New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s win over Cincinnati

New York Jets

Mike White and Michael Carter guided the New York Jets to a jaw-dropping victory over the AFC-leading Cincinnati Bengals.

Behind 405 passing yards from Mike White and 172 scrimmage yards from rookie rusher Michael Carter, the New York Jets earned a 34-31 win over the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals. White, making his first start in place of the injured Zach Wilson, earned the 11th 400-yard game in Jets history and first since Vinny Testaverde reached the mark on Christmas Eve in 2000.

With a huge win under their belts, the Jets (2-5) return to action on Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network).

ESM bestows three game balls from the jaw-dropping triumph..

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Ty Johnson: 86 total yards, 1 receiving TD
  • WR Jamison Crowder: 8 rec., 84 yards
  • WR Elijah Moore: 6 rec., 67 yards
  • WR/Ret. Braxton Berrios: 1 receiving TD, 29.5 kick ret. average
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 10 tackles (1 TFL)
  • DL Sheldon Rankins: 4 tackles (2 TFL), 1 sack
  • DL Quinnen Williams: 1 sack

3rd Star: LB Shaq Lawson

1 interception

A victory over the AFC leaders was child’s play for the Jets’ linebacker.

Lawson was in the holiday spirit when he arrived in East Rutherford on Sunday, as he was dressed like the horror film icon Chucky. He went on to become a nightmare for the Bengals, picking up the Jets’ first interception of the season at the perfect time. That crucial turnover situated Gang Green 14 yards away from the end zone as they went on to punch in the winning score via White’s touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft.

Mosley described Lawson’s takeaways as a “Hall of Fame defensive end type of play”.

“I think about Terrell Suggs doing that all the time, tipping the ball and getting it to himself,” Mosley said, per notes from the Jets. “What a great time to have that happen.”

“I didn’t even think I was going to get it,” Lawson himself added. “I’ve been fortunate these last couple of years. I scored last year, and a pick this year. That ain’t never happened like that. You always run to the ball, and being around the ball good things happen. that’s what we preach every day.”

2nd Star: RB Michael Carter

172 total yards, 1 rushing TD

Carter’s hold on the Jets’ primary rushing duties has grown over the past few weeks (though Johnson remained a factor through some big aerial gains). He had reached triple digits in yards from scrimmage before (doing so in last week’s disastrous visit to New England) but he made a major impact on the Wilson-free settings. Carter’s final tally is the fourth-best output from a Jets rookie running back. He’s also the first such rusher to reach that mark in consecutive weeks since Freeman McNeil in 1981.

“He’s a rookie, but he’s taken it as a vet,” Johnson said of Carter’s efforts. “I told him today, I was like, ‘Man, he was playing a lot. And I was like, ‘Hey man, I appreciate you. You took every single rep you had and you were on your P’s and Q’s, you were on your alignments, your assignments, and your execution.’ So, I was like, ‘Get your body right, let’s do it again on Thursday.’”

“He’s a rookie, but he’s proven that he’s built for this and he’s a vet in a rookie body.”

1st Star: QB Mike White

37-of-45, 405 yards, 3 TD

White’s first career NFL start became a national headline, one that was historic on both a team and national level. His final yardage total, already a rarity by Jets standards (joining Testaverde, Joe Namath, Ken O’Brien, Richard Todd, and Glenn Foley as the green quarterbacks to do so), is the second-best tally for a quarterback in his first start over the past six decades, passed only by Cam Newton’s 422 from his 2011 debut. The quarterback also tallied two of the game’s most important points by himself, literally taking matters into his own hands on a Halloween trick that saw Crowder loft a two-point conversion toss to him, creating the final 34-31 margin.

White was an obvious recipient of the Jets’ offical game ball bestowed by Saleh in the postgame celebration. The head coach confirmed that White earned the right to start Thursday’s game in Indianapolis.

Looking back on White’s Sunday showing, Saleh believed that his quarterback had something special brewing from his first possession. White completed 7-of-7 passes on the drives (part of a 10-of-10 showing to start the game) and the trek ended with the team’s first opening quarter points of the year via a six-yard scoring rush for Carter. That was enough for Saleh to put the game in White’s hands.

“Mike White was poised and took what the defense gave him, but also took shots when he had to,” Saleh said. “He came out comfortable and poised. He drove the ball right down the field and scored that touchdown. I was like, ‘Alright, let’s get this dude the ball and see what happens.’ I know we had some mishaps in the first half where we could have been even more explosive as it pertains to points, but to be down three at halftime despite three turnovers, to show the grit and grind that this group was fighting through. To be down 11 and come back, it’s a gritty group. It was awesome to see.”

White’s instant legend grew so large that fans began chanting his name in support.

“It was a lot of fun. Anytime you get to play football it’s fun,” White said of his first East Rutherford experience. “That’s what we all grew up doing and that’s what we all came to this level to do, so I embrace it, but I think I personally did a good job of not making it more than it is. What helped a lot too, was the coaches’ faith in me and the team’s faith in me. There wasn’t a flinch and guys were supportive, guys were rallying around me and it made it that much easier.

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

Robert Saleh on the Jets’ offensive struggles, team identity after the bye

robert saleh, jets

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh laid out what’s to come in his first public statements since taking off for the team’s bye week.

The New York Jets enjoyed one of the most lucrative Sundays they’ve had in a long, long time. By perhaps no coincidence, Gang Green didn’t play a down, as they embarked on their annual bye week.

Gridiron affairs tilted in the Jets’ favor for a change during Sunday’s action: their divisional rivals from Miami and New England each lost heartbreakers while further misfortune in Carolina and Seattle allowed New York to shoot up the draft board through imported picks. Entering Monday night action, the Jets own four slots among the first 46. MetLife Stadium might as well be painted green for the time being, as the Jets (1-4) are the kings by default after the Giants’ humiliating showing against the Los Angeles Rams.

Robert Saleh is hoping the Jets can start to make their own luck as they make their return.

The Jets’ head coach made his first public comments since departing for the league-mandated break on Monday, unofficially beginning preparations for their Week 7 showdown against the New England Patriots. Sunday’s visit to Foxboro (1 p.m. ET, CBS) will conclude the annual season series between the two; the first meeting was a listless 25-6 loss on Sept. 19 at MetLife Stadium. That defeat was one of two games where the Jets failed to reach the end zone over their five-game, pre-bye slate , the other being a 26-0 shutout shellacking in Denver.

The bye week was anything but a break for Saleh, who spent time with his staff trying to solve the team’s offensive problems. A 1-4 start has been granted life through slow offensive efforts that take too much time to find their footing. The Jets have scored only one first half touchdown over the first games and have held a lead in only one: their Week 4 contest against Tennessee eventually won in overtime.

“(Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur) and his staff did a really good job digging in deep in terms of what the offense is having success at, what we’re not having success at, what the quarterback is having success at versus what he’s not having success,” Saleh said on Monday, per notes from the Jets. “I feel really good about the soundness of the things that we’ll be doing over the course of the week. The one thing that I thought was very important was that we didn’t just make things up and do things just to do things.”

The Jets’ offense has made some progress after the depressing doldrums of the Adam Gase era: Alijah Vera-Tucker has vindicated the faith bestowed in him when the Jets sacrificed one of the picks gleaned from the Jamal Adams trade to get him while fellow freshman Michael Carter has started to establish a hold on the primary carries in the run game.

But, perhaps unfairly, the offensive progress from a broad perspective will be primarily judged by new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson’s results. While Wilson has shown flashes of brilliance, his four-touchdown, nine-interception output has left much to be desired.

Saleh, however, spoke highly of the rewatch value Wilson’s mistakes can hold.

“(He has to) continue to grow from the things (that), not only that he’s done well, but the things that he did not do very well,” Saleh said. “It’s not easy being a rookie quarterback, but at the same time, there are steps that we can be taking every single week to get better so we can be there in the second half looking for a play or two to win a football game.”

An early bye, often granted to those who partake in the NFL’s international games (as the Jets recently did, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in London), means that the young Jets must now play a dozen games uninterrupted. But Saleh believes that the required time off did both Wilson and the team some much-needed good. He encouraged his young quarterback, a notorious film buff, to temporarily step away from practice, review, and game prep, if only for a short while.

“I was like, ‘Hey dude, just make sure you go to sleep. Just relax, just lay off a little bit and just relax.’ He’s such a competitor, he’s just constantly thinking about it,” Saleh said. “I think coaches, players, the organization, even for you guys, to step away and watch somebody else for a minute. It’s a good refresher and a chance to come back and see if we can finish this thing strong.”

The bye week also gave Saleh a chance to ponder what sort of identity the Jets are trying to establish as they work through yet another new chapter in the seemingly perpetual rebuild. He expressed solidarity with general manager Joe Douglas in defining green endeavors in how they play in the trenches upfront. While the offensive line’s veteran acquisitions have struggled, the Jets’ defense has been a pleasant surprise thanks to the efforts of a potent pass rush that has tallied 13 sacks so far. The rate of 2.6 per game is the sixth-best tally in the league.

“I think we all stand in lockstep with Joe (Douglas), in terms of we’re going to be identified upfront,” the first-year head coach said. “Our o-line has played very well here over the last few weeks, and we anticipate them to continue to play well. Our d-line has been extremely effective, very, very good playing with a lot of energy, a lot of just overpowering teams, overpowering their opponent.”

“I think it’s starting to get established,” Saleh said of the team’s evolving identity. “I know it’s hard to see right now, but I think in the trenches, I feel like we’ve been the better team, with the exception of those first couple of weeks, but it’s been coming along, and I think our guys are starting to understand where we’re going to make hay and where we’re going to win football games.”

Saleh used his public availability to provide updates on some of his injured players: defenders Jarrad Davis and Marcus Maye were labeled “day-to-day”. He cautioned that further updates could come later in the week, but labeled their medical progress “promising”. Blocker Mekhi Becton, on the other hand, remains a “few weeks away” from returning.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

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

New York Jets 27 (1-3)

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

Tennessee Titans 24 (2-2)

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

Offense: B+

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense: A-

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams: B

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions

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

3rd Star: QB Zach Wilson

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

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

2nd Star: DL Quinnen Williams

7 tackles, 2 sacks

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

1st Star: DL John Franklin-Myers 

4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Grading Week 3’s loss in Denver

jets, zach wilson

Already trapped in the depths of the NFL’s offensive landscape, the New York Jets somehow sank further on Sunday in Denver.

New York Jets 0 (0-3)

Top Offensive Performer: QB Zach Wilson (19-of-35, 160 yards, 2 INT)
Top Defensive Performer: DL Quinnen Williams (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks)
Top Specialist: P Thomas Morestead (6 punts, 46.7 average)
Up Next: Sunday vs. Tennessee (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

Denver Broncos 26 (3-0)

Top Offensive Performer: WR Tim Patrick (5 receptions, 98 yards)
Top Defensive Performer: LB Alexander Johnson (5 tackles, 2 sacks)
Top Specialist: K Brandon McManus (4-of-4 FG, long 47, 2-of-2 XP)
Up Next: Sunday vs. Baltimore (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)

Offense: F

With the rise of big plays and penalties bestowed for merely looking at a quarterback or receiver the wrong way, it’s almost impossible to be blanked in the modern NFL. But the Jets have somehow earned…yes, earned…a scoreboard goose egg in each of the last three seasons, a dubious distinction that continued in Denver.

The best thing that can be said about Sunday’s offensive performance was that Zach Wilson mostly fulfilled head coach Robert Saleh’s requests to play boring football. He also took care of the ball until two final desperation drives that ended in interceptions. His final pass went through the hands of Braxton Berrios, capping off an afternoon where Wilson’s receivers failed to come through for him.

Corey Davis (5 receptions, 41 yards on 10 targets) had two drops (one would’ve put the Jets in the red zone) while Michael Carter had another with room to run. Carter was particularly disappointing after serving as a silver lining against New England, earning only 24 yards on nine carries. New York earned only one of its already abysmal 11 first downs via the ground and that was earned by Wilson on a two-yard rush in the third quarter. The blocking once again provided no assistance, a fact Wilson learned the hard way through five more sacks.

Defense: C-

It certainly wasn’t a shutdown effort by any means (allowing 344 yards, 22 first downs, and just over five yards a play), but the Jets’ defense mostly kept its cool when the offense kept setting them up in awkward situations. C.J. Mosley continued his comeback tour with a game-best 10 tackles, the most famous of which was a goal-line takedown of Melvin Gordon that briefly kept the game scoreless.

Quinnen Williams also managed to get back in the swing of things through his involvement in two sacks of Teddy Bridgewater, sharing one with Bryce Huff. Williams also had two further quarterback hits, one of only four hurries New York had on the afternoon (Huff and Sheldon Rankins had the others).

Saleh’s oft-spoken “All Gas, No Brake” philosophy has gone by the wayside in the early going but the defenders at least help partly personify it in the dying stages of a lost contest. As Denver embarked on another would-be scoring drive (set up by Wilson’s first interception), Quincy Williams forced a fumble from Javonte Williams (no relation) that ended up in Del’Shawn Phillips’ possession, leading to a 34-yard return.

The Jets’ red zone defense has been a bittersweet gift to the metropolitan area: they’re allowing four such possessions per game (only Kansas City, Jacksonville, Washington, and Seattle have let up more) but have let up touchdowns on only a third of them. That percentage is good for the best in the NFL, tied with New Orleans and Sunday’s adversaries at Mile High.

Special Teams: C-

The Jets’ special teams endeavors on Sunday ranged from average (Morestead placed the Broncos inside their 20 twice on six punts) to frustratingly distressing (a delay of game penalty on a 56-yard field goal erased what would’ve been the only green points of the afternoon), though a game desperate for silver linings did manage to find two.

Though not officially credited with a block, Phillips was able to carry over some momentum to his punt rushing duties, tipping a Sam Martin boot that went just 26 yards and situated the Jets at their own 41. Also, considering the team’s struggles with finding a consistent kicker, watching Matt Ammendola manageably boot a 56-yarder had to be satisfying, even if it didn’t count.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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: 3 silver linings from another loss to New England

robert saleh, jets

The New York Jets’ 11th consecutive defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots saw several optimistic causes slip through the cracks.

The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets in front of a crowd of disgruntled metropolitan football fans…yes, folks, New York City is back.

New England’s Empire may be over…its destruction brought about by the loss of its superweapon Tom Brady…but it has retained control of the East Rutherford system through a perfect three-game slate over the last two seasons. That includes Sunday’s 25-6 triumph at MetLife Stadium, one that provided the rudest of introductions to whatever lingers of the Jets-Patriots rivalry to Zach Wilson, he of four interceptions in the defeat.

It’s often hard for the Jets to glean anything positive out of get-togethers with the Patriots, who have now won 11 in a row over Gang Green. Eight of those defeats have come by multiple possessions and the Jets (0-2) have yet to earn a regulation win over New England in their modern MetLife-sponsored home since the original staging in 2010. The 19-point loss provided more or less the same heartbreak New York has been accustomed to over the last decade.

Yet, Sunday’s defeat somehow featured several unique bastions of hope in the midst of another defeat…

Get Carter (More Touches)

The Jets’ run game enjoyed a significant boost on Sunday: not only did it triple its yardage output from opening weekend at Carolina (45 to 152, besting its total in all but one game from last season), it did so without the offensive line assistance of Mekhi Becton.

Jets running backs averaged nearly 4.8 yards per carry on Sunday, which could come up big for the developing offense as Wilson still seeks to solve the NFL game. Ty Johnson, for example, maintained his brand of New York consistency (50 yards on 12 carries) while Tevin Coleman burst up the middle for a 17-yard carry in the second quarter.

But Jets management is likely enthused by the progress Michael Carter made on Sunday. Carter, the team’s fourth-round pick from last spring, is expected to pull away from the Jets’ current committee set up and flourished in an expanded role against the Patriots. The 88 yards he tallied from scrimmage were most for a green rookie rusher since Elijah McGuire in 2017 (93).

With five interceptions over his first two games, Wilson could for looking for some non-aerial antics to assist him as he gets further absconsed into the Jets’ offense. The rise of Carter can help the Jets build some much-needed, sustainable offensive momentum.

Defensive Fine

For all the concerns about the Jets’ defense in the early going, the unit has held its own in the early going. The 19-point disadvantage seems ugly to the naked eye but the Jets have lingered in their defeats far longer than should’ve been possible thanks to some strong adaptation by the defense. Wilson’s turnovers should’ve buried the Jets but the defense kept the damage relatively in check, yielding 16 points from the four turnovers.

The Jets’ young secondary group limited attacks from New England’s receivers, as it was once again mostly running back assistance that sank their efforts. James White was a menace on both the ground and through the air, tallying 65 yards on 11 touches. Nothing more needs to be said about the 26-yard rushing touchdown from Damien Harris that dragged several Jets defenders in the end zone.

But the secondary assistance was very reliable, limiting opposing wideouts to only 69 yards on nine receptions, limiting rookie Mac Jones to mostly dink-and-dunk strategies. The pass rush also drastically improved, earning three sacks of Jones in the first half (Marcus Maye, John Franklin-Myers, and Sheldon Rankins being the lucky recipients). New England’s 260-yard output was Patriots’ worst tally against the Jets since 2014. New York could also take faith in a strong performance from C.J. Mosley, who earned 10 tackles in defeat and once against finished a Jets game without incident.

The former Raven was particularly enthused by a late defensive stand by the Jets on the Patriots’ final possession of the afternoon. New England was situated only 25 yards away from the end zone after a turnover on downs but earned only a Nick Folk field goal to create the final margin.

“I know it looks familiar to a lot of people, but I can assure you that this is not the same team. We’re always going to show resilience, we’re always going to battle,” Mosley said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “That’s the picture I try to paint. Even on that goal-line stand at the end, it was all heart for us. In the locker room, we told ourselves we had a great week of preparation, everybody came into this game confident. Now we’ve got to take it to the next level. It’s not on the coaches. It’s on the players wearing the uniform.”

BB’s Great

The Jets’ offense was mostly stuck in reverse thanks to Wilson’s turnovers, but has another reliable receiving threat emerged?

While Jamison Crowder continues to recover from a bout with COVID-19 and a little more uncertainty has emerged around Denzel Mims (a healthy scratch for Sunday’s defeat), Braxton Berrios has picked up the slack.

It would’ve been easy for Berrios to get lost in the receiving fold after the arrivals of Davis, Keelan Cole, and Elijah Moore (who hinted at his powers with 47 yards on a quartet of receptions), but the third-year is making a name for himself. Through two games, Berrios is the Jets’ leading receiver with 124 yards on 12 receptions. That includes a career-best 73-yard showing on Sunday while New England locked down Corey Davis. Berrios has also been a reliable prescience on special teams, as his 23.8-yard average kick return ranks 10th amongst players with at least two attempts. His 38-yard runback in the first half set up the Jets’ first of two field goals of the afternoon.

While both Cole and Moore seem poised to take over in the slot if/when Crowder departs next offseason, Berrios’ development is worth keeping an eye on. The former Patriots previously described himself as a “Swiss Army Knife” in a report from team writer Ethan Greenberg.

“I have everything to work on,” Berrios said in January. “I think there is no one harder on me than m, and I’d like to keep it that way. I truly have everything to work on as a receiver, as a football player in general. Truly, I’m looking forward to doing that and coming back an all-around better player.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s loss vs. New England

michael carter, jets

Sunday will be defined by Zach Wilson’s mistakes, but several bastions of hope emerged from the New York Jets’ latest loss.

New quarterback, same painful result.

Damien Harris and James White each had a rushing touchdown while J.C. Jackson earned two interceptions of Zach Wilson. The second overall pick’s East Rutherford introduction was a painful one, as he threw four interceptions in a 25-6 defeat. New England (1-1) has now won 11 consecutive meetings over the Jets, who fall to 0-2 for the third consecutive season.

ESM has three silver linings who emerged from the first defeat in East Rutherford…

Honorable Mentions

  • WR Elijah Moore: 4 receptions, 47 yards
  • RB Ty Johnson: 12 carries, 50 yards
  • WR Jeff Smith: 1 reception, 35 yards
  • LB C.J. Mosley: 10 tackles, 1 pass defense
  • LB Shaq Lawson: 4 tackles, 2 TFL
  • DL John Franklin-Myers: 3 tackles, 1 sack
  • DL Sheldon Rankins: 2 tackles, 1 sack

3rd Star: WR Braxton Berrios

7 receptions, 73 yards

With Corey Davis enduring a tough afternoon (one of Wilson’s interceptions went through his hands and into the waiting arms of J.C. Jackson) and Jamison Crowder still working his way back from COVID-19, Berrios came through for the New York offense. His 73 yards were a new career-best and he leads the Jets with 12 receptions in the early going. Berrios also averaged over 23 yards per kick return, including a 38-yard tally that set up the Jets’ only points of the first half.

2nd Star: S Marcus Maye

6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

Considering the awkward circumstances Wilson’s mistakes forced them into, the Jets defense mostly prevailed. New York particularly raised the pressure in the first half, earning three sacks of Mac Jones, the first coming from the safety Maye. The Jets’ real problem was stopping the New England running backs. White caught all six of his targeted passes (tallying 45 yards) while Harris more or less put the game away with a scoring run that dragged several defenders in the end zone. Maye’s ability to break into the backfield is certainly inspiring to a Jets defense working with makeshift material.

1st Star: RB Michael Carter

11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions, 29 yards

The Jets running back committee put forth a solid effort, as metropolitan rushers had 152 yards on 31 attempts (4.9 average). Carter was particularly impressive, serving as one of the Jets’ most consistent offensive sources. Many expect Carter to break away from the committee set up and grab the lion’s share of attempts before the end of the year. The Jets enjoyed a taste of what the fourth-round pick could bring in an expanded role on Sunday. More importantly, Carter worked through a downtrodden offensive line that was missing its anchor (Mekhi Becton) fairly well. As Wilson continues to figure out the NFL game, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the Jets do with Carter, perhaps relying on him as a consistent momentum shifter in the immediate future.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Three New York Jets records in danger of falling this season

michael carter, jets

The playoffs might still be a pipe dream, but several New York Jets have the potential to make history this season.

Last year’s New York Jets team made history…albeit by sinking to depths that even the cursed Rich Kotite era managed to avoid (i.e. a 13-game losing streak to open the season). This time around, the Jets have a prime opportunity to earn some more positive accomplishments thanks to a lucrative offseason that brought in several talented names and the addition of a 17th game to the traditional NFL schedule.

Which chapters of the green record book should prepare for a rewrite? ESM investigates…

Zach Wilson: Rookie Touchdown Passes (18) and Passing Yards (3,046)

Current holders: Joe Namath (1965)/Geno Smith (2013)

The Jets’ star-crossed history with quarterbacks is often apparent right from the get-go. No freshman thrower in franchise history has thrown more than 20 touchdown passes and only Smith has eclipsed 3,000 yards.

There’s a prime opportunity for Wilson, who healthily passed the aforementioned yardage plateau in his last season at BYU (3.692), to set freshman history in New York. As a whole, subpar quarterback play has been one of the many reasons why the Jets have failed to keep pace with the rest of the league: NFL passers averaged just over 240 yards a game last season (third-best tally in league history) but the Jets mustered only 194. Those same passers averaged just over 27 touchdown passes while New York could barely earn over half of that (16).

Early indications, particularly the pair of preseason games overseen by Wilson, hint that the Jets won’t hesitate to let their new franchise savior air it out. If all pans out, Wilson could realistically have these marks beat by Christmas (possibly Thanksgiving, but the kid has enough expectations placed on him as is).

Elijah Moore: Rookie Receptions (66) and Receiving Yards (844)

Current Holders: Wayne Chrebet (1995)/Keyshawn Johnson (1996) 

Injuries cost Elijah Moore a chance to create some later summer fireworks, but there’s no doubt that the Jets have big plans for him. As it stands, the Ole Miss alum is the closest thing the Jets have had to a homegrown big-play threat since Santana Moss.

Moore’s training camp showings gave off anything but rookie vibes, according to head coach Robert Saleh, indicating that he will take on a large role in the offense immediately.

“He is so deliberate in the way he goes about his business,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “He’s kind of like an old soul, he’s been here for five or six years already…When you have that ability, especially at such a young age, he’s impressive. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice, he’s a quick learner, he’s always trying to find an edge.”

“He’s set a bar for sure and we’re just excited to see him grow through the season.”

Jamison Crowder’s cloudy forecast for Sunday’s opener in Carolina (due to placement of the COVID-19 list) should only give Moore a bigger chance to make an impact in the Jets’ offense.

Michael Carer: Rookie Rushing Touchdowns (7)

Current Holder: Tony Paige (1984)

The Jets are in the midst of enjoying a bit of a rushing surplus: the team added redemption-seeking Super Bowl alum Tevin Coleman on an affordable one-year deal while effective depth men Ty Johnson and Josh Adams are back.

But many envision rookie Michael Carter eventually earning the primary rushing duties before the year lets out. Carter was chosen in the fourth round out of North Carolina and was able to contribute in both the Tar Heels’ rushing and aerial endeavors. That made him a perfect fit for new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.

The Jets’ presumed rushing attack by committee in the early going should keep Matt Snell’s long-standing freshman yardage record (948) from 1964 safe for yet another year. But Carter has some potential in the red zone, as the scorer of 28 six-pointers during his time in Chapel Hill.

“Michael’s got great vision as a runner,” UNC head coach Mack Brown said of Carter during Senior Bowl prep in Mobile, per Eric J. Wallace of the Pensacola News Journal. “He can catch the ball, but he’s got the speed to go score and run over people.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags