The Jets are in trouble.
I know its only Week 3. In a vacuum a 1-2 record normally wouldn’t be the end of the world. Teams lose hard fought games to division rivals every week in the NFL just like the Jets lost to the Patriots by a 15-10 score.
But three week into the season, the Jets have some pretty glaring weaknesses, and it is difficult to see how they can be fixed.
They are mostly on the offensive side of the ball. To be fair, this team suffered the worst break a team can get after losing its starting quarterback for the year four offensive snaps into the season opener.
That thrust Zach Wilson into action. The Jets have tried to sell the idea that Wilson is improving and on track to reclaim his former mantle as the franchise’s quarterback of the future. It was easy enough to buy in after a solid preseason. You could buy in after the Jets scored a comeback win in Week 1. There was even enough decent film Week 2 to have hope that the needle might be pointing up. Wilson wasn’t looking spectacular, but you could talk yourself into the idea he was taking baby steps.
Those hopes collapsed in this game. Wilson completed only half his passes and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt. He had less than 50 yards passing through the first three quarters. He was slow on his reads and consistently spotted passing windows too late. Wilson was clearly the number one reason the Jets lost this game.
The Jets’ handling of Wilson has never made much sense. They paid lip service to the idea of the next two years being developmental time. But instead of investing in a veteran backup quarterback to ensure Zach could work on his game only in the low pressure environment of the practice field, they left him in a spot where he was a snap away from starting games.
The Jets claim to have total confidence in Wilson. Then they install a game plan that shows no faith in the quarterback (which frankly seems justified). All this happens while they don’t even try to upgrade from Tim Boyle as the new backup quarterback. It’s unlikely to find a quarterback in season of much quality, but surely the team could find a more credible option than Boyle. At the very least there are players available in free agency who might have led the Jets to a win in relief of Wilson.
The cynic in me wonders whether the Jets left Wilson as the number two quarterback for optics. Would dropping him to third on the depth chart have been too embarrassing for the organization’s decision makers two years after drafting him second overall? It’s tough to square the Jets’ apparent lack of faith in Wilson with their steadfast refusal to give themselves an alternative.
Now I’m sure a lot of Jets fans would love to believe the team’s problems begin and end with Wilson. They don’t.
Nathaniel Hackett is running one of the least imaginative Jets offenses I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of unimaginative Jets offenses). His play designs offer little to put stress on the defense. There aren’t many wrinkles that might force a mistake. He also seems disinterested in trying to put players in favorable matchups. His play calling has been so predictable the last two weeks that Tony Romo of CBS regularly called out the problems with his calls before the play was run. When Hackett actually varied his calls for one drive in the fourth quarter, the Jets offense found a rhythm. It was the only time all day it happened. In fact that 87 yard drive accounted for more than half of the 171 the team posted the entire game.
I think right now the Jets have a bottom five quarterback and a bottom five offensive coordinator. This is problematic enough, but there are other talent deficiencies up front. The team’s ill advised decision to bet on a 38 year old left tackle coming off an injury left the team needing to throw together a makeshift offensive line. It also doesn’t seem like anybody other than Garrett Wilson can beat one on one coverage among the receiving targets.
This offseason the Jets brought in Hackett, Allen Lazard, and Randall Cobb primarily because of their relationships with Aaron Rodgers. Their actual performances to date have not been what the Jets need.
I think there’s a case to be made that Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and Alijah Vera-Tucker are the only three above average players on the offense. Generally, the offense seems incapable of generating anything unless Wilson or Hall hit a homerun.
Losing Rodgers was clearly bad luck, but at this point I’m not entirely sure how things would look even if he was healthy. Of course the team’s quarterback performance would be better. That’s no small deal. It’s likely the Jets would have won this game and have a 2-1 record.
Still would a 39 year old quarterback be able to lift this offense on his back and make it Super Bowl caliber? I question that. I really do. There are just too many holes. Maybe the Jets were a quarterback away from making real noise in the AFC last year when things lined up perfectly for them to bank wins and jump out to a 5-2 start. I’m not sure in a neutral situation we would be looking at much more than a lower tier Wild Card team at least based on what we have seen so far.
Unfortunately without Rodgers they don’t even look like that. Perhaps a Carson Wentz type could have led them to victory in this game, but it’s unlikely the Jets will find much of a solution going forward or at least one they can count on to lead them to victory.
The team’s defense is very good, but despite lofty comparisons (Hello, ‘85 Bears), it is not the type of iconic unit that can drag a team to victory on its own.
The Jets are 1-2, and the defending Super Bowl champions are coming to town next weekend. 1-3 is staring the Jets in the face, and that would be a very difficult hole to bounce back from, especially for a team this offensively challenged.