These Jets have something to prove in final seven games

In a season going nowhere, there are some Jets still going somewhere.

The season is over in terms of team goals. At 0-9, this season was dead and buried weeks ago. But after this week’s bye, the Jets still have seven games left and there are still some players with questions to answer.

The biggest one is quarterback Sam Darnold, of course. Can he show enough in the final seven games to make the Jets think he is worth sticking with instead of drafting Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields?

But Darnold is not the only one with something to prove on this roster. The Jets are expected to have a new coaching staff in 2021 and that staff won’t have any allegiance to the current players. Players can show over these final seven games that the next staff should keep them or impress other teams who may want to acquire them.

Here are the players in the non-Darnold division who have the most to lose or gain over the final stretch of the season:

Chris Herndon

Nothing has been more stunning this season than the disappearance of Herndon. There were major expectations for the third-year tight end and he has not come close to living up to them. He looks like a player who has completely lost his confidence and lost the confidence of his coaches. He has 14 catches for 101 yards, no touchdowns, three drops and two fumbles this year.

Herndon has one more year remaining on his rookie deal and is due to make just $920,000 next year, so the Jets won’t move on from him quickly. But he could help himself with a stronger showing at the end of the season to begin winning the confidence of general manager Joe Douglas, who did not draft him, and the new coaching staff.

Marcus Maye

The Jets’ top free agent should be re-signed. He has played well this season both at strong safety early in the year and then back at free safety recently. Maye is also a strong locker-room guy who has represented the organization well since being drafted in 2017.

The only question is what Maye will be looking for in a new contract. The top of the safety market is just under $15 million per year. If Maye is looking to be paid top safety money, I wouldn’t do that. But if Maye is in the $8 million-$10 million per year range, that makes sense.

Maye just needs to keep playing the way he has this season over the final stretch of the year and he can show some value as a leader if the Jets locker room does not splinter with all this losing.

Greg Van Roten/George Fant

We’re going to put the right side of the Jets offensive line together because they have similar circumstances.

Both were signed this offseason as part of Douglas’ rebuild of the line. That rebuild has not worked, and Douglas could be looking at another remodel in the offseason. Their contracts make these two easy to move on from. Fant has no money guaranteed in 2021 until March 22, when $4.45 million becomes guaranteed. Van Roten has just $250,000 guaranteed in 2021.

These two have struggled at times but have played better recently. The Jets’ struggles on the line have been more about the unit not meshing than individual players not playing well. You have to wonder how much Douglas will factor in that the group did not have an offseason to work together when he does his evaluation. These players were also brought in because of their fit in Adam Gase’s offense. The next coach might not be a fan.

The rookies

The Jets suited up 10 rookies on Monday night as they shift into young-player development mode. That will only increase as the season winds down. You know players like Mekhi Becton and Denzel Mims will have large roles in 2021, but the rest of the rookies are fighting to impress the team brass and show they can be a big piece of the future. They will all get a chance in the final seven games. Now, we’ll see what they do with it.

The 2020 season is over. These next seven games are like the 2021 preseason to see who stays and who goes.

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