The National Football League abroad has produced a mixed bag of results since its conception in 2007. Week 5 proved no different, as the New York Jets fell flat against a scuffling Atlanta Falcons team, 27-20. It was a disappointing loss, especially after Week 4’s win against Tennessee.
However, every loss is a lesson. Sunday’s was a reminder that development is rarely linear. Some young guys took encouraging steps forward, while others stumbled back a few steps. That process is natural, though it’s important to keep tabs as New York continues their rebuild.
There’s no hiding it, Zach Wilson was bad on Sunday. The routine looked overwhelming and the offense sputtered badly. Again, they struggled to start hot and get in a rhythm, and it ultimately never came to fruition.
Wilson’s fit of hiccups on the “easy” plays are concerning and likely the epitome of his rookie experience. When the bullets are flying, the mundane must be automatic. For Wilson, that is simply not yet the case. He missed multiple open screen passes and failed to capitalize when Mike LaFleur took advantage of Atlanta’s defense. It stagnated the offense and resulted in some egregiously poor football.
The Running Backs
Michael Carter is here to stay. He may have only seen 52% of the snaps, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s the most talented back New York has to offer. His contact balance, elusiveness, and upside on third down are all superior to his fellow committee members. Expect his snap share to stay above 50% moving forward.
I’ve harped on Ty Johnson frequently, but his trip to London was fairly successful. He had a nice cut for a one-yard touchdown. It was also one of his better performances on passing downs. His athleticism shows up in short-yardage spots where his burst is amplified, as well as opportunities after the catch.
The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Jets’ repugnant offense meant there was not a ton of production to go around. Similarly, there isn’t much to say regarding the group. It’s clear Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder are the team’s top two targets. Keelan Cole outsnapped Elijah Moore, though I thought Moore played well; Wilson’s play hurt Moore rather frequently on Sunday. Others got in on the action, with Braxton Berrios and Denzel Mims seeing 11% and 14% of the team’s offensively snaps.
Without knowing the extent of Mims’ playbook knowledge and/or practice habits, it is hard to say how New York should be using him. However, given Mims’ prowess as a blocker and the opportunity to script plays for the offense, I’d like to see the coaching staff put him on the field early. Perhaps this vote of confidence could help spur a rhythm or some semblance of positive momentum.
As for the tight ends, Tyler Kroft’s injury allowed Trevon Wesco to see a significant boost in playing time. He was used almost entirely as a blocker and didn’t move the needle one way or another with his performance. Ryan Griffin again struggled to make any real impact, despite being on the field for 91% of the offense’s snaps.
The Offensive Line
While the offensive line was a bit of a mixed bag, it’s hard not to be encouraged by their performance. After the disaster that was Week 1, even mediocre play deserves its flowers, and New York’s front five have surpassed that at times.
That starts with Alijah Vera-Tucker. He took another step forward in Week 5, as the New York Jets rookie allowed no pressured for the second consecutive game. After his tremendous struggles, he’s begun to show why Joe Douglas made him Mekhi Becton’s partner in crime.
Another relatively unsung hero would be George Fant. Since moving to the left side, he’s saw his play improve and has kept Wilson upright. On the other hand, Greg Van Roten regressed to his uninspiring status quo after Week 4’s victory. As a whole, the line struggled to consistently open up rushing lances.
The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers
Furthermore, the New York Jets defensive front had its ups and downs across the pond. The pass rush seemed to do all it could, though it was clear Atlanta game-planned around this aspect of the defense.
John Franklin-Myers played well in his first game since signing his extension and seemed to draw extra help. Bryce Huff had a nice day, too, even if the production wasn’t there. Shaq Lawson struggled a little bit. Yet, what stood out most was the play of Tim Ward. In only 12 snaps, Ward made his presence felt, racking up multiple pass deflections and a really encouraging run stuff. I doubt he sees his playing time skyrocket, but Saleh and Ulbrich may have a couple of packages with his name on it.
As for the interior defensive line, it wasn’t a great day. Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins saw significant struggles. Folorunso Fatukasi and Quinnen Williams were better, but didn’t exactly meet expectations. There were some nice flashes of stuffed runs, but neither New York’s interior defensive linemen nor linebackers played the run consistently, and it showed.
Blake Cashman made his return to the gridiron on Sunday! He wasn’t particularly impactful, though it seems Saleh will continue to stress not putting too much on a recently-recovered player’s plate.
C.J. Mosley had his worst game of the year across the pond. We’ve seen him get exposed by weapons with elite athleticism, and this was no different. Christian McCaffrey bested Mosley in Week 1. In Week 5, Cordarrelle Patterson made lightwork of Mosley and the New York Jets.
To the contrary, there’s a discussion to be had about Quincy Williams. He’s one of the few players on the roster that completely shattered their preseason expectations. Thrusted into a starting spot, Williams has forced turnovers, made some huge tackles, and even added to the pass rush. Jarrad Davis will likely reclaim his starting spot once activated, but I suspect their may be a quicker trigger finger here for the staff if Davis struggles.
Arguably the most disappointing position group in Week 5 were the New York Jets cornerbacks. Atlanta was without Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, priming the Jets for a big day on defense. Instead, Kyle Pitts, Patterson, and Tajae Sharpe shredded the defense. Patterson was seemingly untouchable underneath, Sharpe was very efficient, and Pitts was seemingly impossible to guard. For that final point, I can’t say I blame New York.
Bryce Hall continues to be an encouraging tackler, but he struggled in man frequently on Sunday. Echols showed his typical ups and downs in coverage. Michael Carter II had his worst game as a professional and Javelin Guidry wasn’t much better. Interestingly enough, Jason Pinnock made a 15-snap appearance, too.
Containing the shorter routes should have been priority number one for the Jets secondary. Instead, they were carved up after the catch and gave up a ton of long drives. Maybe it was an outlier, and New York’s cornerns suddenly played down to their competition, but all in all it wasn’t pretty.
Losing Marcus Maye really puts a dent in this defense. With the possibility of him getting traded rising, New York’s safeties must improve. Jarrod Wilson was simply bad, and it cost him a roster spot. They all had their hands full and struggled at times, but there were still some bright spots for Sharrod Neasman and Ashtyn Davis. When Maye is off the field, expect these two to see the bulk of the playing time.
The Special Teams Units
Outside of a failed extra point, I thought the Jets had a really good day on this side of the ball. Ammendola hit both of his field goals, including a 49-yard attempt. Justin Hardee was spectacular in helping to defend the punt return. Also, Tevin Coleman ripped off a nice kick return that put New York in wonderful field position. This phase of the game was likely the Jets’ biggest separation agent from Atlanta. Similar performances would eventually parlay themselves into winning football.
Week 5 should have ended favorably for the New York Jets. Instead, they came out jet-lagged and let a banged up Falcons team earn the privilege of a happy flight home.
Much of this starts with Wilson, who played rather poorly. The uninsipiring starts to games and infuriating botched layups are both fixable, but his play was simply not conducive to a productive NFL offense. Sunday showed it will continue to take time for Wilson to grow into his potential.
At the same time, other young players played really well. Vera-Tucker, Quincy Williams, and Michael Carter took legitimate steps forward that shouldn’t be overshadowed by a handful of missed throws.
New York heads into the bye at 1-4. Their play in New England in Week 7 could be an interesting referendum on the organization’s progress. Until then, it’s up to Saleh, LaFleur, and Wilson to fix the offense and keep the plane on the runway.