New York Jets: Three overreactions from Week 1

zach wilson, jets

The New York Jets’ 2021 opener in Carolina brought familiar pessimism, but the green sky isn’t falling just yet.

In the aftermath of the NFL’s most recent opening weekend, Canton’s sculptors are designing Jameis Winston’s bust while fans in Philadelphia and Cincinnati might be researching flights and hotels in Southern California for the second weekend in February.

Of course, Week 1 should never be used as an exclusive barometer for how an NFL season is going to pan out: in last year’s edition, the Jacksonville Jaguars, future bearers of a 1-15 ledger looked like a sleeper team after earning an upset win over Indianapolis. Tom Brady’s career was declared over for the umpteenth time after a loss to his new divisional rivals in New Orleans.

The New York Jets are used to kickoff weekend calamities as losers of five of their last six openers. Alas for New York, they’ve failed to defy the curse of Week 1, as each of the last six efforts has ended with a losing record. The theory that Gang Green has to pay some sort of “Jets tax”, where their simplest mistakes are held against them as comedy, also hasn’t helped.

Needless to say, the Jets’ 19-14 defeat at the hands of Sam Darnold, Robby Anderson, and the Carolina Panthers has only exacerbated the feelings of gridiron dread. ESM channels its inner Third Eye Blind and asks Jets fans to step back off that ledge…the season doesn’t end with Week 1.

zach wilson, jets

The Overreaction: Zach Wilson is a bust!!!

Why Cooler Heads Should Prevail: Overreactions manifest most prevalently when it comes to quarterbacks. Nothing draws clicks and views better than a debate over the passer’s spot on the depth chart. Gridrion schadenfreude is perhaps best manifested through the struggles of rookie quarterbacks. Casual and professional observers alike are quick to pounce on any mistake.

Enough has been written about the Jets’ blocking woes on Sunday. Those passers built for the NFL game know how to adapt to uncomfortable situations and Wilson struggled to do so in the first half (6-of-16, 84 yards, and an interception) as the Jets fell behind a 16-point margin. The amateur critics on social media were quick to attack, ready to place Wilson in the same halls as fellow first-round washouts Richard Todd, Mark Sanchez, and Sunday’s opponent Sam Darnold.

But Wilson’s recovery and ability to dodge the defenders allowed through (especially after a stagnant preseason in the pocket) was inspiring to watch. Those traits were best on display through Wilson’s pair of scoring passes to Corey Davis, ones that drew the Jets close in a game that had little business lingering in.

His adaptation and recovery in the latter half-hour 14-of-21, 174 yards, two scores, 123.9 passer rating) drew praise from notable names both domestically and abroad.

“I loved his resilience in the second half,” former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said, per Darryl Slater of NJ.com. “I thought he played terribly in the first half. And then the pieces I saw in the second half, I was really impressed. I’m like: Wow, that takes a lot of resilience for a rookie — to go in at halftime, getting your butt kicked in your first start, and come back out and really settle down and play with structure and timing and make some plays. I was impressed.”

“We want tough guys and dudes who have no quit,” Davis, Wilson’s new favorite target, said in a report from Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “That’s what he exemplifies. He’s going to be great here. I’m excited to have him. We’re going to do great things.”

No one can deny that Wilson endured a roller-coaster debut. But it shouldn’t be defined by its opened half.

The Overreaction: Denzel Mims has to go!!!

Why Cooler Heads Should Prevail: The Jets continue to deal with the curious cause of Mims. He has gone from second-round consolation prize after passing on aerial talents to draft Mekhi Becton and their best potential homegrown deep-ball threat since Santana Moss to the constant source of speculation.

It took only a single 40-yard reception, one that set up the Jets’ final score of the day, for Mims to become the Jets’ third-leading receiver in Charlotte. But Mims partook in only three snaps, stuck behind journeyman Braxton Berrios and former Boston College quarterback Jeff Smith. Blunt comments from head coach Robert Saleh have only raised further red flags, as did the fact that Mims only saw three snaps on an afternoon where the Jets were already missing veterans Keelan Cole and Jamison Crowder.

“He’s been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh said this week, per notes from the Jets. “So, if the Z, the F, or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

The Jets have invested a lot into Mims: Jeremy Chinn and Antonio Gibson were chosen within the immediate ten picks after him. If Cole and Crowder return for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), there’s a chance that Mims could land on the inactive list.

But there’s something to be said about Saleh’s willingness to hold someone who’s projected to be a major part of the offensive revolution accountable. This isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible…honeymoons end fairly quickly for metropolitan football head coaches…but it’s an early statement, an early gambit that can light a fire under Mims and set him on a good path for the rest of his career.

Mims’ situation should be watched for the rest of the season, but there’s no use in panicking after opening weekend. It’s worth seeing how Saleh’s gambit pays off. Saleh isn’t the only head coach on the staff who has a big opportunity granted to him by the Mims situation: offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur can leave an instant impact on a unit that has struggled for literal years by finding a spot for an embattled big-play threat.

george fant, jets

The Overreaction: The Offensive Line is Going to Make Things Difficult All Year!!!

Why Cooler Heads Should Prevail: Hey, at least “Let’s Find Mehki Becton’s Replacement!!!” hasn’t gained too much traction yet.

Holding Becton’s injury history against him is a mistake…it’s still early in his career and football is a violent game…but there’s no denying his medically induced absence leaves the Jets in a prickly situation. This is a chance for general manager Joe Douglas’ constant tinkering and remodeling of the offensive wall to make their benefactor proud.

At the forefront is the arrival of Morgan Moses, who was added during the doldrums of July. Moses was one of the most impact post-minicamp signings across the league and perfectly fits into what the Jets were trying to accomplish this offseason: he fulfills a dire need (Douglas continues to make up for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era) and has the big-game experience the fledgling Jets sought after helping the Washington Football Team capture the NFC East.

Getting the work in this offseason allows the Jets to welcome in an experienced, talented name, rather than scooping a name off the practice squad or the wasteland that is in-season free agency.

Moses will take over at right tackle while George Fant assumes Becton’s role as the left anchor. Fant struggled on Sunday but he believes that working with Moses is going to help him out. Their relationship dates back to offseason workouts and could pay big dividends as the Jets

“I learned a lot from him. It was not one of those competitions where we were not speaking to each other,” Fant said in a report from team writer Randy Lange. “We were coaching each other up (saying) I like this guy, I like this guys’ family. We’ve been close for a while. That was the cool part.”

Time…namely the next four weeks that Becton will undoubtedly miss…how that previously established relationship plays to the Jets’ benefit. But it’s something that should give them at least a little bit of confidence as they move forward into a landscape rife with uncertainty.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets continue to deal with the curious case of Denzel Mims

Mims, the New York Jets’ second-round pick from the 2020 draft, played only three snaps in Sunday’s loss in Charlotte.

The best thing you can say about Denzel Mims’ sophomore season opener is that he made the most of his limited opportunities.

Conversation around Mims has reopened after the New York Jets’ 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 action. Mims partook in only three snaps of the defeat, but featured heavily in one of the game’s most impactful plays: with three minutes remaining in the final frame, Mims’ 40-yard reception situated the Jets at Carolina’s 10-year-line. Corey Davis put in six points on a eight-yard pass from Zach Wilson to create what became the final margin.

Making the most out of limited opportunities has defined Mims’ infantile NFL career: the second-round pick from the 2020 draft tallied 357 yards over the final eleven weeks of last season, 10th amongst rookie receivers in that span. Hamstring woes ate away at his training camp and sidelined him for the first six weekends. Mims’ drafting was part of the Jets’ efforts to find the best of both offensive worlds. They chose blocker Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall choice, passing on several elite receiving talents. Mims, an aerial energizer out of Baylor, was chosen 59th overall.

Despite Mims appeared to be an odd man out of sorts after the Jets revamped their receiving corps this offseason, a relic of a prior coaching regime after the arrivals of Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keeland Cole. That idea gained further traction through Sunday’s snap counts: Mims’ trio ranked well behind reserves like Braxton Berrios (37) and Jeff Smith (9) on a day where both Cole and Jamison Crowder were each unavailable. Despite his late entry, Mims’ 40 yards earned on the aforementioned reception was third amongst New York receivers behind Davis (5 receptions, 97 yards) and Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards).

(Photo: Getty Images)

Head coach Robert Saleh partly blamed the “sequence of the game” for Mims’ lack of reps, per notes from the Jets. He labeled Davis, Moore, and Berrios as his top three receivers in Carolina. Saleh also said that the Jets’ late offensive pace afforded the comfort to give Mims an offensive opportunity. The Jets’ final drive went 93 yards in 10 plays, doing so in 2:31 as they tried to erase a late two-possession deficit.

“(Mims) has been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh said. “If the Z, the F or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

“(Sunday) was more of a timing thing where offense really didn’t get rolling until that fourth quarter, which is where you started seeing him show up on the football field,” Saleh continued. “We had those extended drives, I think we had a 10-play, 93-yard drive where the receivers needed a break, and it gave them that opportunity to step in and get action.”

Saleh also mentioned that Cole and Crowder “both have a shot to come back this week” as the Jets prepare for their home opener against the New England Patriots on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Their potential reinseration could create an awkward situation for Mims, whose big-play potential and ability to gain yards after the catch made him attractive to a Jets offense in desperate need of big-yardage situations. Sunday opponent Jeremy Chinn and and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the next ten selections.

Finding a place for Mims could be a way for incoming offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur to leave an impact on the New York offense. LaFleur previously worked with the receivers in San Francisco and guided names like Kendrick Bourne, Maquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk to breakout seasons.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss at Carolina

New York Jets

Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson had their Sunday revenge against the New York Jets, dooming to a sour start to the Robert Saleh era.

Sam Darnold’s two touchdowns in the late stages of the first half were enough to make a big difference in the Carolina Panthers’ 19-14 win over the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.

Darnold, the Jets’ first-round pick from the 2018 draft, allowed Carolina to build a two-possession lead going into the halftime break through a 57-yard hook-up with fellow former bearer of green Robby Anderson and a five-yard scoring run that put the Panthers ahead 16-0. The Jets (0-1) fought back with two Zach Wilson touchdowns to Corey Davis but their inability to contain Christian McCaffrey (187 yards in his return from an injury-plagued 2020) led to their demise.

ESM has three silver linings for the Jets…

Honorable Mentions

  • QB Zach Wilson (20-of-37, 258 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
  • WR Braxton Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards)
  • WR Denzel Mims (1 reception, 40 yards)
  • LB Del’Shawn Phillips (12 tackles)
  • S Michael Carter II (5 tackles, 1 TFL)

3rd Star: DL John Franklin-Myers

3 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

The Jets’ pressure left much to be desired on Sunday, which was probably to be expected in the first game post-Carl Lawson injury. Franklin-Myers did what he could to pick up the slack, however. He had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage including a sack of Darnold on a short third down that helped the Jets’ defense, reeling from consecutive scoring drives, start the second half on a three-and-out.

2nd Star: WR Corey Davis

5 receptions, 97 yards, 2 TD

Davis is one of the Jets’ most intriguing veteran newcomers in the sense that he has something to prove: overshadowed by some prominent weapons in Tennessee, Davis is trying to show the NFL world he’s capable of consistent duties as a No. 1 receiver.

He lived up to the hype and then some on Sunday, becoming Wilson’s favorite target and helping guide the Jets’ offense back into the game. Davis was also a sense of comfort and stability for the slightly frazzled Wilson, who dealt with a relentless Carolina pass rush for a majority of the afternoon.

Davis opted to look at Sunday’s loss through an optimistic lens.

“We’re in the building process of this thing,” Davis said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “There’s going to be some growing pains. Obviously, we wish we could have had this one back but there’s a lot to learn from it.”

1st Star: K/P Matt Ammendola

6 punts, 48.5 average

When Ammendola arrived in Charlotte on Sunday, his days as a distance kicker at North Penn High School (the Lansdale, PA establishment where he played soccer) were long behind him. However, he was pressed into service when primary punter Braden Mann went down with a knee injury that kept him out for the remainder of the game.

The Jets are perhaps a bit too familiar with punter-related calamities on opening day…remember Tom Tupa’s emergency services in 1999?…but Ammendola helped them make the best of it. Pressed into six services when the Jets’ offense sputtered in the early going, Ammendola’s averaged ranked sixth amongst Sunday competitors. He also pinned Carolina inside its own 20 twice, including once on a 65-yard boot. Thus far, that ties Ammendola with Tampa Bay’s Bradley Pinion for the longest punt in this infantile season.

“Terrific job by him. I thought he punted the heck out of it for not really practicing it,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Ammendola’s moonlighting in Costello’s report. “He just stepped right in and did a really good job. Hats off to him. I wish we could have gotten him a field goal [opportunity] somewhere, but I thought he did a great job.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

WATCH: New York Jets QB Zach Wilson throws his first NFL touchdown

zach wilson, jets

The final segments of an 8-play, 70-yard drive saw Zach Wilson and Corey Davis unite for New York Jets history.

One down, hopefully many, many, many more to go, New York Jets fans hope.

Zach Wilson found Corey Davis for his first career NFL touchdown during the late stages of the third quarter in the Jets’ Week 1 contest against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. A Wilson rollout afforded a 23-yard lob to a wide-open Corey Davis, who earned six points as a member of the Jets for the first time. Wilson wound up adding all eight points on the Jets’ possession: a quarterback draw capped off the drive, slicing Carolina’s 16-point lead in half.

The drive at the end of the third quarter allowed Wilson and the Jets to create some offensive traction: after struggling in the first quarter, he converted all four of his attempts on the drive, totaling 57 of the Jets’ 70 yards en route to his first New York score.

Alas, the play, true to Jets fashion, was not without heartbreak. Mekhi Becton was injured on the play and required assistance to leave the field. Becton, who was later transported to the Jets locker room on a medical cart, was labeled doubtful to return.

The Jets continue to trail the Panthers 16-8 in the middle stages of the fourth quarter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets unveil captains for 2021 season

zach wilson, jets

Five New York Jets have earned captaincy patches for the 2021 season, including three newcomers to the fold.

The New York Jets unveiled their five new captains for the 2021 season on Wednesday, as Corey Davis, Foley Fatukasi, Justin Hardee, C.J. Mosley, and Zach Wilson will have a C stitched to their jersey. Davis and Wilson will lead the offense while Fatukasi and Mosley represent the defense. Hardee received the honor on special teams.

“The best-coached teams are the teams that coach themselves and have especially veteran leadership to step in and voice their opinions and have a thought on how they can make things better,” head coach Robert Saleh said in a statement on the Jets’ website by Randy Lange. “I think that’s always important. It’s a machine, and they’re a big, big part of it. Obviously, I would always appreciate their voice.”

What’s particularly interesting about this new crop of captains is their relative lack of experience in a New York uniform. Fatukasi accounts for 30 of the 32 games in green among them, with Mosley accounting for the lingering pair. The Jets did retain two of their captains from 2020 (keeping tackle George Fant and safety Marcus Maye) but their titles did not return.

Wilson’s inclusion, coming days before his official NFL debut, likely shows the effect and impact he has had on the New York locker room in the early going, as captains are named based on results via a player vote. The early accolade was no surprise to Saleh, however.

I think it’s more of a testament to him and the way he’s been able to conduct himself here,” Saleh said in a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post. “If you go to the cafeteria, he’s hanging out with his O linemen. He’s got an infectious personality. It’s a credit to him and the way he’s handled himself so far.”

The other captains’ lack of games in green are likely offset by their extensive playoff experience: Mosley and Davis were respective AFC playoff staples in Baltimore and Tennessee while Hardee established himself as one of the league’s best special teams coverage names during New Orleans’ recent postseason runs.

Meanwhile, Fatukasi is coming off a breakout season that saw him set new career-highs in tackles (42) and sacks (2). The fourth-year pro is reminding some of the previous defensive captain Steve McLendon, who was dealt to Tampa Bay at last year’s trade deadline.

“He’s been a tremendous friend, mentor, brother to a lot of people. I was fortunate, we were fortunate as players, as friends, to have him around. But as he would tell me, the show’s still going, you have to keep going,” Fatukasi said of McLendon in another report from Lange. “I feel pretty confident, pretty good about us,” he said. “We understand we have a lot of work to get done, we have to keep sharpening our tools. But I feel like we’re coming along, taking the right steps. You know all the guys in our room, I could list all their names, but they’re all selfless. We all care about each other so far and the amount of progress that we’ve made in such a short time knowing each other has been good.”

The Jets will open their season against one of their former captains, quarterback Sam Darnold, when they take on the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Attainable goals for Friday’s game vs. Philadelphia

zach wilson, jets

ESM’s New York Jets experts believe Gang Green should spend the preseason finale accounting for their defensive absences.

Never mind Labor Day. For New York Jets fans, the unofficial end of summer arrives when the Philadelphia Eagles show up on the preseason ledger.

The Jets’ late-summer showcase with the Eagles resumes on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). New York (2-0) has faced Philadelphia (0-2) in every preseason finale since 2001. The streak was interrupted only by the cancellation of last year’s preseason proceedings but resumes on Friday night in what goes down as the Jets’ only official home game of their 2021 exhibition showings (they were the designated road team in the opener against the Giants).

ESM’s Jets experts conjure up an attainable goal for Gang Green to fulfill as the preseason comes to a close…

new york jets, zach wilson

Geoff Magliocchetti: Keep the Offensive Momentum Rolling

Losing Carl Lawson for the year (and Jarrad Davis for at least the first five weeks) shouldn’t awaken the Jets from their dreams of development this season, but the first showing sans the former Bengal wasn’t pretty. Missing Lawson wasn’t the biggest issue against Green Bay last weekend…missing tackles and lost coverage battles were far more troubling…but the top unit still looked out of sorts against a Packers offense resting most of its starters (including top throwers Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love).

The ultimate insult came when the Packer reserves ate up ten minutes of second quarter game time and embarked on a 19-play, 81-yard drive. Six of those plays were conversions on third or fourth down, including the touchdown that capped things off. Since that drive came with a good portion of the Jets starters on the field, the team faces some major questions.

The best defense could be…a good offense.

Even if their conquests have come against defensive reserves, it’s hard not to be enthused about the progress of the Jets offense, especially with Zach Wilson leading the charge. The team has drifted so far behind the times in this NFL dominated by offense: this is a unit that failed to reach a mere 300 yards in all but five of their games last season. Wilson has embarked on six drives this season: the Jets have scored on four of them and all but one has ended in opposing territory. The outlier produced a conservative punt on a one-yard fourth down at the Jets’ 49-yard-line.

Wilson has made the most of his summer opportunities. He has built chemistry with his receivers, namely Corey Davis (6 receptions, 88 yards) and Tyler Kroft (49 yards on a trio of receptions, including two touchdowns in Green Bay). He has responded well to adversity, erasing two deficits at Lambeau through responsive scoring drives.

Time will tell how the Jets, and their 31 NFL compatriots, approach the third preseason game under the adjusted, shortened summer format. Under the previous quartet, the third game was often treated like a dress rehearsal, with starters playing most, if not all, of the first half. Head coach Robert Saleh was vague on his starters’ playing time during joint practices with the Eagles this week but stressed his desire to see a lot of Wilson. It won’t be “more than a half”, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg, but Saleh believes that there’s a prime opportunity for the newcomers on offense to make of the most of the final tune-up of what’s been a successful preseason.

“I want to play (Wilson),” Saleh said in Greenberg’s report. “I do, so we’re talking about it. But right now, I’m leaning towards playing at least the starting offensive line, quarterback, and a majority of the defensive payers…We got a ridiculously young team and they are growing and learning and all of these experiences are so important to them. I feel like they’ve gotten so much better from the first day of camp until now and to pull off now, I think we’d be doing them an injustice.”

If the Jets emerge from this preseason feeling good about themselves, the offense is providing a majority of those good vibes. Keeping up the offensive is more important than ever with so many question marks filling up slots on the defensive depth chart.

Friday also presents a big opportunity for some players to secure premier roles on the team. Who will be the top rusher? Veteran and two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is currently slotted in the top rushing role on the official depth chart but Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine have each looked strong at different points of the summer. The backup quarterback debate has yet to be resolved as well. Mike White has been quiet if not consistent but sustained a rib injury in Green Bay last weekend. James Morgan has struggled and veteran Josh Johnson has yet to see the field.

Brendan Carpenter: Fill the Hole Jarrad Davis Leaves Behind

Well, it’s here. The final 2021 preseason game and, believe it or not, there is still one important question that needs answering: what’s going to happen at linebacker behind C.J. Mosley?

The linebacking situation seemed set. It was going to be Mosley and Jarrad Davis manning the main two inside spots. However, with Davis going down for about two months, there’s a hole. The news wasn’t wanted by anyone, but with the injury comes new opportunities for other players. These opportunities could be exciting too, as rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen will have prime chances to impress.

Sherwood, Nasirildeen, and the veteran depth at linebacker (i.e. Blake Cashman, Noah Dawkins) need to help create some post-Davis clarity on Friday night. If the Jets linebackers can show some ability to make impactful plays and stand tall with the added adversity, it’ll end the preseason on a relatively high note. Well, as high as it could be now.

Expect the linebackers to rotate in and out frequently and to get a glimpse of everything they have to offer. Hopefully, they will be able to achieve the goal of clarity somewhat quickly.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Zach Wilson passed his first test as a New York Jets QB

new york jets, zach wilson

Parts of the New York Jets’ visit to Wisconsin were downright nightmares. But Zach Wilson’s showing has the team buzzing.

For all intents and purposes, the New York Jets’ business trip to Green Bay resembled Michael Scott’s visit to Winnipeg (ironically, the local of another squad branded with aerial endeavors). Sure they got an important job done: Michael made a sale to an international client while the Jets emerged with a 23-14 preseason victory at Lambeau Field on Saturday.

Yet, each trip left the protagonists a bit hollow and empty inside. Michael’s awkward encounter with the hotel’s concierge left him longing for his lost lover Holly Flax. The Jets, meanwhile, come home without several crucial names on defense: marquee offseason arrival Carl Lawson was carted off the field during a joint practice with the Packers, as was undrafted secondary rookie Zane Lewis. Neither will see the field in a 2021 regular season contest In the exhibition showcase itself, fellow newcomer Jarrad Davis likewise needed the cart to leave the field after sustaining an ankle injury in the second quarter. The former Detroit Lion is projected to miss the Jets’ first five regular season games.

Michael’s conundrum was solved through the magic of television: he and Holly married upon his departure from the series two seasons later. The Jets, on the other hand, are engaged in a playoff drought that has outlived The Office‘s nine-year run. That streak has festered in part due to a lack of a franchise quarterback and poor defensive efforts.

Another poor defensive effort awaited on Saturday, the only segment of the Jets’ Wisconsin visit where stats were officially recorded. The Jets faced a Green Bay team that rested most of their offensive starters. Few expected to see Aaron Rodgers in action but even his indirectly controversial successor Jordan Love was likewise absent, leaving perennial camp body Kurt Benkert to primarily oversee the operation. New York’s defensive starters played deep into the second frame, but a Green Bay unit that more resembled the (Michigan) Panthers than the Packers still earned two touchdown-scoring drives. The latter trek was the ultimate insult: the Packers embarked on a 19-play, 81-yard drive that ate over 10 minutes of clock.

So why are the Jets bursting with momentum after the trip to Titletown? Zach Wilson.

zach wilson, jets

Wilson, the Jets’ lastest savior under center, was coming off a perfect showing against the New York Giants. It was perfection earned not through a statistical sense (6-of-9, 63 yards on two drives that ended in Giants territory) but rather an emotional sense that quelled concerns about his highly publicized struggles in camp and intrasquad scrimmages.

Yet, there was a little something missing in the most recent Snoopy Bowl, a Jets tradition that has taken up residency no matter where the team lingers: adversity.

With the Giants likewise sitting their starters and the Jets’ defense at full strength, last weekend lacked a sense of danger. No one wants to be on the wrong end of the scoreboard in any NFL contest, even one whose box scores are likely eradicated on the flight home. The Jets perfectly took care of that problem against the Giants. They never trailed at any point and allowed Wilson to work. Holes in the system looked like a good fixer-upper instead.

But the Jets faced some good old-fashioned adversity against Green Bay, primarily through a lackluster defensive showing. After Wilson’s first drive yielded a Matt Ammendola field goal, it took Green Bay’s reserve only eight plays to waltz 75 yards into the end zone. The Packers faced only one third down on the drive…the one-yard attempt that led to Kylin Hill’s rushing touchdown.

Wilson obviously wasn’t brought into play defense so there isn’t much he can do to help the unit. All he can do is take care of his own business and take advantage of whatever opportunities are afforded to him. He didn’t let a single one go to waste on Saturday.

When the defense earned a quick stop after a Braden Mann punt pinned the Packers inside their 15, Wilson had a prime opportunity to move the ball and potentially earn his first scoring drive. They were poised to start at their own 45, but a holding penalty shifted them back 10 yards.

That was of little concern to Wilson, who handled the setback with the maximum preseason swagger. Wilson spent his third drive of the day further fostering the connection between he and Corey Davis, particularly through two strong throws at the end of the first quarter. Two hook-ups totaling 41 yards set the Jets up in the red zone, allowing Wilson to remove “first unofficial NFL touchdown” from his offseason checklist.

The union between Wilson and Davis is a collaboration between two players that are looking to prove different things at the NFL level. Wilson is trying to erase the stigma of not only being a high-profile draft pick from a mid-major program but that of being the New York Jets’ franchise quarterback. Davis, meanwhile, is another mid-major pick from the top five that’s eager to prove he can be a long-term difference-maker in the league. Every time the former Tennessee Titan has been ready to take a vital step in that journey, a situation beyond his control surfaces. A hamstring injury took out a sizable part of his rookie season while a brief stint on the COVID-19 list prevented him from reaching his first four-digit yardage season.

Davis believes the early chemistry he has created with Wilson will help each of them accomplish their goals through a collaborative effort.

“We were setting a tone, but still have some work to do,” Davis said of the Jets’ offense, per team reporter Jack Bell. On his relationship with Wilson, Davis remarked that a lot of “huge strides” have been made.

“I think Zach is a lot more comfortable in the pocket, he’s been more accurate,” the receiver said. “I’ve been getting open and creating space to try and make it easier for him.”

Yet another obstacle awaited Wilson as he tried to lead the Jets into the red zone: a penalty for an ineligible man downfield on a completed pass to Jamison Crowder forced the unit to deal with a dozen-yard second down. When a similar situation arose against the Giants last week, Wilson was able to at least afford the Jets the opportunity to fail on fourth down. He took things a step further on Saturday, finding Tyler Kroft for an 18-yard score, his first in the NFL.

This being the Jets, there was little time to relish the good feelings. The march of the Green Bay reserves featured five third down conversions and an additional new set of downs was earned through a successful fourth down try. It would’ve been understandable for them to hold Wilson out for the rest of the afternoon, let him “live” to fight another day. But when Corey Ballentine’s strong return placed the Jets 30 yards away from another touchdown, another opportunity lingered and Wilson took full advantage.

All it took for the Jets to capitalize was two six-yard runs by Ty Johnson and Wilson’s second scoring toss to Kroft, this one from 18 yards out. A lamentable first half of football for reasons both beyond and within their control ended with the Jets leading the Packers 17-14 before backups on both sides dominated the remainder of the game.

Thanks to Wilson and a little help from his friends, the Jets’ defensive woes are a mere subplot rather than the main attraction. While the showing against the Giants was perfect in a symbolic sense, his outing against the Packers was literally flawless…well, almost. His Saturday passer rating of 154.7 was just short of a so-called perfect 158.3…but the Jets were perfectly fine with that.

Head coach Robert Saleh, for example, was pleased with the way Wilson handled his first true taste of NFL adversity, an intangible perhaps unmeasurable by any part of the passer rating equation.

“I thought he had good command,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said, per Andy Vazquez of USA Today. “I thought he was under control. I thought he handled pressure well. He was good in and out of the huddle. He’s progressing. And just like his bad days, this was a good day, and it’s just another day. And he’s got to continue to stack up and take the good with the bad and find ways to get better.”

Of course, the road doesn’t end with the second preseason game, even the Jets did somewhat use Saturday as the dress rehearsal often reserved for the third preseason game under the old four-exhibition format. Untold challenges lie ahead, but Wilson’s performance and ability to make the best of stressful situations is exactly what a franchise in desperate need of stability needed.

Wilson has passed his first NFL test. The longer it keeps the Jets out of the watchful stare of tweeters and analysts looking to pounce on Gang Green to earn a few clicks, the better.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: 3 stars from Saturday’s preseason win at Green Bay

new york jets

Offense took center stage on Saturday, as Zach Wilson found Tyler Kroft for two scores in a New York Jets victory.

Zach Wilson earned his first two unofficial touchdown passes as a New York Jet on Saturday, each going to Tyler Kroft, while Corey Davis established a connection with the young quarterback through a 70-yard showing on four catches. The Jets’ rookie quarterback completed 9-of-11 passes overall for 128 yards, playing four drives in a 23-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Despite a tough showing from the defense in their first post-Carl Lawson injury showing…the ultimate insult being a 19-play, 81-yard scoring drive from the Packers’ offensive reserves…the Jets are likely enthused over their Saturday showings on offensive and special teams. Matt Ammendola converted three field goals, while Corey Ballentine set up the latter touchdown drive with a 73-yard kickoff return. Young men in the secondary managed to provide late defensive redemption, as Brandin Echols and Lamar Jackson each stole a pass from Kurt Benkert and Jake Dolegala respectively.

ESM bestows three game balls from the summer triumph…

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Michael Carter: 10 carries, 52 yards
  • S J.T. Hassell: 5 tackles, 1 sack
  • CB Brandin Echols: 3 tackles, 1 interception
  • KR Corey Ballentine: 1 return, 73 yards
  • K Matt Ammendola: 3-for-3 field goals

3rd Star: WR Corey Davis

4 receptions, 70 yards

After he was granted one series in the Snoopy Bowl last weekend, Davis was granted some extended time to work with Wilson in Green Bay. The two further strengthened their connection to the tune of a game-high 70 yards, including two big ones at the end of the first quarter that set up the Jets’ first touchdown.

“We’re definitely getting (chemistry),” Davis said of his connection with Wilson, per Jack Bell of NewYorkJets.com. “We’ve made a lot of huge strides the last week and a half, two weeks. I think Zach is a lot more comfortable in the pocket, he’s been more accurate. I’ve been getting open and creating space to try and make it easier for him.”

2nd Star: TE Tyler Kroft

2 receptions, 36 yards, 2 touchdowns

It’s been a while since the Jets have had a consistent red zone threat at tight end, perhaps dating back to the days of Mickey Shuler (although there have been brief flashes of brilliance, like Dustin Keller and Anthony Becht). Kroft could turn out to be a valuable diamond in the rough signing if he keeps this up and appears well on-pace to usurp the starting tight end role from Chris Herndon.

1st Star: QB Zach Wilson

9-of-11, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns

Wilson’s success undoubtedly comes with the caveats that he’s doing this against reserve defenses in the preseason, but it’s hard not to feel excited about what he’s been able to accomplish this summer (especially when his shortcomings in camp practices and scrimmages made national headlines).

The most inspiring portion of Wilson’s Saturday showing was perhaps his ability to respond to adversity and pressure. With the Jets’ defense going through a tough outing and his pockets collapsing, Wilson held his own and didn’t fall victim to any sacks. His first touchdown pass to Kroft came shortly after a Jets penalty bestowed the offense a dozen-yard second down. Such command of the offense impressed Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

“I thought Zach had good command, he was under control, he handled the pressure well, he was good in and out of the huddle,” Saleh said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “He’s been going through his progressions and he’s been pretty good at that.”

The Jets will round out their preseason slate against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tennessee Titans

New York Giants, Julio Jones

Tennessee lost several key offensive contributors from its recent postseason runs, including current New York Jets WR Corey Davis.

The Opponent: Tennessee Titans
The Date: Week 4, October 3, 1 p.m. ET, CBS (@ NY)
The Series: Tennessee leads 25-19-1 (last meeting: 2018, 26-22 TEN)

Corey Davis earned 984 yards on 65 receptions for the Tennessee Titans last season. A bout with COVID-19 held the fifth pick of the 2017 draft just short of his first career four-digit yardage season. Davis played a major role in each of Tennessee’s last three playoff trips, two of which have seen them win at least one game.

Somehow, Davis got lost in the Nashville fold, leading Titans management to label him expendable.

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight…only three teams have partaken in more playoff games since 2017…has been driven by the breakouts of several explosive skill players, including Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill, Jonnu Smith, and, of course, Davis. That group…minus Davis and the New England-bound Smith…is now joined by Julio Jones, who is looking to regain his All-Pro reputation after his last season in Atlanta was decimated by injury.

Tennessee will make only its second visit to MetLife Stadium for a Jets game. They last stopped by in December 2015, a 30-8 Jets victory.

The Skinny on the Titans

Following their heartbreaking visit to the AFC title game after the 2019 season, the Titans broke the 10-win ceiling for the first time since 2008, likewise ending their division title drought. Alas, they had nothing to show for it in the postseason, as a first-round exit at the hand of Baltimore awaited.

The Titans’ current landscape and depth could perhaps best be described as top-heavy. Tannehill is backed up by Logan Woodside and Matt Barkley. Henry’s top spell option is Darrynton Evans, a third-round pick who was limited to 54 yards in an injury-plagued rookie year. They’ll once again be must-see television…as long as they stay healthy.

So what’s been the big problem in Tennessee? The Titans have learned the hard way that defense still wins championships. After losing their chance at the Super Bowl by surrendering a two-possession lead in just over five minutes against the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee ranked at or near the bottom in most major defensive categories. The team did muster 15 interceptions…third-best in the AFC…but one of the leaders, Malcolm Butler, has moved on to Arizona.

Despite their lack of depth, the Titans are likely the unanimous favorite in the reeling AFC South, at least until the Indianapolis Colts find a proven quarterback. Houston has far too much to prove, while it’s going to take a lot more than the arrival of Trevor Lawrence for the Jacksonville Jaguars to become relevant again.

New York Giants, Daniel Jones
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New in Tennessee?

In bidding farewell to their offensive depth, the Titans sought to bolster the weak defense. Before Jones arrived late, their marquee addition was former Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree. The ex-Steeler is coming off an ACL tear but was nonetheless bestowed an $82.5 million contract to help solve their issues. Dupree was removed from the physically unable to perform list last week and has begun practicing.

“Anytime you get paid to pass rush, you go ahead and get sacks and make big plays in the run game, be an all-around player,” Dupree said of his role in his new home in a June episode of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “You don’t just come in just to be a one-trick pony and just do pass rush. You’ve got to be able to be a tone-setter on the edge, as well, swarming to the ball, stopping the run, evolving your teammates, getting everybody hyped up.”

In addition to Dupree, the Titans also welcomed Denico Autry to bolster the pass rush after three successful years with the Colts. Tennessee also opted to use their top draft pick on defensive help, welcoming Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley, who should fill the void Butler left behind.

Though well accomplished…Tannehill has become a reliable starter, Henry is a downright historic, game-changing rusher, Brown and Jones should be a deadly aerial pair…the Titans’ offense has something to prove. Coordinator Arthur Smith earned a head coaching job in Atlanta for his work over the past two seasons, leaving tight ends coach Todd Downing to take over. Downing previously won Pro Football Focus’ Quarterbacks Coach of the Year Award for his work with Derek Carr in Oakland.

New York Giants, Caleb Farley
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

How to Beat Them

-Jump the Defense

The Titans’ return to the national spotlight is reminiscent of their turn-of-the-century heyday. Back then, they had Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Derrick Mason. Nowadays, it’s Tannehill, Henry, and Brown/Jones pairing.

But there’s a difference: the former group’s offensive fireworks were accentuated by the equally effective defensive work of Jevon Kearse and Samari Rolle.

The Jets’ mission is thus relatively simple in the theory that they must force the Titans’ defense to win the game. By the time Tennessee comes to visit, the Jets will have had three games to build offensive chemistry. That’s obviously not the most experience together, but it can be enough to take advantage of a Tennessee defense that was already dealing with issues. They can’t let the Titans’ offensive arsenal decide the game.

-Take a Passing Interest

What Tannehill has been able to do in Nashville is inspiring and deserves to be recognized. After a seemingly endless streak of proverbial make-or-break seasons in Miami, Tannehill has forged a long-term NFL path as the Titans’ franchise quarterback.

Yet, he can’t fully bear the load of an offensive box score. Since he entered the league in 2012, Tannehill teams are 4-18 when he throws at least 40 passes. The Titans have taken note…only three of those instances have come in Tennessee.

Forcing Tannehill to win the game obviously then leads to containing Henry, the defending Offensive Player of the Year and 2,000-yard rusher. The Jets’ run defense should enjoy a boost from the return of Kyle Phillips, one of the team’s top run defenders during his 2019 debut before injuries ate up his sophomore season. Former Robert Saleh pupil Ronald Blair should likewise help keep the run game grounded, as he was one of San Francisco’s top rush defenders off the edge.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

ESM’s New York Jets experts name a top breakout candidate for 2021

carl lawson, new york jets

As the preseason opener looms, ESM’s New York Jets experts name a veteran breakout candidate for the 2021 campaign.

The story of the 2021 New York Jets is one that could well be defined by the term “breakout”.

As ESM’s Gang Green experts discussed last week, asking the Jets to end their decade-long playoff drought is a little too much to ask for in an AFC packed with established contenders. However, with little to lose and minimal national expectations thrust upon them, several veteran players have big opportunities to enjoy breakout campaigns, ones that can prove they belong to stay for the potential good times ahead.

ESM’s Jets experts return to name their biggest emerging star from the Jets’ roster in 2021…

New York Giants, Corey Davis
 Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Magliocchetti: WR Corey Davis

The curious case of Corey Davis describes the Jets’ current landscape in a nutshell: he’s shown fleeting flashes of brilliance, but the football gods have loved to toy with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft.

A hamstring injury weighed down his rookie season. Despite relative consistency, Tennessee declined to pick up his fifth-year option. Even in the midst of a career-best season, divine intervention played a cruel trick: Davis spent two games on the COVID-19 list, denying him a chance to obtain his first 1,000-yard season (stopped at 984).

Davis comes in with the perfect ingredient for a breakout candidate: he has something to prove. Despite playing a sizable role in the Titans’ ongoing mini-football renaissance (only Kansas City, New England, and New Orleans have played more playoff games than the six Tennessee has seen since Davis’ entry in 2017), Davis’ work was buried under the electrifying on-field antics of Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown.

Brought into New York as one of the Jets’ more expensive arrivals ($37.5 million over three years, including $27 million guaranteed), Davis is a rare metropolitan rep who has had a taste of the NFL promised land. The Jets are also desperate for a big-play receiver to rise up. That becomes even more of a necessity with a new franchise thrower in tow. No one’s reached four digits in yardage since the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker tandem in 2015.

Davis made his goals and endeavors clear when he signed with the Jets in March: he wants to prove to the league that he has lasting power as a primary target.

I do consider myself a No. 1 wide receiver,” Davis said upon signing in March, per D.J. Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News. “My ability to get open, my speed, separation, releases, I feel like I could do it all. I’m a thousand-yard receiver. It’s just up to me to put in the work. Make sure that I’m healthy and can play a full season.”

ashtyn davis, new york giants

Brendan Carpenter: S Ashtyn Davis

The Jets have an abundance of players who could be poised for a breakout season. One player, though, stands out above the rest in my eyes: his name is Ashtyn Davis.

First, before we get into the specifics, it’s important to point out that this selection is dependent on his health, obviously. Davis was placed on the PUP list due to a foot injury and is not expected to play Week 1. However, once he’s cleared, he should command the starting strong safety role.

The former third-round pick is a do-it-all safety who can tackle, trace some receivers, and move into the box when needed. He can also make an impact on special teams, as he was named the unit’s MVP twice at Cal-Berkeley. As a rookie last year, he played in just ten games, starting six. In those contests, he totaled 36 tackles (one for loss), one pass breakup, and one fumble recovery. If he stays healthy, he should surpass those numbers easily.

Davis can impact the game in so many areas. It’s hard to not be excited for what he’ll bring to the field this year. Barring any extensive time missed, Davis should be a major part of the Jets’ defense this season and is a prime candidate for a major breakout.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Price: DE Carl Lawson

The Jets added an impact player in Carl Lawson this past offseason. Although he’s the natural pick to be breakout player of the year, it’s truly the easiest pick to make.

Lawson consistently ranked in the top of the league in pressures and win rate. Now, he goes to a defense that will give him the opportunity to thrive and produce big numbers.

I’m not kidding when I say eight or nine sacks feels like the floor for Lawson right now.

Nobody can stop him in camp, and this weekend (as well as the trip to Green Bay) will be the best indicator of the level of dominance Lawson could assert on the league in this upcoming season. Expectations are high in Florham Park and East Rutherford but look for Lawson to break out as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags