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Jets 21, Texans 14: Zach To The Drawing Board

New York Jets v Houston Texans Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The New York Jets defeated the Houston Texans 21 - 14 in Houston today. Rarely does a victory leave such a sour taste in the mouth.

There were some positives. John Franklin-Myers had perhaps the best game of his career. He tipped a pass to himself for a huge interception early in the game to stop what looked like a Texans scoring drive. That set the Jets up for a field goal and an early 3 - 0 lead. Franklin-Myers went on to get two sacks to lead a revived Jets pass rush on the day. Quinnen Wiliams, Quincy Wiliams and Ronald Blair also got in on the fun with sacks as the Jets pass rush dominated for a change.

The Jets running game also had a nice day. The offensive line repeatedly opened up holes in the Texans’ defense and the backs took advantage. The Jets rushed for a season high 157 yards, dragging an otherwise stagnant Jets offense to the finish line. Tevin Coleman had his best game as a Jet, and Austin Walter had his best game as a pro.

That sums up most of the positives for the game. On the negative side of the ledger, Matt Ammendola missed another field goal attempt, this one from 42 yards out. Ammendola has hit just two field goals from beyond 40 yards all year. This miss felt like the final nail in the coffin for Ammendola’s Jets career.

Braden Mann wasn’t much better. Mann hasn’t looked right since he returned from a long injury absence. Today he had four punts for a 39 yard average, including an awful 29 yard shank that could and should have resulted in a Texans’ score. A great effort by the defense on the ensuing Texans’ drive saved that embarrassment. Mann was a liability last year. There were hopes he would improve this year. Unfortunately that has not happened. He has been one of the least effective punters in the league. The Jets may need a new kicker and punter soon.

The defense barely showed up in the first half as the Texans moved the ball at will. Only a few crucial big plays by the defensive line prevented the Texans from blowing the Jets out in the first half. However, the second half was a different story, as the Jets defense completely shut down the Texans’ offense. The Texans have one of the worst offenses in the NFL, with little in the way of playmakers, so shutting them down is not exactly a herculean achievement, but at least we finally saw a little progress.

All this is burying the lede and ignoring the elephant in the room. The elephant is named Zach and right now he doesn’t look like an NFL quarterback. After missing a month of action due to a knee injury there were hopes we might start to see a different quarterback, having learned a few things watching other guys run this offense. To Wilson’s credit, he did seem to make some progress in ditching the hero ball stuff. He got the ball out more quickly and for the most part he was willing to settle for the short stuff the defense was giving him when the deep ball wasn’t there.

That’s all well and good, but Wilson unfortunately was wildly erratic with his ball placement. He threw low, he threw high, he threw wide, he threw a 100 mph fastball on a 3 yard route. This was not close to an NFL level performance. Wilson at this point in his career simply cannot execute the bread and butter throws an NFL quarterback needs to make at a minimally competent level. It is a huge concern. If he cannot fix this, Wilson cannot succeed in the NFL. Throw in a head scratching shovel pass on the run to the back of a target not looking for the ball that ended up an interception and we get another highly concerning performance from the most important player for the Jets future.

The Jets have had four young quarterbacks to pin their hopes on in the last dozen years: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson. The first three proved to be backup quality players. It’s still very early, but thus far there is a good argument to be made that Zach Wilson looks worse than any of them through this point in their respective careers. Being able to make the circus plays is entertaining, but without being able to execute basic NFL throws on a consistent and regular basis, it doesn’t mean a thing. So far in his career, Wilson has shown very little evidence he is able to make the plays any NFL starting quarterback has to be able to make. It’s still early, but it’s getting later every game. If Wilson doesn’t get the basics right soon, every Jets fan should be legitimately concerned that the team will once again need to go back to the drawing board at the position. That would be what is known as a worst case scenario. If that should occur, everybody is going to get fired. And we begin the whole rebuild thing yet again, a team on a seemingly endless hamster wheel run to nowhere. Let’s all hope Wilson turns things around and leads this team to a brighter future. Our hopes ride largely on him.