New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh laid out what’s to come in his first public statements since taking off for the team’s bye week.
The New York Jets enjoyed one of the most lucrative Sundays they’ve had in a long, long time. By perhaps no coincidence, Gang Green didn’t play a down, as they embarked on their annual bye week.
Gridiron affairs tilted in the Jets’ favor for a change during Sunday’s action: their divisional rivals from Miami and New England each lost heartbreakers while further misfortune in Carolina and Seattle allowed New York to shoot up the draft board through imported picks. Entering Monday night action, the Jets own four slots among the first 46. MetLife Stadium might as well be painted green for the time being, as the Jets (1-4) are the kings by default after the Giants’ humiliating showing against the Los Angeles Rams.
Robert Saleh is hoping the Jets can start to make their own luck as they make their return.
The Jets’ head coach made his first public comments since departing for the league-mandated break on Monday, unofficially beginning preparations for their Week 7 showdown against the New England Patriots. Sunday’s visit to Foxboro (1 p.m. ET, CBS) will conclude the annual season series between the two; the first meeting was a listless 25-6 loss on Sept. 19 at MetLife Stadium. That defeat was one of two games where the Jets failed to reach the end zone over their five-game, pre-bye slate , the other being a 26-0 shutout shellacking in Denver.
The bye week was anything but a break for Saleh, who spent time with his staff trying to solve the team’s offensive problems. A 1-4 start has been granted life through slow offensive efforts that take too much time to find their footing. The Jets have scored only one first half touchdown over the first games and have held a lead in only one: their Week 4 contest against Tennessee eventually won in overtime.
“(Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur) and his staff did a really good job digging in deep in terms of what the offense is having success at, what we’re not having success at, what the quarterback is having success at versus what he’s not having success,” Saleh said on Monday, per notes from the Jets. “I feel really good about the soundness of the things that we’ll be doing over the course of the week. The one thing that I thought was very important was that we didn’t just make things up and do things just to do things.”
The Jets’ offense has made some progress after the depressing doldrums of the Adam Gase era: Alijah Vera-Tucker has vindicated the faith bestowed in him when the Jets sacrificed one of the picks gleaned from the Jamal Adams trade to get him while fellow freshman Michael Carter has started to establish a hold on the primary carries in the run game.
But, perhaps unfairly, the offensive progress from a broad perspective will be primarily judged by new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson’s results. While Wilson has shown flashes of brilliance, his four-touchdown, nine-interception output has left much to be desired.
Saleh, however, spoke highly of the rewatch value Wilson’s mistakes can hold.
“(He has to) continue to grow from the things (that), not only that he’s done well, but the things that he did not do very well,” Saleh said. “It’s not easy being a rookie quarterback, but at the same time, there are steps that we can be taking every single week to get better so we can be there in the second half looking for a play or two to win a football game.”
An early bye, often granted to those who partake in the NFL’s international games (as the Jets recently did, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in London), means that the young Jets must now play a dozen games uninterrupted. But Saleh believes that the required time off did both Wilson and the team some much-needed good. He encouraged his young quarterback, a notorious film buff, to temporarily step away from practice, review, and game prep, if only for a short while.
“I was like, ‘Hey dude, just make sure you go to sleep. Just relax, just lay off a little bit and just relax.’ He’s such a competitor, he’s just constantly thinking about it,” Saleh said. “I think coaches, players, the organization, even for you guys, to step away and watch somebody else for a minute. It’s a good refresher and a chance to come back and see if we can finish this thing strong.”
The bye week also gave Saleh a chance to ponder what sort of identity the Jets are trying to establish as they work through yet another new chapter in the seemingly perpetual rebuild. He expressed solidarity with general manager Joe Douglas in defining green endeavors in how they play in the trenches upfront. While the offensive line’s veteran acquisitions have struggled, the Jets’ defense has been a pleasant surprise thanks to the efforts of a potent pass rush that has tallied 13 sacks so far. The rate of 2.6 per game is the sixth-best tally in the league.
“I think we all stand in lockstep with Joe (Douglas), in terms of we’re going to be identified upfront,” the first-year head coach said. “Our o-line has played very well here over the last few weeks, and we anticipate them to continue to play well. Our d-line has been extremely effective, very, very good playing with a lot of energy, a lot of just overpowering teams, overpowering their opponent.”
“I think it’s starting to get established,” Saleh said of the team’s evolving identity. “I know it’s hard to see right now, but I think in the trenches, I feel like we’ve been the better team, with the exception of those first couple of weeks, but it’s been coming along, and I think our guys are starting to understand where we’re going to make hay and where we’re going to win football games.”
Saleh used his public availability to provide updates on some of his injured players: defenders Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye were labeled “day-to-day”. He cautioned that further updates could come later in the week, but labeled their medical progress “promising”. Blocker Mekhi Becton, on the other hand, remains a “few weeks away” from returning.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags