The New York Jets are Team Poker Face. Their leaders, coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, don't reveal public emotion, especially Maccagnan, whose keel always stays even. But late Monday night, as he followed players into the victorious locker room, the GM revealed a small smile -- at least it appeared that way.
And with good reason.
In an occupation that has more rises and dips than a Six Flags roller coaster, Maccagnan enjoyed the kind of night that every football architect dreams about. His four first-round draft picks, along with the big names in the Jets' 2018 free-agent class, made significant contributions in the Jets' 48-17 win over the Detroit Lions.
A quick recap:
Darron Lee, linebacker: This had to be the most satisfying development for Maccagnan because Lee, a first-rounder in 2016, failed to meet expectations in his first two seasons. On Monday night, his vaunted athleticism was on full display as he recorded the first two interceptions of his career, returning the first for a touchdown. The Jets had gone 73 straight games without a defensive touchdown, the longest drought in NFL history.
On the pick-six, Lee showed terrific awareness, dropping into a zone and reading an angle route to running back Theo Riddick. He jumped the route, with defensive tackle Henry Anderson drilling Matthew Stafford as he released the ball. Asked how it felt to answer critics, Lee said, "It does [feel good], but that's just the expectations. I guess that's why I receive the criticism, because I should have been doing this earlier. But, whatever. Better late than never. But never late is better."
Jamal Adams, safety: The 2017 first-round pick ended a personal interception drought, recording his first career pick in his 17th game. Adams did more than that; he also broke up two passes and made a tackle behind the line. The interception had to be a tremendous weight off his shoulders.
"He sees things quicker and he can anticipate instead of guessing," secondary coach Dennard Wilson said last week. "As long as he's anticipating instead of guessing, he'll make more plays."
Leonard Williams, defensive end: The "old" man of the former No. 1s, Williams didn't make any splashy plays in the season opener, but he recorded two quarterback hits. Williams, 24, the only player remaining from the Jets' 2015 draft, established his credentials in 2016. For him, this season is about raising his game to a high level and securing a long-term contract extension.
Sam Darnold, quarterback: You may have heard, he's 1-0 as a starter. On Tuesday, Bowles lauded his rookie signal caller for his "rare" poise and steady demeanor. The coach said it's "impressive" and "comforting" to have a young quarterback with Darnold's intangibles. Mind you, Bowles usually doesn't toss around superlatives when discussing rookies.
"It's exciting to see because he's got an old soul, but he's young in age," he said. "He understands the game very well. He works at it the right way."
Isaiah Crowell, running back: What a debut for the free-agent acquisition -- two touchdowns and 102 rushing yards. Crowell displayed power on a 6-yard touchdown run, breaking a tackle at the goal line. On his 62-yard score, the longest rushing touchdown in a road game in franchise history, it was pure speed.
Crowell is known as a thumper, but he has deceptive speed. He has six plays of 50-plus yards since entering the league in 2014, tying Mark Ingram for the most by any rusher in that span.
Trumaine Johnson, cornerback: He was their big-ticket acquisition in free agency, landing a $72.5 million contract that includes a fully guaranteed $34 million. Johnson had a couple of hiccups in pass coverage, yielding 25- and 26-yard receptions, but he displayed his ball skills by holding on to a Stafford fastball. He fumbled on his return -- a vicious hit -- but he made an instant impact as a ball hawk, something the Jets haven't had in their secondary.