Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 17d

Grading the Jets: A breakdown of their surprising first half

It's that time of the year -- midseason analysis. Let's start with a report card for the New York Jets (4-5):

Quarterback: B+

Many observers (including me) figured Josh McCown would be injured or benched by now, but he has exceeded expectations. With a 70.4-percent completion mark, he's on pace to set the franchise record for a season. The Jets knew he had it in him, but they weren't sure if the 38-year-old would be able to stay healthy. He ranks 19th with a 51.0 Total QBR, ahead of quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers. He also leads the team with three rushing touchdowns. The biggest negative is that he hasn't played well in the fourth quarter.

Running back: B-

The Jets are a middle-of-the-pack team in most of the major rushing categories. They have only six runs of at least 20 yards, including four by Bilal Powell, who has 75- and 51-yarders. It's not the flashiest backfield, but Powell, Matt Forte and Elijah McGuire are grinders. The trio is among the top 24 in yards after contact per rush. Forte isn't as elusive as he once was, but he's making an impact as a receiver with 29 catches, only one shy of last season's total. They have a coordinator, John Morton, who knows how to utilize his strengths. McGuire opened eyes with a 69-yard touchdown run, but he hasn't been able to recapture that magic.

Wide receiver: B

Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson and Jeremy Kerley have combined for 1,080 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, more than anybody could've expected from the receivers coming out of camp. There haven't been a lot of chunk plays (12.7 yards per catch, 18th), but they don't beat themselves. In fact, the Jets' receiving corps has the fewest drops in the league -- one (Anderson), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Anderson has a chance to be special if he stays focused. Rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen haven't contributed, and that's disappointing.

Tight end: B+

Eureka! The Jets have re-discovered the tight-end position. The team that ranked dead last in receptions over the previous two seasons has jumped to 10th (44 catches). Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Eric Tomlinson complement each other nicely, with Seferian-Jenkins used as a receiver, Tomlinson a blocker. This has been a breakout year for Seferian-Jenkins, who turned around his life and his game. He's on pace for 66 receptions. Tomlinson is one of the most under-rated players on the team.

Offensive line: C

The overall grade takes a hit because the pass protection hasn't been good. The Jets rank 23rd in pressure percentage and 28th in sacks per drop back, a deficiency that tends to show up at the worst possible time -- the fourth quarter. McCown doesn't hold the ball too long (his release time ranks 13th), so the line has to own most of it. The rushing totals are solid, but there needs to be more consistency. The ground game was dominant in wins over the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, but there also was a four-game stretch where it failed to crack 100 yards. Penalties have been an issues, especially for guard Brian Winters (six).

Defensive line: C

If we were grading based only on the last game, it would be an A, but we can't forget the defensive line underachieved in many of the first eight games. Facts are facts: The Jets are 23rd in run defense and 23rd in sacks per attempt. The pass rush isn't dormant -- after all, they're eighth in pressure percentage -- but there should be more production, especially from Muhammad Wilkerson (two sacks) and Leonard Williams (half-sack). Kony Ealy tends to freelance at times, but he has emerged as a premier shot blocker, so to speak -- eight batted passes. Look for a big jump from this group over the second half.

Linebacker: C+

The Jets are getting nice production out of their inside linebackers, Demario Davis (team-high 3.5 sacks) and Darron Lee, who rebounded after a shaky start. Davis, who replaced longtime middle linebacker David Harris, has brought more athleticism to the position. It really shows up when he's blitzing; he's also the leading tackler. The problem is outside linebacker. Jordan Jenkins is doing a decent job as a first- and second-down edge setter, but season-ending injuries to Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue have hurt the pass rush -- only 5.5 sacks for the outside 'backers.

Secondary: B-

This is one of the most improved areas from last year, and most of the credit goes to the newcomers -- cornerback Morris Claiborne and rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. It's a faster, more cohesive unit than a year ago, resulting in fewer busted coverages and more takeaways -- 16, tied for third in the league. They've already surpassed last year's total (14), which is crazy. Maye has created three, with two interceptions and a forced fumble. Adams has two fumble recoveries and two sacks. On the downside, cornerback Buster Skrine has struggled, especially with penalties (a team-high 10).

Special teams: B-

The Jets are ranked 13th in expected points added by special teams, per ESPN data. Punter Lachlan Edwards has improved significantly, kicker Chandler Catanzaro has been better than expected (except for one miserable day in the rain) and the coverage units have been solid. Unfortunately, two muffed punts (Kalif Raymond and Jeremy Kerley) were huge plays in two losses.

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