Brandon Marshall was just starting out as a receiver with Denver in 2006 and John Lynch was nearing the finish line, in his 14th year with one to go. The Pro Bowl safety gave his rookie teammate a jersey after writing some sound, profound advice on it:
“Respect the game.”
Marshall admittedly failed to grasp the concept until about four or five years into what is now an 11-year career. But he looked at three first-year players who were with him in the Jets’ receiving corps this season, the undrafted Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall, and seventh-rounder Charone Peake, and they brought that “Respect the game” jersey to mind.
“I didn’t have that my first couple of years in the league, but these dudes do,” he said Monday when the Jets cleaned out their lockers.
He called them “promising” and added, “Those guys can ball. I’m proud of them. Those are not only talented guys, but they’re high-character guys. They approach the game the right way.”
Amid the rubble of this 5-11 season, there were some rookies who flashed some potential, made some mistakes and learned some lessons. They can hope they will be better for the experience, feel more comfortable and make larger impacts in their second seasons.
“Our rookie class, we contributed all across the board,” said Jordan Jenkins, the third-round outside linebacker. “We got together and we wanted to really make sure that we stepped up next year and expanded our roles and just try and suck up more information and just get on the field more and be better teammates and be better leaders next year.”
Asked for the younger guys who looked particularly encouraging, coach Todd Bowles first brought up Anderson. The fast-moving former Temple player grabbed 42 passes for 587 yards -- 14 yards per catch -- and two touchdowns.
“I didn’t come in here to just say that I put on a helmet; I was a free agent; I got cut,” Anderson said. “I came here to do what I did. And I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I wanted to get a thousand yards. I want to go to the Super Bowl. So I’m still working for my goals.”
Bowles also praised outside linebacker Freddie Bishop, who had played two CFL seasons and came up from the practice squad to start three of the final four games; fourth-round cornerback Juston Burris, who intercepted his only pass in his only start, against Miami Dec. 17; and fifth-round right tackle Brandon Shell, who did “a half-decent job” starting the last three games, according to Bowles.
Darron Lee, the fast, first-round inside linebacker, started nine of his 13 games and finished second on the team with 73 tackles. But he only had two half-sacks and his coverage came into question.
Second-round quarterback Christian Hackenberg just practiced and watched.
Seventh-rounder Lachlan Edwards averaged 43.1 yards per punt. That other seventh-round pick, Peake, had 19 receptions. Jalin Marshall caught 14 passes, two for touchdowns, and averaged 24.9 yards on kick returns and 5.6 on punt returns. He said he learned “how to fight through adversity” during this tough season.
Then there was Jenkins. The Georgia alum started 11 of his 14 games and posted his 2 1/2 sacks over the final four games.
“Nothing’s for certain, but I would hope [next season] that I would feel a lot more comfortable,” Jenkins said. “As I was looking back at some of the earlier games and the way I played in some of the later ones, I feel like it’s a totally different player.”