New York Jets’ lack of on-field progress disfigures offseason work

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

Trading off the faces of the franchise is working to the New York Jets’ benefit, but the on-field yields have made them impossible to enjoy.

The New York Jets’ most fruitful endeavors of the 2021 season came in Week 6. By perhaps no coincidence, that week of action marked the Jets’ annual bye week.

The 2021-22 NFL playoff bracket was never going to be the primary criteria for judging the Jets’ season. This year’s AFC environment was already packed to the brim with established division favorites: the Jets’ own East division is set to be dominated by a Western New York overlord for the foreseeable future. Tennessee has taken over the South as expected while pleasant surprises have emerged in Cincinnati and Las Vegas.

The wild card picture features expected contenders like the Ravens, Chargers, Browns, and Steelers. In Kansas City, the two-time defending conference champion Chiefs are shockingly fighting for their lives. Asking a two-win team to launch themselves into that conversation, no matter how much they changed during the offseason, was always a very tall ask, one not even worth asking. Appearing in the “in the hunt” column on the postseason charts NFL broadcasters break out around the holidays was probably going to be the best-case scenario for the team.

Nonetheless, there was much to gain in year one of the shared Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson era, the official start of Joe Douglas’ general manager tenture after he installed his own head coach and quarterback. Progress was the name of the game and it would’ve been hard to take steps backward from the final years of the Adam Gase era. The Jets were left in such dire straits from Gase’s two-year watch that there was no way for them to fully fill all the boxes on their offseason checklist, but Douglas did a solid job nonetheless.

But the biggest moves of Douglas’ offseason were done not in the name of the present, but the future. Douglas officially left his mark on the organization through the trade of previous franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, paving the way for Wilson’s arrival. In return for a quarterback with a career 78.6 passer rating and an unforunate injury history, Douglas was able to secure a second and fourth-round pick from the Carolina Panthers. Darnold’s departure came nearly nine months after fellow franchise face Jamal Adams was shipped off to Seattle for each of the Seahawks’ first-round picks over the next two drafts.

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For the time being, Douglas’ deals look like the finest New York-based robbery since Clive Owen and Co.’s heist in Spike Lee’s Inside Man. Adams may have earned his desired big contract but has failed to stop Seattle’s Russell Wilson-free descent. His first playoff experience was a Wild Card disappointment that failed to stop an injured Los Angeles Rams passing tandem of Jared Goff and John Wolford. Seattle’s ugly Monday night loss to New Orleans currently positions the Jets in the eighth slot of the current 2022 draft board, one of the two appearances within the first octology.

Meanwhile, Darnold became instant comedic fuel for those seeking a cheap laugh at the Jets’ expense: as his Panthers started 3-0 (wins coming against the Jets, Saints, and Texans), many were ready to put him in Canton for his services of making Gang Green look even more inept. Carolina has since dropped four in a row, the latest loss being a listless 25-3 defeat at the hands of the lowly Giants. Darnold was benched for de facto XFL MVP P.J. Walker in defeat and the Panthers reportedly remain interested in the services of the burdened Deshaun Watson, a sweepstakes Douglas smartly reclused himself from.

Per Tankathon, the Jets are slated to visit the podium four times over the first 45 selections if the current pace continues. That alone should make the team smile and emerge from the 2021 campaign with good feelings.

Alas, what’s happening on the field makes it absolutely impossible to appreciate the yields off of it.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Jets (1-5) are somehow finding rockier bottoms than those reached under Gase, much like how Gase “accomplished” dubious distinctions Rick Kotite’s doomed groups managed to avoid. New York’s new futility was best personified through their most recent defeat, a 54-13 shellacking at the hands of the New England Patriots.

Few remnants of the New England dynasty linger since Tom Brady flew south, but their monopoly over the Jets is a troubling leftover: of the Patriots’ ten wins earned in the post-Brady era, four have come against the hapless Jets. East Rutherford’ portion of the 2021 meetings was equally ugly, as the Jets failed to visit the end zone in a 25-6 defeat. A week later, they were on the wrong end of a shutout in Denver, the tenth scoreboard blank in the NFL since 2019. Of those no-shows, the Jets have been responsible for three of them.

In further Sunday struggles, the 54 points were the most scored by a Jets opponent since the team let up 56 to those same Patriots in 1979. It was also the eighth time in franchise history that the Jets let up at least 550 yards in a game since opening weekend of the 1998 season. Unlike that overtime thriller in San Francisco, no divisional title/AFC title game appearance awaits at the end.

What New England did on Sunday is what, frankly, the Jets should be doing. Nobody is expecting them to light up the scoreboard on a weekly basis (nor should they) but the Jets’ lack of on-field progress is disturbing. Solace can be gained from the fact that the team is well-set for the future…the elevator ride up the draft board is the sweetest form of gridiron schadenfreude…but it’s hard to get excited when the on-field product suggests that there’s still so much to work on.

Douglas’ drafts have also done little to inspire faith in the draft day rewards. Sure, his primary picks (Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker) have provided a solid foundation for the wall in front of Wilson. But addressing the entire body of work is a new exercise in football frustration and futility.

Take his original class in 2020, for example. Becton has been strong but has spent most of this season on injured reserve (along with sixth-round punter Braden Mann). Nothing more needs to be written about second-round weapon Denzel Mims’ lack of snaps (his 20 on Sunday were a season-best). Jabari Zuniga (3rd) and James Morgan are already gone while Morgan’s fellow fourth-rounders La’Mical Perine and Cameron Clark have united for a single snap this season. While there’s hope for secondary defenders Ashtyn Davis and Bryce Hall, they haven’t made any of the missed opportunities worth forgetting: for example, Jeremy Chinn, Logan Wilson, and Antonio Gibson went within the immediate ten post-Mims picks. The already pointless selection of Morgan is even more bizarre considering Gabriel Davis went to Buffalo three choices later.

It’s great that the Jets have accumulated such valuable draft capital…but does that mean much when the on-field product still wallows in gridiron shame?

Granted, there’s still time for the Jets to come out clean on the other side of this season: arguing about the fates of Saleh and Wilson (who is missing at least the next two weeks with an injury) is pointless: even the Jets won’t be so impatient to give up on them after one year. Another macabre gift has been bestowed in the sense that the Jets’ season is so far gone and already removed from the postseason that they have 11 consequence-free opportunities to stage free research and development for the future, starting with Sunday’s visit from the AFC North leaders from Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Douglas arrived in one of the most thankless jobs in professional sports. To his credit, he’s making the best of it through not only his draft board maneuvering but late summer cuts that have created a professional future for themselves (i.e. Quincy Williams, Ty Johnson). Trading off the franchise faces and his action on the offensive line was refreshing after years of Mike Maccagnan-supervised negligence. To say Douglas has the best intentions would perhaps be the understatement of this young season.

But if good intentions served as championship criteria, everyone would be undefeated.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Four goals for the post-bye slate

rob saleh, jets

Though the playoffs are still a pipe dream, there is plenty for the New York Jets to accomplish over the next dozen weeks.

After a one-week reprieve for their beleaguered fanbase, the New York Jets are back in action.

The Gang Green faithful actually enjoyed the last week of NFL football: no other AFC East team picked up a win and Sam Darnold lost in overtime before Jamal Adams and Geno Smith fell in a prime time thriller. Those latter instances allowed the Jets to shoot up the draft board thanks to prior transactions. Entering Week 7 play, the Jets own two picks in the top ten and four within the first 46.

The fortuitous weekend for Jets fans was perhaps unironically assisted by the fact that their team didn’t play a single down, but that gravy train comes to an end on Sunday afternoon. New York (1-4) resumes their season on Sunday, commencing a dozen weeks of uninterrupted gridiron endeavors at Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Even though the Jets entered Week 7 play only a game-and-a-half out of the last AFC wild card spot, the playoffs remain a pipe dream. Having said that, there’s plenty for the team to accomplish and plenty of ways for them to feel good about the 2021 season as things get back underway in New England…

zach wilson, jets

Break 30 points

The modern NFL is one that worships offense under the supervision of a deity known as fantasy football. Teams reach point and yardage totals that would make Arena Football League (RIP) teams blush…and still lose.

The Jets have been left behind in this regard: over the past two-plus seasons, they have reached the 30-point plateau in only three games…all of which came in November 2019. That’s tied with Pittsburgh (which has been weighed down by aging and backup quarterbacks) for the second-worst such tally in football and besting only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

Growing pains were to be well-expected with a rookie quarterback in tow. No broadcast of a 2021 Jets game is complete without showcasing the fact that Peyton Manning, for example, threw 28 interceptions during his rookie campaign near the turn of the century. But that doesn’t mean the Jets should wave the white flag on offensive development.

Through five games, it’s tough to make a case that the Jets have generated any form of offensive consistency. Week 4’s upset win over Tennessee, a game that saw the Jets earn their first touchdown in a first half, seemed like a great catalyst, but they followed that up with a brutal half-hour of game time in London before salvaging a respectable final score against the Atlanta Falcons. It’s great that a defense held together by the flimsy tape of draft weekend Saturday acquisitions and late summer camp cuts has held its own, but there’s no need to make a gargantuan task even harder.

Reaching the landmark of 30 points would be a strong step forward for the offense, a nice task to cross off the Zach Wilson NFL to-do list. The Jets need to finally get with the times; doing so sooner rather than later would have all kinds of benefits.

elijah moore, jets

Maximize Mims and Moore

It’s been a long, long time since the Jets have had a homegrown big-play receiver. Robby Anderson had a chance to be that weapon but the Adam Gase era scared him away from further metropolitan efforts. The last realistic option is probably a toss-up between Santana Moss (2001) and Jerricho Cotchery (2004).

Over the past two springs, the Jets have spent their primary picks on necessary upgrades to the offensive line (Mekhi Becton/Alijah Vera-Tucker) but found diamonds in the second-round rough through Denzel Mims (59th overall in 2019) and Elijah Moore (34th last April). Each entered this season with something to prove: Mims was forced into a de facto redshirt year after hamstring issues ate away at his rookie training camp while Moore wants to show the football world that he should’ve been a first-rounder.

When the winds of change swept through the Jets’ offense, both Mims and Moore were expected to become sizable parts of the offensive revolution. But each has found themselves awkwardly sidelined: Mims was a surprise healthy scratch for two of the first five games and has struggled to beat out reserves like Braxton Berrios and Jeff Smith for playing time. Moore missed the Tennessee win with a concussion sustained the week prior in Denver but struggled to work his way back into the London lineup, partaking in only 41 percent of offensive snaps (though one drew a length pass interference penalty that set up the Jets’ final touchdown of the day).

The Jets have invested a lot into Mims and Moore. In choosing the former, for example, the Jets passed on instant, consistent contributors like Jeremy Chinn, Logan Wilson, and Antonio Gibson. Time is on Moore’s side, but the Jets are nearing a point of no return with Mims. If offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur wants to leave a lasting positive impression on the long-suffering unit, the best way to do that would be to carve out roles for two undeniably talented playmakers. The Jets have lost enough ground in the big-play race; they have the resources to restabilize themselves and would be foolish not to take advantage.

marcus maye, jets

Turnaround the Turnover Game

Their 1-4 record may mask it to the broad, national scene, but the Jets’ defense has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the NFL’s early slate. The group’s efforts have been particularly impressive considering that the average drive starts less than 66 yards from the end zone (an NFL-worst). New York has established one of the scarier pass rushing units in the league, their success personified by a four-year extension bestowed to John Franklin-Myers worth a guaranteed $30 million.

But their efforts in forcing turnovers have left much to be desired: the Jets have earned only four takeaways over the first five games, half of which came through fumble recoveries in London. Through the first six weeks of play, they’re the only team in the league that has yet to record an interception.

It doesn’t take much research to show how important it is to force turnovers in today’s NFL. The resurgent Dallas Cowboys are allowing 295 aerial yards per game (30th in the league) yet their defense is the talk of the football town thanks to a league-best 11 interceptions, seven of which have landed in the arms of Trevon Diggs. The Jets have done a solid job of limiting damage from Wilson turnovers, but it’s time to take the next step. With Marcus Maye not only returning from an ankle injury but also reiterating his immediate dedication to the team, there’s a prime opportunity to generate positive momentum in New England.

zach wilson, jets

Beat Another Contender

Though the playoffs are probably out of the question, there are prime opportunities for the Jets to earn victories. A six-game stretch that stretches from Thanksgiving to Christmas looks particularly tasty, as that slate (Miami twice, Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Jacksonville) comes against teams that own a combined eight wins (three of which come from the Saints).

But if the Jets truly want to provide an “ahem” moment to the rest of the league, a warning that they’re going to be a problem in the near future, they need to beat one of the elite squads that reside on the immediate road ahead. They still have to face the Buffalo Bills twice, while New England, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati linger at the cusp of contention. The Jets also ring in the new year with a visit from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their MetLife Stadium finale on Jan. 2.

The Jets might’ve taken care of that with the aforementioned over the AFC South-leading Titans, but any good vibes were erased by a listless first-half against an Atlanta squad whose wins have come against the cursed New York football duology. A shutout loss in Denver also looks particularly ugly now that the Broncos have lost four in a row.

Playing out the slate after a slow start is a task the Jets have become far too comfortable with over recent seasons. The first year of the Gase era, for example, forced them to work through a 1-7 start. They would finish that year with a respectable 7-9 ledger, but almost all of those wins came against teams in equally dire straits. Another win over an established contender wouldn’t cancel out listless showings against mediocre squads. But it would help the Jets feel more comfortable with what they’ve built and the investments they’ve made so far.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Grading the pre-bye slate by unit

zach wilson, jets

It’s easy to complain about a 1-4 record, but did the New York Jets actually exceed expectations in the early going?

michael carter, jets

Leaders at the bye week

PassingZach Wilson1,117 yards, 4 TD, 9 INT
RushingMichael Carter165 yards, 2 TD
ReceivingCorey Davis20 receptions, 302 yards, 3 TD
TacklesC.J. Mosley45 tackles
SacksQuinnen Williams3.5 sacks
KickingMatt Ammendola6-of-7 FG (long: 49)
PuntingThomas Morestead47.5 average (17 attempts)
ReturningBraxton Berrios23.3 kick ret., 13.3 punt ret.

Offense: D

The Jets spent the offseason preparing for the arrival of a new quarterback by stocking up on weaponry, but they have yet to yield the desireable results.

The true disappointments have been the Jets’ veteran representatives. Joe Douglas’ acquisitions have yet to truly pan out and make the rookie quarterback and run game (second to last in the league at 74 yards a game despite Michael Carter and Ty Johnson’s relative consistency) feel comfortable in the early going. Interior affairs have been further hindered by the early injury to Mekhi Becton, who is still “a few weeks away” from returning from a dislocated kneecap suffered in Week 1, per head coach Robert Saleh. Despite the early struggles, the Jets seem to have found a keeper in 14th overall pick Alijah Vera-Tucker, the team’s highest-graded blocker according to Pro Football Focus.

Whether it’s fair or not (and it really isn’t), the Jets’ offensive progress…maybe the team as a whole…is going to be judged by the progress of Wilson. The trials and tribulations of working with a new franchise quarterback, especially a rookie, were well expected. Wilson’s nine interceptions are alarming to the naked eye, but several of them would be excused by a well-educated official scorer coming over from baseball. The second overall pick still hasn’t lived up to such billing but has shown occasional flashes of potential and brilliance, particularly in the come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. There’s obviously time to sort that out and the Jets need to make continuous Wilson progress the norm in the post-bye slate.

The Jets could potentially be shooting themselves in the foot and hindering Wilson through curious denials of young weaponry. Nothing more needs to be written about Denzel Mims’ 2021 season…or relative lack thereof…but now Elijah Moore has been sidelined in health. A concussion removed Moore from Week 3’s tilt in Denver and caused him to miss the following week’s aforementioned triumph over Tennessee. But Moore only took 41 percent of snaps in the British-based Week 5 game against Atlanta and was targeted only twice (drawing a sizable pass interference penalty on the latter).

Saleh said it was up to him and his coaching staff to find ways for Moore to contribute to the game plan, partly vowing to work on finding such an insertion during his first post-bye statements on Monday.

“He’s going to continue to get opportunities,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “We just got to find creative ways to get him on the football field and get him in position to go make a play.”

It’s been a long, long time since the Jets have had a homegrown big-play threat, the last consistent such option likely being Santana Moss. They need to figure out their plans for Mims and Moore sooner rather than later, if only to avoid subjecting Wilson to further roster inconsistency.

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Defense: C+

By all accounts, the Jets’ defense was given a de facto redshirt season when prized offseason acquisition and touted pass rush energizer Carl Lawson was lost after a handful of summer snaps. Fellow veteran arrival and presumptive starter Jarrad Davis has also missed his metropolitan debut due to preseason medical woes. Others to miss significant time include Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis, and LaMarcus Joyner (who joined Lawson as a season-long departure after a triceps injury in Week 1).

Instead, the unit has buckled down and turned itself into one of the most pleasant, if not hidden, surprises in football.

The progress is prominently on display in the aforementioned pass rush, where John Franklin-Myers, Quinnen Williams, and Foley Fatukasi have built upon breakout campaigns from 2020. The efforts has been further bolstered by the unexpected contributions of Quincy Williams, Quinnen’s older brother and a post-cutdown day find off Jacksonville’s waiver wire. New York currently ranks fourth in pressure rate (28.4 percent) and fifth in quarterback takedown percentage (12.4).

Jets management wasted no time in rewarding Franklin-Myers’ efforts through a four-year contract extension armed with $30 million in guaranteed money. Saleh has described the attack, particularly the defensive line as the “heartbeat” of the Jets’ defense.

A makeshift secondary, which may soon have to prep for life after Maye, has done its part in not only assisting the pass rush (Saleh has described the group as doing “a phenomenal job giving them the time to get home”), but also in their traditional duties: thanks to strong openings from draft weekend Saturday acquisitions like Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, and Brandin Echols, the Jets have managed to hold a pace and maintain a pulse of sorts in all five of their games so far. They’ve allowed scoring on only 45 percent of their possessions (seventh-best in football), a ledger that includes only four passing scores (lowest such tally in the NFL). Those percentages are particularly impressive when considering that defensive possessions start from just beyond the opponents’ 34-yard line, the worst average starting field position in football.

The Jets’ biggest defensive sin thus far has been their inability to force turnovers. They’ve earned four fumbled takeaways, including two against the Falcons in London, but are currently the only team in the NFL that has yet to record an interception this season.

Special Teams: C+

If anything, the Jets appear to have found peace in their kicking situation. Matt Ammendola’s kicks (6-of-7 to date) haven’t exactly come in clutch situations but at least the Jets have found long-sought reliability at kicker that’s been lacking since Jason Myers absconded to Seattle after the 2018 season. Ammendola also deserves credit for his ability to fill in as a punter during the Week 1 opener, one that saw him average nearly 50 yards a boot when drafted leg Braden Mann went down with an injury. Former New Orleans staple Thomas Morestead has filled in respectably, as his 47.5 average ranks 10th amongst punters with at least 15 attempts.

The Jets have also maintained strong marks in a return game headlined by Johnson, Braxton Berrios, and Tevin Coleman. Berrios has placed the Jets fourth in punt return average (13.3 on an admittedly low four attempts) while the group has united to be third in kickoffs (26.3). Coverage, alas, hasn’t been as consistent: the Jets have allowed an average of 21 yards on kickoffs (16th in the league) and 10.8 on punts (29th).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets experts grade the pre-bye slate

zach wilson, jets

With the New York Jets off this week, ESM’s experts in green grade the season to date and showcase their picks for the rest of the league.

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti

The New York Jets have come to their annual bye week…the bye week is favored by a field goal.

Now that the obviously/tired joke is out of the way, fair assessment of the Jets’ season can begin. New York (1-4) has reached the landmark of their league-mandated open date, one that the naked positions them in dire straits: the playoffs already appear to be a pipe dream, Zach Wilson has thrown a league-worst nine interceptions, they’re trying to turn future weapons Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore into the past, another star safety might be disgruntled, and Joe Douglas’ offensive line additions of the veteran variety aren’t paying dividends.

And yet…have the Jets, in fact, exceeded expectations?

Granted, nobody is, nor should, expecting a post-bye run to the playoffs: this team had its share of issues that were never going to be solved in 2021 and that laundry list might’ve grown, in fact. But a 1-4 record masks some pleasant surprises, namely in what the defense has been able to accomplish.

Held together by the masking tape of draft weekend Saturday acquisitions, the unit has played well with the cards it has been dealt. The most impressive revolution has occurred in the pass rush: no one would’ve faulted the Jets for taking a step back after prized newcomer Carl Lawson was lost for the season. Instead, they’ve taken a step forward and have begun to establish a new defensive identity centered on pressure and backfield invasions.

John Franklin-Myers’ takeover has been rewarded with a new price tag ($30 million guaranteed over the next four years). Pairing Quincy and Quinnen Williams has worked wonders, while a young secondary has held its own after a renovation headlined by Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II in expanded roles. Considering how often the offense has left them to dry (average defensive possessions start 64 yards away from the end zone, an NFL-worst), it’s a downright miracle the Jets have remained in ball games. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked after Robert Saleh posted respectable efforts when he lost his defensive studs in San Francisco last year, but coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has garnered some strong kudos as well.

It’s not like everything has been a disaster on offense: the Jets have been well justified in the selection of Alijah Vera-Tucker, for example. But, whether it’s fair or not…and it’s really not…this season will be judged on Wilson’s NFL comfort and adaptability. There have been ever-so-fleeting flashes of brilliance…few will forget his 53-yard strike to Corey Davis anytime soon…and not all of the interceptions have been his fault. But, through five games, there’s no guarantee that Wilson is the long-sought, long-term solution at quarterback.

The Jets have weathered several early storms thanks to some well-timed breakouts. This is a resilient bunch, but one can only hang his helmet on one-possessions losses for so long.

Bye Week Grade: C-

jets, zach wilson

Dylan Price

The Jets head into the much-needed bye week at an abysmal 1-4. This season, to this point, has been disappointing. We’ve seen the well-covered glimpses of potential, like the beautiful throws from Zach Wilson and the defense showing up in that win in the win over the Titans, as well as the tight loss in Carolina back in Week 1. But what we have yet to see yet is consistent flashes.

We’ve seen first halves where it looks like the team failed to show up to the game. The playcalling has been utterly atrocious on the offensive side. The Jets have one first-half touchdown over the first five games. Wilson has not looked comfortable given the way the offense is set up at times and the personnel usage of young guys like Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims has been bad. Their tight end snap distribution has also been rendered effectively useless once again. This offense is bad, and Mike LaFleur HAS to take a step forward over the next few weeks.

On the defensive side of the ball, my tone is much more positive. C.J. Mosley looks like a bonafide captain of the defense and he’s proved the last big investment Mike Maccganan made was actually a good one. The defensive line has been strongly anchored by John Franklin-Myers and Sheldon Rankins. The Williams brothers have been electric and the secondary has shown up when needed with cornerbacks Michael Carter II and Bryce Hall starting the season very strong. They haven’t been perfect, but for how much time they spend on the field and the youth on the team, Jeff Ulbrich has done a solid job.

This team is still one of the worst in football, arguably the worst. The defense has been strong and will only continue to grow, but the offense has been really bad. If the team can’t correct that, this season will be longer than it already feels like it’s been.

Bye Week Grade: C

Best of the Rest

Price Magliocchetti
Tampa Bay @ Philadelphia (Thu.) Buccaneers Buccaneers
Miami @ Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars
Cincinnati @ Detroit Lions Bengals
Green Bay @ Chicago Packers Packers
Houston @ Indianapolis Colts Colts
Kansas City @ Washington Chiefs Chiefs
LA Chargers @ Baltimore Chargers Ravens
LA Rams @ NY Giants Rams Rams
Minnesota @ Carolina Vikings Panthers
Arizona @ Cleveland Cardinals Browns
Dallas @ New England Cowboys Cowboys
Las Vegas @ Denver Broncos Broncos
Seattle @ Pittsburgh Seahawks Steelers
Buffalo @ Tennessee (Mon.) Bills Bills

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
Dylan Price is on Twitter @DylanPrice27

New York Jets WR Denzel Mims will be active vs. Tennessee

The sophomore receiver is set to return to the New York Jets’ lineup after spending the last two games as an inactive healthy scratch.

New York Jets head coach announced on Friday that Denzel Mims will be part of the active roster for Sunday’s Week 4 contest against the Tennessee Titans (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Mims, the Jets’ second-round pick from 2020’s virtual draft, has not dressed in either of Gang Green’s prior couple of contests.

The announcement of Mims’ reactivation also came with the declaration that his fellow receivers, Elijah Moore and Jeff Smith, would miss Tennessee’s visit with concussions. Moore was removed in the late stages of last weekend’s loss in Denver while Smith was injured in a car accident on his way to the team’s Florham Park facility this week.

“Denzel will be active this weekend. He’s going to get (an) opportunity,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “Hopefully, he takes advantage of it, and we’re expecting him to. He’s stacked up a third consecutive week of great, deliberate practice. He’s really getting comfortable within the offense. We’re excited to see him get his opp.”

The status of Mims has been one of the premature subplots of the 2021 season. New York (0-3) upgraded its receiver corps with the services of the rookie Moore, Keelan Cole, and former Titan Corey Davis. The new arrivals partly contributed to Mims’ burial on the depth chart while Saleh also expressed concerns that the Baylor alum hadn’t mastered all three receiver positions and did not contribute on special teams.

Saleh said that the Jets were “comfortable” in using Mims on Sunday.

“It’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t even need to talk to the coach anymore,” Saleh said of Mims. “He’s just on the football field, he’s getting himself lined up and you’re seeing the speed and the athleticism that he has. So, just a matter of getting him those opportunities, taking it to Sunday and executing with his teammates and being the guy that we expect him to be.”

In addition to Mims, the Jets are also set to welcome back Jamison Crowder, who missed the first three games of the year after a bout with COVID-19. Crowder has been the Jets’ top receiver over the past two seasons. Defensively, Ashtyn Davis will return after missing the first three games on injured reserve with a foot injury that kept him out of the latter stages of his rookie season. Saleh said that Davis “obviously” won’t be fully available but expect him to work in rotation with Jarrod Wilson and Sharrod Neasman, who was likewise activated from the IR.

On the other side, Tennessee (2-1) will be missing some major contributors, head coach Mike Vrabel confirmed on Friday. Top receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones will miss the games with hamstring issues, while primary defenders Bud Dupree (knee) and Caleb Farley (shoulder) will also be missing. Punter Brett Kern (groin) is also out.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets WR Denzel Mims inactive once again

The New York Jets will be missing two top receivers, Mims and Jamison Crowder, for the second consecutive week.

Denzel Mims will not dress for the New York Jets for the second consecutive weekend, joining fellow top target Jamison Crowder. Neither will dress for the Jets Sunday

Mims’ modern endeavors have a point of contention for the 0-2 Jets, as the second-round pick has partaken in only three snaps this season. All of them came on kickoff weekend against Carolina, though one produced a 40-yard reception that set up the Jets’ final score of the day.

New York management apparently still believes in Mims to the point where they are hanging up on trade offers for the second-year receiver, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. But Mims’ inability to contribute on special teams has buried him on the depth chart. The return of veteran acquisition Keelan Cole officially made Mims a healthy scratch. He missed half of his rookie season with hamstring issues after the Jets made him the 59th overall pick of the 2020 draft but managed to tally 357 yards on 23 receptions in nine games (eight starts).

The scratch of Mims comes after Robert Saleh labeled him a “game-time decision” on Friday. New York’s head coach was enthused about Mims’ progress, as he was “pumped” about the week of practice he had.

Also inactive for the Jets is Crowder, the team’s leading receiver over the last two seasons. The veteran slot option has been working his way back after dealing with a bout of COVID-19. Another top option on the depth chart, rusher Tevin Coleman, is out with a non-COVID illness, while La’mical Perine is out for the third straight game. Sixth-round pick Jonathan Marshall will likewise remain a healthy scratch.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Now’s not the time to worry about Denzel Mims

The receiver’s predicament is worth keeping an eye on, but the New York Jets have bigger, broader things to worry about.

For all the talk about the New York Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback, metropolitan football has been equally bereft of a homegrown big-play receiver.

It has been nearly 15 seasons since a receiver that originally began his career with the Jets reached four digits in yardage (Jerricho Cotchery in 2007). The Jets have had some offensive teases since then: Robby Anderson was a diamond in the rough of the undrafted, but the Adam Gase era caused him to “lose his love” for the game. Day three Quincy Enunwa came close but saw his metropolitan career eaten away by injury.

Denzel Mims was supposed to end that streak during 2020’s virtual draft. Brought in from the offensive Valhalla that is Baylor, Mims’ arrival was the sweetest of consolation prizes: the Jets passed on several elite receiving talents to draft offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton. While the offensive line required undeniable assistance, it left the Sam Darnold era without the talents of a high-profile receiver. Jamison Crowder had done well in the slot but Darnold’s top options by conventional means consisted of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan).

When Mims fell into their lap at 59th overall, Joe Douglas appeared to have pulled off an Ocean’s-style heist: he not only got Darnold his protection but topped it off with weaponry, a potent talent that contributed 28 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards to Waco’s gridiron cause. His name is frequently mentioned in the offensive chapters of the Bears’ record books, appearing alongside collegiate legends like K.D Cannon, Corey Coleman, Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams, and Kendall Wright. That group brought Baylor football to unprecedented modern heights: Mims’ senior squad, for example, went to Sugar Bowl and finished 13th in the final Associated Press poll, the program’s best showing since 1960.

Through the Waco experience, Mims knew what it was like to prop up one historically downtrodden green football franchise. Many expected him to do so with another up north. Alas, Mims has instead become the latest victim of whatever gridiron demon has refused to loosen the grip it has held on the Jets for the last five decades.

True to metropolitan form, Mims’ professional career was beset by factors behind his control. Issues with each of his hamstrings kept him out of training camp activities already handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such ailments cost Mims nearly half of his 2021 season but he left an impact in his limited time: his 357 yards were good for fourth on the woebegone 2020 Jets despite his early absence with 106 of that haul tallied after the catch. The 15.5 yards earned per catch was seventh amongst rookie receivers with 20 catches.

Mims’ mini-emergence didn’t stop the Jets’ new powers that be on the coaching staff from revamping the receiver’s cabinet. They added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and used another second-round pick on Elijah Moore. The emergence of the newcomers shifted Mims into the background during training camp and his role has been furthered reduced in the infantile stages of the regular season.

By now, anyone with a passing interest in Jets football knows that Mims partook in only three snaps of the Jets’ opening weekend loss in Carolina. Mims carried on the theme of taking advantage of making the most of whatever scraps were offered to him: his 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter set up the Jets’ final touchdown of a 19-14 final.

Asked about the brewing controversy as the Jets prepare for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), head coach Robert Saleh addressed the Mims restriction. He first blamed the Jets’ stagnant pace in the first half but a far more blunt reveal awaited.

“In that first half, (there were) a lot of three-and-outs, a lot of short drives…Because of it, those (starting) receivers were able to play,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “You roll with your top three guys and if they need a break, that’s where the other guys step in.”

“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 continued. “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.”

Saleh continued to insist that the timing of the game was the primary reason behind Mims’ de facto benching, but his comments suggested something slightly more troubling: Mims simply hasn’t earned extended opportunities.

To that end…there’s little issue.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After the sad circus atmosphere of the Gase era, one no doubt exacerbated assistants like Gregg Williams, Jets fans yearned for accountability from the team’s new boss. Todd Bowles, reborn in Tampa Bay, was beloved by his players but his stoic to a fault personality ran its course. Gase spent half of his public comments insisting that he wasn’t verbally sparring with the franchise’s more renowned faces.

Now, a new coach comes armed with a quotable promise: All Gas, No Brake. If a player isn’t living up to those requirements, it stands to reason that the offender will not earn prime opportunities. It just so happens that a well-invested, supposedly indispensable part of the eternal rebuild’s latest chapter is the subject this time around.

Isn’t this form of accountability that Jets fans wanted and yearned for?

It’s fair for frustration to linger, especially when one looks back at the post-Mims draft board: Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the immediate ten picks after him. Mims’ situation is definitely worth monitoring for the rest of the season. But the Jets have far greater, immediate issues to worry about.

If the Jets’ biggest issue was a receiver at an early crossroads in Week 2, they would be very, very lucky. Alas, that’s not the New York way. There are far bigger issues to worry about at this point in time, including how the offensive line is going to tread water until Mekhi Becton comes back…and the group is already reeling from a performance that saw them let up six sacks with Becton in town. The Jets’ defensive issues are also broadly on display through a lack of experience in the secondary, and those issues don’t even account for the vital financial decision looming around Marcus Maye’s future.

The soothing about this situation is that there’s plenty of time for Mims to restabilize his infantile NFL career and his attitude has never been a problem. He’s had every reason to curse the football gods for his current predicament…a chance to prove himself during training camp was partially erased by a bout with food poisoning…but he’s been ready to embrace all opportunities presented to him.

“You always got to battle each and every day no matter where you’re at,” Mims said during camp, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “You can be starting at X or (be the) number one receiver, you gotta battle each and every day because you slack and someone else can come take your spot.”

“I just got to focus on my job and just continue to be myself and focus on my craft so I can get better. If you worry, you won’t get (any) better.”

The apparent experiment in discipline isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible. If anything, this further shortens a metropolitan honeymoon that’s never lengthy. The pressure particularly rises on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who must find forge a role for a pricey, talented target.

But this is nowhere near the Jets’ largest issue. If only, many inside and outside the organization likely believe, that was the case.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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 update status of players injured on Thursday

New York Jets

Carl Lawson and Zane Lewis are done for the year, but the New York Jets appeared to have dodged a bullet with two other starters.

The New York Jets announced on Thursday that defensive lineman Carl Lawson and safety Zane Lewis will miss the 2021 season after sustaining injuries during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers.

Lawson’s departure is particularly devastating to a Jets team that bestowed him $30 million guaranteed to bolster their pass rush. At $45 million total (over three seasons), Lawson was the Jets’ most expensive offseason acquisition. He established himself as one of the league’s most promising pass rushers despite a relatively pedestrian sack total. Last season, he was one of 11 defenders to create at least 10 sacks, according to ESPN’s advanced stats department.

Per Connor Hughes of The Athletic, Lawson (ruptured Achillies) sustained the injury during a pass rush drill in the red zone. Lawson previously tore his ACLs in his sophomore years at Auburn (2014) and the Bengals (2018), missing the whole year in the former.

The Jets declared that Bryce Huff took over Lawson’s reps for the remainder of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Lewis (torn his patella tendon/sprained MCL) was looking to make the team as an undrafted freshman free agent out of Air Force. He was a cornerback with the Falcons but the Jets were planning to use him as a safety.

In addition to Lawson and Lewis, each of whom was carted off the field, the Jets also lost receiver Denzel Mims (hip) and defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins (knee) to ailments. However, the Jets reported that each will be labeled day-to-day.

Thursday marked the latter of two joint practices between the Jets and the Packers in Green Bay. The collaboration will conclude with a preseason contest on Saturday late afternoon at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags