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

New York Jets: A mock draft for the bye week

New York Jets

How has the New York Jets’ performance over the first five weeks affected a fateful draft? ESM investigates.

Football fans and analysts alike will find any excuse to make a mock draft, no matter how soon or how far away the legitimate selection meeting is. With the New York Jets having reach their league-mandated open date, now might be one of the few times an in-season mock draft will hit the spot for both casual and die-hard observers alike.

Using the draft board determined by Tankathon, as dictated by the standings entering Week 6 action, ESM unveils a fall mock draft with a special focus on the Jets’ hypothetical selections…

4th overall: RT Evan Neal, Alabama

Joe Douglas’ offensive line revolution has produced mixed results from an inconsistent veteran class (Connor McGovern, George Fant, Greg Van Roten) and rookie arrivals full of promise (Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker).

The pre-bye slate has made it clear that the wall in front of Zach Wilson (sacked 18 times so far) isn’t complete. A combination of a surprisingly stout defense and medical developments abroad allows the Jets to continue construction to continue. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has been a popular projection to the Jets’ first slot, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding Marcus Maye. But the uncertain future ahead of Jeff Okudah and his ruptured Achillies may have Detroit (current holders of the No. 2 pick that yielded Wilson last spring) looking into his services.

While the Jets seem to be set on Wilson’s blind side through the first-round selections Becton and Vera-Tucker, drafting the massive Neal (6 feet 7 inches, 360 lbs.) would help fortify the right side. Morgan Moses has held down the fort well but is signed to only a one-year deal. Adding a homegrown talent on the right side for the long-term would welcome in the next step of the offense’s maturity. Already ranking as one of the top blockers in the class of 2022 (a battle staged with fellow SEC rep Kenyon Green and Iowa interior man Tyler Linderbaum), Neal has united size with strong athetlicism in Tuscaloosa. Such nimbleness should help him quickly adjust to the NFL game.

12th overall (from Seattle): EDGE Drake Jackson, USC

The Seahawks’ surprisingly slow start has afforded the Jets two picks among the first dozen after the first five weeks. Time will tell if the final yield from the Jamal Adams trade remains this high, but such a posting in the early going affords the Jets an opportunity to address needs on both sides of the ball. They took care of the Great Wall of Wilson at No. 4, so which defensive area should be addressed eight picks later?

The early stages of this season has revealed the defensive identity the Jets are hoping to create: one that makes quarterbacks uncomfortable and invades backfields. Such a cause could’ve been delayed by the loss of Carl Lawson, but several names have stepped up in his absence. Nothing has driven the point home better than the shiny, new, expensive contract extension bestowed to John Franklin-Myers. With some pleasant surprises peppered in the secondary (i.e. Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols), they can continue bolstering the front seven.

Drafting a USC pass rusher could conjured some sour green memories: the last such Trojan to be drafted in the first round is 2015 arrival Leonard Williams. He’s still in New York, albeit in blue rather than green. Jackson is powerful enough to risk re-opening those wounds as one of the most versatile edge men in the class. His strength and speed (boasting a 4.5 40-time) make him an attractive option, as does his ability to cover receivers in the slot.

The Full First Round

TeamPick
1. JacksonvilleEDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
2. DetroitS Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
3. HoustonQB Malik Willis, Liberty
4. JETST Evan Neal, Alabama
5. Philadelphia (from MIA)CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
6. Philadelpha (from IND)G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
7. NY GiantsIOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
8. PhiladelphiaLB Christian Harris, Alabama
9. AtlantaQB Matt Corral, Mississippi
10. New EnglandCB Kaiir Elam, Florida
11. Miami (from SF)T Sean Rhyan, UCLA
12. JETSEDGE Drake Jackson, USC
13. WashingtonQB Sam Howell, North Carolina
14. MinnesotaEDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
15. PittsburghCB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
16. Kansas CityEDGE Geroge Karlaftis, Purdue
17. CincinnatiT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
18. New OrleansWR Chris Olave, Ohio State
19. TennesseeTE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
20. DenverEDGE Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
21. CarolinaS Jordan Battle, Alabama
22. NY Giants (from CHI)EDGE Zach Harrison, Ohio State
23. ClevelandDT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
24. Detroit (from LAR)WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
25. Las VegasCB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
26. BuffaloRB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
27. Tampa BayEDGE Adam Anderson, Georgia
28. Green BayWR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
29. LA ChargersG Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
30. DallasS Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
31. BaltimoreT Rasheed Walker, Penn State
32. ArizonaT Zion Nelson, Miami (FL)

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

Three things the New York Jets did right in their pre-bye slate

John Franklin-Myers, jets

The 2021 New York Jets’ early victories go beyond the single tally they’ve earned on the scoreboard so far.

