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.

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 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.

New York Jets Week 1 Observations

The New York Jets entered Week 1 bruised and left it squarely battered. Sunday’s 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers only added insult to their various injuries. Still, we learned a lot about what this team is going to look like against real-life NFL starters, and frankly, better competition. The following observations help paint a picture of what to expect in Week 2.

Zach Wilson 

There is not much that can be said about Zach Wilson’s debut without the proper nuance behind it, so a deeper dive will tell that story later in the week. That doesn’t mean a broadcast copy of the game is without substance, though. Wilson looked much like his college self, thriving out of structure and ultimately looking comfortable amongst the chaos. 

There’s plenty of reason to be excited about the kid. The arm and the instincts both flashed repeatedly all afternoon. Despite the numerous drops and abysmal offensive line play, Wilson kept the offense alive. This culminated in a beautifully orchestrated final drive in which he delivered Denzel Mims’ only reception and Corey Davis’ second touchdown of the day.

Fourteen points dampens the outlook on the day, but Wilson looked pretty good. He navigated tight windows throughout the day, particularly over the middle of the field. The BYU product was on the move all day, but the quality of his throws did not suffer. His effortless arm strength kept him viable off-platform and opened up possibilities for the offense when things went south.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In tune with our expectations coming into the season, Wilson is very much a work-in-progress while in structure. Nothing illustrates this more than his lone interception, where he disregarded the hook defender (Shaq Thompson) and paid for it.

Wilson’s prowess out of structure will keep New York competitive, but there’s only so much that can be put on his plate. Given the state of the offensive line, Week 2’s test against New England remains a monumental test.

The Running Backs

New York’s deployment of their running backs went about as expected. Ty Johnson saw 54% of the snaps, followed by Tevin Coleman at 26%, and rookie Michael Carter at 25%. Interestingly enough, their touches followed a different pattern. Coleman led the pack with nine rushes for 24 yards, while Johnson and Carter both rushed four times and caught a pass.

One thing that jumped out was the roles that each of them seem to have within the offense. Coleman has easily had the most experience of anyone in the backfield with Mike LaFleur’s wide zone principles, having operated under LaFleur (and Kyle Shanahan) in San Francisco and Atlanta. He was unquestionably the most comfortable of the bunch, so it was not a surprise to see him rack up touches on the ground.

At the same time, Johnson offers the most big-play potential. His 9.75 Relative Athletic Score (RAS) tops the group, beholden to a 4.4 40-yard dash and excellent burst scores. This threat will continue to keep Johnson on the field. 

Michael Carter had the worst day of the bunch. Like the other aforementioned backs, Carter struggled to break tackles and was mostly ineffective on the ground. The rookie also had a drive-ending drop on the team’s opening possession. Look for the Jets to continue giving him touches in space, where he can make an impact without the technical refinement of Coleman.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

As a whole, this group of targets woefully underperformed and cost the offense several chances. However, it would be unfair to lump newly-acquired Corey Davis in with the rest. He wasn’t perfect, but Davis was New York’s best offensive player on Sunday. Targeted seven times, Davis caught five passes for 97 yards and two scores. If he stays healthy, he’ll easily surpass 100 targets and, presumably, 1,000 yards. 

Elijah Moore was the biggest disappointment of the wide receivers on Sunday. He failed to adjust to a well-thrown deep ball early in the game, and his only catch amongst four targets went for negative yardage. Seeing 56 snaps in Jamison Crowder’s absence is encouraging, though, as it means he has the route running and acumen necessary for the role.

The same may not be able to be said for Mims. His 40-yard catch was nice to see, but it is clear he resides at the bottom of the depth chart. Saleh referred to his inability to play all three receiver positions necessary to see time in LaFleur’s offense. Mims’ stock remains in the cellar after what many viewed as a chance to break out. 

Braxton Berrios was fairly impressive, too. He’ll earn his living as a special teamer, but appeared in the slot frequently on Sunday. Catching five passes for 51 yards, Berrios stepped up well and should be a fixture as a depth receiver. All in all, the Jets will be glad to have Crowder and Keelan Cole back for Week 2. 

New York’s wide receiving corps didn’t play well but showed some semblance of life. Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin were not able to share that sentiment. I can’t say they underwhelmed, given their expectations, but 11 targets for 48 yards is far from a strong outing. The tight end position is a premium spot in this offense—the front office’s priorities should have reflected that this offseason. 

The Offensive Line

It didn’t take long for virtually everyone watching to call out New York’s front five on their porous performance. Robert Saleh spread the blame around the entire offense, but it was clear the unit underperformed. Of course, Mekhi Becton’s departure (and future absence) does not bode well for Wilson. 

Becton was the best linemen on the field before his injury, and even he had a handful of miscues. Alijah Vera-Tucker had a typical “welcome to the league” game, not complete without embarrassing reverse pancakes. Connor McGovern struggled to quarterback the line, as the entire unit failed to communicate on stunts all afternoon. McGovern spoke to the simplicity of Carolina’s pressures, painting a scary future for an offense that plays the Patriots, Broncos, Eagles, Saints, and Buccaneers this year.

Continuing to the right, Greg Van Roten underperformed in a similar fashion to his compatriots. He and Vera-Tucker struggled to erase Carolina’s interior defensive linemen. George Fant had a surprisingly bad outing, given the encouraging play he showcased in 2020. While he was not helped out by his matchup or formation, Fant got flat out beaten by Brian Burns on more than one occasion. When Fant filled in for Becton, Morgan Moses was tasked with taking over at right tackle. Needless to say, Wilson continued to get hit.

Thankfully, Wilson has shown the twitchiness and out-of-structure prowess to keep himself alive. Still, it’s hard not to watch what went down on Sunday and think things are going to get better soon. With time, and hopefully health, they should begin to gel, but it will be a long road to get to adequacy. New England looming doesn’t make the situation any better.

The Defensive Linemen and Edge Rushers

If there was one spot the Jets were set at coming into the year, it was the defensive line. Quinnen Williams is a star, Folorunso Fatukasi is one of the better nose tackles in football, and Sheldon Rankins adds even more talent to the group. While Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers’ run game fared well, this is likely the least of New York’s confirmed. 

On Sunday, Fatukasi set the bar for the unit. He held his own and was one of the better defenders on the field. Rankins and Williams both underperformed, though nothing stood out as a red flag with either of them. Expect them to step up to the task against the Patriots’ imposing offensive line.

Hybrid interior defensive lineman/edge rusher John Franklin-Myers also had himself a day. He sacked his former teammate Sam Darnold, the only time New York hit paydirt on Sunday. Franklin-Myers will have to step up if they expect to have a relevant pass rush, and if he continues to collapse pockets as he did, the entire defense should benefit. 

Bryce Huff failed to sack Darnold, but I liked what I saw from him as well. He was used in a variety of roles, including zone coverage, and he handled himself well despite his inexperience. A player that’s development is important for the depth of the defense, Huff’s improving ability to capitalize on his athleticism is a refreshing sight. 

Linebackers

C.J. Mosley has emerged as a leader in the locker room, but his return to the gridiron had yet to answer some very pressing questions. Mosley had his ups and downs, but for the first game since an injury-riddled 2019, it wasn’t too shabby. He looked faster than initially expected. Where he fell short was in man coverage against McCaffrey, but then again, who doesn’t. 

The bad news came in the form of rookie Hamsah Nasirildeen. He made some exciting plays in the preseason but looked out of place. He was pretty consistently a step behind the play, likely the result of lackluster processing. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but he played like a rookie. That’ll probably be a theme for the defense this year.

Cornerbacks

Coming into Sunday, the Jets’ biggest fear should have been their castaway torching them for 400 and three touchdowns. With a starting crop of cornerbacks consisting of two day-three rookies and Bryce Hall, no one could be blamed for starting to sweat. 

In a fortunate turn of events, New York’s corners exceeded expectations. Michael Carter II handed himself very well, especially carrying receivers vertically from the slot. He broke up an otherwise well-placed throw from Darnold and looks to have a strong grasp on the starting slot cornerback job. Javelin Guidry still saw some snaps, and looked good in run support, but struggled in coverage. 

Bryce Hall embraced his new CB1 role. Like Michael Nania described, Hall racked up 37 coverage snaps and only allowed a single catch, for nine yards. Simply put, he played like the Hall that garnered prolific grades leading into his senior season. 

Brandin Echols looked like the worst of the three starters, and that should not come as a huge surprise. Jet coaches mentioned a committee approach to the cornerback position, and after a lackluster Sunday, Echols may lose some snaps to Isaiah Dunn and Jason Pinnock.

Safeties

Losing Lamarcus Joyner means New York is now even thinner at the safety spot. Ashtyn Davis’ return in the near future will mitigate the damage, but they’ll be forced to bring in new bodies before the end of the week.

As for player performance, Marcus Maye looked good, but he played better in the box than he did in coverage. His versatile deployment could play into the Jets’ plans for when Davis is healthy. Adrian Colbert saw significant snaps, too, though he failed to stand out in any direction.

New York’s worst safety from Week 1 was quite easily Sheldrick Redwine. His costly misplay granted Robby Anderson an opportunity to mock the Jets in his touchdown celebration. More importantly, his miscues in coverage cost the Jets six points. 

Special Teams

Another positive from Sunday came on special teams. Matt Ammendola was fine on kickoffs and filled in admirably for Mann at punter. His play was enough to beg the question of if New York even needed to add a punter, though they quieted that noise with the acquisition of Thomas Morstead. They tackled well and contain a rather explosive Caroline return team. After years of dysfunction, the Ammendola+Mann/Morstead pairing may stick for a little while. 

Outlook

Overall, Sunday was not successful. They left Carolina with a losing record and far fewer healthy players than they arrived with. The offensive line was tragically bad, multiple skill position players disappeared, and the offense only mustered 14 points. They were exposed by the league’s best back and lost the battle with the Panthers’ offensive line. 

Still, there is reason to be hopeful. Jets fans watched a barrage that would’ve made their former signal-caller see ghosts take their quarterback to the ground repeatedly. Yet, he continued to get back up, and he continued to deliver. Wilson is going to keep this team in more games than they deserve. It’s been a while since New Yorkers could say that about a quarterback in the green and white.