacks and a pick in the same game, the first to do it in 36 years and the first defensive lineman to do it in franchise history. As the team's stats guru Randy Lange pointed out, the other Jets defenders to execute that tough trifecta were S Russell Carter in a 21-17 home win over Buffalo in 1984 and LB Lance Mehl in a 24-3 road win at Green Bay in 1985.
"He's worth his weight in gold, JFM is," head coach Robert Saleh said after the game. "Too much given, much expected, right? He has a very high standard for himself. I know he was beating himself up all week for that play [against Miami]. But he comes out every single practice working his butt off and then he takes it to Sunday."
As one of the Jets' young veterans, JFM, 25, has had a unique perspective as he's observed players drafted and picked up during the season blossom in green and white. Certainly, Walter is one.
"When I moved to Houston, I worked out at a gym and saw him all the time," JFM said. "He's the type of guy who, after I finished my workout, he's still doing stuff by himself. Two hours extra. I really didn't even know him. He said he played for San Fran, but I didn't think anything of it. I've met 1,000 NFL players at the gym. The guy showed up every day. He can go. He's a smart player, he just does everything right. I'm happy for him, he deserves it. He's a hardworking dude. I'm excited for his future."
Among the other largely unsung standouts for JFM are DL Bryce Huff ("All he does is make plays. He super impressive."); S Elijah Riley ("He just got here and he's had an impact on us like nobody else."); and LB Quincy Williams ("Everyone gave up on Quincy. He's super fast. He can hit. I respect the guy.")
JFM also issued props to rookie LG Alijah Vera-Tucker (who had played 100% of offensive snaps) and rookie TE Kenny Yeboah (who partially blocked a punt last Sunday).
"I just respect that as a young guy sometimes it's hard to say you need help -- that's OK." JFM said. "But we have guys who are not afraid to admit they need help and want to get better."