New York Jets Week 7 Observations

Credit: JetsWire

The New York Jets returned from their bye in Week 7, only to get trounced by the New England Patriots, 54-13. It was just as bad as the score may suggest. Obviously, seven games is not sufficient evidence to start looking for new head coaches, but the feeling remains—at least for now, these are the same Jets of old. Before turning the page, let’s take one more solemn look in the rear-view mirror.

The Quarterbacks

For the first time in this series, the aforementioned heading was not covered solely by “Zach Wilson.” The rookie left the game with a PCL sprain after taking a handful of late, and arguably dirty, hits. Before the injury, Wilson was pretty encouraging. Despite an ugly, drive-ending sack, Wilson showed flashes of twitchiness and later threw a good ball that resulted in a 46-yard Defensive Pass Interference. He’ll look to return in 2-4 weeks.

Until then, it’s the Mike White (and Joe Flacco) show. The backup was unsurprisingly ineffective, though he connected with Corey Davis for a touchdown to finish Wilson’s departing drive. It wasn’t a catastrophic performance, but the offense was rather stagnant. He’ll likely be relieved of his duties as soon as Flacco is ready.

The Running Backs

The Jets’ ground game wasn’t overly productive on Sunday, but the takeaway here should remain positive. Michael Carter saw the vast majority (72%) of snaps in Tevin Coleman’s absence. His grip on the starting spot is starting to solidify. He continues to showcase the contact balance and third-down abilities that got him drafted. To continue on his pass-game prowess, he earned 9 targets on his way to an 8-catch, 67-yard performance. I’d prefer if New York running backs never total 16 targets in a game again, but it was nice to see him handle his share of the responsibilities.

We’ll likely see some more of Ty Johnson in the passing game, too. He had 7 targets to complement the red zone carries he was granted. Johnson’s short-area burst makes him a decent fit at the goalline.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Mike White’s quarterbacking isn’t exactly conducive to wide receiver takes, but like the running backs, I was fairly encouraged by what went down. It took until Week 7, but New York Jets rookie Elijah Moore scored his first touchdown on a 19-yard reverse. His only other touch of the day was a screen pass, in which he evaded a tackle and gained 13 yards. Seeing manufactured touches for Moore was encouraging, even if legitimate receiving production has lagged behind.

Other than that, Davis and Jamison Crowder were both fine. Keelan Cole and Denzel Mims both saw a couple of targets, a single catch, and six yards. Mims’ snap count (20) was its highest of the season, though the game script certainly played a role in that. Moving forward, I’d like to see Mims get manufactured looks much like Moore did, especially if his snap count rises in this lost season.

Ryan Griffin remains below-replacement level, and it’s detrimental to the offense. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if they bought low on a tight end’s expiring contract, hoping to give him a look before the free agent circuit.

The Offensive Line

There’s plenty of blame to spread around regarding New York’s offensive line play. Wilson (and White) don’t offer much help setting protections, their communication is outright poor, and the coaching staff has failed to successfully address their struggles. Mishandling basic stunts and blitz pick-ups at this point in the season has been an embarrassing underscore to a unit that has had some flashes. 

Alijah Vera-Tucker remains the biggest bright spot on the Jets’ offensive line. He allowed two pressures in what was a pretty strong performance in both pass protection and rushing assignments. Him, George Fant, and Morgan Moses have all been strong since their struggles of early September.

On the other hand, Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten have stunted the entire unit’s growth. McGovern’s inability to quarterback the line has resulted in easy pressures and allows for coordinators to drop more into coverage, making Wilson’s life more difficult. To his right is Van Roten, whose struggles have left Jets fans green around the gills. Priority number one this offseason will be finding his replacement.

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

Week 7 saw some pretty inconsistent run defense from the New York Jets, but I’d hesitate to pin that solely on the front four. The entire front-seven looked outmatched as the defense took a surprising step back. Quinnen Williams is still that dude and Nathan Shepherd made some of the best plays of his season, but the interior wasn’t great on Sunday. 

