New York Jets Week 5 Observations

New York Jets
Photo Credit: Getty Images

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.

Zach Wilson

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.

The Linebackers

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.

The Cornerbacks

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. 

The Safeties

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.

The Outlook

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.

New York Jets Week 4 Observations

Credit: (Jets Wire)

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

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.

The Linebackers

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.

The Cornerbacks

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. 

The Safeties

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. 

The Outlook

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.

Wilson’s Week in Review: Week 3

It’s been a troublesome start to the New York Jets season. Zach Wilson’s Week 3 only added to those concerns, after New York went a second consecutive game without scoring a touchdown. The production isn’t there, the points aren’t there, and the wins seem even further behind. We’re witnessing the beginning of the long road that is Wilson’s development. That doesn’t mean there weren’t significant takeaways to be had.

What Wilson Did Well

Showed Off His Upside

The best play of Wilson’s day didn’t move the chains. It didn’t score points and it certainly didn’t give New York a lead. We can point to Corey Davis and blame his toughness at the catch point or give props to the defensive back for knocking the ball out. Either way, it was a gentle reminder that Wilson is still stupendously talented.

This play was, in many ways, a showcase of what Wilson does well. He evaded pressure well while keeping his eyes downfield. Once he found his way out of a muddied pocket, he had the athleticism to create space from pursuing defenders. From there, he showed off the arm talent and delivered a 40-yard strike while still drifting.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Wilson can keep an offense afloat even when things go south. Once again, he showed how that’s possible, even if the Jets couldn’t cash in on it. Eventually, those plays are going to result in six.

Poise

It’s been a long three weeks for Wilson, in part due to the lack of support around him. He’s been under pressure frequently, at times, by his own fault. Nonetheless, it was inspiring to see Wilson retain his arm talent and make plays with guys in his face.

With a linebacker in his face, Wilson shows off proper timing, accuracy, and a quick release. He hits a wide open Jeff Smith for one of the longest gains of the day.

Wilson’s issues with pressure won’t fix themselves in a week. Still, it is encouraging to see him unfazed here. This situation doesn’t call for it, but stepping through throws in the face of pressure are likely the next steps in his development.

A Referendum on Wilson’s Floor

I’ve talked a lot about Wilson’s struggles in structure as a rookie. They’re still plentiful, but the warts show themselves in more difficult scenarios.

Here, things get simple. It looks like Cover 2 to the left pre-snap. He gets Cover 2, and the concept beats it easily. Drop, hitch, throw. When the picture is clear, Wilson can operate quickly and accurately.

Ultimately, plays like this are a referendum on Wilson’s floor. Despite how ugly things get at times, nothing is lost in translation when the pre-snap picture doesn’t change. It isn’t much, but it’s a higher floor than his lowest points would suggest. If anything, let is say that New York chose the right guy, it’s just a matter of development.

Where Wilson Struggled

Indicator Tunnel Vision

Wilson’s Week 3 added two interceptions to the ledger, but only one was truly his fault. Unfortunately, this one was ugly.

Here, we see a flood concept. It’s similar to the concept Wilson was picked off on against New England, where Devin McCourty looked like he was fielding a punt. However, I think the process that led to this interception is similar to Wilson’s first career interception in Week 1.

Denver’s running a quarters-like coverage to the concept. Jeff Smith is taken vertically by the boundary corner. The “apex” or slot corner, in this case, plays man defense on Braxton Berrios. From there, it seems that Davis is going to have a favorable matchup against the inside linebacker. Unfortunately for Wilson, the linebacker is just walling Davis from crossing the middle of the field. Meanwhile, Justin Simmons is in a robber assignment, rather than a deep zone.

Wilson sees that the defender covering Davis has inside leverage. Given that Davis is running an out route, it seems like an easy decision. Unfortunately, Wilson takes that as an indicator to throw at Davis’ break. He failed to account for Simmons, who explodes to the ball and picks him off. At this point in time, it seems Wilson is developing tunnel vision on particular indicators in an effort to comfortably get through his progressions. As a result, he loses other zone defenders and makes some brutal decisions.

Overcoming this bad habit will be a key part in developing his play within structure.

Accuracy Regression?

