Jets relying on unexpected players down the stretch run

Jets quarterback Mike White (5) celebrate with teammates.
Jets quarterback Mike White (5) celebrate with teammates.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

The Jets are sitting at a 7–5 record as they head towards the stretch run looking to make a final push into the playoffs — and they’re relying on some unexpected players as they look to solidify their spot in the postseason. 

If the season ended today, Gang Green would sneak into the postseason as the third and final Wild Card, given the place as the third-best non-divisional winner in the AFC. 

They’re two games behind the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, and one game behind the Miami Dolphins, so winning the division may be  far-fetched (even if they have upcoming games against both). 

But they can still make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, if some rising stars can continue the success they’ve had in recent weeks. 

Obviously, much attention has been paid to quarterback Mike White, who took over the starting role in Week 12 after former-starter Zach Wilson was benched due to his lack of solid production. 

In two games, White has tossed for 342 per contest, while recording a 62.35% completion rate on 53–85 passes. He has three passing touchdowns and a rushing score. 

His teammates clearly believe in him, and have made it known at every turn, but they’ll need him to continue his play as-of-late if they have any hope of beating their upcoming slate of opponents — which includes next Sunday’s game against Josh Allen and the Bills. 

But beyond White’s emergence as a darling of the fans and locker room-favorite, there are a number of other players that the Jets didn’t expect to be relying so heavily on prior to the season.

Rookie Bam Knight, who went undrafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, signed with the Jets this offseason, and despite getting tons of buzz during spring training, didn’t see the field until Week 12. 

Despite his lack of usage, though, Knight has been stellar in his two NFL games since. 

Against the Chicago Bears, Knight racked up a team-high 69 yards on 14 attempts on the ground, white catching for 34 on three catches. 

The following week, during the team’s devastating loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Knight rused 15 times for 90 yards (no other running back had more than four attempts), and added another 28 yards in the passing game. 

That comes after rookie rusher Breece Hall, who anchored the team’s early-season offense, tore his ACL and would miss the season during Week 7. 

“We love the way [Knight] runs,” said head coach Robert Saleh. “He’s north and south, he’s got a burst to him. He’s got a little extra juice….He runs violently. He’s really doing a nice job.”

The team traded for James Robinson from the Jaguars after the injury, but have instead filled the missing offensive production with Knight. 

Beyond those flashy unexpected offensive players, the Jets also have relied on defensive stalwarts like defensive tackle John Franklin-Myers.

The Jets claimed Franklin-Myers off waivers in the offseason of 2019, after he was waived by the Los Angeles Rams. 

In the 12 games that he’s played, Franklin-Myers has racked up 27 tackles (three for a loss of yardage), and four sacks, while hitting opposing quarterbacks 15 times. He has been an integral part of the Jets defensive line, which has single-handedly kept them in many contests this year, and helped them give up just the 6th-most points of any team in the NFL

Meanwhile, the Jets are also relying heavily on former undrafted free-agent Bryce Huff, a defensive tackle who was not selected by any NFL franchise in 2020, but signed with the Jets shortly after. 

After missing some early games this year, Huff has 3.5 sacks and five tackles, while hitting opposing quarterbacks seven times.  

Likewise, Quincy Williams came to the Jets after the team claimed him on waivers, and has been a dominating presence at the outside linebacker position. Through 10 games he’s appeared in, he has 63 total tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits. 

The Jets have been forced, due to injury and lack of production from other players on the roster, to hit the bargain bin to fill out their roster — but they’ve found several gems, and it’s paying dividends as they look to solidify their place as a legitimate contender in the NFL.

For more coverage of the Jets, head to amNY.com.