The Jets playoff hopes are barely alive. After a three-game win streak, they lost five of their next six games and now, at 4-7 and entering the final five weeks of the season, need a lot of help to make the postseason.
And with that it’s probably time for Todd Bowles to play more of his younger players, right?
With the Jets facing the Chiefs Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Bowles is sticking with key veterans over some younger players, who could use the work because there’s a value in trying to fight for a remote playoff spot.
At quarterback, Bowles is sticking with 15-year veteran Josh McCown over Bryce Petty (2015 fourth-round pick) and Christian Hackenberg (2016 second-round pick).
The wide receiver position lost veteran Jeremy Kerley to a four-game suspension for violations of the performance enhancing policy and yet, second-year receiver Robby Anderson and six-year vet Jermaine Kearse continue to get the bulk of the snaps. Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart, 2017 draft picks, get snaps because of Kerley’s suspension. Kerley is eligible to return after next week’s game against the Broncos.
Of the nine 2017 draft picks, only two see significant playing times — safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. They have started since Week 1, and Bowles trusts them to make plays. Other players not so much.
Maye said playing in the NFL is “difficult because it’s new, it’s the highest level of football. If you’re new it can be tough getting adjusted to it. If you approach it the right way, if you got a great supporting staff, a great locker room, great coaching staff, I feel that helps make it a lot easier.”
Patience is the key for any young player especially a quarterback. Bowles has repeatedly said that McCown gives the Jets the best chance to win on Sundays. In training camp, the Jets gave Petty and Hackenberg the opportunity to overtake McCown and they failed.
McCown’s career year has given the coaching staff pause regarding using one of the young quarterbacks until they get eliminated from playoff contention. Petty, the backup, played in six games last season. Hackenberg, the No. 3, is inactive on Sundays and has not played in a game.
Asked if he has discussed changing quarterbacks with the coaching staff, Bowles said, “No thought to it.”
Wide receiver is not as complex a position as quarterback, but Hansen, a fourth-round pick, and Stewart, a third-rounder, needed patience.
Stewart, with just nine catches on the season, played 38 snaps in Week 1 but no more than 18 the rest of the season and just 19 the last two weeks.
Hansen, with three catches, all coming in Week 10, has seen his snap count increase the last three weeks — from 32 to 48 to 28. But it’s all about who you play behind.
“To me in any offense, it takes a good two-to-three years to fully understand everything,” offensive coordinator John Morton said. “When you come from the college game nowadays, the way it’s all spread, I mean it’s a totally different game. You signal on the sideline and you get your route. Now you’re in the huddle and you have to listen for play call, formation, shift, motion. Now you have to line up, now you have to read defenses, now you have to run the route. Are you going to run the route versus this coverage? A lot of things that go on.”
The positive thing is Hansen and Stewart know it’s a process.
“I think every rookie has to go through that,” Hansen said. “So you understand that. I think it’s my responsibly to learn from being behind Jermaine, a guy who has been in the league for a while, been to the Super Bowl has won the Super Bowl. He knows how to do things right and I think it’s my responsibility to learn as much as I can from him.”
At some point the younger players have to get on the field. When they don’t, Bowles said other evaluations take place. Practice time, weight room, meetings and how they act in the locker room are part of the evaluation process.
“As a rookie, you’re going to have those people watching you, seeing if you do things right,” Stewart said. “But as a player, part of being on the team is staying focus and the rest will take care of itself and don’t worry about who is looking at you or messing up.”
The Jets’ average years of NFL experience is just 3.7 this season as they have three players 30 years or older. Last season, the Jets had 12 players older than 30 and the average years of experience was 4.4.
While the Jets have exceeded the expectations of many, three losses where a fourth-quarter lead was lost, showed youth can lead to difficulties.
Bowles said sometimes young teams need to learn how to win but now with playoff hopes dwindling, youth might need to take the field.
Yet, talent dictates whether or not a young player can play sooner.
“As soon as we got in, we hit the ground running, no baby sitting . . . you’re here now,” Maye said. “Let’s get to work. It helped us as we went. It wasn’t easy. There’s always been ups and downs . . . it’s tough.”