Fresh off a visit to London that was anything but a vacation, the 2021 New York Jets embark on a new holiday: their bye week.

The Jets (1-4) are one of four teams that will take Week 6 off, setting off the NFL’s bye week slates and countless roster adjustments in fantasy football. New York returns to action on Oct. 24 against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Traditional pessimism has surrounded the one-win Jets: rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has thrown a league-worst nine interceptions, the usage…or lack thereof…of young guns Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore has stirred debate, and the playoffs already seem to be a pipe dream. At one win, the Jets have little hope in catching the mighty Buffalo Bills at the top of the AFC East and are two games behind the wild card logjam currently headlined by Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Denver.

ESM, however, has sifted through the gridiron malarkey to find three silver linings over the first five games…

Coupling the Q Train

It didn’t take long for Quincy Williams to erase the crude, mere moniker of “Quinnen’s brother”.

The third-year linebacker was one of the Jets’ final preseason additions, coming aboard after he was among Jacksonville’s last camp cuts. He was almost immediately thrust into a starting role after fellow newcomer Jarrad Davis was injured during a postseason contest.

Despite missing opening weekend, Quincy currently ranks second on the team in tackles (31) behind only the reawakened C.J. Mosley. He has gone semi-viral for some punishing hits, three of which have forced fumbles (tied for the league lead with Terrance Mitchell of Houston).

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich believes that Quincy Williams needs a little bit of professional grooming and nurturing before he becomes an NFL mainstay. Having said that, Ulbrich is happy that he’s doing so in New York.

“I really look at him as a guy who could be one of the top ‘backers in the NFL, if he wants to be and he’s committed to it and he stays healthy,” Ulbrich said of the elder Williams after he tallied 12 tackles (two for a loss with one sack) against Tennessee, per notes from the Jets. “Is he perfect? Not close. He has so much more room to grow. But we’re just excited by what he can become.”

Ulbrich believes that reuniting Williams with his brother, recreating a pairing seen at Wenonah High Schoo in Birmingham, could lead to a sense of accountability that helps him reach unprecedented levels. The pair united for 3.5 takedowns of Ryan Tannehill in the aforementioned win over the Titans, becoming the first fraternal duo to record sacks in the same NFL game.

“He has speed, he has aggressiveness, he’s got explosiveness that’s different and unique and really uncommon in a lot of ways,” Ulbrich continued. “So now it’s just harnessing it within the scheme and fine-tuning it and cleaning up the details and tightening up his technique.”

Locking up JFT to the NYJ

A common criticism of the Joe Douglas era has been the general manager’s relative failure to lock up the Jets’ defensive assets long-term: further reminiscence on Jamal Adams’ final days in green is unnecessary but the Jets may have a Marcus Maye situation to deal with sooner rather than later.

But Douglas has appeared to have found another diamond in the camp-cut rough in John Franklin-Myers, who’s working through his third year in green after the Los Angeles Rams bid him farewell in the summer of 2019.

Franklin-Myers hinted at bigger contributions when he took on a larger role in 2020 after the Jets purged some of their defensive veterans after an in-season fire sale. He has since picked up the pass-rushing slack after touted acquisition Carl Lawson was lost for the season. Perhaps most famous for earning a sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, Franklin-Myers has been a consistent backfield invader and currently ranks as the Jets’ best-graded player on Pro Football Focus. These efforts and more have earned the Stephen F. Austin alum a contract extension that will keep him in green through 2025 and comes with over $30 million guaranteed.

Franklin-Myers’ windfall further establishes a new defensive outline for the Jets’ defense, one that is now poised to win through the time-honored green tradition of pressuring the quarterback. Lawson’s season-long medical absence has now done nothing to derail that plan.

“JFM is a stud,” head coach Robert Saleh said shortly before the Jets’ British excursion, per notes from the team. “We felt he could be a really great fit for our system and what we ask out of our defensive line and he has done nothing but work, work, work. He’s been a tremendous leader and then you see his play on the football field. He’s absolutely dominant at times.”

Debate can be staged over the talent from abroad that Douglas has called upon. Veteran members of the renovated offensive line, for example, have yet to make a true difference. But Douglas has assembled a strong group of young leaders in perusing other team’s summer bargain bins: Quincy Williams and Franklin-Myers have united with Shaq Lawson to produce respectable results on defense while former Detroit draft pick Ty Johnson has been a consistent contributor on offense over the last two seasons.

Welcoming the Trojan Horse

It’s still not fair to fully assess the Adams trade; Call it a cop-out, but grading a deal whose pieces have still not been fully revealed is foolhardy.

Having said that, it’s certainly acceptable to say the needle of the trade is starting to inch toward the Jets: Adams has become the face of the 2-3 Seahawks’ defensive woes, troubles that are allowing an NFL-worst 451 yards per game. His coverage has weakened and he has yet to tally a sack after setting the NFL record for defensive backs last season. Such struggles currently position Seattle’s 2022 first-round pick (the last asset due to be sent to the Jets) in the 12th position, and that’s before they lost franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to a lengthy injury, which passes the offensive reins to former Jets savior Geno Smith.

The yields of the Adams trade could well become trivia answers amongst Jets fans for years to come. While one (cornerback Bradley McDougald) is already gone, New York has seemed to have made the most out of the first of two imported opening-round draft picks, having traded the original Seattle selection to Minnesota in a ride up the draft board. New York then used the 14th overall pick to take interior blocker Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC.

Vera-Tucker missed most of the summer preparation with an injury but hasn’t lost a step in the early going. NFL Network/Fox Sports analyst Brian Baldinger offered a particularly glowing review of Vera-Tucker’s showing against Atlanta, claiming he “dances like Fred Astaire”. PFF graded Vera-Tucker’s British business trip as the best performance from a Sunday offensive lineman. This all becomes before Vera-Tucker has been able to spend extensive time alongside Mekhi Becton, who has been out since kickoff weekend.

The Jets’ offensive endeavors in the pre-bye slate have left much to be desired. But Douglas’ long-gestating plan to build the wall in front of the fledgling New York backfield is slowly paying off.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets at Denver Broncos

After a painful home opener, the New York Jets head out west to battle the undefeated Denver Broncos at Mile High.

  • What: New York Jets (0-2) at Denver Broncos (2-0)
  • Where: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
  • When: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Magliocchetti

By conventional football wisdom, everything about the Jets’ visit to the Rocky Mountains screams “trap game” for their equine hosts.

They’re 2-0 after taking advantage of the collectively winless Giants and Jaguars. Brief Jet Teddy Bridgewater (120.7 passer rating) has been a godsend at quarterback after two years of Drew Lock limbo. Von Miller (three sacks) is back in action at the helm of a resurgent defense. Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams have united for 241 yards on the ground. Surely, the other shoe’s about to drop for the Broncos, partial owners of the second-longest playoff drought behind the Jets, no?

Alas for New York, there’s little to suggest that they’re ready to take advantage of such a situation. The Jets need to think about revisiting the end zone before they worry about getting back in the win column. There’s plenty to be inspired by in the early going: the makeshift defense has held its own and the run game gained traction through Michael Carter and Ty Johnson. But the lingering offensive issues…namely the sputtering protection and Zach Wilson’s rookie growing pains…mean that a win is a little too much to ask for at this point.

The Broncos’ upcoming schedule suggests we’ll soon find out whether they can be counted amongst the legitimate contenders: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and Cleveland loom large after the Jets’ visit. They’ve done a good job of capitalizing against opponents trying to find themselves. Expect that trend to continue on Sunday.

Broncos 24, Jets 13

C.J. Mosley, New York Jets
(Photo: USA Today)

Dylan Price

The Jets head to Mile High hoping they can benefit from some Mile High magic. This past week saw the Jets string together a great performance everywhere except on offense. The defense looked great, the secondary had itself a day, C.J. Mosley and John Franklin-Myers put on shows and overall proved they can hold their own.

But the offense was stagnant and Zach Wilson had a terrible performance. The unit needs to step up, and they have a hard task at hand: the Denver defense is legit, and they are going to be a tough test.

The fan in me hopes the Jets take a step forward and pull off a win, or, at the very least, perform better. But the analyst in me says the Jets have a tough task ahead. I think the Broncos win in a tight game, and Wilson performs better, but not good enough to get the win.

Broncos 17, Jets 14

Magliocchetti Price
Carolina @ Houston (Thu.) Panthers Panthers
Arizona @ Jacksonville Cardinals Cardinals
Atlanta @ NY Giants Giants Falcons
Baltimore @ Detroit Ravens Ravens
Chicago @ Cleveland Browns Browns
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh Steelers Steelers
Indianapolis @ Tennessee Titans Titans
LA Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs
New Orleans @ New England Patriots Patriots
Washington @ Buffalo Bills Bills
Miami @ Las Vegas Raiders Raiders
Seattle @ Minnesota Seahawks Seahawks
Tampa Bay @ LA Rams Buccaneers Buccaneers
Green Bay @ San Francisco 49ers Packers
Philadelphia @ Dallas (Mon.) Cowboys Cowboys
Last Week 13-3 10-6
Overall 20-12 16-16

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets opponent loses starting blocker

The New England Patriots will be without one of their top blockers against the New York Jets on Sunday in East Rutherford.

The New England Patriots announced on Saturday that right tackle Trent Brown would not play in Sunday’s tilt against the New York Jets (1 p.m. ET, NBC).

Brown injured his calf on the first series of the Patriots’ opening weekend tilt against the Miami Dolphins. He’s in the midst of his first year in New England, having arrived through a trade with Las Vegas. Justin Herron and Yasir Durant appear to handle Brown’s reps in East Rutherford.

With Brown out, the Jets’ pass rush has an opportunity to raise some much-needed pressure on rookie quarterback Mac Jones. New York (0-1) struggled to make the Carolina Panthers’ backfield uncomfortable last Sunday in Charlotte. The Jets’ pass rush was expected to struggle after prized acquisition Carl Lawson was lost for the season. It mustered only a single sack against Sam Darnold and the Panthers. John Franklin-Myers was a welcome exception to the struggles, earning two tackles for a loss, including the aforementioned quarterback takedown.

Brown’s downgrade wasn’t the only New England transaction on Saturday as the hours countdown toward their visit to the Garden State: the team added defensive lineman Tashawn Bower and kicker Nick Folk to its active roster. Another kicker, Quinn Nordin, was placed on injured reserve.

As for the Jets, they’re likely to be without rookie linebacker Jamien Sherwood, who was labeled doubtful with an ankle injury. Receivers Keelan Cole (knee) and Jamison Crowder (groin) are questionable as is tackle Chuma Edoga (non-COVID illness) and Isaiah Dunn (shoulder).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Jets’ defense passed its first test

rob saleh, jets

The New York Jets’ makeshift defense, faced with lost pressure and Saturday draft picks in big roles, put out a respectable effort in Week 1.

It wouldn’t have been a New York Jets opener with a reminder that the team often serves as living, gridiron-based proof of the existence of Murphy’s Law. Thus, it was only natural that ex-bastions of New York hope contributed to the team’s Sunday demise.

Quarterback Sam Darnold and receiver Robby Anderson served ice cold revenge on a sweltering late summer afternoon, accounting for all but three tallies of a 16-point quarter that made up the majority of the Jets’ 19-14 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers. Darnold, Gang Green’s most recent false prophet under center, ended the frame with a five-yard scoring run with 35 seconds remaining after previously tossing a 57-yard six-pointer to Anderson, a rare source of green metropolitan offensive power during the prior decade, one who claimed that the Jets were making him “(lose) his love” for football.

(Photo by James Dombrowski)

Anderson’s lucrative grab was his only catch of the afternoon, but Darnold tallied 234 aerial yards in the first half…needing only a single game to eclipse his highest such tally in New York. He and Darnold’s collaborative heroics provided fresh material for a football landscape that finds the slightest Jets mistakes to be a guaranteed punchline. The coming week will undoubtedly be filled with thoughtpieces and hypotheticals from both fans and commentators alike about whether the Jets made the right decision in letting Darnold and Anderson move on. Those theories will be callously pushed forth by Zach Wilson’s rollercoaster afternoon (20-of-37, 258 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) partly brought upon by a porous offensive line effort that led to six sacks and “a little whiplash” for the second overall pick of April’s draft.

But despite the endless “what if?”-based questions that Sunday produced, the Jets earned an undeniable victory: putting forth a strong defensive effort that can’t be erased by two entries in the scoring summary.

Youth in revolt on offense generated enough hype to mask the Jets’ defensive inefficiencies, ones that were the unavoidable consequence of having so much to work on after last year’s garish campaign gave the Jets so much to work on that it was guaranteed some roster area was going to be neglected. Even the quickest look at the depth chart would yield the area most affected: having spent most of the offseason transactional periods trying to surround their new quarterback with a potent welcome wagon and pressure artists with experience in the 4-3, the cornerback depth chart became a hodgepodge of young journeymen and acquisitions made during Saturday of draft weekend.

The football gods indulged in their beloved tradition of toying with the Jets, centering their cruel divine intervention on defense. Two of the high-profile defensive additions (Jarrad Davis and Carl Lawson) were bitten by the injury bug, the latter’s ailment erasing his 2021 season entirely. Qunnien Williams, fresh off a breakout campaign, missed nearly all of the offseason preparation after hurting his foot during a workout at the team’s Florham Park facility.

Suddenly, the issues in the secondary couldn’t be ignored: the franchise-tagged Marcus Maye was/is believed to be capable of holding down the fort at safety but the headliner at corner was 2020 fifth-rounder Bryce Hall, he of eight NFL games that showed promise but didn’t turn him into a seasoned professional veteran. Rutgers-based project Bless Austin was projected to be the man next to Hall as he entered his third season but the Jets bid him farewell less than two weeks before Sunday’s kickoff. The Queens native has already been scooped up by Seattle, creating a reunion with Jamal Adams.

Austin’s position on the depth chart was literally left blank on the depth chart shown on the team’s official website. Three names currently sit in the spot, all of them chosen on the most recent Saturday of draft weekend. Sixth-round choice Brandin Echols was there alongside undrafted Isaiah Dunn while fifth-rounder Jason Pinnock was inactive. It was part of defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich referred to as a “committee“-like approach to Sunday’s contest.

Such struggles set a dangerous stage: Carolina was already welcoming back two four-digit yardage receivers (Anderson and D.J. Moore) and was also anticipating the return of Christian McCaffrey after an injury-plagued 2020. Much like how Wilson was blessed with a better cabinet than anything the Jets had to offer in the last three seasons, Darnold was also provided his best arsenal after three years in offensive purgatory in New York. To put things in perspective: out of the 45 touchdowns Darnold threw over the past three seasons as a Jet, 26 were bestowed to receivers that are already no longer employed by the Jets. Now, he had a chance to work with potent weapons rather than aerial washouts.

Yet, the Jets defense held strong for as long as they could. Two plays will define their afternoon…and, perhaps, their season, in the eyes of the common fan, but it’s not fair to deny what this fledgling unit was able to accomplish in Charlotte.

There were countless opportunities for the Jets to break on Sunday: Carolina shook off Matt Ammendola’s unexpected punting heroics to drive into the Jets’ red zone, but the defense forced them into a situation that to an aborted Darnold fumble that gave New York the ball back. When the offense failed to take advantage of the opportunity (Wilson’s first professional interception to Shaq Thompson), they cracked down in the red zone, forcing Darnold into a pair of incompletions that yielded a mere field goal. Darnold’s history and the late scores could’ve blown the game open, but they never allowed the deficit to balloon past two possessions. The makeshift secondary did its job in its professional debut.

Pressure was understandably at a premium with Lawson missing for the year, but it came at the most opportune time. Faced with a two-yard third down, John Franklin-Myers broke through for a big sack that provided the best start possible for the second half. It was a 30-minute stretch that saw Carolina run only nine plays past the Jets’ 35, including none in the third quarter. Darnold threw for only 45 yards in the second half, 17 coming on a single throw to Ian Thomas on a drive that led to a mere punt. Carolina’s most lucrative drives came through strong starting field position: another drive that ended in a field goal began at their won 37 while two final runs from McCaffrey after an onside kick helped the Panthers seal the deal.

The Jets (0-1) were eventually done in by typical antics from McCaffrey, who sent a dire warning to the rest of the league through 187 yards of offense in his anticipated return. But there was no denying the strides the Jets made under Ulbrich and head coach Robert Saleh, he of San Franciso’s defensive prowess over the past four seasons. Last year proved he’s more than capable of adapting to tough situations brought about by medical issues. He picked up where he left off against the Panthers, even if the proof didn’t linger on the scoreboard.

“We had a great red zone stand where we got the takeaway. In the second half, I thought they came out and stood up to the challenge,” Saleh said of the defensive effort per team contributor Randy Lange. “The challenge at halftime was just keep getting our offense the ball, keep giving them opportunities and they’ll flip it. I thought the guys showed resolve. I thought (Ulbrich) did a great job with his halftime adjustments. And I thought the offense responded and made a game out of it.”

Linebacker C.J. Mosley is used to victorious defensive efforts, having worked with Baltimore’s strong units during the latter parts of the last decade. Mosley was granted captaincy honors by his teammates, bestowed the task of leading this brave new defense into the future. Despite some late cramping issues, Mosley finished Sunday’s contest with four tackles.

Sunday provided a major personal victory for Mosley, who finished a Jets game for the first time in his three years under contract. But he was prouder of the victories earned as a unit, ones that could potentially change opinions on the Jets’ defense moving forward.

“I loved every second of it,” Mosley said in Lange’s report. “I was just happy to be out there, happy to have that ‘C’ on my chest, happy to be out there leading the defense, happy to be running around doing what I love. It wasn’t the results that we wanted as a unit or as a defense, but it was the first game, we’ve got a lot to improve and we’ve got to get ready for next week.”

The Jets’ revamped defense will make its East Rutherford debut next weekend against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags