It has now been a little over a week since the 2022 New York Jets season came to a conclusion. Some time removed to digest the bitter taste left following a miserable six-game losing streak to end the year.
This was a year in which the Jets happened to make things as fun as they had been since 2015 during the first three months of the regular season. At various points throughout, this was a 5-2, 6-3, and 7-4 football team that certainly looked playoff-caliber.
There were some thrilling highs. None better than a big division win at home over the Bills. This team went into Lambeau and beat the Packers by three scores. They had not one, but two come-from-behind wins down two scores with under eight minutes remaining in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. A 40-point day was had at home against the Dolphins. For the second consecutive year, Mike White generated excitement in his first start as the Jets had their most complete team win all season over the Bears.
Surely, many enjoyable moments. In large part, as a result of some of the best talent the Jets had in a while.
The immediate infusion of talent on this football team came thanks to the generational rookie draft class put together by Joe Douglas. Initially, the haul orchestrated by Douglas made waves across the football world. The exceptionally talented group, led by Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and Breece Hall, did not only deliver but somehow, went on to exceed lofty expectations as first-year players.
However, despite this being the most talented team the Jets had in quite some time, the season could not end on more disappointing terms.
Adversity hit hard after November as the Jets went on to lose their final six games. Following their 7-4 record with viable playoff hopes, the Jets finished 7-10. They went 2-4 in the AFC East and 5-7 in the AFC. A disastrous -7 turnover differential, which was tied for 28th in the NFL, played a big part in the rapid nosedive.
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New York Jets HC Robert Saleh showed needed growth in year two:
The 2022 season was the second year of Robert Saleh leading the Jets franchise. After what was a bit of a discouraging start in year one, Saleh, while there is still work to do, did prove some progress in year two.
Aside from the final two weeks of the season, Saleh had this team fight. This was a gritty group that never quit, highlighted by the late comeback wins down two scores on the road in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as noted in the introduction. All year long, the Jets were one of the best fourth-quarter teams in football.
As the team won games through November, we got to see Saleh show some of his quality traits that make him so exciting. Whether it be his emotion or leadership, both on the field and at press conferences, Saleh showed his personality more this year and is certainly liked for it.
In terms of clear, significant progress from Saleh, the most noteworthy point to make is the huge jump from ranking 32nd to fourth made by his defensive unit in just one year.
At times throughout 2022, particularly the first 11 games, Saleh started to show the makings of what could be a great head coach. The keys for Saleh to continue to grow into just that in year three will be his time management and getting this team to win games in December.
New York Jets offense finishes 25th overall:
After season-ending injuries sustained by Breece Hall and Alijah Vera-Tucker in Week 7, things were tough for the Jets’ offense. They concluded the year as the 25th-ranked offense, averaging 318.2 yards per game. When it came to scoring, they were even worse, finishing 29th, averaging 17.4 points per game.
Of course, a lot of those struggles come as a result of three different quarterbacks starting and a fourth eventually taking snaps. The Jets’ passing game did somehow finish 15th in the NFL, compiling 219 yards a game. For the most part, though, the execution from the position was below average.
Most notably, along this entire Jets football team, year two was nothing short of a complete disaster for Zach Wilson. He had a 54.5% completion, a six to seven touchdown to interception ratio, averaged 187.6 passing yards per game, and had a 72.8 quarterback rating.
The best quarterback play the Jets got, and the few games they had average to above average execution at the position came from Mike White. He averaged an impressive 298 passing yards a game. The issue was finishing drives, as White only threw three touchdowns in four starts.
The ground game of the Jets finished 26th in the NFL, averaging 99.2 yards a week. Breece Hall only played in seven games and still led the Jets in rushing yards, with 463, and touchdowns, with four. After an awesome rookie year, Michael Carter did not seem himself, averaging 3.5 yards per carry and finishing with 402 yards. The Jets did get a bit of a spark over a three-game stretch from undrafted rookie Bam Knight who had 230 yards rushing in his first three games.
On the outside, the only big-time producer was rookie wide receiver, Garrett Wilson. He caught 83 passes for 1,103 yards and had four touchdowns. It was a frustrating year two for Elijah Moore, who only had 65 targets. Corey Davis was clutch in some big moments, averaging 16.8 yards per catch, but had his inconsistencies as well. It was a surprising setback of a year for Braxton Berrios, who only had 236 scrimmage yards. Mid-way through the season, Denzel Mims did carve out a role but still has not asserted himself as a reliable contributor after three years.
At tight end, the Jets did have some of their best production in a long time from Tyler Conklin, who had 58 catches and 552 yards. Alongside him, though, CJ Uzomah only saw 27 targets, basically playing a role as an extension of an offensive tackle.
The offensive line for the Jets battled injuries since training camp and, to no surprise, struggled. Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton suffered season-ending injuries. George Fant and Max Mitchell both missed extended time. Duane Brown and Nate Herbig had to fight through injuries themselves. On top of it all, the big-ticket free agency signing, Laken Tomlinson, drastically struggled. The lone player to give any sort of consistency up front was Connor McGovern.
This front allowed an average amount of sacks (42, 19th in the NFL) but gave up 317 yards on those sacks, which was 25th in the league. Also, on the ground, the line played a part in the Jets only averaging 4.2 yards per carry, ranking 23rd in football.
Between injuries, line play, and quarterback performances, the Jets’ offense sputtered as the year went on, crushing their playoff chances.
New York Jets defense ranks fourth overall:
It was one special year for the Jets’ defense. To make the jump from last to fourth is quite the feat. They gave up 311.1 yards per game and were also fourth in points allowed, with 18.6 a week. Their best ranking was their pass defense, which finished third, giving up 189.4 yards per game. This defense also finished seventh in football in sacks, with 45.
The lone two issues that held this unit back from being the best were their average run defense and poor opportunistic play. Against the run, the Jets’ defense finished average, 16th in the league, allowing 121.6 yards per game. On a yards-per-carry average, though, they did only let 4.2, which was tied for the sixth-best. Then, when it came to turnovers, the Jets finished 29th with just 16. They were 31st in fumbles recovered, with only four.
At defensive end, the Jets got seven sacks from Carl Lawson and five from John Franklin-Myers. Their two starters both had good years. Bryce Huff brought tons of juice on third down, finishing with 3.5 sacks and 36 pressures on only 191 snaps. Rookies Jermaine Johnson and Micheal Clemons both had 2.5 sacks and were great against the run.
On the interior, Quinnen Williams dominated all year. Williams concluded year four with 12 sacks and 71 total pressures. Sheldon Rankins rebounded well after a down year, giving the Jets three sacks and quality run defense.
On the second level, the Jets had a stout linebacker trio of C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, and Kwon Alexander. Mosley racked up a whopping 158 tackles leading to a Pro Bowl appearance and second-team All-Pro honors. Williams broke out in a big way and finished second behind Mosley in tackles with 106. Alexander played all 17 games and had 69 tackles over 559 snaps. These three formed a very good group for the Jets.
A somehow even better trio along the Jets’ defense was their group of cornerbacks. Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and Michael Carter II were arguably the best cornerback trio in football in 2022. Gardner led the league in passes defended as a rookie, with 20 and two interceptions to boot. Reed picked up 12 passes defended and an interception. Carter, in the slot, had nine pass breakups and two interceptions. These three held opponents to a 62.4% completion, the ninth-best in the NFL. They had a special year together.
Safety was the lone weakness of this defense. The only week-to-week known commodity was Jordan Whitehead, who had 89 tackles (four for loss), eight passes defended, and two interceptions. Alongside Whitehead, Lamarcus Joyner, Will Parks, and Tony Adams all started games.
All in all, this Jets defense shut down opponents most weeks and should be aiming for the number one spot in 2023.
Surprising down year for the New York Jets special teams:
The Jets’ special teams did not help in a chunk of games this year. To start with the good, though, Justin Hardee earned a Pro Bowl spot. Also, Greg Zuerlein gave the Jets some of their best kicking over the last four seasons.
From a return standpoint, though, the Jets finished 21st in kick return average (21.5 yards) and total punt return yards (240). Their longest kick return (42 yards) was 21st across the league, and their longest punt return (22 yards) was tied for 24th. They tied for the third most in fair catches with 28.
Lastly, from a punt coverage perspective, the Jets allowed 11.3 yards on average, the third worst. They also allowed the fifth-most yards on punt returns (363).
Final thoughts on the 2022 New York Jets:
Overall, while the ending was sour, this was a year in which the Jets did ultimately take a step in the right direction. They won games in the division for the first time since 2019 and games in September for the first time since 2018.
The Jets found ways to win against some great teams. Ultimately, they positioned themselves very well for a playoff berth entering December at 7-4.
Now, as we look forward to 2023, the next step for the Jets in year three under Saleh is winning games in December and making the playoffs.