The last month has been grueling, but finally, in Week 4, the New York Jets earned their first victory of the 2021 season. It may have taken an extra “quarter” against an underperforming team missing two star wide receivers, but none of that matters. From Wilson’s flashes of excellence to a dominant pass rush performance and the coaching staff’s best game to date, it truly was a team victory. Heading into an early-morning slugfest with the Atlanta Falcons, we can relish in some positive observations.
Zach Wilson had the best game of his career on Sunday, without a doubt. The out-of-structure flashes were as captivating as they were important for the offense. For the first time, he looked calm and comfortable behind his offensive line. He totaled 297 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception (where his receiver fell) on the day. Yes, Tennessee’s defense has struggled, but his 3rd & 2 deep ball in overtime was a play few have the guts to try, much less complete. His performance was impressive, fun, gutsy, and everything Jets fans wanted to see from the rookie.
Still, it should be noted that his day wasn’t perfect. Wilson missed way too many layups against the Titans, and on most days, that’ll come back to bite him. In fact, it could have lost them the game when he missed Ryan Griffin on a drag route in the red zone during overtime. They were forced to settle for a field goal and gave the ball to the Tennessee offense. The layups were befuddling, but overall it’s impossible to not be excited after his Week 4 performance.
The Running Backs
Possibly the worst position group on the day was the running backs. This was a bit unexpected, considering how well the offensive line played, but it’s become clear that they were better in pass protection. Tevin Coleman was used sparingly but was leaned on in clutch situations. Michael Carter saw a 51% snap share, compared to Ty Johnson’s 33%. I’m glad they are prioritizing him, even if the early returns haven’t been favorable.
The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Corey Davis revenge game didn’t get off to a roaring start, as he was the target on Wilson’s lone interception, but he managed to make up for it, earning a game ball. Davis scored a long touchdown and racked up four catches and 111 yards.
Keelan Cole had a nice day (3 receptions on 4 targets, 92 yards), especially late. Jamison Crowder’s season debut was fruitful, too. He led the team in targets and receptions (9 and 7, respectively) while also catching a touchdown. Despite the production, it’s clear he and Wilson are yet to fully gel. However, if Wilson can trust Crowder like he does Davis, his development can accelerate.
I’ve been very harsh on New York’s tight ends thus far, but I think Griffin had his best game of the short season. He only had one catch, but his blocking and route running looked better than I anticipated. On the other hand, it was disappointing to see Mims fail to get any looks, though ten snaps is better than zero.
The Offensive Line
It’s no surprise Wilson’s best day and the performance of his offensive line were connected. They played exceedingly well in pass protection and saw season-best performances essentially across the board. Alijah Vera-Tucker had easily his best game as a professional. As a whole, they struggled to open rush lanes, but Wilson and company will take that trade-off every time.
Unfortunately, certain aspects of the line’s play are yet to meet expectations. Even on Sunday, they struggled with stunts, especially involving Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten. It was just a blip on the radar, but against better defenses, it may have significant consequences.
The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers
Hands down, the Jets defensive front played their best game of the year (noticing a trend?). New York relied heavily on four-man fronts to get home consistently, and it worked to perfection. Of there seven sacks, 4.5 came from Quinnen Williams (2), Bryce Huff (1.5), and John Franklin-Myers (1). They were effective with their stunts and allowed Jeff Ulbrich to drop seven into coverage, stifling Ryan Tannehill.
They also played well against the run. Derrick Henry did Derrick Henry things and racked up 157 yards on 33 rushes, but the defensive line did its job. Henry found much of his success outside the tackles and after contact. Overall, their pass rush finding paydirt so consistently had a ripple effect throughout the defense.
After an injury-plagued 2019 and opt-out in 2020, C.J. Mosley seemed more like a cut candidate than a star of a defense. To many’s surprise, he’s returned and played some of his best football now that he’s seeing consistent snaps for the first time in green and white. Mosley has been all over the field and taken on his Mike responsibilities wonderfully. As Saleh noted, he even made an (unprecedented) audible pre-snap that led to a sack.
Quincy Williams was the only other linebacker to see more than 25 snaps on Sunday. He too impressed, picking up a sack, pass defended, and two TFLs. Williams may never catch an interception, but he’s got legitimate click-and-close speed and is not afraid to make his presence felt when tackling. New York needed a strong game from him, and they got one.
More than anything else, this position group’s performance should be taken with a grain of salt. With that said, Jets cornerbacks balled out in Week 4. Bryce Hall continued his stellar sophomore campaign with a handful of massive pass breakups and some brutally necessary tackles of Henry. He’s handled every challenge Saleh and Ulbrich have thrown at him gracefully.
The rookies had themselves some fun as well. Michael Carter II continued to look formidable in the slot. Brandin Echols looked good prior to entering the concussion protocol. Summer scouting draft crush of mine Isaiah Dunn came up large when his name was called. Saleh asked for a group of young, athletic corners from Joe Douglas. To see his fingerprints having tangible impacts this early is incredibly inspiring.
One of the few position groups to struggle on Sunday were the safeties. This doesn’t come as a surprise, given Maye’s absence, something the Jets may have to get used to, but still, the lack of depth is concerning.
It was nice to see Ashtyn Davis back in action, even if he only saw 38 snaps. He looked aggressive and will likely be used all over the place, especially if Maye is not on the field. Look for him to match up with Kyle Pitts, much like he did against Darren Waller last year. He was their best man defender against athletic tight ends a year ago, and he has the skillset to carry that into his sophomore season.
Two names that stood out here were Sharrod Neasman and Jarrod Wilson. Frankly, I felt Wilson struggled on Sunday, and he’s yet to show out in either phase of the defensive game. On the other hand, Neasman showed some encouraging signs. Per PFF, Neasman generated a 68 coverage grade and played on 74% of New York’s defensive snaps. There’s a good chance he gets more playing time moving forward.
The Special Teams Units
I don’t have much to say here, just that I am grateful everyone did what they had to do. Any miss from Matt Ammendola or disaster-laden punt could have cost the Jets the game. Instead, Tennessee’s special teams fell short, and New York came out on top.
Week 4 was the first true sign that we’ve entered a new era of New York Jets football. That doesn’t mean Wilson is going to pan out or Saleh is headed for Canton, but there are distinct differences between this administration and Gase’s circus. I can guarantee a Gase-led team would have laid down and died in the wake of nearly three dozen Henry rushes and some critical late-game situations. This team didn’t, and that means something, no matter how many games they win the rest of the way.
Seemingly everyone played well on Sunday, so building on these successes will be vital. For Wilson, an Atlanta defense is just what the doctor ordered. He’ll need the offensive line to repeat their performance, and perhaps Mike LaFleur can make life easier for him. Another strong performance can leave the Jets at 2-3 heading into the bye, which is more than they could’ve asked for after their dreadful start.