Long-term, I don’t have any concerns regarding the group, but the entire defense looked flat, and they weren’t immune.

New York didn’t generate much pressure without dialing up heavier blitzes. Tim Ward headlined the Jets edge group in England but came back to earth. John Franklin-Myers, Shaq Lawson, and Bryce Huff were similarly stifled by New England’s offensive line.

The Linebackers

The Jets missed C.J. Mosley in a big way on Sunday. Blake Cashman frankly didn’t seem rosterable in his 33 snaps. Given the athletic potential he offered, it was incredibly disappointing. 

Two bright spots here were Del’Shawn Phillips, who played fairly well, and Quincy Williams. The former had the team’s lone sack. Williams looked decent in coverage and made a nice break on a pass before dropping an interception. To Saleh’s credit, some of his young linebackers have looked good in his scheme.

The entire defense struggled to tackle, and while this may also be tied to circumstance, it wasn’t their first offense. 

The Cornerbacks

On what would foreshadow the grim day ahead, Bryce Hall was beat on a trick play from the Patriots’ opening script. Thankfully for Hall, that was his worst play of the day. He played pretty well from there on out and continues to be the best corner on the roster.

Furthermore, Carter II continued his strong rookie season. Take my lack of elaboration as a good thing when it comes to play in the secondary. His presence in the slot has been vital to this defense. Overall, this young position group has easily been Saleh’s biggest win. 

Echols continued this trend in what was one of his best games from a man coverage standpoint. Jakobi Meyers is no slouch, and got the best of Echols at times, but it was ultimately a strong performance against quality competition. Nobody wants to be the guy to surrender Meyer’s first touchdown, and thanks to Echols it will almost certainly not be a Jet.

Another victory here is the play from Javelin Guidry. I was hard on him early in the year but he’s been solid in his limited playing time. 

The Safeties

From a performance perspective, it likely wasn’t New York’s best game from this position group, but it’s certainly left me the most excited. Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis, the two most talented safeties on the roster, finally shared the field for 100% of the team’s snaps for the first time since Week 12 of last season. 

Additionally, one thing that stood out was Maye’s play in man coverage. He was sticky and technically-sound, showing off his versatility against some legitimately good players. Even if it’s just an audition for the rest of the league, it was nice to see him play well.

Davis wasn’t as productive, but I’d wager he’ll continue seeing the vast majority of snaps next to Maye. His physical tools were on display as he regularly displayed the range and hit power that Douglas drafted him for. He’s still a little raw, but I’m genuinely optimistic about his game.

The Special Teams Units

It’s important to preface this with the notion that the New York Jets special teams were not put in a position to win in Week 7. Conservative play calling and a poor showing on both sides of the ball certainly don’t help, but the units had a subpar outing.

Matt Ammendola missed another field goal, in what has been a disappointing turn of events. Cole and Braxton Berrios failed to do any damage and were outgained on a per-kick basis by Gunner Olszewski. The lone positive on this end has been Thomas Morstead’s fueling of a punter controversy.

The Outlook

Week 7 wasn’t kind to the New York Jets. Without Wilson, and with a matchup against the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals, Week 8 may not be very nice either. New York had two weeks to prepare for a rival they had already seen, and yet they still got pantsed. 

In what is easily the lowest point of the Saleh administration, making the necessary adjustments to field a competitive team will be vital in not losing the fanbase, and potentially the locker room. Despite their struggles, this coaching staff has done a lot of good, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Ensuring the team doesn’t spiral out of control in what will likely be a brutal stretch is paramount in continuing to develop the young talents on the roster.

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 2 Observations

Simply put, Sunday did not go as planned. Week 2 saw the New York Jets get embarrassed 25-6 by the New England Patriots in their home opener. Most of the blame fell upon rookie Zach Wilson, but that doesn’t mean there were not signs of life. The following observations help shine a light on underrated performances before this weekend’s clash in Denver.

Zach Wilson

There isn’t a way to sugarcoat Zach Wilson’s performance last Sunday. The offense failed to find pay dirt, tallying six points on the day. Wilson struggled to the tune of 4 interceptions, a league-worst -0.418 EPA/Play, and a -7.2 Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE). The Jets’ biggest fears were vindicated. As consolation, they get the privilege of facing a Broncos defense that has shredded Daniel Jones and Trevor Lawrence.

Bill Belichick did what he does best and made life hell for the rookie quarterback. He looked skittish and second-guessed himself repeatedly. Facing a vaunted Patriots defense is always tough; doing so while battling yourself is toilsome at best and downright impossible at worst.

Give Wilson credit, he battled and had a handful of encouraging plays amidst his struggles. Still, it’s obvious he needs to play better. Denver poses a similar challenge, even with the loss of Bradley Chubb. Bouncing back in any significant capacity against a defense of that caliber would say a lot about the mental makeup of New York’s biggest investment.

The Running Backs

Generally speaking, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman improved upon an adequate Week 1. The biggest takeaway, like last week, is how their snap counts illustrate the Jets’ intentions. Carter and Johnson saw 33 snaps each (45%) and Coleman saw seven snaps (10%). A contrast from the Carolina game, Coleman’s drop off is not a reflection of his play. More so, it reveals New York is willing to give looks to their young, talented playmakers when they are in need of a spark. On Sunday, that was virtually the entire game.

Carter easily looked the best out of the backfield. He showed off great contact balance throughout the game and added two catches for 29 yards through the air, along with 11 carries for 59 yards. As he becomes more comfortable in the offense, he looks increasingly similar to the quality back he was at North Carolina.

Johnson saw 12 carries for 50 yards and played much like he had in Week 1. For now, his role in the offense remains unchanged. Coleman, on the other hand, saw his snap counts plummet, though he made more noise with the opportunities he was given. I’d expect Coleman to smoothly transition into the last spot of the committee and serve as depth, rather than the workhorse as New York’s season continues.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Week 2 offered a mixed bag in this department. Mims was notably inactive. According to Head Coach Robert Saleh, it was a matter of special teams value (or lack thereof) for that last receiver spot.

Furthermore, it was nice to see continued success for Braxton Berrios. He led the team in targets (11), receptions (7), and yards (73). Filling in for Crowder in the slot, Berrios has frequently been the hot read and has performed amply as a security blanket for Wilson. To add, his special teams play has been good, too.

Another sign of progress for the Jets was Elijah Moore. He looked much more comfortable and got twice as many looks as he did on Week 1. So far, the second round pick seems like Wilson’s favorite deep threat.

Perhaps one correlation to watch is Corey Davis and Wilson’s success. Davis was shut down on Sunday (5 targets, 2 catches, 8 yards) and made virtually no impact downfield. He was the target on multiple interceptions, including one that he probably should have hauled in. Without Davis creating separation, Wilson struggled to progress through his reads and found himself in trouble more often than not.

For what will likely be the second out of 17 times, New York’s tight ends played poorly. Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin totaled 8 yards each. Neither looked particularly good in the run game, either. It’s a spot of weakness that lacks a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Offensive Line

The Jets offensive line looked better than one would expect in their first full game without Mekhi Becton. It would be a stretch to call them great, but they certainly exceeded expectations. George Fant filled in adequately for Becton on the left side. Alijah Vera-Tucker and Connor McGovern played significantly better than they had in Week 1. Morgan Moses was, for the most part, fine.

The biggest issues New York faced were interior pressure and miscommunications/poorly set protections. To some extent, that was to be expected. Still, New York’s backs have to be better in pass protection. Doing so would help mitigate the detrimental play of Greg Van Roten. Overall, the unit made steps in the right direction; continuing said progress against a dangerous Denver front will be critical.

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

The Jets once again showcased their greatest strength on Sunday. Quinnen Williams, Folorunso Fatukasi, and Sheldon Rankins have played well. John Franklin-Myers has arguably been the team’s best defender. They were able to put pressure on Mac Jones fairly well and did their part in the run game.

Furthermore, I was more impressed by Shaq Lawson than I initially anticipated. He had some really nice flashes of burst and bend, while also adding a couple tackles for loss. Second-year edge rusher Bryce Huff also looked explosive as he continues to carve out a role for himself.

The Linebackers

It didn’t come without some brutal mishaps, but C.J. Mosley had possibly his best game as a Jet. If it wasn’t clear already, he is going to be a vital part of this young defense. There were additional flashes from Quincy Williams and Del’Shawn Phillips, too, especially in coverage. Williams displayed good click-and-close speed on a handful of occasions.

Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends regarding this group. Hamsah Nasirildeen looks unplayable two weeks into his career. New York’s linebackers were gashed multiple times in the open field by both James White and Damien Harris and struggled to consistently stop the run. The defense did not tackle well all game, and it showed.

Looking forward, these Jets linebackers will have their work cut out for them in Denver. The Broncos are not afraid to run the ball, and Teddy Bridgewater does a very good job of manipulating underneath defenders. They’ll have to step up in a big way or risk falling victim to a surprisingly good Mile High attack.

The Cornerbacks

Another positive from this Week 2 massacre was that we witnessed more of the same from the Jets young corners. Like all young secondaries, they are yet to gel together, and they were not without miscommunications, but Saleh’s fingerprints are showing up in a good way.

Bryce Hall, the team’s undisputed best cornerback, looked great again. Much like Week 1, he was not tested a ton, but he’s done well to prevent targets. Michael Carter II matched his debut performance with a sequel that again saw him outperform Javelin Guidry in a similar role. The latter had been exploited during his 13 coverage snaps. Moreover, Brandin Echols seemed to improve, too, though level of competition may have played a role in that.

Denver’s offense remains dangerous, even without Jerry Jeudy. Hall and Courtland Sutton could be a litmus test for how much progress he’s made since last year. Carter and K.J. Hamler will likely duke it out in the slot, though his speed may attract Guidry. Echols could also see an interesting challenge in Tim Patrick, one of the league’s most underrated players. Leaving Denver relatively unscathed from these matchups would be the first big developmental victory of Saleh’s head coaching career.

The Safeties

Unsurprisingly, Marcus Maye was the best Jets safety on the field. By this point, that shouldn’t be a surprise. He was all over the place, including a couple of well-executed blitzes. His contract situation remains fluid, but as long as he’s in the green and white, expect him to perform every Sunday.

Adrian Colbert also saw significant time against New England. He wasn’t great, but virtually anything would have topped Sheldrick Redwine’s tribulations against Carolina. For now, it is simply a waiting game for Ashtyn Davis to return and allow Saleh to truly get creative on the back end.

The Special Teams Units

As a whole, I liked what I saw from this phase of the game. Matt Ammendola’s stint at punter concluded and he went 2/3 on field goals. He missed from 53 but hit both chip shots. Newly acquired Thomas Morstead was overwhelmingly fine, which is all the Jets are really asking him to be in Braden Mann’s absence. Again, Berrios looked good on his returns, as he has for some time.

The Outlook

In summation, this was the nightmare scenario for Wilson, and it cost New York the game. He was dreadful, and understandably so. Yet, it’s hard not to see the progress other units had made. Michael Carter (the RB) had a great day. Vera-Tucker and Moore played significantly better than they had in Week 1. The corners have been a pleasant surprise, and the interior defensive line continues to meet high expectations.

Playing in the altitude against an elite secondary, Von Miller, and Vic Fangio’s scheme will be another difficult game. Sustaining success will be difficult against such a difficult team, but is far from impossible. Of course, the biggest factor in how New York will look is Wilson’s play. If he recovers from his mess of a day, there’s a good chance the Jets remain competitive. If not, the coaching staff will be tasked with saving a roster that could quickly spiral into irrelevance.