New York Jets: Grading Week 4’s win vs. Tennessee

The New York Jets got back in the win column for the first time in 271 days on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

New York Jets 27 (1-3)

Top Offensive Performer: QB Zach Wilson (21-of-34, 297 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Top Defensive Performer: DL John Franklin-Myers (4 tackles, 3 QB hits, 2 TFL, 1 sack)
Top Specialist: Ret. Braxton Berrios (3 total returns, 56 yards)
Up Next: Sunday vs. Atlanta (@ London) (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network)

Tennessee Titans 24 (2-2)

Top Offensive Performer: RB Derrick Henry (33 carries, 157 yards, 1 TD)
Top Defensive Performer: LB Harold Landry III (7 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Top Specialist: K Randy Bullock (3-of-4 FG, long 46)
Up Next: Sunday @ Jacksonville (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Offense: B+

The stage was set for the Jets’ offense to sink to its traditional depths: they were unable to gain traction in the run game, Zach Wilson was forced into another interception blemish when Corey Davis was swallowed up by the MetLife Stadium turf, and they faced an early two-possession deficit. On their first 10 plays, the Jets mustered a mere 15 yards.

But enough can’t be said about the Jets’ offensive resiliency on Sunday, which helped permanently changed the course of the game on a crucial third down conversion where he found Corey Davis to wipe out a ten-yard obstacle. The Jets finally earned a first half touchdown eight plays later when Michael Carter earned his original NFL score from a yard out. Strong defensive efforts have kept the Jets in games throughout the season. On Sunday, the offense finally rewarded those efforts.

Wilson’s resilience was particularly inspiring, especially considering the depths his infantile NFL career has forced him into over the first three weeks. His adaptation to the Tennessee pressure showcased the rebirth of his ability to roll out and throw on the run, which was prominent in Provo but left somewhat forgotten after a stagnant preseason in the pocket. After the interception that came via a Davis error, Wilson completed 19-of-29 passes for 291 yards and two scores, good for a 121.5 passer rating in the later stages of the afternoon.

“You get a little ball rolling, you get a little bit of confidence, and it starts to snowball,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson, per notes from the Jets. “He showed everything that we see in practice we see it all and the kid was outstanding.”

In an addition to the resiliency factor, Davis recovered from two early mistakes (the fallen route and a self-recovered fumble) to showcase the deep ball, big play skills that led the Jets to bestow him an expensive contract last spring. The Jets also immediately benefitted from the return of Jamison Crowder, who helped open more opportunities for Davis and became Wilson’s top option in the second half (6 receptions, 58 yards, including the score and an 11-yard red zone output that set up the eventual winning field goal in overtime). Despite the problems in generating ground traction (Carter, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman united for 58 yards on 20 carries), the offensive line allowed only one sack of Wilson.

The unit still has plenty to work on: if there was anything to be upset about, Saleh seemed to be a bit miffed by the fact the Jets weren’t able to immediately finish the game via touchdown in the extra session. But Sunday marked one of the Jets’ most complete offensive efforts in a long time. Now comes the hard part: building on this momentum so Wilson’s big play antics become routine.

Defense: A-

The Jets’ garish opening efforts on the scoreboard masked some valiant work from a defense that played the hands it has been dealt very well. Such endeavors were finally recognized against the Titans.

Week 4 should’ve gotten out of hand after the Jets’ horrifying first ten plays: an opening three-and-out allowed Tennessee to start at its own 43. The aforementioned interception, landing in the hands of Kristian Fulton, situated them only 32 yards away from six points. For all intents and purposes, the game should’ve been over then and there.

But the defense once again kept the Jets in the game, primarily through a pass rush that looks absolutely spectacular considering Carl Lawson’s noticeable season-long absence. Gang Green’s defense took down Ryan Tannehill seven times on Sunday, their best output since a November 2017 prime time game against Buffalo. The John Franklin-Myers Pro Bowl campaign began in earnest on Sunday as he spent almost as much time in the Titans’ backfield as Derrick Henry.

Though it comes with the asterisk of missing out on the A.J. Brown/Julio Jones experience, the Jets’ makeshift secondary continued to work wonders. Cornerback Bryce Hall handled both his blitz and coverage duties, tallying two pressures and allowing only two completions when his assignments were targeted. The Jets lost Brandin Echols to a late injury but undrafted replacement Isaiah Dunn held down the fort well in his absence.

The Jets also continue to enjoy the fraternal antics of Quincy and Quinnen Williams. Quincy had a dozen tackles, including two for a loss, none bigger than an open-field tackle on the renowned Derrick Henry on a fourth down in the fifth period. Though the first down was earned, the denial of extra yardage resigned the Titans to rely on potential big plays downfield without Brown and Jones, the eventual endgame being a missed 49-yard field goal that ignited the metropolitan celebration. The younger Quinnen kept his breakout rolling with two sacks, having earned 3.5 over the last two weekends.

How can one reward such a high grade when giving up 24 points, even in an overtime effort? The answer lies in Henry, who managed to do the things expected of him on Sunday (177 total yards). While Henry’s abilities nearly derailed the Jets’ comeback efforts (much like his fellow elite running back Christian McCaffrey did during kickoff weekend in Charlotte), the defense (particularly the pass rush) did enough to force Tennessee to consider its non-Henry options. Strong efforts all afternoon allowed the Jets to take the ball out of Henry’s hands when it mattered most: the renowned rusher touched the ball only three times on the Titans’ ill-fated 13-play drive in overtime.

Special Teams: B

The Jets continue to tread water in the punter’s role with Thomas Morestead (46.2 average on six attempts) still filling in for Braden Mann. They also had to overcome a silly 15-yard fair catch interference penalty from specialist ace Justin Hardee in the crucial stages of the fourth quarter, though the defense was able to bail them out through a turnover on downs in the red zone.

Even if Ammendola’s triples (from 22 and 27 yards out) weren’t anything out of the ordinary, the continued consistency and stability in the kicker’s role are certainly welcome after waddling through the post-Jason Myers landscape. Braxton Berrios (in addition to tallying 15 yards on two instances of offensive trickery) also strengthened his stranglehold on the team’s return duties, earning at least 14 yards on all three of his returns.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: 3 stars from Sunday’s win vs. Tennessee

It took all 60 minutes and then some, but the New York Jets earned their first win of the season in an overtime thriller over Tennessee.

New York Jets fans waited four weeks for their first win of the 2021 season…a nearly ten-minute extension was nothing.

Zach Wilson threw for 297 yards and two touchdown passes in conjunction with a strong defensive effort that was able to withstand 157 rushing yards from Derrick Henry en route to a 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. It’s the first win for both Wilson and Jets head coach Robert Saleh, as well as the Jets’ first over triumph since December 2020.

New York (1-3) earned seven sacks of Ryan Tannehill, their best output since a November 2017 showdown with Buffalo. The Jets erased an early 9-0 lead built through Randy Bullock’s field goals to earn the fateful triumph, as Wilson found Jamison Crowder (making his season debut) and former Titan Corey Davis to give the Jets a lead in the final frame.

Though Tennessee tied it on a Ryan Tannehill touchdown pass to Cameron Batson with 19 seconds to go in regulation, the Jets eternally secured the lead in overtime through a 22-yard field goal from Matt Ammendola. The defense then forced Bullock into a missed 49-yarder with 15 ticks left in the extra session to send East Rutherford into hysterics.

With their first victory in hand, the Jets will now head overseas to battle the Atlanta Falcons in London next Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

ESM has three game balls to bestow from a memorable win at MetLife…

Honorable Mentions

  • WR Corey Davis: 4 receptions, 111 yards, 1 TD
  • WR Keelan Cole: 3 receptions, 92 yards
  • WR Jamison Crowder: 7 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 13 tackles, 1 sack
  • LB Quincy Williams: 12 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
  • CB Bryce Hall: 5 tackles, 3 PD, 0.5 sacks
  • CB Javelin Guidry: 10 tackles
  • LB Bryce Huff: 1.5 sacks
  • RB Michael Carter: 13 carries, 38 yards, 1 TD
  • WR/Ret. Braxton Berrios: 2 carries, 15 yards, 3 total returns, 56 yards

3rd Star: QB Zach Wilson

21-of-34, 297 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT

Wilson broke away from the gridiron cesspool that the rookie quarterback class of 2021 stumbled into. Things threatened to spiral out of control when another “unearned run” hit the board (an interception that landed in the hands of Kristian Fulton when Davis fell tripped while running a route), but instead recovered to post the best numbers of his infantile career. Wilson, most importantly, looked composed when Tennessee upped the pressure and moved around well in the pocket, primarily on the 53-yard scoring tally that allowed Davis his revenge.

2nd Star: DL Quinnen Williams

7 tackles, 2 sacks

The Williams brothers have flourished while working with each other and united to make NFL history on Sunday: united for three takedowns of Tannehill, they become the first fraternal pair to earn a sack in the same game since it became an official statistic in 1982. Quinnen has appeared to have rediscovered his pass rush groove, having earned 3.5 sacks over the last two games. Sunday was a particularly emotional experience for Quinnen and Quincy, as Sunday marked the Jets’ celebration of the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” initiative that raises awareness and donations for cancer battles. The two lost their mother to cancer as teenagers and met with survivors prior to kickoff.

1st Star: DL John Franklin-Myers 

4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

When should the John Franklin-Myers Pro Bowl campaign commence: now or two weeks ago? Franklin-Myers got back on the sack ledger with a takedown of Tannehill in the first half and continues to establish himself as a premier pass-rushing threat. In addition to his sack, the former Ram had three further pressures and creating a full-scale invasion when the Titans lost some of their premier blockers to injuries. He dealt with some injuries himself, with the game stopping twice so medical examiners could get a look at him, but he wound up finishing the contest. Franklin-Myers is set to enter free agency this offseason; could the Jets have finally found a defender that they can convince to stick around for the long term?

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 WR Jamison Crowder activated from COVID-19 list

The New York Jets’ most potent offensive weapon from the last two seasons will be available for the team’s home opener against New England.

The New York Jets announced the activation of receiver Jamison Crowder from the COVID-19 list on Thursday. Crowder will be available to partake in the Jets’ Week 2 contest, their home opener against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Former of Washington, Crowder is set to enter his third season with the Jets. In that span, he has developed into one of the league’s most reliable slot receivers. He has been the team’s most consistent offensive producer over the last two seasons, earning 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, 12 of which went for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for a team-high over the last two seasons.

Crowder inked a three-year, $28.5 million deal in March 2019. He restructured his deal over this offseason, one centered around a $4.5 million guaranteed salary. The Duke alum was on the reserve list after testing positive on September 3.

The Jets (0-1) were without two of their top receivers during their season opener on Sunday, a 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Keelan Cole, who was acquired from Jacksonville over the most recent offseason, missed the contest with a knee injury and has been limited in practice this week. Zach Wilson threw for 258 yards in Sunday’s defeat, while Corey Davis paced the team with 97 yards on seven receptions. Braxton Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards) took over Crowder’s duties in the slot.

“Those guys do things the right way,” Saleh said of Cole and Crowder, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “They’re where they’re supposed to be. They’re all gas 100% of the time. They’re reliable. For a quarterback, you can’t ask for much more than that. To have two more options on the field for the quarterback is priceless.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder OUT for opener at Carolina

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

The New York Jets will be missing their most consistent offensive weapon from the last two seasons when they visit Carolina on Sunday.

New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder will not partake in Sunday’s 2021 season opener against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Crowder’s absence stems from a positive test for COVID-19 and he remains on the reserve list.

Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed Crowder’s departure during his Friday statements. Saleh also said that the status of another receiver, Keelan Cole (knee), would be “down to the wire”.

“From a COVID standpoint, he’ll be out,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. Asked about the backup plan if Cole is unable to play, Saleh referred to it as “something we’ll talk about” before the team departs for Charlotte.

