The Jets are currently 1-5 and have endured the worst 4 season stretch in franchise history. Zach Wilson is out as well as Mekhi Becton, Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirldeen, Lamarcus Joyner, and Jarad Davis. The Jets are just the 2nd team in NFL history to not score in the 1st quarter since the 0-16 Lions. Overall things have gone as poorly as they could. How did we get here?
Lafluer has been the recipient of the brunt of the blame and it’s partially warranted. Especially over the 1st 4 weeks of the season the Jets offense was painfully predictable. A disturbing amount of our drives opened up with 2 runs for little to no gain followed by a 3rd and long pass. There’s been too many plays where all Jets WRs seem to be next to each other. Not to mention the frequency of 2 TE sets, which not only consists of the NFL’s worst TE duo, but also keeps our young WRs off the field in our deepest position group. Lafleur has repeatedly put Wilson and the Jets offense in terrible positions with the predictable nature of his play calling. However, when provided the opportunity the players have also failed to make a play. Drops, interceptions, penalties, and overall poor execution have been the story so far. Wilson has routinely thrown behind his WRs and missed open players in both his reads and more concerningly, in his passing. However that’s only when he has time since the Jets offensive line was abysmal in pass protection. Thankfully they’ve improved significantly since the start of the season in protection lead by George Fant. One of the root causes of the Jets struggles on offense is the lack of a run game. The Jets are bottom 3 in almost every category and consistently fail to gain yards on 1st and 2nd down. What perplexes me is that the Jets offensive line and RBs actually grade relatively well as run blockers. From left to right: Fant (41/74), Tucker (9/73), McGovern (8/35), Van-Roten (30/73), Moses (20/74). Michael Carter even has the 23rd highest rushing grade among RBs and has gained 80.7% of his yards after contact, 3rd out of 47th qualifiers. Yet a large amount of the Jets issues are due to the failure of the running game to generate yards.
The Jets defense has fallen off after a hot start to the season. In week 4 the Jets had 7 sacks, Mosley made a game saving call, and our corners had allowed only their 1st TD of the season. In the 1st 4 games of the season Hall was top 15 in most stats only allowing 9 catches on 16 targets for 199 yards. In the 2 games since he’s allowed 12 catches on 19 targets for 145 yards and 1 TD. The Jets went from top 10 in sacks with 13 sacks in 4 games to only 1 in the last 2. Every level of the defense is struggling and everyone is to blame.
Injuries have also been devastating for the Jets this year. On injured reserve we currently have Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Mekhi Becton, Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirldeen, Lamarcus Joyner, and Jarad Davis. Crowder, Mosley, Wilson, Kroft, Coleman, Cole, Moore, Maye, and Echols have all missed games too. An already thin team has been missing 7 starters for at least half the season.
In week 1 we were the youngest team in the NFL led by a rookie QB, HC, OC, and DC with 7 rookie starters and 14 total new starters. To start off, the Jets played 3 top 10 defenses and it went about as poorly it could as the Jets went 0-3 averaging 6.7 points while Zach Wilson went 2-7 while also leading the NFL in pressures, hits, and sacks. The Jets won a thriller against the Titans that made many fans and myself believe that the team was rounding a corner. That was followed up by a disappointing game by Wilson and the Jets defense which hit a new low this past sunday. Wilson took bad back to back hits to the knees which has now been confirmed as a PCL tear which will take 2-4 weeks to recover. We have since trade a conditional 6th for Joe Flacco On the other side the Jets defense allowed a season high 54 points. The Jets may have found a new low despite having 3 of the worst seasons in Jets history the past 3 years. Their rookie QB leads the NFL in interceptions, is near last in passer rating, and now hurt. The highly anticipated Douglas-Saleh-Wilson era has started off as terribly as any in recent memory. Where do we go from here?
The earliest Wilson will return is likely in week 11 vs the Dolphins. In that time there are several things the Jets need to do. Flacco has solved the 1st point of this section. We have a bit more than I’d like and I don't care for Flacco as a mentor but he’s one of the better options. (To start a veteran QB to not completely sink the team but mostly to provide support for Wilson and to help him through his early season struggles and recovery). Next is bench Greg Van Roten and trade for guard and tight end. GVR has been holding back the entire offense back and Jets desperately need to get Wilson help at both positions. I’ve heard Evan Engram, Eric Ebron, Laurent Duvernay-Tariff, and Andrew Norwell as potential targets. Next it’s time for the Jets to sell. With Becton set to return Moses/Fant and can be traded for a nice return unless they will play guard which would be ideal. Crowder and Berrios can be traded if he’s not in the long term plans although Crowder has made a big impact since returning. On defense Maye and Fatukasi are prime candidates due to their quality play and expiring contracts. I’d rather retain both but in a lost season they can help build the future if they won’t be here to stay. The final and most important task in the coming weeks is to figure out the offense. Lafleur needs to adjust to the Jets roster and put our playmakers in position to succeed. In the past 3 games he’s been better but needs to continue to improve, especially early in games.
I believe the Jets need to run significantly more 3 and even 4 WR set and significantly reduce the amount of 2 TE sets. Prior to the Patriots game the Jets ran 2 TE sets 41% of the time despite Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin being among the worst in their position. Another problem is the Jets play calling based off their personnel. In 3 WR sets the Jets pass the ball on 71% of their plays, 2nd highest in the NFL. The predictability is made even worse given the fact the Jets have 3 of the elite blocking WRs with Davis, Mims, and Cole. It’s impossible to give Wilson good looks when the defense knows when he’s passing. This is reflected by the Jets allowing 16 of their 18 sacks in 3 WR sets despite a 3:1 ratio on attempts. Another issue that has infuriated me is the frequency of runs on 1st and 2nd down. A staggering 78% of our TD drives and 67% of our scoring drives start with a pass. Maybe we should give our offense a chance when the run game has failed.
To recap by the time Wilson returns, the Jets offense should have a new RG that doesn’t allow over 35% of the teams pressures, preferably a new TE, Becton back at LT, and an offense that passes early, uses WR and RB screens, and runs out of 3 WR sets. Wilson will miss 3 difficult games and return for the easiest stretch of the season. He will have the opportunity to bounce back against the Dolphins, Texans, Eagles, Saints, Dolphins again, and the Jaguars. This 6 week stretch will likely determine Wilson and the Jets season. Can the team settle in and beat lesser opponents before finishing against 2 contenders? Will Wilson stop the mistakes that have limited the Jets offense? Can Lafleur and the rest of the offense give Wilson the opportunities to make those plays? These are the questions that will need to be answered in the coming weeks. Until than we will watch Mike White and Joe Flacco lead the 1-5 Jets against 3 playoff teams. But now I’ll talk about the good things that happened this season.
Douglas’ 2nd rookie class has led the NFL in snaps played prior to the bye and overall have played at a respectable level. Wilson despite all his struggles has the 2nd highest PFF grade and the 2nd lowest bad throw rate among rookie QBs. Alijah Vera Tucker has the 9th highest run blocking grade among guards and posted an elite 92.5 PFF grade in week 5. He’s shown rapid improvement in pass protection after a slow start to the season and is currently the 17th highest graded guard in the NFL and 2nd among rookies. Elijah Moore registered his 1st TD in Sunday’s game but overall has failed to make a big impact so far with less than 100 yds and 10 catches on the year. Jets did a better job of getting him involved this sunday but overall it’s been a disappointing start. Michael Carter has played well so far averaging 63 YPG over the last 5 games while also getting 2 TDs. Jamien Sherwood had done a good job transitioning to LB starting the season and was given the duty of calling plays this past sunday due to his intelligence. Unfortunately his season has come to an end with an Achilles injury. Michael Carter II has been a great surprise earning the 30th highest grade among corners and 3rd among rookies. He’s been one the Jets best players on defense already and is a great combo with Bryce Hall. After that Echols has played well given he’s a 6th round rookie. He’s made some good plays but also has some big mistakes. Nasirldeen is the last to contribute as he flashed in pass coverage but was ultimately benched due to his poor run defense. In the end 7 of the Jets 10 draft picks are playing meaningful snaps as rookies.
Things haven’t fared as well for Douglas’ 1st class with only 90 offensive snaps. The defensive side fared a bit better with Hall leading the Jets defense in snaps while being the backbone of the Jets secondary. Ashtyn Davis has also returned to a meaningful role at safety. Becton was coming into extremely high expectations in year 2 with some even ranking him as the 6th best tackle in the NFL. Unfortunately that ended quickly as he dislocated his knee cap in week 1. The Jets have greatly missed his run blocking despite Fant’s pristine pass protection. Denzel Mims has had to fight for every snap with only 41 through 6 weeks. Despite ranking 10/12 in snaps Mims ranks 6th in receiving yards. The Jets desperately need to involve him in the offense. Ashtyn Davis has struggled with injuries but has flashed the athleticism that made him a track star and 3rd round pick. Bryce Hall has been arguably the best pick as he’s been the Jets best corner since his 1st game halfway through 2020. While he’s struggled the last 2 games I believe Hall and the rest of the defense will stop their current slide. In his 1st draft Douglas found 2 long term starters in Becton and Hall and 2 contributors who can continue to improve in Mims and Davis.
This is Douglas’ team and coaching staff. There are only a few holdovers from the Maccagnan era and their time is quickly running out. Doulas and Saleh drew rave reviews and were both considered home run signings. The biggest knock on Robert Saleh was that his OC, Mike Lafleur, would likely be a HC candidate and would leave the team within a few years. Zach Wilson was the highest graded passer in the draft and showed arm talent and play making ability that can’t be taught. People are understandably angry and upset at the lack of progress as the Jets are 1-5 and have 3 losses.
by over 3 scores.
But it is not time to give up. The offense especially had been playing significantly better prior to Zach WIlson’s injury. Including the TD on WIlsons last drive, the Jets have 6 TDs in 9 quarters. While there is still plenty to improve, we're moving in the right direction. Lafleur has improved his personnel usage and has committed to getting Carter and Moore involved in the offense. In Andy Reid’s 1st year as OC he led one of the worst offense in the NFL before quickly becoming one of the best of all time. 6 games is far too early to decide that the pieces we have cannot succeed in the NFL. The future is bright for the Jets as well.
The Jets currently have the 4th, 8th, 37th, 45th, 68th, 116th, 121st, 146th, and 160th pick in the 2022 draft as well as the 7th most cap space. If the Jets can have a competent 2nd half against lesser opponents then the Jets will be primed to launch themselves into the playoff picture in 2022. Our biggest needs are guard, tight end, linebacker, and safety although every position can use an upgrade. Mock offseason coming soon.