New York Jets Week 15 Observations

New York Jets Week 15
Photo Credit: http://www.miamidolphins.com

The holiday season is upon us, but there isn’t much cheer to be found across the New York football landscape. The New York Jets fell to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 31-24 in Week 15, piling on another loss in the franchise’s 11th consecutive lost season. The offense hasn’t put up more than ten points in the second half of a game since Week 10. The defense may be the worst in team history. Simply put, things can be better. Here’s how it went down on Sunday.

Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson has been the worst starting quarterback in football this season. His tendency to make the simple look complicated has stunted the offense time and time again. Thankfully, Week 15 saw the New York Jets rookie take some steps forward in this regard. He wasn’t outstanding by any means (13/23, 170 yards, 0 Passing TD, 0 INT), but the signs of progress were encouraging.

The impact of Mike White’s performance manifested itself in Wilson hitting the checkdown and short, first read much more frequently. He showcased the same instinctiveness we saw in college to avoid some sacks. Perhaps most importantly, he kept the ball out of harm’s way, outside of a lone lost fumble. The next step for Wilson is to successfully run the offense outside of scripted drives early in games. 

The Running Backs

Tevin Coleman’s experience in a Mike LaFleur-like offense showed up early in the season and continued in Miami. He did get more favorable blocking than Michael Carter, but made the most of his carries. His proper vision and footwork were on display and helped him accumulate 50 yards on the ground. 

Moving on, I’ve been a huge supporter of Carter during his rookie campaign. With that said, he did not play particularly well on Sunday. He found himself working horizontally for too long, failing to climb vertically before a defender brought him to the ground. He weirdly struggled to gain traction in the passing game, too.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Injuries to Corey Davis and Elijah Moore were always going to cripple this offense. Unfortunately, nobody truly stepped up to the plate at wide receiver. Jamison Crowder became the go-to option, garnering five catches on eight targets. Given the state of the depth chart and offense, he’d be the only pass-catcher to see more than three targets. 

Braxton Berrios looked good in his limited touches as he fights for a 2022 roster spot. On the other hand, Denzel Mims had another gloomy day. Wilson could not connect with Mims on any of his three targets. His weaknesses as a route runner continued to get exposed. That hurdle in the path to larger responsibilities may be the one that ultimately ends his Jets tenure. 

For what seems like the first time this season, I was impressed by the tight end group. Wilson completed each of his five targets to Ryan Griffin, Tyler Kroft, and Trevon Wesco. There were seized opportunities after the catch and no painstaking blunders reminiscent of past weeks. The run blocking wasn’t great, but the Jets will certainly accept that trade off the rest of the way.

The Offensive Line

It was a rough day at the office for New York Jets offensive linemen in Week 15. Conor McDermott was predictably bad in his first start of 2021. The rest of the unit wasn’t much better. Alijah Vera-Tucker and Connor McGovern both had high-variance play. The right side of the line consistently struggled in both phases of the offense.

Getting your young quarterback battered and failing to open up rush lanes are not exactly the keys to winning. Against a solid Dolphins defense, it was never going to be acceptable. It’s an area that will likely be addressed heavily once again this offseason. For now, New York is just hoping bad play up front doesn’t lead to bad habits for their young players in the backfield. 

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

We knew the New York pass rush was going to do little against Miami’s short passing game. One sack and four quarterback hits was probably all they were ever going to get. It was nice to see Bryce Huff back in action, even if it was in uneventful fashion. 

Once again, their front four looked woefully outmatched. The Jets have been trampled on the ground this season, from Cordarrelle Patterson to Damien Harris and now, Duke Johnson Jr. It is certainly more than just a defensive line issue, but everyone on the interior needs to step up. 

Sheldon Rankins was far and away the best lineman for the Jets on Sunday. On a line with as much talent as New York’s, it shouldn’t be necessary to highlight his performance, but here we are. It will be an interesting challenge for Douglas to improve the unit without spending significant assets. 

The Linebackers

The linebacking group coming into the year was questionable at best, and the rookies brought in to rejuvenate the unit had failed to make an impact. However, the emergence of Quincy Williams has been huge for this defense. Williams above all else is consistent, even with his faults. His motor showed up constantly across his 66 snaps. As he improves in coverage, the unit should become incredibly formidable. 

Furthermore, C.J. Mosley looked decent for the New York Jets in Week 15. I thought he had a solid day in coverage, especially given the weapons Miami has over the middle of the field. Unsurprisingly, he led the team in tackles, though he played a role in the Jets’ unrelenting struggles against the run.

The Cornerbacks

It is widely acknowledged that this unit has been the most pleasant surprise for New York. That was no different on Sunday, as they played like the team’s best position group. Brandin Echols headlined the unit, posting his best week in a couple of months. Headlined by a pick-six, the rookie was strong all day.

Bryce Hall was not perfect, but held his own. His strong day was likely helped by the absence of phenom Jaylen Waddle, though that shouldn’t take away from his prowess in coverage. Both he and Echols totalled three passes defended in the loss.

Michael Carter II played well on the inside, too. Of course, getting flattened by Tua Tagovailoa isn’t ideal, but the rookie had a strong day. If two of Echols, Hall, and Carter emerge as legitimate long-term starters, New York should be in a good spot. So far, that seems like a realistic possibility.

The Safeties

Much like the linebackers mentioned earlier, this was ultimately a mediocre day. Ashtyn Davis showed up early, catching one interception and almost hauling in another. His athleticism and playmaking skills are exciting, but his struggles with both processing and tackling are as surprising as they are bad for his future as a starter.

Elsewhere, Elijah Riley played well before his scary concussion. I don’t expect to see him back in action for 2021, but he’s more than secured his spot on the practice squad at the very least. Another depth option, Sharrod Neasman, filled in for Riley aptly. The unit was not exempt from the tackling woes that hurt the defense, but they did a fairly good job of holding up the back end.

The Special Teams Units

Outside of a bad punt by Braden Mann, the New York Jets special teams units looked pretty good in Week 15. Eddy Pineiro hit his chip shot field goal and each extra point. On the coverage side of things, the only punt return they surrendered went for five yards. Berrios continued his solid season as a return man. Nothing spectacular, but it was a very necessary step up from most of 2021.

The Outlook

The Jets get the privilege of taking part in a heavyweight matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. It’ll be an opportunity for a get-right game, and a chance for Wilson to have the same late-season streak that Sam Darnold went on in his rookie season. Of course, that will be made more difficult by the coronavirus outbreak in the locker room. 

If Wilson can continue to limit the turnovers and the special teams units play a clean game, there’s no reason why they cannot leave MetLife victorious on Sunday. Expect the run game to get back on track and the defense to take advantage of a bad Jaguars offense. Hopefully, New York can bring some cheer before hosting Tom Brady in Week 17.

New York Jets Week 10 Observations

new york jets week 10
Credit: The Jets Wire

They’ll never be able to take away the Mike White game from us. The relief appearance-turned-quarterback controversy finally closed its curtains, as the New York Jets were dismantled by the Buffalo Bills, 45-17, in Week 10. Calls for an encore will be non-existent as Zach Wilson returns to the stage hoping to bring life to a comatose roster. Here’s a quick look at how his supporting cast performed on Sunday.

Mike White

White’s luck ran dry about as quickly as it had magically appeared just two weeks ago. Against a stifling Buffalo defense, there were few mistakes to capitalize on. The easy checkdowns were muddied and White found himself consistently behind the sticks with his first read covered and pressure mounting. 

He struggled to retain any semblance of competence, throwing four ugly interceptions. New York struggled to move the ball and quickly played themselves out a more manageable deficit. Wilson’s return marks the end of White’s run, and while I can’t promise better quarterback play, it’s possible the rookie’s return will kick the Jets into gear.

The Running Backs

The offensive line (spoiler alert) was downright bad on Sunday. Thus, the rushing production from the group was not impressive. Still, I remain impressed with Michael Carter. He flashed the contact balance and agility that earned him his reps and looked good as a receiver, totaling four catches and 43 yards on six targets. Carter was rewarded with a late touchdown run.

As for the other backs, Tevin Coleman saw limited action, but was strong. Coleman ripped off a 15-yard run and was promising in his limited action as a returner and receiver. Ty Johnson, saw eight targets during his 25 offensive snaps. Johnson had some unfortunate drops, but it’s clear they see him as a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Hindered by White’s limitations, the receiving corps for the New York Jets in Week 10 had a poor outing. Corey Davis returned to his lead role and led the group with seven targets, five catches, and 93 yards. However, he still underperformed. Early season drops were written off, but the issue has followed him into the holiday season. Throw in a crippling fumble and it’s easier to see why more heads are turning to Elijah Moore as the answer.

Moore was not spectacular by any means on Sunday. Yet, his ability to run routes and make plays after the catch keeps him viable as the offense trudges along. His six targets are an inspiring number, reflecting Mike LaFleur’s relatively newfound urge to get him touches.

Moreover, Keelan Cole, Jamison Crowder, and Braxton Berrios failed to make any substantial contributions. At tight end, Ryan Griffin hauled in a 21-yard catch, but struggled to leave a mark on this beatdown.

The Offensive Line

Like last week’s primetime affair, the New York Jets were consistently outplayed in Week 10. That certainly does not stop with the trenches. On several occasions, Carter was pummeled in the backfield. Their collective inability to create rush lanes kept White in adversarial positions.

Their pass protection wasn’t much better. White was pressured on seemingly everything that wasn’t an immediate checkdown and was laid out on occasion. Even stud rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker wasn’t as incredible as he’s been in recent weeks. 

The stumble in performance can at least in part be pinned on Greg Van Roten. He was credited with three pressures and was bad in the run game too. Simply put, other options have to be explored. That starts with replacing him with newly-acquired Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

Perhaps the largest issue I have with the Robert Saleh administration is the binary of the team’s wins and losses. Against Tennessee and Cincinnati, New York came out energized and played 60 minutes of good football. Almost every single minute outside of those two games has been disastrous. 

One of the position groups that best exemplifies this is the defensive line. At times, Quinnen Williams is leading a talented unit to create consistent pressure. On the other hand, they’ve been gashed repeatedly by the run week in and week out. When their front four comes out flat, everything else seems to fall apart.

Amending this starts with playing your best players more, and your worst players less. The basis for Saleh’s defensive line rotations is logical, but Williams playing at such a high level only to see 60% of their snaps in a given week is quite the opposite. 

Anyhow, Williams looked good for his New York Jets in Week 10. John Franklin-Myers had his flashes, but virtually everyone else looked flat. Subsequently, Allen had all day to throw and Bills running backs combined for an effortless 98 yards and three scores.

The Linebackers

Earlier this year, I sang praise for C.J. Mosley as a key for this defense, similar to Dont’a Hightower in New England. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. He quarterbacked a defense that for all intents and purposes laid down and died. He struggled with the speed of Buffalo’s playmakers and was just as troubled in zone coverage as everyone else.

With that said, Jarrad Davis may have been worse. He had a handful of awful plays in coverage and did not redeem himself in run support. Quincy Williams and Del’Shawn Phillips looked good in their limited reps prior to this game, but failed to stand out. 

The Cornerbacks

Another questionable coaching decision was showcased at corner: the choice not to follow star receivers. Bryce Hall is the best cornerback on the roster. Buffalo simply deployed Diggs on the opposite side of the field, and he rightfully went off. Eight catches, 162 yards, and one touchdown later, it’s worth asking whether it was the best strategy.

Hall was beaten a few times in his own right by Gabriel Davis and Emmanuel Sanders in what was the group’s worst week in a while. Brandin Echols and Javelin Guidry were repeatedly torched by Diggs. This isn’t inherently awful; being isolated with a stud like Diggs is incredibly difficult. Still, getting dominated by high-level players may be emblematic of their future as depth pieces instead of starters.

Michael Carter II might have been the best corner to see the field for the New York Jets in Week 10. He defended a pass and recovered a fumble in the loss. Also, Isaiah Dunn (again) played well in his limited snaps.

The Safeties

Marcus Maye’s absence was most definitely notable. However, it has opened the door for one of the few bright spots of the blowout. Sharrod Neasman played on just 29% of the team’s defensive snaps, but certainly made an impact. He made a diving interception en route to racking up two tackles and a pass defended.

With relatively pedestrian play from the Jets’ safeties, and no long-term role for Jarrod Wilson, it would serve New York well to grant Neasman more playing time. It seems every time he steps on the field, he makes a positive impact. If anything, finding a long-term third safety could be a nice player to discover in a rebuilding season.

The Special Teams Units

Matt Ammendola was effective on Sunday, nailing a 48-yarder and two extra points. Braden Mann was similarly proficient in his punting duties.

The return game was intriguing, as Tevin Coleman looked awesome, but penalties marred an otherwise productive day. I doubt he pushes Berrios for punt return work, but I’d like to see the veteran retain his kick return duties.

Small sample size aside, the Jets’ punt coverage has to be better. For a team that is innately conducive to adversarial starting field positions, giving away free yards is a death sentence. 

The Outlook

You didn’t need to read this piece to know the New York Jets were beaten badly in Week 10. Of course, part of the story is that they are simply out-classed at virtually every spot. Still, the coaching concerns continue to arise in ways that stray from the standings.

The last team to hit an average scoring margin of -15, like New York currently has, was the 2009 (at the time St. Louis) Rams. Naturally, the regression to the mean is coming, and they likely won’t get boat raced by Houston or Miami, but losing this badly at such a rate is a concern for any rebuilding team.

The Jets get another crack at a divisional opponent next week when they face the Dolphins. For our sake, let’s hope it’s actually watchable.