The first half of the 2022 season was a major success for the Jets. Can they keep it up over the final eight games? There is plenty on the line.
What will be determined?
Zach Wilson’s development
Given how much the Jets have invested in Zach Wilson, his progress this season is probably the most important storyline for the team.
Zach isn’t going anywhere. I wouldn’t say his spot on the team is in any jeopardy in the second half of the season. He will be on the team in 2023 and most likely be the opening day starting quarterback.
It would be nice to see him play with some consistency, though. Thus far in his second season, Wilson has been been bad sometimes. He has been solid sometimes. And for one glorious quarter in Pittsburgh, he was spectacular.
What steps forward do we need to see? It would be nice to see him get to his second read with more consistency. It would also be good if he avoids bailing on the pocket except as a last resort. In his last game against Buffalo he did a better job standing tall in the pocket and was rewarded. Sometimes he was even able to collect free yardage when running lanes opened.
While Zach Wilson’s spot on the team next year doesn’t hang in the balance, the confidence level the team and its fanbase will take into 2023 will be determined by these final eight games.
There is a big difference between going into year three confident in Zach Wilson after he showed definitively he is the guy down the stretch and still wondering after an inconsistent finish to 2023.
I know a lot of fans don't really care about individual awards, but the Jets could find themselves in the mix for some.
Robert Saleh has plenty of competition for Coach of the Year, but he has to be a top contender. Nobody predicted the Jets to be three games over .500 at this point of the season. Saleh also has the weight of a decade of failure to overcome. Culture is frequently a overused cliche, but the Jets had to break their culture of losing.
Jets rookies also could be in the running to take home some hardware. Sauce Gardner isn’t just dominating. He also is drawing media attention. Both are essential, and Sauce could be a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Breece Hall looked like a top contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year. His injury takes him out of the running. Garrett Wilson has had back to back 90 yard games in his absence and finds himself just a hair under 1,000 yard pace. If he gets hot in the second half, Wilson might end up contending for the prize.
These rookies have already won some honors. Hall, Gardner, and Wilson combined to win the Pepsi Rookie of the Week belt in seven of the first nine weeks of the season. At the very least, the 2022 New York Jets might go down as the greatest team in Pepsi history.
When your team is bad like the Jets were last year, the coordinators get plenty of criticism. Some of it is justified. Some of it isn’t.
When your team wins, the coordinators start to get head coaching buzz. Jeff Ulbrich’s defense has been one of the surprises of the season. On the other side of the ball, Mike LaFleur is a creative young mind off the Kyle Shanahan tree. That is in hot demand these days. LaFleur could become a really hot name if Zach Wilson shows signs of progress.
Ending the Playoff drought
As you may know, the Jets haven’t made the Playoffs since 2010. That 11 year absence is 5 more than any other team in the league.
There is a school of thought in the fanbase that making the Playoffs isn’t that important. The Jets probably aren’t winning the Super Bowl so what difference does making the postseason make?
I’m not sure I’d completely rule out the Jets making the run. Only two teams in the conference currently have a better record, and the Jets have a head to head win over the team that was the consensus favorite until two weeks ago.
I will concede that the Jets are not favorites in the conference. I still say making the Playoffs would be a big deal. It isn’t only because the fanbase wants to see some postseason action.
The Jets won 4 games last year. A team usually doesn’t go from 4 wins straight to the Super Bowl. There are usually some intermediate steps along the way. Qualifying for this year’s tournament seems like a pretty significant step to me for 2022.