Coming out of BYU, Wilson was touted for his ability to make plays out of structure with unorthodox arm angles and a lack of a platform. So far, he’s struggled to do that consistently.

Wilson if moved off his base and forced to deliver this pass to Ty Johnson with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage. He drops his arm and releases it in an atypical sidearm fashion. Circumstances are far from ideal, but Wilson is expected to hit throws like this. For someone that did this consistently at BYU, it can be frustrating to see those passes hit at a significantly lower rate.

Moreover, this inconsistency is troubling because we’ve seen him make similar, better throws before. Wilson has more than enough talent to hit said throws, but he’s yet to retain the necessary accuracy.

Sensing Pressure

Wilson has showed time and time again to be instinctive and twitchy within the pocket. At the same time, he’s justified comments scolding him for holding onto the ball for too long.

Here, Moses gets beat badly by Von Miller. Ty Johnson’s incompetence and Miller’s alignment don’t help, but the result is the same. He quickly barrels down on Wilson and gets a free shot on the rookie.

As a general rule, good quarterbacks can evade a single pass rusher. Of course, the individual rusher here and how quickly he wins makes that more difficult. Still, opportunities are there for Wilson to escape. There are lanes to step up and potentially out of the pocket. Instead, Wilson doesn’t feel Miller honing in and pays for it. Moving forward, being able to sense pressure while keeping his eyes down field will play a role in extending plays and keeping the football safe.

Getting the Ball Out

The final play of Wilson’s week in review relates strongly to the previous one. Wilson needs to protect himself, and the offense, by getting the ball out quicker.

Simply put, the check down is open. He’s under duress and knows the downfield options aren’t viable. Instead of checking it down and living to see another day, Wilson makes an additional pocket movement and is eventually taken down for a loss.

Part of what makes Wilson so dangerous is his ability to hit home runs out of broken plays. Still, there’s a time and place for everything. Here, he’s better off gaining a handful of yards. His choice puts more stress on his offensive line and leaves yards on the field.

All in all, Wilson looked like a rookie who just played the most daunting coach the sport has ever seen. Against a comparable defense, he struggled again. Wilson’s struggles now are all opportunities to grow.

He’ll have a chance to show that growth Week 4 against a lesser Tennessee defense.

New York Jets Week 3 Observations

For the New York Jets, Week 3 was a performance emblematic of the last decade of football. It was bad, it was boring, and it reinforced the feeling that things are never going to get better. Thankfully for Jets fans, there were still some positives among the mundane nothingness that was Sunday afternoon.

Zach Wilson

It’s been more than two weeks since New York has scored a touchdown. At some point, that comes back to the quarterback. Zach Wilson looked like a rookie quarterback coming off his first career butt-kicking. He was skittish and cursed by his bad habits. While it’s true that his teammates let him down frequently, it sure seemed like a two-way street.

Wilson missed a handful of throws that stunted drives. He took five sacks, speaking to Greg Van Roten’s eventual comments. I’ll write about it later this week, but Wilson’s struggles to process information within structure can cripple the offense. As incredible as his sack-dodging pocket movements are, and as much as the off-platform deep balls bring people to their feet, an inability to run the offense with any proficiency can render those skills meaningless.

However, Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas deserve some credit for starting Wilson from the jump, and not wasting assets on a veteran bridge quarterback. If the kid has the mental makeup to get through severe adversity, he’ll weather the storm and come out better for it. Wilson’s weaknesses need real-game reps to improve. Sitting behind a future C-List ESPN guest isn’t going to help Wilson when he gets punched in the mouth.

The Running Backs

New York’s offensive line played poorly, Denver’s front-seven played well. Subsequently, it wasn’t a pretty day for Jets running backs. In Tevin Coleman’s absence, Ty Johnson and Michael Carter split snaps to a tune of 57% and 43%, respectively. Neither played particularly well.

The bigger discussion at hand is production on passing downs from those two. Johnson’s big-play ability is nice, but there is no reason for him to be on the field in these situations. On Sunday, he totaled five targets, a catch, and six yards. To add (subtract?), he offered no value in pass protection.

Despite Carter’s ugly drop, he needs to be on the field. He’s tough and elusive in the open field and should block better, too. Neither back was productive on Sunday, which could give Coleman some more snaps upon his return, but Carter should be the committee’s priority going forward.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

New York’s wide receivers struggled mightily on Sunday, though that wasn’t much of a surprise. Denver’s secondary is arguably the best in the league, and it showed. However, they still failed to meet the low expectations set for them. Corey Davis is, and should, be the target Wilson trusts the most in tight windows. He struggled to separate and had a massive drop on a deep third-down throw.

Additionally, Braxton Berrios had his worst game to date. The Jets missed Jamison Crowder badly in their Week 3 contest. On no play was this more apparent than Berrios’ drop-turned-interception.

Elijah Moore is yet to look comfortable in the offense and left with a concussion. Perhaps Denzel Mims could find his way into some NFL action against a porous Tennessee Titans defense as a result.

It’s redundant by now, but it’s clear the Mike LaFleur offense will not reach its ceiling without an addition at tight end. The blocking has been bad and somehow the receiving has been worse. To LaFleur’s credit, they are no longer seeing double-digit targets per game.

The Offensive Line

It wasn’t a great day for New York’s offensive linemen, but the blame should not be shared equally. The tackles played well, outside of a few ugly reps. The interior, however, was exceptionally bad. Van Roten is not a replacement-level player. Alijah Vera-Tucker continued to look out of place. As a whole, they still cannot protect against various stunts, and left Wilson pressured frequently.

The Jets will hold out hope for Vera-Tucker, just like they will with Wilson. That doesn’t mean either is playing good football right now. The entire line had their hands full on runs, and the ugly reps in pass protection likely won’t end soon. For a unit about to face Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons, communicating better is a must.

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

Coming into Week 3, we knew the New York Jets’ biggest advantage would be their interior defensive line against Denver’s questionable interior offensive line. As pass rushers, they exceeded expectations. Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and Sheldon Rankins all played a role in consistently pushing the pocket. Williams in particular had his best game of the season.

From a volume standpoint, the Jets defense struggled against the run, allowing 121 yards and two scores. They certainly had their woes, but considering the Broncos ran the ball 37 times, it could have been worse.

As for the edge rushers, things stayed pretty consistent. Bryce Huff had his flashes, but otherwise the group was unsatisfactory.

The Linebackers

It’s fair to say C.J. Mosley’s Week 3 performance was his best one in a New York Jets uniform. He looked quicker than he has, played a role in limiting Noah Fant, and was the Jets’ best run-defending linebacker. The Alabama product was rewarded with ten total tackles on the day.

Quincy Williams again had his moments, racking up six solo tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage. However, the positives end there for New York’s linebackers. They played a big role in allowing Denver’s biggest runs, were manipulated in the pass game, and (especially the rookies) looked conservative amidst their struggles.

The Cornerbacks

This was supposed to be New York’s biggest test yet for their corners. Unfortunately, injuries to K.J. Hamler and, in Week 1, Jerry Jeudy, made the contest less entertaining. We saw Brandin Echols struggle against Courtland Sutton, in which poor technique resulted not only in catches, but a penalty flag, too. It’s nothing he can’t recover from, but it certainly wasn’t a great day for the rookie.

Furthermore, I felt Michael Carter II continued to handle himself well. His strong rookie campaign has been matched by Bryce Hall’s sophomore improvements. Hall’s limitations flashed on some reps against Tim Patrick, but ultimately had a decent outing.

The Safeties

Marcus Maye did his typical Marcus Maye things on Sunday, showing up all over the place and showcasing his skills as the secondary’s best player. Still, he was not immune from the nuance of Teddy Bridgewater. One thing Bridgewater does well is manipulate defenders with his eyes and hitches to open up throwing lanes. Maye fell victim, like much of the Jets defense.

Injuries have definitely played their part, but New York has struggled to find any kind of production from their second safety spot. Adrian Colbert and Jarrod Wilson both struggled in the loss. Until Ashtyn Davis returns, I don’t see this getting any better.

The Special Teams Units

The only instance of note here was the malpractice that was Thomas Morstead’s delay of game penalty. It took three points off the board and seemed revelatory of what would be to come.

The Outlook

New York did not play well on Sunday. The defense couldn’t force a stop and the offense couldn’t score. It was a non-competitive contest that epitomized the bad, boring brand of Jets football fans have become numb too. Thankfully, the defense is closer every day to returning to full health and reaching its potential. We’ve seen the flashes from Williams and others on the defensive line. Mosley looks good and the young corners have exceeded expectations. They’ll have to be at their best to slow down Julio Jones in Week 4.

As for the offense, everyone deserves a portion of the blame. LaFleur has frankly not executed as a play caller. Hopefully, with time, the offensive line and wide receiver corps can play up to the expectations set for them. Until then, Wilson will likely to continue to struggle.

If there’s anything going for them, Tennessee’s defense has allowed 84 points in three games. They’ll likely fall to 0-4, but a solid day against a poor secondary could be what Wilson needs to fix his rookie season.

Wilson’s Week in Review: Week 2

Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots was the quintessential Bill Belichick masterpiece against a rookie quarterback. For this edition of Zach Wilson’s Week in Review, we’ll dive into each of his four interceptions to assess blame, acknowledge concerns, and draw conclusions before Week 3’s matchup against the Denver Broncos.

A Quick Statistical Update

It goes without saying that eight quarters of football is not nearly enough to decipher whether or not a quarterback will be a franchise guy. That sentiment is amplified with projects like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Lock, and Wilson. Of course, New York Jets fans hope Wilson’s future is closer to those first two names, even if it takes some time.

That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be acknowledged that statistically, Wilson has been arguably the worst starter in the NFL. Tej Seth of Pro Football Focus does a good job of quantifying this with his Passing Composite Score. By compiling one’s Accuracy Rate Over Expected (AROE), EPA/Play, and Raw PFF Grade, we can determine who have been the best and worst passers through two weeks. For Wilson, his 29th-ranked AROE (-15.46), 31st-ranked EPA/Play (-0.33), and 28th-ranked Raw PFF Grade (-0.05) are emblematic of a quarterback who has struggled mightily thus far.

In simpler terms, Wilson has played-turnover prone football and has not retained enough explosiveness to keep the offense viable. Is that entirely his fault? That almost certainly isn’t the case. Still, Wilson needs to get better. They’ll never overtake New England without said improvement.

Interception 1: Reckless Aggression

Wilson’s first interception of the day also came on his first drop back. Simply, it was a masterclass in trying to do too much.

Needless to say, the above call was likely not optimal, given the play New England ran. Living with that is part of the chess match football is. In terms of the process, I actually give Mike LaFleur some credit. The zone play action is a staple of the offense, and utilizing pre-snap motion is only going to help your young quarterback. There’s nothing inherently detrimental from the Mills concept, and it even resembles a pass that netted Corey Davis about 35 yards in Week 1.

However, the blitz beat the flawed interior protection and with only three routes on the field, Wilson found himself in a pickle. Wilson quickly forced the pass into murky waters over the middle of the field. The defensive back made a nice play, and once the tip drill was initiated, it was game over.

Belichick won this round not with an exotic coverage call, but with fast, disciplined play in the front seven. Getting in the face of Wilson on what was supposed to be a relatively easy tight-window throw was all that was necessary. It was a bad read not out of confusion, but out of reckless aggressiveness in the wake of pressure.

Additionally, it wasn’t too dissimilar from plays against Carolina that should have been sacks. At this point in time, Wilson’s priorities have too often been on making the big play, instead of the smart one. Thankfully, we can reasonably expect this issue to be coached out of him with time.

Interception 2: Electric Boogaloo

Moreover, the second interception of Wilson’s day came on his very next pass attempt. It… wasn’t the most confidence-invoking start of his life. Unfortunately, I found this pick nagging at me after I suggested more half-field progressions last week.

While this interceptions wasn’t truly on Wilson, it’s never fun to see easy throws take turns for the worst. Here, we see a play action bootleg that results in a nice three-level read. Wilson has shown to be comfortable on the move and with these types of progressions.

He’s got two hittable throws in front of him, and makes the right decision. Elijah Moore underneath likely would have been completed, but only for a short gain. There’s a defensive back in position to make a tackle well before the first-down marker.

Davis’ crossing route is the intermediate option of this progression. Against this single-high look, there is a legitimate window to throw into. Wilson identifies it and hits Davis with a catchable ball, even if it’s a little high. For a receiver making as much money as Davis is, New York should expect that to be caught.

Obviously, it wasn’t, and the Jets quickly found themselves in the midst of a nightmare scenario. There isn’t much blackboard material to work with here; Wilson did his job. From there, it’s a matter of keeping oneself in the right state of mind amidst adversity. I cannot and will not speak for Wilson’s emotions. Still, it is worth noting that Saleh and LaFleur may recognize it as part of the learning curve.

Interception 3: Unacceptable Execution

There are a lot of interceptions that exemplify how football is a team sport. The offensive line may break down, a receiver may drop a pass, maybe a coach draws up a horrific play. Sometimes, it’s all on the quarterback.

In the fog of war, there are few opportunities for easy completions. You have to hit your layups.

LaFleur calls a fairly easy play call, fit with a reliable pre-snap indicator for Wilson. Braxton Berrios’ motion shows New England’s hand of man coverage. From there, Wilson should hit Berrios for a short gain or quickly pivot to Elijah Moore’s corner route. He opted for neither.

On third-and-four, the indicator and early separation should have been all Wilson needed. That move-the-chains attitude is necessary sometimes, even if it isn’t fun. Instead Wilson hesitates and puts himself in a precarious situation. He’s late to make the read, throwing to the sideline from the opposite hash, and doesn’t have a legitimate third option in the progression. It’s a two-read throw that he took too long to process and immediately felt the consequences. Wilson delivered a poor, easily-undercut pass, and found himself out of luck once again.

Furthermore, Wilson will continue to toe the line between playmaker and game manager; all the great ones do. Wilson’s instincts and raw talent make explosive plays the expectation, but it also gets him into trouble. This isn’t unique to Wilson either. If you recall, Buffalo’s MVP candidate was uncorking 40-yard, cross-body throws to free safeties on first down not too long ago. On the other hand, this is yet another example of processing miscues while in structure.

Is it coachable? Yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Intangible issues like these can linger into the later parts of a passer’s learning curve.

Interception 4: The Ugly Duckling

Even if it wasn’t actually Wilson’s worst play, no snap illustrated Sunday’s performance better than Devin McCourty’s de facto punt return on second-and-28.

Before I comment on this play, I’d like to link to Vitor Paiva’s work. He broke down Wilson’s Week 2 performance very well, including an in-depth discussion on this very play.

Through two weeks, New York hasn’t been afraid to call the deep shot. It’s been a relatively surprising development, given how Sam Darnold’s offenses operated. That in itself should be a vote of confidence for the rookie.

Here, we see a flood variant, where Berrios’ orbit motion turns into the flat aspect of the passing concept. Davis is running a deep-out from the slot, and Moore intends to carry the safety deep. Against Cover 3, as the pre-snap look would suggest, this should be fairly successful.

However, the Patriots rotate their safeties post-snap to play what looks to be a Cover 6 variant. At this point, Davis, the primary read, is not likely to become open. In turn, Wilson moves on to Elijah Moore and (acceptably) makes the aggressive decision to throw the “go.” The only problem is, it seems Moore did not run his streak. After a vertical stem, Moore tails off to the sideline, corrupting the spacing of the concept. Wilson clearly did not anticipate this miscue and threw what looked like the worst interception of the young season.

Final Conclusions From Week 2

If there is one thing that Sunday showed us, it was that New York is still in the very early stages of this rebuild. Wilson looked downright bad, even if the lowlights weren’t entirely his fault. To some extent, this was to be expected. Part of the process of developing a project passer like Wilson is enduring the bumps in the road. This team is not going to compete in 2021. It likely will suffer a similar fate in 2022. All that matters is that Wilson develops into “the guy” for this franchise.

Overall, it was an incredibly ugly day. No team wants to get embarrassed in their home opener, much less so when their new face of the franchise receives the worst of it. Now that it’s over, the most important part of Week 2 is leaving it in the rear-view, taking what you can, and making sure it doesn’t happen again. Playing in Denver, against an elite secondary and Von Miller, there will be no time for Wilson to wallow.