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 Offesnive 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 Offesnive 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

New York Jets: Attainable goals for Friday’s game vs. Philadelphia

zach wilson, jets

ESM’s New York Jets experts believe Gang Green should spend the preseason finale accounting for their defensive absences.

Never mind Labor Day. For New York Jets fans, the unofficial end of summer arrives when the Philadelphia Eagles show up on the preseason ledger.

The Jets’ late-summer showcase with the Eagles resumes on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). New York (2-0) has faced Philadelphia (0-2) in every preseason finale since 2001. The streak was interrupted only by the cancellation of last year’s preseason proceedings but resumes on Friday night in what goes down as the Jets’ only official home game of their 2021 exhibition showings (they were the designated road team in the opener against the Giants).

ESM’s Jets experts conjure up an attainable goal for Gang Green to fulfill as the preseason comes to a close…

new york jets, zach wilson

Geoff Magliocchetti: Keep the Offensive Momentum Rolling

Losing Carl Lawson for the year (and Jarrad Davis for at least the first five weeks) shouldn’t awaken the Jets from their dreams of development this season, but the first showing sans the former Bengal wasn’t pretty. Missing Lawson wasn’t the biggest issue against Green Bay last weekend…missing tackles and lost coverage battles were far more troubling…but the top unit still looked out of sorts against a Packers offense resting most of its starters (including top throwers Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love).

The ultimate insult came when the Packer reserves ate up ten minutes of second quarter game time and embarked on a 19-play, 81-yard drive. Six of those plays were conversions on third or fourth down, including the touchdown that capped things off. Since that drive came with a good portion of the Jets starters on the field, the team faces some major questions.

The best defense could be…a good offense.

Even if their conquests have come against defensive reserves, it’s hard not to be enthused about the progress of the Jets offense, especially with Zach Wilson leading the charge. The team has drifted so far behind the times in this NFL dominated by offense: this is a unit that failed to reach a mere 300 yards in all but five of their games last season. Wilson has embarked on six drives this season: the Jets have scored on four of them and all but one has ended in opposing territory. The outlier produced a conservative punt on a one-yard fourth down at the Jets’ 49-yard-line.

Wilson has made the most of his summer opportunities. He has built chemistry with his receivers, namely Corey Davis (6 receptions, 88 yards) and Tyler Kroft (49 yards on a trio of receptions, including two touchdowns in Green Bay). He has responded well to adversity, erasing two deficits at Lambeau through responsive scoring drives.

Time will tell how the Jets, and their 31 NFL compatriots, approach the third preseason game under the adjusted, shortened summer format. Under the previous quartet, the third game was often treated like a dress rehearsal, with starters playing most, if not all, of the first half. Head coach Robert Saleh was vague on his starters’ playing time during joint practices with the Eagles this week but stressed his desire to see a lot of Wilson. It won’t be “more than a half”, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg, but Saleh believes that there’s a prime opportunity for the newcomers on offense to make of the most of the final tune-up of what’s been a successful preseason.

“I want to play (Wilson),” Saleh said in Greenberg’s report. “I do, so we’re talking about it. But right now, I’m leaning towards playing at least the starting offensive line, quarterback, and a majority of the defensive payers…We got a ridiculously young team and they are growing and learning and all of these experiences are so important to them. I feel like they’ve gotten so much better from the first day of camp until now and to pull off now, I think we’d be doing them an injustice.”

If the Jets emerge from this preseason feeling good about themselves, the offense is providing a majority of those good vibes. Keeping up the offensive is more important than ever with so many question marks filling up slots on the defensive depth chart.

Friday also presents a big opportunity for some players to secure premier roles on the team. Who will be the top rusher? Veteran and two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is currently slotted in the top rushing role on the official depth chart but Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine have each looked strong at different points of the summer. The backup quarterback debate has yet to be resolved as well. Mike White has been quiet if not consistent but sustained a rib injury in Green Bay last weekend. James Morgan has struggled and veteran Josh Johnson has yet to see the field.

Brendan Carpenter: Fill the Hole Jarrad Davis Leaves Behind

Well, it’s here. The final 2021 preseason game and, believe it or not, there is still one important question that needs answering: what’s going to happen at linebacker behind C.J. Mosley?

The linebacking situation seemed set. It was going to be Mosley and Jarrad Davis manning the main two inside spots. However, with Davis going down for about two months, there’s a hole. The news wasn’t wanted by anyone, but with the injury comes new opportunities for other players. These opportunities could be exciting too, as rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen will have prime chances to impress.

Sherwood, Nasirildeen, and the veteran depth at linebacker (i.e. Blake Cashman, Noah Dawkins) need to help create some post-Davis clarity on Friday night. If the Jets linebackers can show some ability to make impactful plays and stand tall with the added adversity, it’ll end the preseason on a relatively high note. Well, as high as it could be now.

Expect the linebackers to rotate in and out frequently and to get a glimpse of everything they have to offer. Hopefully, they will be able to achieve the goal of clarity somewhat quickly.

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 

Three reasons why the New York Jets can make the playoffs

new york jets, zach wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Sorry, Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Treated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Meet the New Boss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York Jets offseason recap 2021: Special Teams

A New York Jets kicking competition is set to commence under the watch of the seemingly immortal coordinator Brant Boyer.

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 look back on the offseason comes to an end by wrapping up with special teams…

New York Jets, Jason Myers
Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

Much has been made about the constant turnover in the Jets’ franchise quarterback role. But compared to what’s happened in the kicker’s role, that role is among the stable in football.

Since Jason Myers’ historic 2018 campaign…and after the Jets let him abscond to Seattle without much resistance…six different kickers (three alone during the 2019 preseason) have tried and failed to pick up where he left off. Lacking a reliable kicker for two straight seasons is always unacceptable, but missing one during a would-be franchise quarterback developmental years is gridiron doomsday.

Sam Ficken, to his credit, was refreshingly close to ending the trend. His three-point attempts were the one thing that was going right for the Jets over the opening portions of their 2020 season, converting each of his first nine attempts (five alone coming in a nationally televised showdown against Denver). But a groin injury suffered in October derailed his season, forcing the Jets to turn to CFL/XFL veteran Sergio Castillo before staging a meaningless finale with Chase McLaughlin.

Sixth-round pick Braden Mann was one of the busiest men in football last season. He was called upon to punt it away a league-high 82 times, but his 43.9 average was 28th in football. While the Jets would like to see him move up the stat ledger (though, ideally, he won’t be on the field as often this season), Mann did manage to go somewhat viral for some touchdown saving tackles.

In the return game, receiver Braxton Berrios has been reliable on punts. Over the last two seasons, Berrios is one of six returners (min. 30 attempts) to average at least 10 yards (fifth-best at 10.5). On kicks, Giants draft pick and cornerback Corey Ballentine was a pleasant surprise as a late arrival, averaging over 26 yards per return over the last six weeks.

Long snapper Thomas Hennessy lived up to the four-year extension he earned in the midst of the 2019 season and completed another incident-free season.

jets, michael carter

How It’s Going

Never mind cockroaches; when the apocalypse comes, Brant Boyer might be the last living thing to stick it out. The special teams coordinator was the sole survivor of the post-Adam Gase coaching purge, having also survived the erasure of Todd Bowles’ army.

“So many people called on his his behalf,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Boyer in January, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg. “He’s held in such high regard.”

The Jets spent this offseason delivering Boyer some welcome back gifts. He was particularly excited about the arrival of cornerback Justin Hardee, who became one of the NFL’s most respected gunners in New Orleans. Hardee was added on a three year deal and will certainly help a punt return unit that allowed over 11 yards a return last season, the sixth-worst mark in the league. In comparison, Hardee’s Saints allowed less than three.

“I was ecstatic on that one,” Boyer said in video from the Jets. “We played 13 different gunners last year, so it was a real struggle.” Boyer was also pleased about the leadership role Hardee took in the specialists’ room. “He’s been fantastic, and what he’s done is he’s taken over a leadership role in the room, and that’s what the biggest thing we needed in our room especially losing a bunch of our core guys and things like that.”

“We just need somebody to emerge at that other gunner, so they can’t double (Hardee) every time…we’ll see what happens, which I fully expect someone will do.”

The answer to Boyer’s quandary could lie within the latter rounds of the draft. Defensive project and sixth round pick Hamsah Nasirildeen was an elite gunner during his freshman year at Florida State (seven tackles in special teams coverage) while Brandin Echols served in specialist duties during his JUCO days.

In the return game, Berrios should be retained on punts, while Ballentine could face competition on kickoffs from running backs Michael Carter (24.5 average in his junior year at North Carolina) and Ty Johnson (27.2 in his senior year at Maryland).

Ficken was waived in December but was retained on a future deal. He’ll face competition from undrafted rookie Chris Naggar (AAC Special Teams Player of the Year at Southern Methodist) to retain his role. New York Jets, Sam Ficken

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

As the Jets try to return to relevancy, they can’t overlook their special teams group. They’re preparing to embark on yet another quarterback development adventure with Zach Wilson as the lead protagonist and special teams can make an immediate difference in terms of helping him earn wins and losses.

When the new quarterback reaches opposing territory, a reliable kicker can ensure such drives end with points, building his confidence. If Mann takes a step forward and Hardee lives up to his sterling gunner reputation, the opponent can start in dire straits, and make the defense’s job a lot easier.

Much like his work on the offensive line, it’s good to see that general manager Joe Douglas is willing to valuable offseason capital on special teams, though it’s time for the arrivals to start rewarding his faith on the field. Adding elite, proven names in the arena like Hardee and Carter losses the pressure.

Final Offseason Grade: B-

How do you think the Jets’ special teams contribute to their resurgence? Follow Geoff Magliocchetti on Twitter @GeoffJMags and keep the conversation going.

Did the Jets stumble upon a stud in mid-round running back selection?

jets, michael carter

The New York Jets don’t have a clear-cut starting running back, but rookie Michael Carter out of UNC already has the advantage to be the opening day option for Zach Wilson in the backfield. Last year in 2020, Carter posted 1,245 yards and nine rushing touchdowns, including 267 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.

As one of the most productive running backs in the country, nobody anticipated Carter falling to the 4th round. Jets management waited patiently for Carter to fall as they sat with their eyes glued to the screen as every team passed him by.

Having sweated the entire third round in hopes Carter would be available, general manager Joe Douglas stated they would have had a serious discussion taking him in the 3rd, but thankfully, he fell right into their laps and is already penciled in as a potential starter come Week 1.

Projected running back room for the Jets:

RB1: Michael Carter

RB2: Tevin Coleman

RB3: Ty Johnson

RB4: La’Mical Perine

RB5: Josh Adams

Carter has already gained the majority of first-team reps during OTA‘s, but the anticipation is that Robert Saleh will execute a rotation of running backs this upcoming year, especially with the signing of Tevin Coleman.

A committee-based approach would help Carter find his sea-legs at the NFL level, easing him into a more physical and athletic league. Heading into the draft, Carter’s strengths included solid agility, vision of the field, and protecting the football efficiently. The UNC product hasn’t fumbled in two years, and most of his negatives include diagnosing running lanes and a lack of top-end speed.

Breakaway speed for running backs is more of a luxury than a necessity, as finding running lanes and picking up first downs is more beneficial than blowing the top off of defenses at the second level. Plenty of backs with average speed produce above-average play. Some examples include Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, etc.

Ultimately, if Carter can improve his vision and ability to hit holes with confidence, the Jets could have themselves a steal in the mid-rounds. He is a player to have a close eye on during training camp, gauging his snap count with the starters.

New York Jets: Zach Wilson reflects on his first professional spring

new york jets, zach wilson

The prologue to Zach Wilson’s New York Jets career ended this week, as the rookie reflected on his first minicamp experience.

The most anticipated and talked-about throws of post-social distancing life in the metropolitan were silenced on Wednesday. In Queens, Jacob deGrom’s outing for the New York Mets ended after three innings due to right shoulder soreness against the Chicago Cubs. An hour away in Florham Park, Zach Wilson tossed his last professionally sanctioned passes of the spring.

Fortunately for those who support the rhyming, star-crossed franchises, the respective pauses are only temporary. deGrom said he’s “pretty optimistic” that he’ll make his next start, while Wilson’s shutdown is only induced by the end of minicamp.

Thus ends Wilson’s first form of a different kind of spring training under a New York banner, as the New York Jets’ minicamp proceedings came to a close this week. Reviews for his performance over minicamp and organized team activities have been generally positive, as NJ.com’s Darryl Slater reported that returned Jets owner Woody Johnson claimed that Wilson “looks as advertised”. Further coaching reports from Brian Costello of the New York Post claim that Wilson has “has done a good job of minimizing mistakes” (passing game specialist Greg Knapp) and that the “last two weeks have been awesome for him” (offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur).

The end of the proceedings gave Wilson time to likewise reflect on his first experiences in green. While social media offers only extremists…every minicamp touchdown or interception is respectively seen as nirvana or armageddon…Wilson’s offered a grounded self-assessment.

“It’s hard to say exactly how you did. Personally, in my eyes, I feel I can improve every single day, I feel like I’m learning something every single day,” Wilson said in notes provided by the Jets. “Even on the good days, it’s still frustrating, and it’s just because it’s like a foreign language, every single day it’s the same plays but you’re getting different reps, different looks at it, different defensive coverages, whatever it is. One of our running backs (later revealed to be Michael Carter) said to me after practice today, ‘it’s hard to know sometimes if it was a good or a bad day.’ It’s really just because there are so many learning experiences, things that are good to learn from.”

In terms of what he feels has improved most over his debut weeks in a green helmet, Wilson said he’s been particularly pleased with the way his “timing” has progressed.

“The NFL game, understanding what holes you can throw things into, how quickly guys can break on things. Just the timing with your footwork,” Wilson said when asked where he thinks he has improved since the Jets made him the second overall pick in Cleveland. “I think that comes with understanding the offense. I look back in college, you’re running the same offense for three years, so you know it like the back of your hand. Out here, you’re always just a step slow at first. It’s just how fast can I get through my progressions to where I don’t even have to think about it, if something’s covered I instantly know how to move on.”

The Jets diligently prepared for the arrival of Wilson, who succeeds the Charlotte-bound Sam Darnold. Extra action has been taken to ensure that Wilson has a loaded arsenal upon his arrival, adding offensive weaponry of both the protective (Alijah Vera-Tucker, potentially Morgan Moses) and box score (Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman) variety.

Wilson has already a rapport with some of his new receivers, as he had special words for Moore, his fellow offensive rookie.

“When the guy’s not thinking, he is a great player. He’s got so much potential,” Wilson said of Moore, the Jets’ second-round pick out of Mississippi last April. “You throw a ball at his knees or above his head and he catches it so well and is able to transition up the field. It’s so natural for him, his ability to catch the ball and get up the field. (He’s a) very smooth player and he wants to be great. I spend a lot of time with him, he’s someone I want to be around because he wants to be great.”

Wilson has also appeared to have developed an early relationship with 2020 holdover Braxton Berrios, referring to the former New England Patriots as a “slippery player” and praising his route-running abilities. Berrios is second amongst returning Jets receivers in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns last season.

Wilson’s next throws in a Jet uniform will come in front of a crowd, as Tom Pelissero of NFL Network has reported that fans will be welcome back to view training camp practices later this summer. The pressure will be on to atone for decades of false passing prophets, to finally fill in the franchise quarterback void an aging Joe Namath opened after the 1976 season.

To that end, the preparation and journey toward his NFL debut don’t end simply because the practice fields at One Jets Drive will be closed. While there may be a trip off the green path or two…after all, the New York Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum tonight…Wilson left Florham Park with a promise that the de facto month-plus off that he’s going to abscond himself in film, and he’s not talking summer blockbusters.

Wilson’s reputation as a film hound was already somewhat known to the Jets’ coaching staff. LaFleur told NJ.com’s Joey Chandler that the quarterback’s obsession with tape reminded him of his brother Matt’s fixation at the helm of the Green Bay Packers, calling Wilson’s desire to do visual homework “unique”. But perhaps the most fascinating thing about is Wilson’s approach is that he views film sessions as his “time away from football”. Rather, he views it as a matter of preparation, a skill that can be built during relative downtime.

“I feel like that’s when you can rest your legs a little bit and hang out,” Wilson said. “I’m not saying I work extremely hard, there’s always someone working harder than you. I don’t love feeling unprepared, I don’t love feeling like I’m not ready for something. I love the always having something new feeling every day in practice.”

“You don’t know what defense they’re going to throw at you and there’s always something new to prepare for and get better at. I’m just going to make sure I’m doing everything I can to be ready once training camp comes around.”

What are your expectations for Wilson this season? Continue to the conversation with the writer on Twitter @GeoffJMags