Crowder has been the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons. He has earned a team-best 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which have gone for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for the team lead over the last couple of seasons. Crowder is set to enter his third season with the Jets after inking a three-year deal in 2019. Formerly of Washington, Crowder restructured the final year of his contract to center on guaranteed money this offseason ($4.5 million).

Though the Jets could be without two of their slot targets on Sunday, Saleh had a more optimistic outlook for starting tackle Mekhi Becton. The sophomore blocker has dealt with a concussion issue over the past few weeks but is expected to be ready for the matchup with the Panthers.

“He’s had his ups and downs, obviously, dealing with Carl (Lawson) which I think a lot of people would,” Saleh said of Becton’s summer. “I thought it’s been productive for him, this is a new technique, running off the ball, the pass sets, the protections, it’s all different, where he’s not just running gap schemes and just trying to overpower people, there’s more space than he’s being put in.”

“There’s been a lot of production for him and not even worried about him, he’s going to be fine, pass setting is pass setting, so expecting him to be dominant like he has been. From a run game standpoint, he moves people, that’s what he does best. It’s going to be fun to watch him play.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder tests positive for COVID-19 (Report)

Crowder’s status for the New York Jets’ opener on Sept. 12 in Carolina likely comes down to his vaccination status.

Per Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder has tested positive for COVID-19.

Crowder, set to enter his third season in green, had not appeared in any practices this week. Head coach Robert Saleh said he was dealing with a groin issue and was labeled day-to-day, per notes from the Jets. The Jets reportedly believed that Crowder’s diagnosis is an isolated incident.

With just over a week before the Jets’ season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 12 (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Crowder’s kickoff weekend status will come down to his vaccination status. NFL health policies introduced this season have incentivized vaccinations. If an unvaccinated player tests positive, they must sit out a minimum of 10 days before return to the team. Vaccinated players, on the other hand, can be welcomed back to team activities with two negative tests in a 24-hour span.

Crowder is the Jets’ top returning receiver and has likely been the team’s most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons (137 receptions, 1,512 yards, 12 touchdowns). Formerly of Washington, Crowder restructured the final season of a three-year deal inked in 2019 this summer. It’s an adjustment that sliced his $10 million base salary in half but now centers on guaranteed money ($4.5 million).

The Duke alum played sparingly in the preseason, earning only a single four-yard reception. He is nonetheless expected to reprise his role in the slot alongside a revamped New York receiving corps. The Jets welcomed in Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and drafted Elijah Moore in the second round of April’s draft. Crowder is joined by fellow active roster returnees Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye top New York Jets’ Madden 22 ratings

New York Jets

Defenders reign supreme, but a strong offseason wasn’t enough for the New York Jets to impress the powers that be at EA Sports.

Put EA Sports on the list of so-called experts the New York Jets will be looking to prove wrong in 2021.

The unveiling of player ratings for EA’s upcoming pro football simulator Madden NFL 22 (the 35th edition of the long-running video game franchise) is complete after Saturday, released in conjunction with ESPN programs. In terms of overall team ratings, the Jets round out the list of 32 teams, coming in last with a mark of 72.

The effects of last year’s two-win endeavor apparently still weigh heavily on the Jets, whose strong offseason failed to impress EA’s talent evaluators. Their plunge becomes particularly visible when it comes to the offense, as they’re the only unit ranked below 70 with a 69 (right behind 31st-ranked and fellow AFC East competitor Miami). They fare slightly better on defense, as their label of 74 is tied for third-worst on the list with Cincinnati and Detroit. Only Atlanta (73) and Houston (72) trail.

In individual cases, Quinnen Williams tops the Jets’ personal rankings with an 86 rating. It’s an eight-point improvement from the opening rankings of Madden NFL 21, which perfectly showcase the transformation the Jets have gone through over the past year. Of the top 15 names in the Jets’ ratings from last season, only four (Williams, C.J. Mosley, Marcus Maye, and Jamison Crowder) remain.

Defenders take the first four spots of Jets’ ratings and seven of the first ten. Williams is followed by Maye (85), Mosley (84), and Carl Lawson (83). The offensive group is paced by receiver Corey Davis, who’s tied with his fellow New York newcomer Lawson (83).

As previously reported, Zach Wilson earned a 75 overall rating, second amongst rookie passers behind Trevor Lawrence. Wilson is tied for the fourth-best rating amongst rookies overall, tied with receivers JaMarr Chase and DeVonta Smith. Though he was upset with his respectable change of direction rate of 93, rookie catcher Elijah Moore nonetheless tied for the team lead in the subsection with Crowder.

The Jets’ full team rankings can be found here.

Five players were granted access to the “99 Club” as gainers of the game’s top possible rating. The Los Angeles Rams (Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey) put in two each, as did the Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce). They’re joined by Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams. One such member, Mahomes, graces the cover with fellow Super Bowl LV competitor Tom Brady.

Madden NFL 22 will be released on August 20. The game can be pre-ordered on several platforms on its official site.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three reasons why the New York Jets can make the playoffs

new york jets, zach wilson

It won’t be easy…but it can happen. ESM has three ways the New York Jets can pull off the unthinkable in 2021.

The world was a different place the last time the New York Jets partook in an NFL playoff game. It was a freezing January evening in Pittsburgh, as the Jets fell one step short of their Super Bowl dream for the second consecutive season in the AFC championship contest.

At that time, MetLife Stadium didn’t exist…well, the building itself was there, but it was free of corporate sponsorship under the identity of New Meadowlands Stadium. A basketball team called the Nets was no longer stationed at the arena next door…then known as Izod Center…but they still played under a Garden State branding. At the cinema, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a mere three movies old and the idea of expanding the Star Wars galaxy was merely fanfiction.

In short…it’s been a while. The Jets’ playoff drought now stands at a decade, a record inherited when the Cleveland Browns clinched a spot last season. What’s scarier is that the second-most dire active drought has made to only five years, a dubious distinction shared by Arizona, Cincinnati, and Denver.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the trend isn’t ending any time soon. The Jets are trapped in a division where one reign of terror in New England gave way to another in Buffalo. Their conference’s wild card landscape isn’t any more forgiving, as established contenders pepper the other divisions. Even their own rivals in the East, Miami and New England, will be back with a vengeance. Combine that with a first-year head coach and franchise quarterback working with a mostly new cast and it’s difficult to see the Jets make major headway in the win/loss columns. Many observers agree that the Jets got better this offseason…but it comes with the caveat that the 2020 season was so brutal that there was nowhere to go but up.

But…ESM is going to look at things a little more optimistically. We have three ways the Jets’ improvements can lead to a long-awaited postseason revisit:

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

Not Sorry, Wilson

This time last year, the Jets were going into the 2020 season with an offensive cabinet that left much to be desired. Year three of the Sam Darnold era was expected to rely upon a first-round washout (Breshad Perriman), a Le’Veon Bell who was constantly denying that he was arguing with Adam Gase, and an assortment of veteran reserves in the skill positions. A rare silver lining of hope, Denzel Mims, missed almost all of the summer preparation with hamstring issues. Darnold was also working with his third different center in three NFL seasons. Needless to say, the Jets’ offense played a major role in their two-win downfall and Darnold posted the worst numbers of his career.

Granted the second overall pick in April for their troubles over the fall, the Jets opted to start from scratch (again). Before they used that premier pick on one of the touted quarterbacks of the draft…later revealed to be BYU’s Zach Wilson…management did all they could to retroactively atone for the mistakes of the Darnold era. What they’ve assembled for Wilson is, at least on paper, is better than anything Darnold had to work with.

Corey Davis, coming off a career-best year in Tennessee, is the projected top target. Free agency endeavors also brought in Keelan Cole, who tallied 2,242 yards over the last four seasons despite endless quarterback turnover in Jacksonville. They’ll welcome back Mims and reliable slot target Jamison Crowder and when Elijah Moore fell to their grasp with the second pick in the second round at the draft, they immediately pounced. At running back, they found a potential day three draft gem in Michael Carter and signed Tevin Coleman a two-time Super Bowl participant with something to prove, to a one-year deal. Though questions linger at tight end, vis a vis Chris Herndon, they did add red zone option Tyler Kroft to the fold as well.

Wilson will also be able to take in the benefits of a revamped offensive line. Mekhi Becton was well worth the risk of passing on several elite receiving talents last season. He’s now joined by USC protector Alijah Vera-Tucker, who indirectly comes from a pick used in the infamous Jamal Adams trade (a pick acquired from Seattle was traded to Minnesota to move up the board). New York enjoyed a late-offseason surprise in the form of the consistent tackle Morgan Moses, who is expected to take over on the right side.

The depths to which the Jets sank on offense last season (only six games over 300 yards, nine games with 14 points or less) should be impossible to reach at the NFL level. But those called upon are reliable names with championship panache. If the newcomers rise to their potential, the Jets could reopen the scoring floodgates and repopulate East Rutherford’s end zones.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Treated

Perhaps no intermission interview during a hockey broadcast is complete without the phrase “pucks on net” being uttered, to the point it’s become a bit of a meme. The football equivalent could be “pressure the quarterback”.

The NFL is undoubtedly a league ruled by offense, evidenced by its inflated scoreboards. But, every so often, we’re reminded that defense wins championships. MetLife Stadium’s turf knows about the concept better than anyone, playing host to the Seattle Seahawks’ 43-8 dismantling of the historically explosive Denver Broncos offense in Super Bowl XLVIII. Even the might Patrick Mahomes isn’t immune to the dangers of a strong pass rush. The Kansas City Chiefs are 44-10 (including postseason) with Mahomes as their starter; half of those losses (a 7-5 mark overall) have come when he’s sacked at least three times. One of those losses came against Todd Bowles’ relentless rush in last year’s Big Game.

The Jets’ downfall has only been exacerbated by a lack of pressure. They’ve applied pressure on only 21.4 percent of opposing dropbacks over the past two seasons, ranking 25th in the league in the category last season…a bit perplexing for a unit overseen by Gregg Williams. When you’re trapped in a division that bestows you two guaranteed matchups with Josh Allen for the foreseeable future, having a fearsome pass rush will be vital.

New York plans to start from scratch again with head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in tow. The team is set to run a 4-3 base for the first time since the Herm Edwards/Donnie Henderson days. They spent the offseason bolstering the front seven in an effort to prepare for the transition.

For better or worse, the Jets’ most impactful free agency signing for not only the coming season but for the next few years could likely become Carl Lawson. The narrative behind Lawson is that his on-field influence goes far beyond the number in his sack column (no more than 5.5 after 8.0 in his debut campaign out of Auburn in 2017) and he has the less conventional numbers to prove it.

Though the Jets recently announced some their defensive breakouts won’t be available for the start of training camp, it’ll be interesting to see what Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers can do for an encore with a little extra help. The transformation in the front seven further continued with the arrival of Jarrad Davis, whose finest gridiron hours have come in 4-3 sets with the Florida Gators and Detroit Lions. While Davis has struggled to live up to his first round billing since Teryl Austin and Jim Caldwell were dismissed from Detroit, he has kept his pressure numbers consistent. A return to a familiar 4-3 setting could help him up the ante not only as a backfield invader but as a a leader as well. Championship contenders Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry have likewise joined the fold.

Questions, of course, still linger in the secondary. For example, Marcus Maye and Ashtyn Davis (the latter recovering from surgery) are respectively on the Non-Football Injury and Physically Unable to Perform lists, further depleting a safeties group desperate for answers. But the Jets are going to make life a heck of a lot easier for themselves if they can make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable again.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the New Boss

Say what you will about the Todd Bowles era: its final chapters were penned in poignancy, as players were disappointed not for themselves, but that they let a strong football mind and a man of great character down. They sang of Bowles’ praises to the very end and many were upset to see him let go after the 2018 season.

Those warm feelings didn’t seem to translate to the ousting of Bowles’ successor. When the woebegone Gase was let go after two disastrous seasons, there was an aura of “good riddance”. The players’ relative silence on the matter spoke volumes, though fans were more than happy to chime in.

The hiring of Saleh, most recently the overseer of the lauded San Francisco 49ers’ defense, comes at an interesting time on the pro football timeline. It’s a move made as the league values offense, posting scoreboards that flirt with those from the defunct Arena Football League. One would also foresee an offensive mind coming in with a new franchise quarterback to mold and develop.

Yet, the players’ response to what Saleh is advertising could slowly signal the return of good vibes to Gang Green football.

Saleh had a tall task to deal with upon his arrival: convince outsiders and prospects that a two-win team that the internet turned into a football meme bank had something to work with, something that hinted at a championship climb. What he did was immediately get to work, adopt a catchy yet inspirational mantra that quickly caught on to players and fans alike, and slowly got momentum back on the green side of the New York football bridge.

What Saleh (along with general manager Joe Douglas) did this offseason was from a free agent unit of not exactly what the Jets were looking for, but finding parts that they needed. Lawson brings pressure, Davis brings knowledge of the 4-3. Saleh mostly avoided stocking up on former Bay Area pupils but the major holdover (running back Tevin Coleman) brings knowledge of offensive boss Mike LaFleur’s system and what it takes to compete for a championship. Wilson’s offensive cabinet is stocked with no true No. 1 receiver, but a series of skill players eager to proves themselves…which could well describe the state of the Jets as a whole in this point in time. Financials likely played a large role, but Saleh’s plan was apparently able to convince Jamison Crowder (by far the most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons) to stick around for at least one more season.

Saleh himself has admitted on several occasions that his New York restructure and tenets  are going to take some time to fully install. Votes for Coach of the Year might be more realistic at this point…after all, it won’t take much to improve upon the horrors of 2020. But faith in the right coach is capable of doing some incredible things.

Do you think the New York Jets can overcome the odds and end their postseason drought? If so, how can they do it? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Wide receivers

Not only are the New York Jets’ receivers the most upgraded green groups, but they may also be one of the most improved units in the NFL.

Following the conclusion of minicamp activities, the NFL offseason is officially over. The next time the New York Jets convene in Florham Park, they’ll be getting ready for preseason and regular season action for the 2021 season. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Part three centers on the revamped receiving corps…

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (19) attempts to catch the ball as Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) defends during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

The Jets’ situation at receiver wasn’t exactly the corps’ fault. Rather, the relative state of neglect more or less served as a condemnation of the Mike Maccagnan era, as the reluctance to add blocking put them in such a dire hole in the catching front.

After letting Robby Anderson walk to Carolina with relatively little resistance, the Jets were in dire straights at receiver. In terms of veterans, they elected to use most of their offseason budget on blocking help. While the veteran blocking assistance (George Fant, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten) was mostly unproven, it filled a hole that desperately needed to be addressed.

But the proposed solutions on the offensive line handicapped the Jets’ options in terms of help at receiver in the post-Anderson era. Granted, the free agent offerings at receiver weren’t exactly lighting up scoreboards…Anderson, frankly, was arguably the best option…but the Jets were forced to rely on consolation prizes in the form of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan). They would join 2019 returnees Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios on the top of the depth chart.

The receiving negligence was again made apparent on draft day, when the Jets chose to draft a lineman with the 11th overall pick instead of one of the elite first-round catching talents. Sure, Mekhi Becton’s debut soothed the blow of missing out on Justin Jefferson, Henry Ruggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Jerry Jeudy, but that was of little consolation to the Sam Darnold era. Day two of the virtual draft offered another consolation prize, as Baylor-based big-play threat Denzel Mims fell to the 58th overall selection. However, Mims spent most of his first Florham Park summer on the injured list, though he was able to flash some late potential. Despite partaking in only nine games, Mims was 15th amongst rookies in receiving yards (357) and the seventh-ranked freshman catcher (min. 20 receptions) in average gain (15.5).

New York Giants, Corey Davis
Sep 14, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (84) in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

No matter if Darnold came back or if the Jets opted to start a new franchise quarterback era, the Jets were going to make sure their primary passer had a strong posse.

Blessed with a cap space surplus, the Jets wasted no time in upgrading their receiving corps. It was understandable that they’d miss out on the big-name targets. Opting out of the Julio Jones sweepstakes was for the best and it was going to be hard to lure top guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster to an ongoing rebuild. While the Jets emerged from the offseason without a true No. 1 target, they have several players who have established potential to fill that role.

The additions were headlined by the arrival of Corey Davis, a key contributor in the Tennessee Titans’ recent playoff runs. While he lost top receiver duties to A.J. Brown, Davis is coming off a career-best season (984 yards on 65 receptions, five of which went for touchdowns), one that could’ve ended in quadruple digits in yardage had he not dealt with placement on the COVID-19 list. Davis also knows how to perform in the postseason, or at least on a winning team, an uncannily common theme in the Jets’ free agents signings (Tevin Coleman, Sheldon Rankins, the recently reportedly signed Morgan Moses). The same goes for Keelan Cole, a slot option that earned over 2,000 yards over the last four seasons despite constant quarterback turnover in Jacksonville.

In the draft, the Jets were once again blessed with a big-play receiving talent landing in their grasp. The team had a first-round grade on Ole Miss catcher Elijah Moore and was overjoyed when he fell to the 34th overall choice. He’s now on pace to top the depth chart after the strong minicamp showing.

“His work ethic is off the charts,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said in a report from Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “His mindset is off the charts. We’re excited to continue working with him so we can see him get better…He’s a dynamic young man.”

While Perriman opted to follow his father’s footsteps in Detroit and Hogan traded in his receiving gloves for a lacrosse stick, the Jets do welcome back both Crowder and Mims to their proceedings. Medical misfortune has befallen Mims once again…a non-COVID illness kept him out of minicamp…but the Jets maintain high hopes for him.

“He’s eager, he’s a really cool dude to work with,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said of Mims in a report from Max Goodman of SI.com. “But he’s just gonna have to get out there. And again, it’s just going to be reps and just going and understanding the speed of the game.”

The Crowder situation was even more interesting. A reliable slot prescience, Crowder was, by far, the most potent and consistent weapon of the two-year Adam Gase era. That, however, probably says more about the futility of the Gase era than it does about Crowder. With the Jets due about $10 million in cap space upon Crowder’s removal, dishing him off to a contender would’ve made sense, but the team instead opted to rework the last year of a three-year deal inked in 2019. Crowder’s now getting about $5 million guaranteed as opposed to $10 million with no assurances.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

Are They Better Off?

Not only is the receiving group the most improved unit on the Jets, but it may also be one of the most improved units in the whole NFL.

Time and time again, especially in this era of prioritized offense, we’re told that a receiver is only as good as his quarterback. It’s hard to argue that when you wonder what Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers could’ve been if not for the Arizona quarterback carousel from the football underworld after Kurt Warner’s retirement.

But the right offensive arsenal can do wonders for an incoming quarterback, especially a rookie quarterback preparing to take his first NFL snaps. What the Jets have assembled for Zach Wilson is, on paper, better than anything Darnold ever had to work with. There’s no clear-cut No. 1 man on the current depth chart. Even the touted Moore shouldn’t be crowned before putting on his game jersey. The way this season appears to be shaping out, however, the receiving situation couldn’t be better.

Even though the Jets got a lot better as a team this offseason…if only because there wasn’t much further to plummet after last year…making the playoffs is still going to be a lot to ask for. This receiving corps is perfect in a season of development. It’s more or less a 17-game audition to hold a major role in the potential good days ahead. This time around, those auditioning actually have sizable resumes to display.

Final Offseason Grade: A

How important was it for the Jets to upgrade their receiving corps? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags