New York Jets Week 15 Observations

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

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

Zach Wilson

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

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

The Running Backs

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

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

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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

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

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

The Offensive Line

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

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

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

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

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

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

The Linebackers

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

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

The Cornerbacks

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

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

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

The Safeties

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

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

The Special Teams Units

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

The Outlook

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

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

New York Jets Week 5 Observations

New York Jets
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The National Football League abroad has produced a mixed bag of results since its conception in 2007. Week 5 proved no different, as the New York Jets fell flat against a scuffling Atlanta Falcons team, 27-20. It was a disappointing loss, especially after Week 4’s win against Tennessee. 

However, every loss is a lesson. Sunday’s was a reminder that development is rarely linear. Some young guys took encouraging steps forward, while others stumbled back a few steps. That process is natural, though it’s important to keep tabs as New York continues their rebuild.

Zach Wilson

There’s no hiding it, Zach Wilson was bad on Sunday. The routine looked overwhelming and the offense sputtered badly. Again, they struggled to start hot and get in a rhythm, and it ultimately never came to fruition.

Wilson’s fit of hiccups on the “easy” plays are concerning and likely the epitome of his rookie experience. When the bullets are flying, the mundane must be automatic. For Wilson, that is simply not yet the case. He missed multiple open screen passes and failed to capitalize when Mike LaFleur took advantage of Atlanta’s defense. It stagnated the offense and resulted in some egregiously poor football. 

The Running Backs

Michael Carter is here to stay. He may have only seen 52% of the snaps, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s the most talented back New York has to offer. His contact balance, elusiveness, and upside on third down are all superior to his fellow committee members. Expect his snap share to stay above 50% moving forward.

I’ve harped on Ty Johnson frequently, but his trip to London was fairly successful. He had a nice cut for a one-yard touchdown. It was also one of his better performances on passing downs. His athleticism shows up in short-yardage spots where his burst is amplified, as well as opportunities after the catch.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The Jets’ repugnant offense meant there was not a ton of production to go around. Similarly, there isn’t much to say regarding the group. It’s clear Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder are the team’s top two targets. Keelan Cole outsnapped Elijah Moore, though I thought Moore played well; Wilson’s play hurt Moore rather frequently on Sunday. Others got in on the action, with Braxton Berrios and Denzel Mims seeing 11% and 14% of the team’s offensively snaps.

Without knowing the extent of Mims’ playbook knowledge and/or practice habits, it is hard to say how New York should be using him. However, given Mims’ prowess as a blocker and the opportunity to script plays for the offense, I’d like to see the coaching staff put him on the field early. Perhaps this vote of confidence could help spur a rhythm or some semblance of positive momentum. 

As for the tight ends, Tyler Kroft’s injury allowed Trevon Wesco to see a significant boost in playing time. He was used almost entirely as a blocker and didn’t move the needle one way or another with his performance. Ryan Griffin again struggled to make any real impact, despite being on the field for 91% of the offense’s snaps. 

The Offensive Line

While the offensive line was a bit of a mixed bag, it’s hard not to be encouraged by their performance. After the disaster that was Week 1, even mediocre play deserves its flowers, and New York’s front five have surpassed that at times.

That starts with Alijah Vera-Tucker. He took another step forward in Week 5, as the New York Jets rookie allowed no pressured for the second consecutive game. After his tremendous struggles, he’s begun to show why Joe Douglas made him Mekhi Becton’s partner in crime.

Another relatively unsung hero would be George Fant. Since moving to the left side, he’s saw his play improve and has kept Wilson upright. On the other hand, Greg Van Roten regressed to his uninspiring status quo after Week 4’s victory. As a whole, the line struggled to consistently open up rushing lances.

The Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

Furthermore, the New York Jets defensive front had its ups and downs across the pond. The pass rush seemed to do all it could, though it was clear Atlanta game-planned around this aspect of the defense.

John Franklin-Myers played well in his first game since signing his extension and seemed to draw extra help. Bryce Huff had a nice day, too, even if the production wasn’t there. Shaq Lawson struggled a little bit. Yet, what stood out most was the play of Tim Ward. In only 12 snaps, Ward made his presence felt, racking up multiple pass deflections and a really encouraging run stuff. I doubt he sees his playing time skyrocket, but Saleh and Ulbrich may have a couple of packages with his name on it.

As for the interior defensive line, it wasn’t a great day. Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins saw significant struggles. Folorunso Fatukasi and Quinnen Williams were better, but didn’t exactly meet expectations. There were some nice flashes of stuffed runs, but neither New York’s interior defensive linemen nor linebackers played the run consistently, and it showed.

The Linebackers

Blake Cashman made his return to the gridiron on Sunday! He wasn’t particularly impactful, though it seems Saleh will continue to stress not putting too much on a recently-recovered player’s plate.

C.J. Mosley had his worst game of the year across the pond. We’ve seen him get exposed by weapons with elite athleticism, and this was no different. Christian McCaffrey bested Mosley in Week 1. In Week 5, Cordarrelle Patterson made lightwork of Mosley and the New York Jets.

To the contrary, there’s a discussion to be had about Quincy Williams. He’s one of the few players on the roster that completely shattered their preseason expectations. Thrusted into a starting spot, Williams has forced turnovers, made some huge tackles, and even added to the pass rush. Jarrad Davis will likely reclaim his starting spot once activated, but I suspect their may be a quicker trigger finger here for the staff if Davis struggles.

The Cornerbacks

Arguably the most disappointing position group in Week 5 were the New York Jets cornerbacks. Atlanta was without Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, priming the Jets for a big day on defense. Instead, Kyle Pitts, Patterson, and Tajae Sharpe shredded the defense. Patterson was seemingly untouchable underneath, Sharpe was very efficient, and Pitts was seemingly impossible to guard. For that final point, I can’t say I blame New York.

Bryce Hall continues to be an encouraging tackler, but he struggled in man frequently on Sunday. Echols showed his typical ups and downs in coverage. Michael Carter II had his worst game as a professional and Javelin Guidry wasn’t much better. Interestingly enough, Jason Pinnock made a 15-snap appearance, too. 

Containing the shorter routes should have been priority number one for the Jets secondary. Instead, they were carved up after the catch and gave up a ton of long drives. Maybe it was an outlier, and New York’s cornerns suddenly played down to their competition, but all in all it wasn’t pretty. 

The Safeties

Losing Marcus Maye really puts a dent in this defense. With the possibility of him getting traded rising, New York’s safeties must improve. Jarrod Wilson was simply bad, and it cost him a roster spot. They all had their hands full and struggled at times, but there were still some bright spots for Sharrod Neasman and Ashtyn Davis. When Maye is off the field, expect these two to see the bulk of the playing time. 

The Special Teams Units

Outside of a failed extra point, I thought the Jets had a really good day on this side of the ball. Ammendola hit both of his field goals, including a 49-yard attempt. Justin Hardee was spectacular in helping to defend the punt return. Also, Tevin Coleman ripped off a nice kick return that put New York in wonderful field position. This phase of the game was likely the Jets’ biggest separation agent from Atlanta. Similar performances would eventually parlay themselves into winning football.

The Outlook

Week 5 should have ended favorably for the New York Jets. Instead, they came out jet-lagged and let a banged up Falcons team earn the privilege of a happy flight home. 

Much of this starts with Wilson, who played rather poorly. The uninsipiring starts to games and infuriating botched layups are both fixable, but his play was simply not conducive to a productive NFL offense. Sunday showed it will continue to take time for Wilson to grow into his potential. 

At the same time, other young players played really well. Vera-Tucker, Quincy Williams, and Michael Carter took legitimate steps forward that shouldn’t be overshadowed by a handful of missed throws.

New York heads into the bye at 1-4. Their play in New England in Week 7 could be an interesting referendum on the organization’s progress. Until then, it’s up to Saleh, LaFleur, and Wilson to fix the offense and keep the plane on the runway.