New York Jets Week 5 Observations

New York Jets
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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 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.

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.