AFC East Preview: Offseason Recap and Predictions

The AFC East has gained a new look since Tom Brady left for Tampa. Four young quarterbacks look to be their teams answer for the next decade as they battle for the title: AFC East Champions. Big stars enter the division this year. Let’s see who joined and how it all will end in our AFC East preview.

AFC East Preview

4. New York Jets

Key loses – OT Morgan Moses, WR Jamison Crowder, DE Foley Fatukasi, FS Marcus Maye,

Key additions – OG Laken Tomlinson, CB D.J. Reed, TE C.J. Uzomah, TE Tyler Conklin, OT Duane Brown, S Jordan Whitehead, OLB Jake Martin, DE Solomon Thomas, K Greg Zuerlein, ILB Kwon Alexander, CB Ahmad Gardner, WR Garrett Wilson, RB Breece Hall, DE Jermaine Johnson II, TE Jeremy Ruckert

Re-signed – FB Nick Bawden (1-year)

Head coach Robert Saleh’s first season in East Rutherford wasn’t ideal. The team went 4-13 and got swept by the rest of the AFC East. They were one of the worst teams in the league, but added a lot of talent in the offseason. With a handful of high NFL draft picks, this Jets team could now be a somewhat competitive team.

Last season’s offense would end up having four different quarterbacks play for them due to injuries. Zach Wilson started a majority of them, and he comes into this season looking to prove he is the future in New York. The front office helped him out by getting some weapons. Rookie wideout Garrett Wilson will be trying to become Wilson’s top target, and tight end C.J. Uzomah is going to be a safety valve.

While Michael Carter is listed as the #1 running back, rookie Breece Hall should see plenty of snaps as he looks to take over the #1 spot. This offensive line is up-and-coming, and has the potential to become elite. It is still a young offense, so there will be some hiccups along the way, but the Jets should improve on their 26th ranked offense.

Jets fans had a tough time watching their offense last year, but the defense was even worse. They ranked dead last in the NFL in yards, points for, and first downs allowed. They did add some talent, though, with rookies Jermaine Johnson II and Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner. Johnson II helps to create a solid defensive front four with John Franklin-Myers and Quinnen Williams.

Gardner pairs up with newly acquired cornerback D.J. Reed, causing this secondary to have one of the most improved units in the NFL. However, the Jets still have one of the worst linebacker corps in the league with C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams, who both had one of the worst seasons of their careers last season.

Prediction

While the Jets improved a lot this offseason, they still have a ways to go. They still have to find out if Wilson is the answer, so I have them finishing 5-12, and 1-5 against the AFC East. They are heading in the right direction, and this season needs to be an improvement.

3. New England Patriots

Key loses – WR Gunner Olszewski, CB J.C. Jackson, ILB Kyle Van Noy, C Ted Karras, RB Brandon Bolden

Key additions – WR Ty Montgomery, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Malcolm Butler, OG Cole Strange, WR Tyquan Thornton, CB Marcus Jones, CB Jack Jones

Re-signed – OT Trent Brown (2-years), ILB Ja’whaun Bentley (2-years), K Nick Folk (2-years), WR/ST Matthew Slater (1-year)

Extensions – S Adrian Phillips (3-years, $14 million), P Jake Bailey (4-years, $13 million), DT Davon Godchaux (2-years, $20 million), RB James White (2-years, $5 million)

Year two without Tom Brady, and the Patriots ended up making the playoffs. With Mac Jones becoming the first rookie quarterback since 1993 to start for the Patriots, they went 10-7. They would go on to lose 47-17 in the playoffs to the Buffalo Bills in the worst postseason loss of head coach Bill Belichick’s tenure. It was an interesting offseason for the Patriots, as they hope to reach the postseason again.

Mac Jones and the Patriots offense finished 15th in total offense a year ago. Yet, they didn’t do much this offseason on that side of the ball. Drafting Cole Strange in the first round was definitely strange to fans, but he helps create a top ten offensive line. This should help out their running back committee, as they hope to lead the Patriots to a top ten finish in rushing again.

Wideouts Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne had solid seasons in 2021. They are hoping their chemistry with Jones causes another leap in their statistics. This offense still features below average weapons, and with questionable play calling, they might be one of the bottom ten offenses in the league.

Bill Belichick’s been known for his defensive mind, and last season showed another reason why. The Patriots finished fourth in total defense. However, they struggled against the run, finishing 22nd in yards against. It didn’t help to lose JC Jackson this offseason, but bringing back Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is a decent consolation. The secondary has depth and a great safety duo, but might struggle against elite receivers.

The linebacker corps took a hit losing Kyle Van Noy, but has two guys that play hard in Bentley and Wilson. The young defensive line looks to make a jump next to veteran Matthew Judon. With Bill Belichick at the helm, I don’t see this defense being ranked lower than ten.

Prediction

One of the harder teams to predict in this league, I believe the Patriots will finish 7-10 after going 1-5 in the division. Mac Jones will need to take a big leap this season for them to reach the playoffs.

2. Miami Dolphins

Key loses – QB Jacoby Brissett, OG Jesse Davis, WR Albert Wilson, CB Justin Coleman

Key additions – OT Terron Armstead, WR Cedrick Wilson, C Connor Williams, RB Chase Edmonds, CB Keion Crossen, FB Alec Ingold, QB Teddy Bridgewater, OLB Melvin Ingram, RB Raheem Mostert, DE Trey Flowers, P Thomas Morstead, WR Tyreek Hill, LB Channing Tindall, WR Erik Ezukanma, QB Skylar Thompson

Re-signed – TE Durham Smythe (2-years)

Extensions – CB Xavien Howard (5-years, $50 million), WR Tyreek Hill (4-years, $120 million)

After starting 1-7, Miami would finish the season winning eight out of their last nine to finish with a record of 9-8. Despite the second-half success, they still decided to fire head coach Brian Flores and hire Mike McDaniel. They would make another big move this offseason, trading for superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill. It creates one of the fastest duos in NFL history, and the Dolphins are looking to challenge Buffalo for the division.

With Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should have no issue getting the ball out fast. With this offensive line, Tua will need to get the ball out fast. Even with the upgrades made from last season, they still rank in the bottom ten in the league. Overall, the receiving corps will help boost this offense up from their 25th ranked offense last season.

The new running back committee will have a tough time between the tackles, but should get plenty of touches out of the backfield to make plays. The offensive line holds this offense back, but they should still rank in the middle of the league.

The defense last season was up-and-down. They ranked 15th in total yards while not exceling against either the run or the pass. They added some older veterans to help this defenses rise in the rankings. The secondary is a top five group, with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bryon Jones leading the way. That helps an average defensive line, as they are able to be an excellent blitzing team.

The only concern on this defense is the linebackers. Jerome Baker leads the group, and he has yet to show that he is an elite linebacker. Rookie Channing Tindall should get a chance to help this group out. This is a solid defense overall, and I expect them to be just outside the top ten this season.

Prediction

The Miami Dolphins will be fighting for the playoffs this season, as I believe they finish 10-7 after going 4-2 in the AFC East. It could come down to tiebreakers for Miami, as the loaded AFC will be close.

1. Buffalo Bills

Key loses – DE Mario Addison, DE Jerry Hughes, P Matt Haack, DT Harrison Phillips, C Jon Feliciano, CB Levi Wallace, WR Cole Beasley, OC Brian Daboll

Key additions – OLB Von Miller, DT DaQuan Jones, DT Tim Settle, OG Rodger Saffold, DE Jordan Phillips, WR Jamison Crowder, OT David Quessenberry, P Sam Martin, CB Kaiir Elam, RB James Cook, WR Khalil Shakir, LB Terrel Bernard, CB Christian Benford

Re-signed – RB/ST Taiwan Jones (1-year), OG Ike Boettger (1-year), CB Siran Neal (3-years), LB Tyrel Dodson (1-year)

Extensions – WR Stefon Diggs (4-years, $96 million), FB Reggie Gilliam (2-years, $5 million)

A gut-wrenching loss against the Chiefs last season ended the Bills season one game away from the AFC Championship. This season, they are looking to go the farthest they have since 1994, the Super Bowl. With the addition of two-time Super Bowl Champion Von Miller, they are primed and ready to win back-to-back AFC East titles — and maybe more. Will Buffalo be able to get the job done, or will they have another season that ends in heartbreak?

The Bills finished fifth in total offense last season while being effective in both the passing and rushing game. Josh Allen is back and is looking to have an MVP season with wideouts Stefon Diggs and breakout hopeful Gabe Davis. With Dawson Knox, the Bills have plenty of guys to throw to, and they added another in the draft. Running back James Cook is looking to provide that threat out of the backfield in the passing game, while we’ll see a lot of Devin Singletary in the run game.

All of these weapons make Allen’s, and the offensive line’s, job a lot easier. It’s an offensive line that ranks in the middle of the NFL, with the potential to be a top ten group. New offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey will have some fun taking over.

The top defense in the NFL last season got even better. They went out and added future hall of famer Von Miller to help rush the passer. They are hoping he can finally bring an elite pass rush to Buffalo alongside Ed Oliver and Greg Rousseau. Elite depth at the position should help plug up the middle and get after the quarterback.

Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds hasn’t lived up to the hype yet, but is still solid. This creates a duo with Matt Milano that still has the potential to boost this group into the top ten. The secondary is getting corner Tre White back midseason, but in the meantime will have to rely on three young guys to step up. Their job will be easier in Buffalo with the help of the arguably the best safety duo in the league. This defense should be in the top three yet again this season.

Prediction

It’s Super Bowl or bust this season for the Bills, as the hype is the highest it’s been in two decades. I predict that the Bills will go 14-3 and 6-0 against the AFC East. They have the most talented roster in the NFL and, barring injuries, should compete for the Lombardi trophy.

New York Jets Week 17 Observations

new york jets week 17
Credit: Last Word on Sports

We thought Tom Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay would end the winter heartbreaks and soul-crushing fourth-quarter drives. It merely delayed the inevitable. In Week 17, the New York Jets fell to the NFC South-leading Buccaneers, 28-24. From promising rookies to glimpses at the deepest parts of the depth chart, let’s take a look at what went down.

Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson’s best day as a pro was overshadowed by the 4th down blunder late in the game, but it shouldn’t take away from his performance. Wilson, against a talented Tampa Bay defense, totaled 234 yards through the air and didn’t turn the ball over. He repeatedly threw receivers open, dazzled in tight windows, and showcased the twitchiness that got him to New York.

For the second week in a row, Wilson will be tasked with building on a strong performance. Using this final stretch as a springboard for 2022 will be paramount in his, and the team’s, development.

Running Backs

Michael Carter looked good in his few snaps, grabbing nine receiving yards and a 55-yard rush. He’d leave with a concussion soon after. If his rookie campaign is indeed over, he can sit tight knowing he’s locked up a significant role in the future of this offense. 

As for the rest of the backs, it was nice to see Austin Walter get a couple dozen snaps in. The production wasn’t impressive (14 carries, 49 yards) but the workload in relief was promising. Ty Johnson saw the rest of the carries and a decent amount of third-down work (three catches on four targets). Frankly, Johnson has disappointed since an intriguing start to the year. He has struggled to produce with any sort of consistency and could be deemed expendable this offseason.

Moreover, it’s time Nick Bawden sees some recognition. New York’s first real fullback since Tommy Bohanon, Bawden has excelled as a versatile blocker in his short stint.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Without Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Jamison Crowder, expectations were tempered for the receiving room heading into Sunday; and rightfully so.

Keelan Cole only caught two of five targets, despite Wilson’s impressive efforts. It was a step back from the better performances he’s showcased in 2021. Jeff Smith hauled in a singular 13-yard catch. Denzel Mims did not play in the loss.

Where the conversation turns, however, is with Braxton Berrios. An upcoming free agent, Berrios has emerged as a “must re-sign” candidate. His ability to contribute on special teams, on the ground, and through the air has made him the leading candidate for New York’s fourth wide receiver. A slow offseason could see Berrios start in the slot come 2022.

 In Week 17, Berrios was the only New York Jets receiver to make any sizeable impact. Between two carries and eight catches, he racked up 77 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson’s fourth-down sneak would rob him of a chance at a hat trick.

At tight end, Kenny Yeboah and Daniel Brown held down the fort. Wilson was successful in targeting the duo, posting a 100% completion percentage and 65 yards on a quartet of passes. Yeboah may have flashed enough to earn a depth spot next season, but it was a fairly uneventful day for the position group.

Offensive Line

The New York Jets offensive line had been dismantled by injuries well before Week 17. Surprisingly, they managed to put together a strong game against a very good Buccaneer front.

On the interior, Dan Feeney and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif outperformed expectations. Alijah Vera-Tucker continued his awesome rookie year, too. The three combined to play a major role in New York’s rushing attack. Tampa Bay’s interior defensive line had a uniquely quiet Sunday.

At tackle, George Fant exited early with a knee injury. His season is over, but like Carter, he’s played himself into 2022 plans for the Jets. His ability to play both tackle spots may become necessary when Mekhi Becton returns. Chuma Edoga would replace him on Sunday. Morgan Moses played well in the loss, though the tackles were outshined by their interior counterparts.

Defensive Line and Edge Rushers

It was a quiet day for New York’s defensive line, an unsurprising development given the talent the Buccaneers possess. Still, a few flash plays slipped through the cracks. Foley Fatukasi racked up two tackles for loss in what was one of the best games of his season. Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins had some disruptions, too, though they failed to find the stat sheet.

As a whole, the Jets held Tampa Bay to three yards per carry. Given the challenge in the trenches and their propensity to fold against any rushing attack, the defense’s performance against the run was very encouraging. 

Much like Week 15’s game against the Miami Dolphins, New York edge rushers were never going to have an impact on this game. And that’s okay! Brady getting the ball out quick is clockwork, so don’t be disappointed in the edge group’s lack of success. 

Ronald Blair III would replace Huff, another member of the Injured Reserve (IR) club. Playing 77% of the snaps, I felt he jumped off the screen a couple of times. For a guy whose first snaps of the season came in Week 10, he’s adjusted well.

Linebackers

C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams share many similarities. Being better against the run than the pass is one of them, and it sure looked like it against the Buccaneer’s talented crop of targets. Brady and company did a good job of attacking the middle of the field and putting the two in a bind on more than one occasion.

The other side of the coin, of course, was found in their run defense. Both consistently held down their assignments and played fast, downhill football to complement the front four.

Cornerbacks

Perhaps the most interesting position group from Sunday’s defeat was the cornerbacks. In Week 17, the New York Jets, for the first time all year, saw Bryce Hall play worse than Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II. That isn’t to say he was bad, but Mike Evans and Antonio Brown both had their fair share of wins against him.

Echols had another strong performance, intercepting Brady on a fade route to Evans. He had his best game since returning from injury in Week 14 and he rose to the occasion against possibly the best team on their schedule. 

On the inside Carter showcased an important part of his skillset, blitzing for New York’s only sack. He too had a pretty good day at the office. Of course, the entire defense got shredded in the game’s final minute, but Brady in the clutch is football’s version of divine intervention… maybe we should grant them a pass.

Safeties

The star of the show in the safety room this week was Jason Pinnock. The rookie corner started at safety and had his best game to date. He was quiet but effective. Most importantly, he epitomized Robert Saleh’s vision of an athletic, versatile defense. There’s a reason Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood were handpicked by the rookie head coach. Versatility will be a key for the future of this defense, and Saleh may have picked up his first true win in that regard.

Ashtyn Davis was out-snapped by Pinnock but wasn’t a detriment to the defense. Elsewhere, Elijah Riley played with a ton of energy, and though he was a step slow on the game-winning touchdown pass, he was quick physically and mentally throughout the contest.

Special Teams Units

It was smooth sailing for the New York Jets special teamers in Week 17. This might as well be another segment on Berrios. He’s been a sparkplug time and time again and averaged 27.5 yards per return. When teams intentionally kick around you, chances are you’re doing something right.

No major miscues elsewhere is a moral victory New York will gladly take. No missed extra points, no penalties-turned-to-missed field goals. There weren’t any poorly executed fakes, either! 

Outlook

Sunday may have played host to the most irrelevant soul-crushing loss in recent memory. To play so well only to fall apart at the end in such disastrous fashion was such a “same old Jets” moment. Ultimately, it was the most painful route to the best-case scenario. Wilson played well, as did many other young players, and they kept their pick safe within the top five, at least for now.

As for next week, they’ll head to Buffalo as heavy underdogs. It won’t mean much for their place in the standings, but a promising week could answer a lot of questions as they cross the finish line. For Saleh and his young coaching staff, these next four quarters could be monumental.

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 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.

New England Patriots vs. New York Jets-Part II

A breakdown of all phases of the game as the Patriots look to get back on track against the rival New York Jets

New England Patriots cornerback JC Jackson. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New England Patriots face the Jets looking to start a run of success to get their season back on track. The Patriots lost to the Cowboys in overtime last week to drop them to 2-4 while the Jets enjoyed a bye week last week after losing to the Falcons in London.

This will be the series finale for these two AFC East rivals this season unless both somehow miraculously make the postseason. The Pats convincingly won the first matchup and will be looking to do the same to get their first home victory this season. The Pats have won the last eleven against the Jets and will be hoping to make it twelve in a row on Sunday. The Jets collected their lone victory of the season against a depleted Titans club. Without much more delay, the game preview in “Who has the advantage when…” style:

New England Patriots’ Passing Attack

The Patriots’ passing game has slowly been rounding into form. Rookie passer Mac Jones has looked like the real deal while he has been let down by his pass catchers and blockers alike. He was solid against the Cowboys last week but seemed handcuffed by conservative play calling.

This may be a week where the Pats are extremely aggressive in the first quarter as the Jets have been outscored 30-0 in the opening frame while gaining a total of 79 yards in the first quarter through all five games. Another thing going for the Pats? The Jets are yet to collect an interception on defense.

Advantage: Patriots

Patriots Run the Ball

The Patriots running game has been up and down this season. It has shown signs of life before completely disappearing. Ball security has been an issue as well as Patriots’ running backs have accounted for 4 lost fumbles, a number that easily leads the league.

Despite the ball security issues, Damien Harris continues to run angry and provide highlight runs while rookie Rhamondre Stevenson showed some of his tantalizing ability last week. He could be in the mix to replace James White as the receiving back if he can clean up his pass protection and fumbling woes that have followed him from college.

The Jets feature a stingy running defense under first-year head coach Robert Saleh, allowing 123 rushing yards per game with a four-yard per carry average. Behind the Patriots shuffled offensive line, expect the Pats to just surpass that number Sunday.

Advantage: Push

Jets Pass the Ball

In the last matchup, the Pats had Wilson seeing ghosts to the tune of four interceptions. The Patriots’ secondary could use a repeat performance in a “get right” game. First, look at veteran safety Devin McCourty, who has played two consecutive games with uncharacteristic mistakes.

Then there’s Jalen Mills, who could use a confidence boost after being exposed by CeeDee Lamb last week. Wilson can make tremendous plays off script so the Patriots defense must stay disciplined and continue to cover the entire field regardless of what is happening upfront. Wilson has been sacked 18 times over the first five games of the Jets season, while the Patriots were finally held without a sack last week.

Look for Belichick to scheme up some pressure for Matt Judon and company from the offensive right side, forcing Wilson to move to his left and make awkward across-body throws on his unscripted plays.

Advantage: Patriots

Jets Run the Ball

The Jets have not been a good rushing team in 2021, averaging a paltry 74 yards on the ground per game. While the Patriots’ defense received much criticism early in the year for their run defense, their run fits have been exceptional since halftime against Houston. While the season numbers still reflect a group that struggled against the run early, this phase of the game is heavily on the rise in the last two weeks. Facing a flailing Jets rushing attack may help their case even further.

Advantage: Patriots

Special Teams

The Jets have had plenty of practice returning kickoffs this year as evidenced by their eleven attempted returns for a respectable average of 26.3 yards per. The Patriots have been a mixed bag in the third phase of the game, allowing two blocked punts and having some uncharacteristic miscues in other phases.

One area they’ve been solid? Their field goal unit with ex-Jet Nick Folk leading a charge for a Pro-Bowl season. Jake Bailey has found his rhythm again (when he can get the ball away), while Gunner Olszewski has featured some of his fearless return style. The Jets have been sound in their coverage units. The Pats need to execute their assignments here and play a mistake-free game.

Advantage: Jets

Coaching

While Belichick has been criticized for his conservative play calling, he also puts on a clinic when it comes to defensive football. Despite the high yardage total allowed to the Cowboys, his boys are still playing smart situational football. The Pats have gone toe-to-toe now with two world-class opponents and lost on last-minute plays. The last time these two teams met up, Belichick ran laps around his Jets counterpart. That should continue as Belichick’s hate for Gang Green is well known and he looks to get his team back on track.

Advantage: Patriots

Prediction

This will come down to the New England Patriots doing their jobs. They can play with the best teams in the league and have shown that they already outclass the Jets this season. However, they’ve also shown they can let inferior opponents hang around (the Texans) and haven’t quite figured out how to win when given the opportunity (games against the Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Cowboys).

This shouldn’t be a game that comes down to a single possession though. The Patriots will race out to an early lead before forcing Zach Wilson to make a few mistakes in the second half.

Pats win comfortably 31-13 to get their first home win.