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

zach wilson, jets

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

michael carter, jets

Leaders at the bye week

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

Offense: D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Defense: C+

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams: C+

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

zach wilson, jets

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye Week Grade: C-

jets, zach wilson

Dylan Price

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

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

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

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

Bye Week Grade: C

Best of the Rest

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

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

New York Jets: Grading Week 2’s loss vs. New England

robert saleh, jets

Zach Wilson’s struggles prevented the New York Jets’ offense from moving forward, but Sunday served as another good showcase for the defense.

New York Jets 6 (0-2)

Top Offensive Performer: RB Michael Carter (11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions 29 yards)
Top Defensive Performer: S Marcus Maye (6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 pass breakup)
Top Specialist: KR Braxton Berrios (4 returns, 95 yards)
Up Next: Sunday @ Denver (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

New England Patriots 25 (1-1)

Top Offensive Performer: RB James White (6 receptions, 45 yards, 5 carries, 20 yards, 1 touchdown)
Top Defensive Performer: DB J.C. Jackson (3 tackles, 2 interceptions)
Top Specialist: K Nick Folk (4-for-4 field goals, 1-for-2 extra points)
Up Next: Sunday vs. New Orleans (1 p.m. ET, Fox)

Offense: D+

Whether it’s fair or not, the state of the Jets’ offense is going to be judged by Zach Wilson’s progress. Even the most optimistic Wilson prophet had their faith shaken on Sunday, as none of his four interceptions could be excused by a baseball-style official scorer. A struggling offensive line missing the services of Mekhi Becton did little to help out: a metropolitan comeback effort was stymied by four sacks of Wilson, all coming in the second half.

The struggles of Wilson masked some encouraging offensive progress: Michael Carter flourished in expanded duties despite the loss of Becton, earning 88 yards (59 rushing) from scrimmage in his second NFL contest. Ty Johnson maintained consistency with 50 yards on a dozen attempts. Carter and Johnson united to obtain half of the Jets’ 18 first downs.

In terms of passes that landed in the hands of Jets receivers, Braxton Berrios continued his strong start, earning a career-best 73 yards on seven receptions while Corey Davis (2 receptions, 8 yards) was held in check. Elijah Moore (4 receptions, 47 yards) hinted at his greater powers while the Jets continued to struggle with generating momentum amongst the tight ends, particularly when they got deeper in New England territory. Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft united for a mere 18 yards on a trio of receptions.

In another positive development, the Jets did earn 336 yards of offense on Sunday, besting their totals from all but two games from last season.

Defense: C+

Considering the awkward position Wilson’s turnovers left them in, the defense did commendable work on Sunday. Highlight reels will immortalize Damien Harris’ touchdown run that took several defenders into the end zone with him, but the makeshift unit put forth a respectable effort in their first Mac Jones experience. The 15th overall pick from April’s draft proceedings was limited to mostly dink-and-dunk endeavors, picking up only 186 yards on 30 attempts.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley started to resemble his Baltimore self, limiting his assignments to 20 yards on four receptions while picking up a team-best 10 tackles. Safety Michael Carter II allowed only 17 yards on five grabs. Quincy Williams appears to be another Joe Douglas waiver wire gem, allowing only 13 yards and earning a tackle in the backfield.

New York’s pass rush also upped its game, tripling its sack total from Week 1. John Frankin-Myers is the only Jets on the sack ledger in each of the first two weeks, having also forced a recovered fumble of Jones. Marcus Maye and Sheldon Rankins earned the other quarterback takedowns, all of which came in the first half. The Jets also forced three New England three-and-outs, up from one against the Panthers.

The Jets were once again beaten by multi-talented running backs: in addition to Harris’ arduous but well-publicized run to glory, the Jets were beaten for 65 yards and a score by White. It’s certainly a few notches down from Christian McCaffrey’s wild ride in Carolina, but worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

Special Teams: C+

Matt Ammendola returned to his regularly scheduled kicking duties on Sunday with Thomas Morestead in tow. Ammendola wound up accounting for all of the metropolitan scoring; he converted from 21 and 35 yards out but missed a 53-yarder in the third quarter. Wilson’s de facto arm punts limited Morestead to a single 45-yard attempt.

In addition to his offensive breakout, Berrios further solidified his prescience on the Jets’ return game, averaging just under 24 yards per kick attempt. His 38-yard return in the late stages of the third quarter set up Ammendola’s first field goal of the day.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Three attainable goals for Saturday’s preseason opener

ESM’s New York Jets experts know Gang Green won’t solve every issue on Saturday, but there are honorable landmarks within their grasp.

You made it, Gang Green Nation.

It’s been 223 days since the New York Jets have put on their pads for an officially sanctioned NFL contest against another opponent…and 601 days since they’ve played in front of a crowd at MetLife Stadium.

Both dubious streaks will end on Saturday night, as the Jets resume their annual preseason battle against the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC). It will be the Jets’ first preseason contests since the summer of 2019 and the first MetLife Stadium football game to be held in front of fans since February 2020.

“Every day is an unbelievable blessing. But it’s always about the players. It’s a great opportunity for them to showcase who they are,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said of Saturday’s proceedings, per notes from the team. “You can take (the preseason) for granted from a team standpoint because it doesn’t matter in the win/loss record but your style of play and what you want to represent and what you want the entire league to know about you starts Saturday. That’s why I think there’s tremendous value to these preseason games.”

With kickoff looming, ESM’s Jets experts each have an attainable goal for the Jets to reach…

New York Jets, Bless Austin
New York Jets, Bless Austin

Geoff Magliocchetti: Corner the Cornerbacks 

No one was going to quarrel with why it was wiped out, but the cancelation of last year’s preseason put the Jets in a tough spot. Exhibition games return in 2021, albeit with only three on the slate rather than the customary four. Preseason football, scorned as the concept may be in modern times, was made for teams like the modern Jets. With nearly half of their starting lineup from last year’s opener in Buffalo exchanged, the developing Jets need to take advantage of every consequence-free game situation.

Centering Saturday’s MetLife Stadium civil war around Zach Wilson’s emergence is tantalizing, yet naive. Sure, there would be no better way to silence the critics who are using a poor intrasquad scrimmage to label Wilson a bust already…amateur and professional alike…than having Wilson tear apart the Jets’ quasi-rivals in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd that waited a year-plus to get in. But hinging all preseason success on the quarterback is a nominally fickle way to approach the summer slate.

The current state of the Jets’ cornerback situation showcases why preseason football still has a place in modern society: the Jets are going into a new era, a new base set under new leadership with a hodgepodge of inexperienced day three draft picks and undrafted journeymen. The safety spots are relatively secure with Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner (even if Ashtyn Davis will miss all three games), but the Jets need to have someone separate themselves in the cornerback room.

With the Giants set to hold out several regulars including quarterback Daniel Jones, a perfect opportunity lies ahead for penciled starters like Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, and Javelin Guidry to build some momentum as they assume larger duties. Austin and Hall are slated to be the Jets’ top two cornerback options, each of them looking for something to prove.

Born in Queens and emerging from Rutgers, there’d be no more appropriate hero in the return of the Snoopy Bowl than Austin, who has developed a professional reputation as a strong hitter who must show major improvement in his coverage. Austin issued a dire warning to those disregarding the Jets’ secondary solely because of the inexperience between him and the sophomore Hall.

“A lot of people forget me and Bryce were highly rated dudes coming out of college. We just fell short to injury,” Austin said this week, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring a veteran cornerback in here. Not to knock any out there, but they see something in us.”

Saturday should also be a tremendous showcase for the Jets’ defensive potpourri brought in during the most recent draft weekend Saturday. Expect extensive time for Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols (a big opportunity lingers for the undrafted Isaiah Dunn as well), as well as safeties-turned-linebackers Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood.

“There’s a lot of competition going on, there’s competition at the nickel, corner spots, so those are gonna be fun to watch,” Saleh told Steve Serby of the New York Post in a July Q&A. “It’s a very young group. Someone’s going to come to fruition. Bryce Hall had a really nice OTA, Bless was having a nice OTA, then he had a minor setback with an injury that kept him out. He’s good to go. Some of the rookies had a chance to showcase their skills. We’ve got a really good young nucleus of guys that are gonna compete, and we’ll see how it goes.”

new york jets, zach wilson

Brendan Carpenter: Attack With Zach

It’s a big day. Jets football is back. With all of the excitement, however, some uncertainty lingers. The future of Jets football is currently resting somewhat uncomfortably on the shoulders of Zach Wilson. That uncertainty will either be expanded or diminished when he finally steps on the field on Saturday.

Some of the goals and expectations for Wilson have been anywhere from realistic to wildly unrealistic, from fans and analysts alike. When it comes to his preseason debut, there is one goal that could both ease and excite those watching him closely: have Wilson and the primary offense put together multiple drives that get into enemy territory.

This isn’t exactly a headline-setting goal, but it’s perhaps the most crucial one. Back when the Green & White Scrimmage was the talk of the town, everyone seemed to be focusing solely on Wilson’s struggles, as expected. Through the scrimmage, he went just 11-for-24 for 112 yards and two interceptions. Additionally, his seven drives just totaled only three points. If Wilson can show that he can lead the offense into opponent territory multiple times, it’ll be a decent win regardless of the final score.

It will be a learning process for the rookie out of BYU and some sustained drives could help ease both his nerves and the unrivaled scrutiny directed his way even before he’s taken a snap.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Price: Bring the Boom to Big Blue

The battle of MetLife won’t give us the battle between Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson that we all hoped for, but the battle still promises to be a good one.

The Gang Green faithful needs to take everything with a grain of salt, as the new era is still establishing comfort and familiarity. However, I expect the Jets pass rush to steal the show.

I foresee John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff, and Carl Lawson putting on a clinic and headlining a real impressive outing. Franklin-Myers will likely open things up for everyone else and make a few plays. Lawson will likely command the most attention given his notoriety and standing as the Jets’ lead pass rusher. Still, look for Lawson to catch eyes in the first quarter of the game with a few big hits or even maybe a sack.

I’d expect Huff to likely put on the flashiest performance, as he’s had a spectacular camp. Overall though, look for the entire pass rush rotation to excel. All and all, I truly expect to come out of Saturday thoroughly impressed with the direction of the defense, specifically the pass rush.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

What are realistic expectations for the 2021 New York Jets?

new york jets, zach wilson

The New York Jets undoubtedly became a better team over the past eight months. But are they a playoff team? ESM’s experts discuss.

The 2020 New York Jets left the franchise’s immediate and long-term future in a rare state of optimistically macabre: after the Jets sunk to the depths of the football underworld…plummeting to dubious valleys that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid…any move the team made in the offseason could’ve been seen as an improvement.

With both the Stanley Cup and Larry O’Brien Trophy…not to mention every medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo…earned and bestowed, it’s officially socially acceptable to start forecasting the 2021 NFL season. The metropolitan arrivals of so many elite new faces, of both the rookie (Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore) and veteran (Carl Lawson, Corey Davis) variety have gotten fans excited, as has the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh.

But the ultimate question lingers: after a two-win season and now ensnared in the NFL’s longest active playoff, just how much improvement will the Jets show in the one place it matters…the standings, namely the win column?

ESM’s Jets experts ponder this quandary as the preseason opener against the New York Giants looms on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC)…

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Magliocchetti

To take a page out of another New York sports decisionmaker Brian Cashman, let’s view Joe Douglas’ New York Jets from the perspective of the Death Star.

Ignoring the fact that the Star Wars-based superweapon is destroyed in each of its incarnations, Douglas does have a Death Star at his disposal. But it’s not the behemoth seen in A New Hope (and, by extension, Rogue One), nor is it the partially constructed but “fully armed and operational battle station” from Return of the Jedi. Rather, the Jets’ Death Star resembles the infantile version Vader and Palpatine look over at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

The Jets began this offseason with the hiring of head coach Saleh. In contrast to the Adam Gase hire, a transaction praised exclusively by modern hot take artists, the Saleh move was lauded by on-field participants both domestically and abroad. New York was and is by no means a football destination yet…one needs to establish a victorious on-field prescience before they become that…but the Jets were able to attract several names with championship experience, winners that were attracted to what Saleh was trying to build.

Douglas and Co. could’ve stood pat on the pass rush, a rare 2020 silver lining after the breakouts of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. They instead bolstered the unit by bringing in rising pressure artist Lawson and NFC postseason staples Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry. Elsewhere on defense, they prepared for Saleh’s reimplementation of the 4-3 with the arrival of linebacker Jarrad Davis, whose finest defensive days came in Florida and Detroit’s similar formations.

On offense, newly minted quarterback Zach Wilson’s arsenal appears to contain more firepower than anything Sam Darnold had to work with. Two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is ready to work with potential day three draft gem Michael Carter in the backfield, while the upgraded aerial attack features Davis and Moore uniting with returnees Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims. Mekhi Becton returns on the line with Alijah Vera-Tucker on Wilson’s blindside.

Yet…the playoffs remain a pipe dream.

The AFC East already appears to be under the control of a new potential dynasty in Western New York, so capturing the quartet for the first time since 2002 appears to be out of the question. The North could well send three teams to the postseason, while the West’s mighty Kansas City Chiefs show no signs of slowing down, even with the Los Angeles Chargers rising fast with Justin Herbert. Even with an extra playoff spot, it’s asking a lot for the Jets to establish themselves in the crowded conference.

Even if the AFC wasn’t packed to the brim with contenders, the Jets aren’t fully completed just yet. There were so many holes so fill, so much damage to repair from the Gase era that it was a guarantee that some area of the roster was going to be neglected. One look at the current depth chart shows that the secondary got the raw deal, as inexperienced options like Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, and Bryce Hall are set to assume primary roles. On offense, there are plenty of players that can become major contributors (Carter, Moore, Davis), but they lack the experience in the primetime situations they’ve been called upon.

Until Saleh’s group proves otherwise on the field, their dire straits are more indicative of just how poorly the Gase era went. Gase might be gone, but the dark spirits of his tenure will linger over the Jets’ facilities until the fruits of Saleh’s process appear in the win column. A good season in 2021 would be to at least double the two-win tally from last season and perhaps earn an upset win over an elite opponent, a similar process to what the Chargers went through last year with Herbert.

Record Prediction: 6-11

new york jets, zach wilson
Mandatory Credit: New York Jets/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Carpenter

The New York Jets have a lot of hype leading into the season and for good reason: rookies Wilson and Moore highlight a revamped offense. Lawson adds a much-needed pass rush to a defense that needs it with unproven corners.

The Jets, however, are not a playoff team just yet. Aside from their own play, they find themselves in an increasingly brutal AFC East. Each team is improving, but, at the moment, Gang Green finds themselves behind Buffalo and, most likely, either New England or Miami…maybe even both.

Yes, the future is bright and fans should be excited. All of the excitement should be taken with a grain of salt, though. There need to be reasonable expectations for this season. So, realistically, look for this team to win about 6 games of the newly-implemented 17 game schedule.

Record Prediction: 6-11

carl lawson, new york jets
(Photo: Getty)

Dylan Price

As the Jets head into a season filled with promise, I want to make one thing clear before I begin: I do NOT expect the New York Jets to make the playoffs.

I expect the team to take a significant step up and approach the 7-9 win territory. With that said, I foresee hiccups along the way: Wilson will likely experience significant growing pains early as he leaves Brigham Young University and acclimates to the bright lights of Broadway. I firmly expect struggles from both sides of the ball early as they look to establish a new identity under a new coaching staff. Lastly, I have a bad feeling about the secondary, but guys like Hall and Michael Carter II will likely get better as the season progresses.

On a lighter note, I foresee a strong debut in green and white for Lawson, Rankins, and Davis. Lawson is a legitimate threat to finish in the top ten in sacks, while Rankins and Davis will likely be impact contributors if they can stay healthy. Finally, look for rookies, Michael Carter (the running back) and Alijah Vera-Tucker to make names for themselves early, although the story will be Moore, the budding star receiver.

Record Prediction: 7-10

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Robert Saleh lays out expectations for New York Jets cornerbacks

New York Jets, Bless Austin

The lack of a proven force in the New York Jets’ cornerback group didn’t stop Robert Saleh from clearly defining his expectations.

The macabre gift of the New York Jets’ 2020 season was that things became so dire that any move they made over the offseason could’ve been viewed as an improvement. But the Jets’ offseason to-do list could stretch from one end zone to the other after a disastrous two-win season. Even with a cap space surplus, some area on the modern depth chart was going to be neglected and prevent the Jets from becoming immediate contenders.

It’s not hard to find the affected areas.

With matchups against four of the top five passing units from last season looming on their upcoming schedule (Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Houston, Atlanta), the Jets’ secondary remains undermanned and inexperienced as kickoff weekend approaches. The safeties at least have a slight safety blanket (pun intended) with Marcus Maye back on a franchise tag and Lamarcus Joyner, one of only five New Yorkers who are at least 30 years old, coming over from Las Vegas.

The Jets’ front line in the secondary, the cornerback area, leaves much to be desired. Only newcomer Justin Hardee (115 defensive snaps over the past three years) has more than two seasons of NFL experience and he was primarily brought in for his special teams expertise. Four cornerbacks have no experience at all, as the Jets spent the Saturday of draft weekend adding new names to the ranks. Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols arrived in the draft’s later rounds while Isaiah Dunn was added through undrafted free agency.

At the top of the depth chart, Bless Austin and Bryce Hall…a combined 23 starts between them…are set to take starring roles. Behind them lies a hodgepodge of journeymen (Corey Ballentine, Bennett Jackson) and undrafted youngsters (Javelin Guidry, Zane Lewis, Elijah Campbell, Lamar Jackson…no, not that one, obviously).

Head coach Robert Saleh isn’t worried.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One would perhaps expect Saleh, a defensive coach in several assistant stops throughout the NFL, to assemble a more worthy group of defenders for his first year as a head coach. When that proved to be unfeasible, Saleh worked with management to come to a relative compromise of stocking up on young secondary talent on draft weekend Saturday after spending the first two days preparing for the new franchise quarterback’s arrival. So far, he’s happy with the young clay that he gets to mold in his first season at the New York helm.

Saleh doesn’t care about where they’ve been or how they were obtained. He carries one burning question for his new young talents, one he carries with him from his days as the defensive boss in San Francisco.

“Can you win on third down? That’s pretty much it. It’s that simple,” Saleh said on Thursday, per notes from the Jets. “When you’re looking at traits, we had Richard Sherman, who’s all of 6-3, long, incredibly smart, and we’ve had Jason Verrett, who’s all of 5-9, strong and wiry.”

“So they come in all shapes and sizes but the dog mentality, the ability to win in man coverage, the fearlessness to get up there in press (coverage) and win one-on-ones. That’s what matters, because at the end of the day, when it’s crunch time and you’ve got to win in football, it comes down to your ability to win in one-on-one, whether it’s man, zone, however you want to count it.”

The current starters’ respective battles with gridiron adversity are particularly inspiring to a New York team desperate to overcome relentless vibes and reminders of the “same old Jets” concept. Austin, a Queens native, enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at Rutgers but injuries limited him to only five more games in Piscataway over his last two seasons. Hall might’ve been an opening round pick in 2019, but an injury sustained during his senior year banished him to the Saturday wilderness.

To their credit, Austin and Hall have garnered positive reviews in their early camp showings. Brian Costello of the New York Post said that Hall “looks like he is ready to make a jump” in his sophomore season while Austin has been a thorn in the side of Zach Wilson early on. Saleh has been pleased with the early returns, once bringing up the size differences in analyzing each defender.

New York Jets, Bryce Hall

“Bryce is so long and big. Bless is obviously more wiry and twitchy, but they both have an incredible mindset to get up there, get in your face, use their length, use their athleticism,” Saleh said. “What we’ve been doing defensively is we teach a little bit different of a man technique, obviously, and our zones. So try to get them the reps they need to be able to blend the two is not easy and it does take time, but these guys have gotten better every day.”

Just because Austin and Hall have the early edge, however, doesn’t mean that Saleh is going to simply hand the primary duties for them. Saleh has been proud to work the rookie defenders into the rotation, namely calling out Echols and Dunn for “(earning) the right to get a little peek at getting some run with the ones”. He’s also excited for the ongoing nickel group, which appears to consist of Campbell, Carter, and Guidry.

Saleh had a prime opportunity to add in some veteran talent. Both Sherman and Verrett, his former Bay Area proteges, were available on the free agent market, but he opted for a young revolution that can allow for the Jets’ new staff, headlined by Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to shape their new secondary in their image. Saleh compared the feeling to a roller-coaster on the Garden State Parkway.

“When you’re dealing with young guys, the excitement is like when you’re driving on the freeway and you’re on (empty), you’re like, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ It’s like a roller coaster, but at the same time, you see an unbelievable amount of growth happen from play-in and play-out, and day-in and day-out,” Saleh said. “I’ve seen teams win, I’ve seen teams have growth, you see everything. I’ve seen veteran teams lose, it’s a matter of gaining confidence, gelling, having the ball bounce your way and really getting confidence, and this group is a very confident group, it’s a very young, confident group.”

“They’re having a lot of success here in training camp and when they get to go against Green Bay, and Philadelphia, the Giants, and they get to test themselves against other players, I think that’s where you’ll start to see the identity of this team kind of take shape.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Cornerbacks

New York Jets, Bless Austin

The New York Jets opted to wait until the latter stages of the NFL Draft to address their issues at cornerback.

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 campaign. 

With the offseason in the rearview mirror, ESM looks back on the green offseason that was, position-by-position. Our focus on the defense continues by looking back on the cornerback position…

Sep 20, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) throws a pass during the first quarter as New York Jets cornerback Blessuan Austin (31) defends at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

Over the past two seasons…a pair of campaigns that could be informally referred to as the post-Trumaine Johnson era when it came to the cornerback depth chart…the Jets have tried to solve their cornerback issues in two different ways. First, they tried throwing veterans at the problem, but former Colts like Pierre Desir and Nate Hairston failed to resolve them. Both Desir and Hairston were part of the Jets’ autumn exodus of 2020, turning the primary corner slots over to younger talents.

To that end, the Jets have turned to the services of day three picks like Bless Austin and Bryce Hall. Austin was, for all intents and purposes, born to play metropolitan football as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. He’s been more than capable of playing an elite level, evidenced by the fact he was second in the Big Ten in pass breakups (14) during his sophomore season, though injuries have stunted his development. Over his first two NFL seasons, Austin has developed a reputation as a strong, aggressive hitter but he has struggled in coverage. Quarterbacks have tallied a 96.1 rating when targeting his receivers over his first two campaigns. Austin’s football story is one of the more inspiring in recent Jets memory, but he’s facing a make-or-break year in terms of on-field production.

Fellow projected starter Bryce Hall has a bit of a longer leash to work with. The Virginia alum was projected to be a top ten pick in 2019 by CBS Sports, but saw his stock fall after a season-ending ankle injury in his senior season. His personal plummet could work to the Jets’ benefit. Hall missed the first eight games of last season but provided a spark of hope for the future in the midst of a lost campaign by earning 36 tackles and an interception (a jaw-dropping one-handed takeaway in the Jets’ first win over the year against the Rams) over the second half of the year.

“He’s got length, he’s got a great brain and he’s got a thirst for the knowledge of the game,” new defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said of Hall, per notes from the Jets. “That’s where eventually he’ll set himself apart I think because he’s just so detailed and he’s a guy that’s like got the callus on his finger from taking notes in practice.”

After the departures of Desir and Hairston, the Jets also employed the services of undrafted depth options like Javelin Guidry and Lamar Jackson. The former was particularly strong in slot coverage and could well play his way into another term with the team this summer. Former New York Giants draft pick Corey Ballentine arrived in November but made a far greater impact as a returner than a defender.

Sep 8, 2018; Evanston, IL, USA; Duke Blue Devils safety Michael Carter II (26) tackles Northwestern Wildcats running back Jeremy Larkin (28) in the first half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

How It’s Going

One would assume a defensive-minded head coach like Robert Saleh would try to bolster the cornerback group. Saleh, if anyone, would know the benefits of acquiring veteran help in the secondary from his days in the Bay Area. For example, San Francisco foe-turned-friend Richard Sherman became a valuable mentor to Emmanuel Moseley during the 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2019.

But the Jets’ 2021 offseason, despite several bastions of hope, was doomed from the start in the sense that so many areas needed adjusting that some position group was almost guaranteed to be neglected. The cornerback slot was made to bite the proverbial bullet.

The Jets were mostly quiet on the free agency front, re-signing journeyman Bennett Jackson and adding Justin Hardee, a former New Orleans Saint better known for his efforts as a gunner than a defender. They finally addressed the cornerback spot in earnest on the final day of last spring’s NFL Draft, adding Michael Carter II in the fifth round before picking up Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols in the sixth. Carter (no relation to his fellow New York draft pick of the same name) could immediately contribute in the nickel and slot, while Pinnock and Echols are likely long-term projects whose immediate futures lie in special teams coverage. Each rookie, however, could be pressed into action if the top veteran names falter.

New York Jets, Brian Poole
Oct 27, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; New York Jets cornerback Brian Poole (34) jogs on the field before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

The 2021 Jets’ cornerback endeavors are currently the definition of youth in revolt, as Hardee is the oldest representative at 27.

Much like the damage Le’Veon Bell left behind in the running back slot, the aftermath of the Johnson disaster possibly scared the Jets from bestowing big bucks on the free agent market. The 2021 class wasn’t exactly a game changer: the most notable names were either inked to expensive short-term deals (Kyle Fuller, one year for $9.5 million in Denver) or even pricier long options (Adoree Jackson to the Giants at $39 million over three years). None of the available names (William Jackson, Levi Wallace, and Shaq Griffin also among them) were going to push the Jets over the postseason threshold, so general manager Joe Douglas might deserve some kudos for not making a panic purchase.

Having said that, it’s surprising to see the Jets hold their ground with their current, unproven corner depth chart with veteran names like Sherman (one of Saleh’s most ardent supporters) and Brian Poole (a very serviceable green slot option over the last two seasons) lingering in free agency [EDIT, 11:55 a.m. ET: Sherman has been booked on charges of “Burglary Domestic Violence” in Seattle and has been denied bail]. It’s understandable that the Jets probably wish to ring in a new era with young, mostly homegrown talent, but that doesn’t mean that they should have to go about it alone.

Final Offseason Grade: C

Will the Jets regret waiting so long to address the cornerback slot? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation

New York Jets announce new batch of jersey numbers

The New York Jets’ draft and free agency classes all received their metropolitan numerals for the 2021 season.

The New York Jets’ free agency and draft classes received their official numbers for their first seasons in green on Monday. ESM looks at what the newcomers will be rocking once the season gets underway…

No. 23 Tevin Coleman

Coleman wore 26 in prior stops in Atlanta and San Francisco, but it’s probably best for the Jets to avoid rushers wearing No. 26 for a while after the Le’Veon Bell debacle.

Notable No. 23’s in Jets History: RB Shonn Greene, DB Shafer Suggs

No. 25 Brandin Echols

Echols, a sixth-round pick appears to be sharing No. 25 with rusher Ty Johnson, as the 26 he wore at Kentucky is taken by fellow defensive back Elijah Campbell.

Notable No. 25’s in Jets History: S Kerry Rhodes, RB Scott Dierking, S Calvin Pryor

No. 29 Lamarcus Joyner

Joyner will be wearing a number previously borne by fan-favorite rusher and returner Leon Washington, who’s now on the Jets’ coaching staff.

Notable No. 29’s in Jets History: WR Bake Turner, RB Bilal Powell, RB Adrian Murrell, RB Leon Washington, DB Donnie Abraham

No. 30 Michael Carter II

Another former bearer of 26, Carter takes over the 30 worn by Bradley McDougald last season. He’ll also have the Roman numeral “II” on the back of his jersey to separate himself from the offensive Michael Carter.

Notable No. 30’s in Jets History: RB Brad Baxter, DB LaRon Landry

No. 32 Michael Carter 

Running backs are allowed to wear single digits under the NFL’s new uniform mandates, but Carter opted to multiply it four. He follows in the footsteps of Super Bowl champion and green rusher Emerson Boozer.

Notable No. 32’s in Jets History: RB Emerson Boozer, RB Blair Thomas, RB Leon Johnson

No. 34 Justin Hardee

It’s a tough break for anyone who hoped the Jets would bring back Brian Poole, but the special teams standout Hardee will keep the number he had during his prior endeavors in New Orleans.

Notable No. 34’s in Jets History: RB Johnny Hector, RB LaMont Jordan

No. 41 Jason Pinnock

Pinnock’s No. 15 from Pittsburgh has been taken over by someone he’ll presumably cover come training camp, receiver Lawrence Cager. His new digits were worn by Matthias Farley last season and best known from a Jets standpoint as the numbers Matt Snell wore in the Super Bowl III triumph.

Notable No. 41’s in Jets History: RB Matt Snell, S Buster Skrine

No. 43 Del’Shawn Phillips 

Phillips wore No. 46 in his first season in Buffalo but moved on to 43 last season. He’ll apparently stick with those numerals as he moves on to another New York football journey.

Notable No. 43’s in Jets History: DB Michael Brim

No. 44 Jamien Sherwood 

With 44 last worn by the New England-bound Harvey Lagni, the defensive back-turned-linebacker Sherwood takes a traditional number as opposed to the single digits now available.

Notable No. 44’s in Jets History: RB John Riggins

No. 45 Hamsah Nasirildeen

Another converted secondary member who made the move to linebacker, Nasirildeen also makes the move to 45, as the 23 he wore at Florida State was taken by Coleman.

Notable No. 45’s in Jets History: DB Earlie Thomas, CB Otis Smith

No. 52 Jarrad Davis

The new Jets’ linebacker’s number from Detroit and his college days in Florida (40) is now worn by Javelin Guidry, but there’s a strong group of both linebackers and lineman that have previously repped his new digits.

Notable No. 52’s in Jets History: LB David Harris, C John Schmitt, C Mike Hudock, LB Pepper Johson 

No. 58 Carl Lawson

Lawson may be changing from tiger stripes to green and black, but he’ll be wearing a familiar number leftover from his Cincinnati days. 

Notable No. 58’s in Jets History: LB James Farrior

No. 65 Corey Levin

Levin is one of the newcomers on the Jets. If/when he takes the field in an NFL regular-season game for the first time since 2018, it’ll be in a different number, as he wore 62 during his time in Tennessee.

Notable No. 65’s in Jets History: OL Joe Fields, G Brandon Moore

No. 67 Dan Feeney

Undrafted rookie Teton Saltes has Feeny’s No. 66 from his days as a Charger, so he moved one up, perhaps indirectly emulating some other notable veteran blockers in Jets history.

Notable No. 67’s in Jets History: OL Dave Herman, T Kareem McKenzie, OL Damien Woody

No. 81 Tyler Kroft

In his return to New Jersey football, Kroft won’t have the No. 86 he wore at Rutgers (his Piscataway number now on fellow tight end Ryan Griffin) but he retains the number he’s worn in his first two NFL stops (Cincinnati and Buffalo) and it’s a number that has made a New York impact on both sides of the ball.

Notable No. 81’s in Jets History: DE Gerry Philbin, TE Dustin Keller

No. 84 Corey Davis

Davis will keep the number he wore at both Western Michigan and Tennessee. That’s rather appropriate, as the most famous wearer of 84 in his new team’s history is in fact a New York Titan.

Notable No. 84’s in Jets History: WR Art Powell

No. 88 Keelan Cole

With Davis taking over the No. 84, Cole’s moves four digits up to 88, emulating some of the more productive receivers in New York history.

Notable No. 88’s in Jets History: WR Al Toon, TE Rich Caster, TE Anthony Becht

No. 96 Jonathan Marshall

Henry Anderson’s old number wasn’t gone for long, as it’s been taken over by the former Arkansas captain who became the final pick of the Jets’ 2021 draft proceedings.

Notable No. 96’s in Jets History: DT Muhammad Wilkerson

No. 98 Sheldon Rankins

Undrafted standout Kyle Phillips wore No. 98 but he’s moving onto 93 to allow Rankins to keep the number he had during his six years in New Orleans.

Notable No. 98’s in Jets History: LB Anthony Pleasant, DL Kyle Phillips

No. 99 Vinny Curry

Curry has had a pretty accomplished NFL career, and he’s going to take over the numerals of some of the most storied defenders on the team.

Notable No. 99’s in Jets History: DE Mark Gastineau, DE Bryan Thomas, DT Steve McLendon, DE Hugh Douglas

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags