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Jets Week 1 Anti-Game Balls and Game Balls

Baltimore Ravens v New York Jets Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

For a long time after each Jets win I have awarded one player a game ball, and after each Jets loss I have awarded one player an anti-game ball.

This year I have decided to change things up a bit. The old format really became limiting. Frequently after particularly bad Jets losses I have felt the need to award a special anti-game ball to a coach or an entire unit. I also couldn’t provide any sort of award for standout players.

I thought about the scenes from a locker room after a win. The coach tosses out game balls to multiple players. I can do the same.

So after each game this year I will put the spotlight on multiple players. I will award multiple game balls after a victory and multiple anti-game balls after losses. Additionally, I reserve the right to award game balls to outstanding performers after losses and anti-game balls to those who were bad after wins.

Now let’s get down to business.

Anti-Game Balls

Joe Flacco: Under the old format, we tried to avoid giving the quarterback an anti-game ball after a loss just because it was too obvious. If you lose, odds are the quarterback played poorly. Of course there were times the quarterback was so bad that the rule had to be disregarded.

If I had stuck with the old way, this would have been one of those times. Flacco would have received the single anti-game ball. Under our new format, he will share the distinction with others. It was well-deserved.

Flacco might not have been the only problem with the offense on Sunday, but he was the biggest. His lack of mobility really limits the offense’s ability to produce big plays in the passing game. The Jets had only one completion that went for more than 20 yards, and it was on a play action pass with extra blockers that created a huge window.

This isn’t about being Lamar Jackson. Flacco can’t even seem to maneuver within the pocket to deal with the ebbs and flows of pass protection.

His arm also seems to be completely gone. His passes float, and everything aside from checkdown right in front of him are off target.

While Flacco did some stat padding in garbage time, his numbers are still quite poor. He averaged only 5.2 yards per attempt. Some might point to his 307 yards, but it took him 59 passes to get there. I checked the Stathead database for quarterbacks who have thrown at least 59 passes in a game since 1950. There are only five instances where a quarterback has thrown for less yardage than Flacco did yesterday.

This performance was a monument to poor quarterback play. I’m not sure what motivated Flacco to return to the NFL this year. Maybe he wanted one last payday. Maybe he is the last one to realize he can’t still play effectively (as many formerly good players are). Either way, he is a shell of the player who was borderline elite during his Baltimore career. It is difficult to see how the Jets can win games with him in the lineup.

Lamarcus Joyner: The whole theory behind Joyner playing free safety is that he is a steady veteran who should know where to be. That wasn’t the case in a rough preseason, and it wasn’t the case yesterday.

Joyner seemed to lose track of the play committing a big pass interference penalty that set up a second quarter touchdown.

Then in the third quarter he was part of two miscommunications that turned into Baltimore touchdowns (one of which he was primarily to blame; the other being Jordan Whitehead’s fault).

There were big concerns about the safety position for the Jets entering the season, and they have already been exposed.

George Fant: Fant blew multiple blocks that led to the quarterback getting hit in the game and committed a penalty. This was not an ideal start to a contract year.

I have to admit that I have major concerns about Fant. A player coming off a career year is always a regression candidate, but things seem deeper.

Fant has publicly expressed unhappiness in recent months, first over his lack of a contract and more recently over being flipped from left tackle to right tackle and back in the preseason as offensive line injuries mounted. At some point you wonder the extent to which he is carrying this onto the field.

Laken Tomlinson: Not the start you want from your big free agent addition on the offensive line.

Braden Mann: Mann did not live up to expectations his first two years, and his 20 yard punt yesterday was costly.

Greg Zuerlein: The Jets’ three year long struggles at kicker showed no sign of ending as the veteran Zuerlein missed a field goal and an extra point in this game.

Game Balls

Michael Carter: Breece Hall got plenty of attention through the offseason, and many of us assume he will take over the lead back role at some point in 2022. Perhaps this lit a fire under Carter, who had a strong opener. The back looked quick, rushing 10 times for 60 yards and adding another 40 receiving yards. Yes, he dropped a touchdown catch, but it was in garbage time.

Sauce Gardner/DJ Reed: This was an excellent start to the season for the new outside cornerback duo. They gave up almost nothing, and Reed recorded an interception. Baltimore was one of the easiest tests they could have gotten as the Ravens have little talent at wide receiver, but the Jets corners did what you’d expect.

Garrett Wilson: The rookie looked like he belonged. He almost produced a highlight reel first down making multiple defenders miss in space on a spectacular run after a third and long catch. He saved the Jets 3 points right before the half with his hustle recovering a fumble. Wilson ended with a very solid 52 yards on 4 catches.