Is Mecole Hardman’s time with the New York Jets over before it even truly began?
Gang Green is currently shopping the wide receiver to needy teams ahead of Week 8’s trade deadline as first reported by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Hardman was listed as a healthy scratch in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos and has appeared in just 22 plays this season for New York.
Hardman’s absence on the field has been puzzling for fans and analysts of the Jets so far this season. Originally signed in the offseason to a one-year, $4 million deal, the belief was that Hardman’s big-play ability would fit nicely with the cast of receivers that New York currently possessed. It’s not just that Hardman’s failed to show that big-play ability, it’s that he hasn’t even been given a chance.
Sunday’s contest in Denver saw Hardman be replaced on the field by undrafted free-agent Irv Charles to better fit what the Jets needed on game day.
“Irv made this team initially because of his special teams ability and it’s just a matter of just trying to get him up, especially as a gunner. When we lost Echols, we needed a gunner opposite (Justin) Hardee. Irv showed it on that first punt forcing that fumble, so he’s an animal on teams and a tremendous asset to this team,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said on Monday.
Of course, it’s not like New York’s offense has been dominant without Hardman on the field. For a player who averages close to 14 yards a touch over his career, his explosiveness has been something that was thought to pair nicely with New York’s current offensive needs. The Jets sit among the bottom half of the NFL in big plays of 20 yards or more through five games and have just put up their first 400-yard offensive game of the season.
At 2-3, Gang Green has needed an injection of speed and big-play ability to their offense. Their unwillingness to use Hardman for those situations has certainly raised eyebrows across the league.
Despite the lack of playing time, the former All-Pro special teams ace has maintained a professional approach to his lack of play-time throughout the early parts of the season.
“We’re trying to figure everything out as a team and unit. I don’t hold anything against them. We’ve definitely had some talks about getting out there and involving me more,” Hardman told AMNY two weeks before being a healthy scratch on Sunday.
Where the Jets go from here will be quite surprising. The lack of play-time for Hardman seems to have the team at a crossroads of how to utilize the talent currently on the roster, and that means a change of scenery for the former Chief looks like the best possible course of action for both sides.