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

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals

mike white, michael carter, jets

Do the undermanned, Zach Wilson-free New York Jets stand a chance against the surprise AFC North leaders? ESM’s experts debate.

  • What: Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) @ New York Jets (1-5)
  • Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS
joe burrow, bengals

Geoff Magliocchetti

Those partaking in 2021 NFL regular season action have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on Cincinnati, the current owners of the AFC’s only bye.

But last week’s shocking win in Baltimore proved that the Bengals are here to stay. If not for two narrow losses to interconference competition, they could’ve stuck alongside Arizona in the ranks of the unbeaten. All this and more spells doom for the next team to run into them…and that just so happens to be the hapless New York Jets.

Such circumstances, as well as the state of the Bengals’ woebegone hosts, set up the perfect recipe for a trap game. But the Jets were barely prepared to give the mediocre Patriots a challenge, and that’s when they had the services of their franchise quarterback. The Bengals will have their share of non-believers, but this isn’t their week to talk.

New York football is in dire straits. Right now, the Jets’ goal is to bide their time until Wilson comes back, to get their train of development back on track. Last week’s six-plus touchdown loss to the Patriots was all too reminiscent of the defeats suffered in the Adam Gase era. This week has the potential to get ugly with the Bengals looking to decimate their doubters. There’s a chance for the defense to redeem themselves after a 551-yard, 54-point allowance…and with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, that’s no guarantee…but not much else for sickly Gang Green.

Bengals 27, Jets 3

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Carpenter

The Jets will not win this week against the Bengals. I know it, you know it, we all know it.

There are numerous injuries plaguing the team right now, highlighted by Zach Wilson who could be sidelined up to four weeks with a strained PCL. No one wishes an injury on a player, but the time spent sitting back, watching, and learning could help the young QB. Having Joe Flacco back in the mix to help him helps as well.

Mike White is now expected to make his first NFL start Sunday against Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see the gameplan with White under center, as he cannot do some of the things Wilson can. In all honesty, that may help offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. It seems, at times that LaFleur is caught up in the possibility of Wilson making big plays, instead of giving him easy options. So, it may be easier for him this weekend. Of course, that’s not all on LaFleur, but it could potentially be a factor.

The defense will be another story. With injuries piling up, especially to the linebacker group, the middle of the field will not be fun to watch. Blake Cashman, Hamseh Nasirildeen, and Jamien Sherwood now all find themselves on IR. C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams are both questionable for the game as well. Who will play linebacker? I genuinely don’t know.

Joe Burrow and rookie standout Ja’Marr Chase may set all new kinds of passing/receiving records Sunday. As a result, a score prediction seems unnecessary. But here’s one anyway:

Bengals 35, Jets 7

quincy wilson, jets

Dylan Price

The Jets host the Cincinnati Bengals this week in a game that assuredly will be spooky. Cincinnati is currently the top team in the AFC and have taken a big step forward in recent weeks. Joe Burrow looks exceptional and Ja’Marr Chase is playing at an unbelievably high level. Trey Hendrickson and the Bengals’ pass rush is efficient and effective. Simply put, this resurgent team is a well-rounded unit. How far the Bengals go from here, nobody can project, but Zac Taylor has undoubtedly turned this team around this year.

The Jets are trending downward and fast. Mike White makes his first career NFL start Sunday and the odds are stacked against him. He didn’t play well coming in on Sunday in relief and a good game from him would be surprising. New York’s secondary faces a receiving corps that can come at them from all angles, and if the pass rush doesn’t assert itself early and often, Burrow will slice them up all day.

I don’t foresee this being a good game for the Jets, so look for an early exit if you’re going to the game Sunday. You might have time to head home and enjoy the Halloween festivities rather than watch the horror movie on turf.

Bengals 42, Jets 10

New York Giants
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Best of the Rest

MagliocchettiCarpenterPrice
Green Bay @ Arizona (Thu.)CardinalsCardinalsCardinals
Carolina @ AtlantaFalconsFalconsFalcons
LA Rams @ HoustonRamsRamsRams
Miami @ BuffaloBillsBillsBills
Philadelphia @ DetroitLionsLionsEagles
Pittsburgh @ ClevelandBrownsBrownsBrowns
San Francisco @ Chicago49ers49ers49ers
Tennessee @ IndianapolisTitansTitansTitans
Jacksonville @ SeattleJaguarsSeahawksJaguars
New England @ LA ChargersChargersChargersChargers
Tampa Bay @ New OrleansBuccaneersBuccaneersBuccaneers
Washington @ DenverFootball TeamFootball TeamFootball Team
Dallas @ MinnesotaCowboysCowboysCowboys
NY Giants @ Kansas City (Mon.)ChiefsChiefsChiefs
Last Week9-410-37-6
Overall68-3965-4266-41

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Joe Flacco could help the New York Jets’ offense salvage its season

Joe Flacco’s return allows the New York Jets a chance at offensive development and reconciliation for its young core.

At best, Joe Flacco’s New York Jets tenure will be commemorated when Twitter users facetiously play the “legends” game. Favorite examples amongst users in the tri-state area, for example, include “Boston Bruins legend Brian Leetch”, “Orlando Magic legend Patrick Ewing”, or “Los Angeles Sparks legend Teresa Weatherspoon”.

Even if his destiny lies in competing with Brett Favre and Michael Vick for a roster spot on the “Wait He Played for the Jets?!?!” team, Flacco is back for more metropolitan endeavors. After 11 publicized and discussed seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII is now making his fourth move in three years. His latest was confirmed on Tuesday, as he’s going back to the Jets in a trade that sent a conditional sixth-round pick to his former employers in Philadelphia.

Flacco arrives just in time to potentially save the Jets’ 2021 season.

Allow me to go full Mora before you flock to the comment section: don’t talk about playoffs. Ending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought was a remote possibility when this season started and it’s probably a downright impossibility now. Despite another pre-Halloween elimination, the Jets (1-5) are once again offered a macabre gift: a de facto extension of the preseason.

Their remaining 2021 slate features 11 consequence-free opportunities to get the ball rolling on the future. These games, starting with Sunday’s visit from the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m. ET, CBS) are experimental research and development sessions, auditions to see who can stay for the supposedly good times ahead. If they win, it’s a pat on the back. Losses are no big deal as long as the effort was high and draft position is gained.

Such an opportunity would’ve been a godsend for a struggling rookie quarterback like Zach Wilson. Lowered stakes would provide much-needed relief from his freshman season, one where he could make mistakes in a relatively controlled environment. He could take chances, throw deep, and find ways to build chemistry with a young, developing group of receivers without the burden of a potential playoff trip weighing him down.

Then came the injury.

Wilson will miss the Jets’ immediate future after leaving Sunday’s disastrous visit to New England early with what was originally described as a knee injury. The ensuing MRI revealed a sprained PCL that came with a two-to-four week timeline for his return. Under the supervision of backup Mike White, the Jets’ offense got off to a promising start, scoring on two of his first three possessions. Alas, White’s NFL debut spiraled out of control as New England’s lead widened, and he ended the day with 202 yards and two interceptions as well as a touchdown on his first professional pass to Corey Davis.

White performed admirably for someone who was, realistically, never supposed to see a regular season snap. But the 2018 draftee did nothing to vindicate the Jets’ rather bizarre decision to draft to retain him as the primary backup. It’s not like White was a touted college prospect (chosen by Dallas on the last day of the 2018 draft), had a heroic preseason (a career 71.5 passer rating over three summers), or had a connection to the new coaching staff.

mike white, michael carter, jets

There were plenty of opportunities for the Jets to bring in a veteran understudy that could double as a mentor: Brian Hoyer was brought in for a workout but re-upped with the Patriots instead. Nick Mullens worked with offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco as a serviceable fill-in but he went to the Eagles and now lingers on Cleveland’s practice squad. The Jets brought in the well-traveled Josh Johnson in the late stages of the summer, but he’s been relegated to the practice squad and holds no gameday value to Wilson.

Simply put, the Flacco rearrival is making up for lost time.

A backup quarterback has two purposes on an NFL roster: hold an off-field role in terms of creating learning opportunities and chemistry and provide emergency services if the unthinkable happens to the starter. Simply put, do not be the reason the team loses a game. Such a gambit has been an awkward endeavor for the Jets, who haven’t had anything of value to play for in a long time.

The closest thing they’ve had to glory days in the new century have been complemented by the veteran contributions of guys like Mark Brunell and Josh McCown. Their statistics weren’t legendary but they left a sizable impact on the would-be franchisee men in front of them. Brunell formed a strong bond with Mark Sanchez while the best numbers of Sam Darnold’s career were earned under the supervision of McCown.

But wins and losses weren’t at stake for the Jets at this point in time. The real concern is the development of their young weapons set to lead them into the next generation. With Flacco, there’s hope that they can get some forward momentum.

The Jets spent this offseason stocking their offensive arsenal in preparation for Wilson’s arrival. Bringing in the big guns like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and Hunter Henry was probably out of the question for a two-win team but they nonetheless acquired a talented group of both veterans (Corey Davis, Keelan Cole) and rookies (Elijah Moore). Questions can be raised about how the Jets have used these weapons…Denzel Mims’ 2021 season, or lack thereof, has been particularly ridiculous…but if New York wants to make any offensive progress with Wilson out, White wasn’t going to be the answer.

While White is the likely starter for Sunday’s visit from the Bengals (and, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the planned thrower until Wilson gets healthy), it’s more likely that any professional impact he’ll make will come in another XFL/USFL reboot rather than the NFL. An experienced, accomplished name like Flacco can work with these young receivers and help their development stay on course.

It’s not like Flacco is an inactive slouch as he reaches the twilight of his NFL career. We’re certainly no longer having the infamous “Is Joe Flacco Elite?” debate, but he was arguably responsible for the Jets’ best offensive outputs of the 2020 season. Of note, Flacco’s 128.7 passer rating tallied during a Monday night defeat at the hands of the Patriots last November was the best earned by a Jets quarterback since the 2016 season. Though the Jets lost each of his starts, Flacco at least helped the team gain some offensive traction.

Despite his limited time in green, before temporarily changing his shade for the summer and early stages of fall, Flacco left an impression on the New York landscape.

“I think you saw it, I think everyone saw it, how well he throws the football,” then-Jets offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, now with the Arkansas Razorbacks, said after the New England game in a postgame report from Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com. “This guy, he’s gifted that way, and he did some really nice things for us. He’s really accurate. I do think this guy is a starter in this league, and we’re very fortunate to have the quarterback situation we have right now…That’s why Joe was brought here.”

Even before Wilson got hurt, 2021 was meant to be a year of development, growth, baby steps for the fledgling Jets. The injury puts them in danger of losing that as well. With Flacco arrives the rare chance to pick up a win, even if the rewards aren’t immediately reaped.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Is a trade for pass rushing the right move right now?

new york jets, robert saleh

It’s been theorized that the New York Jets could seek out a new pass rusher. But is that the most worthwhile move as the 2021 kickoff looms?

Any analysis of the New York Jets’ 2021 offseason must be prefaced with the caveat that the previous campaign sunk the team to such dramatic depths that anything short of full-on contraction would’ve been seen as an upgrade…and, even then, some Gang Green fans would go full John McKay.

But there is no objectively denying that the Jets made smart moves following last year’s disastrous two-win showing. Even with the loss of the most expensive purchase, defensive end Carl Lawson, the Jets are in a favorable position to at least start to reintroduce themselves to the world of professional football relevancy. At the same time, however, even the most unapologetic Jets propagandist has to admit that Lawson’s forced season-long departure due to a ruptured Achillies sustained during last week’s joint activities with the Green Bay Packers puts a bit of a damper on Joe Douglas’ most impactful offseason to date.

To that end, the Jets are reportedly seeking help from abroad to bolster their pass rush game. A popular candidate amongst fans has been former New England pass rusher Chandler Jones, who’s reportedly displeased with his current settings in Arizona. Other potential movers could include Preston Smith of the aforementioned Packers or 2019’s fourth overall choice Clelin Ferrell in Las Vegas.

But as the Jets plan one more summer splurge before school starts, is the pass rush the right area to address?

The loss of Lawson obviously brings the unit down a few notches, but the Jets’ pass rush still has several notable returnees looking to build on breakout seasons from 2020. It’s a group headlined by 2019’s third overall choice Quinnen Williams and assisted by John Franklin-Myers and Foley Fatukasi. The team is also set to welcome back Kyle Phillips and Bryce Huff, the latter of whom has earned positive reviews during the most recent camp sessions in Florham Park. Veteran arrivals Vinny Curry and Sheldon Rankins have likewise dealt with ailments but bring talent and playoff experience from Philadelphia and New Orleans respectively. A major opportunity rises for Ronald Blair, a late arrival who previously worked with head coach Robert Saleh in the Bay Area.

In addition to the talent assembled, the Jets’ new boss has experience in dealing with big losses in the front seven. During his final season as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator, new head coach Robert Saleh dealt with injury reports that resembled Pro Bowl rosters. Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas were lost for the year after ACL tears at MetLife Stadium. Help from abroad (Dee Ford, Ziggy Ansah) was likewise medically removed from the 2020 proceedings.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the losses, Saleh’s backfield invaders still managed to post respectable efforts. The 49ers ranked fifth in quarterback hurries per dropback (11.2 percent) and yards allowed (314.4 per game) despite the departures. One could argue that Saleh’s ability to adapt was one of the big reasons why he was one of the most coveted head coaching candidates once the year let out.

Saleh knows how much is lost with Lawson done for the year but he was among the first to come to grips with the doomsday diagnosis in the aftermath of the Green Bay business trip.

“I’ve said it before, the NFL train stops for nobody,” Saleh said after the Jets’ 23-14 preseason win over the Packers on Saturday, per team reporter Randy Lange. “When someone falls off the train…it’s another opportunity for someone to jump on the train. A lot of men at that defensive end spot are chomping at the bit for the opportunity, and they got it. We’ll work our tails off to get them ready, and I know they’ll work their tails off to reciprocate.”

There’s enough talent on the defensive line for the Jets to survive. The injury of Lawson shouldn’t awaken the Jets from dreams of development that would allow them to label the 2021 season a success. But there’s always room for improvement, especially when your rebuild prepares to enter a second decade. With so much draft capital…the Jets currently own 13 spots on the 2022 draft board…it would almost be silly not to seek out a trade. There are enough valuable names on the line that can hold down the pass rushing fort while Lawson heals. Improvement is better sought elsewhere.

Douglas has never been one to shy away from a late move if it helps the team: he took over the Jets after primary offseason activities like free agency and the draft ended and immediately tried to bolster the blocking (Ryan Kalil, Alex Lews) and receiving (Demaryius Thomas). None of those moves truly panned out in the long term…none of them are with the team…but Douglas’ activity was refreshing after the passiveness of the Mike Maccagnan era.

New York Jets, Joe Douglas
 (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

It appears that the Jets might be ready to make another late summer move, but they have to assess their priorities. A show of faith to the talented youngsters of the defensive line might help team morale moving forward, leaving them to look at other areas, ones entrenched in far greater states of desperation.

With apologies to those still traumatized by the 2020 season, the ineptitude on display in the final year of the Adam Gase almost guaranteed that some area on the team was going to be neglected, even with the perfect offseason. The secondary still remains woefully undermanned in terms of experience. Their struggles were prominently on display during Saturday’s exhibition showcase in Titletown: Jets starters played deep into the first half and allowed a Green Bay offense consisting almost entirely of reserves to score on two of their four drives over the first 30 minutes. The ultimate insult was a 19-play, 81-yard drive that ate over 10 minutes of game time.

Zach Wilson’s (nearly) perfect showing allowed the Jets to bring some optimism home, but New York can’t allow it to mask their defensive struggles. Green Bay went 8-of-14 on third down, four alone earned through the air on the aforementioned long drive. The last was a five-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Benkert to Jace Sternberger. Perhaps the extra draft capital is better spent on a veteran corner to mentor and/or compete with Bless Austin and Bryce Hall. Charvarius Ward could be a championship addition from Kansas City (especially with L’Jarius Sneed’s emergence) while C.J. Henderson remains a tantalizing prize in Jacksonville.

The early strong returns from Wilson also shouldn’t discourage the Jets from bolstering their backup quarterback situation. Sam Darnold’s medical woes over the past three seasons have shown the Jets just how far south a season can go without the intended starter, even if they had good intentions through veteran additions like Joe Flacco, Josh McCown, and Trevor Siemian.

Mike White has been serviceable this preseason (86.1 passer ratings and no turnovers through two games) but it probably hasn’t been anything to convince the Jets they can stay afloat if the unthinkable happened to Wilson. White also took a few tough hits during Saturday’s win in Green Bay, leaving the contest with a rib injury. Late acquisition Josh Johnson was seen as a veteran mentor to Wilson but has yet to take a preseason snap in green.

Trading for Chicago’s Nick Foles remains the most popular and realistic option for teams seeking quarterback depth. Not only is Foles set to wallow in the third slot on the depth chart behind the Justin Fields/Andy Dalton conundrum, but the Bears are also in desperate need of early draft picks. Chicago has only two picks over the first four rounds in Las Vegas next spring, having dealt their first and fourth round choices to the Giants to ensure the selection of Fields. The Jets’ pair of first-rounders (including the last piece of the Jamal Adams trade from Seattle) is likely off the table but they have five other choices over rounds two through four.

No one’s denying the Jets can get better through a late trade or overcome the loss of Lawson (especially considering his prescience or absence wasn’t the difference in terms of ending their ten-year postseason drought). But if they’re going to make one more move before summer lets out, the Jets must take the time to assess their priorities, values, and faith.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Four standouts from the Green & White Scrimmage

Playing in front of an East Rutherford crowd for the first time since December 2019, several New York Jets made early statements.

MetLife Stadium welcomed New York Jets fans through its gates for the first time since December 2019 on Saturday night, hosting the annual Green & White scrimmage.

Nearly 20,000 supporters came out to watch the special practice, which was the first sporting event at MetLife since an XFL contest in late February 2020. The team will spend another Saturday at the stadium next weekend, when open their preseason slate against their East Rutherford roommates, the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC).

“It was awesome to come out here,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh  It was awesome to just be able to go through this thing, go through the stadium and just be able to go through as game-like of an experience as we can create for the players so next Saturday is normal. But it was cool.”

In case you missed the proceedings at MetLife, ESM has four names who stood out…

K Matt Ammendola

The Jets will likely wait until game situations against squads of different colors to make their decision at kicker. But it’s hard to not pencil in Ammendola’s name at the top of the early depth chart after Saturday.

Team reporter Ethan Greenberg stated that while Chris Naggar converted only 1-of-4 attempts, Ammendola was perfect in his quartet, half of them coming from at least 50 yards away. The Jets have converted only 6-of-11 from that distance since Jason Myers absconded to Seattle after the 2018 season.

WR Corey Davis

Davis helped the Jets make the most of a tough night offensively. Per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Zach Wilson struggled, completing only 11-of-24 passes and throwing two interceptions. But the incoming Davis helped the unit keep their chins up and gave the fans something to cheer about.

A lot of excitement in the Jets’ new receiving outlook has surrounded Elijah Moore, particularly after he stole in the show in public training camp practices in Florham Park. But Davis made a decent case for primary receiver duties on Saturday, making three big grabs during two-minute drills. One highlight reel grab saw him tear the ball away from Bryce Hall.

Some may have already built the Jets’ offensive future around the Wilson-Moore connection, but it’s clear that Davis plays into the team’s long-term plans and can’t be forgotten.

LB C.J. Mosley 

Fans had to be extra patient when it came to seeing Mosley again. Saturday marked only the third time in the last 24 months that his cleats touched the MetLife Stadium turf, as his Jets career has been weighed down by medical issues.

Mosley knew going into Saturday’s proceedings that he was going to have to do a lot to live up to the five-year, $85 million deal granted to him in 2019 as the final marquee signing of the Mike Maccagnan era. Even a perfect showing wasn’t going to alleviate the concerns, but he was one of the biggest breakouts of a strong day for the New York defense.

The former Baltimore Raven, down nearly 20 pounds from his last listed playing weight (250) worked mostly in coverage during Saturday’s proceedings. His shining moment came during a two-minute drill, when he cashed in on Lamarcus Joyner’s breakup of a Wilson pass intended for Jamison Crowder, diving to earn the interception.

Mosley was pleased to reintroduce himself to the New York faithful but acknowledged that it has to be the start of something bigger.

“I haven’t put (anything) on tape in two years. I just have to remind everybody,” Mosley said afterward, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “Today was a great start. It felt good to be out there after a long time.”

“There’s always more to improve on. I missed two tackles out there, two big tackles, in my opinion. That’s something I’ve just got to get back to working on in practice.”

Assessing the defense was a little tough considering Saturday’s restrictive nature…live tackling was kept to a minimum…but several defenders managed to post strong showings. John Franklin-Myers tallied a sack, while Javelin Guidry likewise earned an interception of Wilson.

QB Mike White

Much like their kicking slate, the Jets’ backup quarterback conundrum will likely gain more clarity through the exhibition slate. But in the absence of newly minted favorite Josh Johnson, who did not partake in Saturday’s event, White gained some early ground.

White was the only Jets thrower to earn multiple scoring passes, finding Josh Malone and Kenny Yeboah for the respective tallies. A big opportunity awaits the former Dallas Cowboys draft pick, who has been on and off the Jets’ active roster over the last two years. Fellow New York returnee James Morgan likewise had a scoring pass on Saturday, finding rookie rusher Michael Carter.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets add veteran QB Josh Johnson to backup mix

New York Jets

Johnson previously spent part of the summer of 2015 with the New York Jets with his last regular season experience coming in the XFL.

The New York Jets were in desperate need of experience in the quarterback room. One could technically say the signing of Josh Johnson qualifies as overkill.

New York announced the signing of Johnson on Wednesday. The University of San Diego alum is one of a handful of picks left from the 2008 NFL Draft, originally chosen in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a record-breaking career under Jim Harbaugh’s tutelage at USD, Johnson has embarked on a well-traveled professional journey, spending time with 16 different teams over four leagues. This marks Johnson’s second tenure with the Jets, spending just over a week with the team during the 2015 preseason.

Johnson notably went eight seasons between starts, earning his first win as a primary quarterback with Washington in 2018. More recently, Johnson spent last season on San Francisco’s practice squad. It was his third stint with the 49ers (2012, 2014), one that allowed him to spend time with current Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. He was released by San Francisco in June.

In addition to his NFL service, Johnson has also spent time on rosters in the UFL, AAF, and XFL. In the latter-most endeavor, Johnson was the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Wildcats. In a slightly ironic twist, Johnson played a major role in the most recent sporting event held in front of fans at MetLife Stadium. Johnson threw for 325 yards and two scores, though the Wildcats fell to the New York Guardians by a 17-14 final.

The Jets were in desperate need of experience in their quarterback room. New York is set to debut Zach Wilson, the second overall pick from April’s draft, as their new franchise thrower. Behind him, the Jets also have young veterans James Morgan and Mike White to compete with Johnson for the primary backup role.

In a corresponding move, the Jets released defender Brendon White, an undrafted rookie safety out of Rutgers.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Signing QB Blake Bortles must be the New York Jets’ next move

blake bortles

As the start of the Zach Wilson era hits a bit of a snag, Aaron Rodgers’ arrival allows the New York Jets to right a glaring wrong.

As Moonrise Kingdom, Meatballs, and the never-ending Friday the 13th franchise taught us…what’s summer camp without a little chaos?

The New York Jets’ proceedings, which began Tuesday morning on One Jets Drive contain an aura of slight spookiness. Touted franchise quarterback/savior Zach Wilson has yet to report to the team, the only player on the Jets’ roster who has yet to arrive in Florham Park. Wilson, the second overall pick of last spring’s NFL Draft, is one of two first-round picks that have yet to sign with the team that drafted him, joining fellow thrower Trey Lance in San Francisco. The BYU alum’s Instagram story hinted that he is still in his home state of California as the Jets’ first camp practice looms on Wednesday.

Per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, contract offsets appear to be the point of contention between Wilson and Gang Green. Offsets offer a team relative insurance if they cut a high-profile draft pick prior to the end of his original four-year deal. A similar discussion temporarily delayed the start of the Sam Darnold era, as the previous franchise quarterback missed New York’s first three practices before inking his deal.

Head coach Robert Saleh doesn’t seem too concerned about the Wilson situation. Per notes from the Jets, he referred to the Wilson contract talks purely as “business” and that the quarterback is “intelligent” enough to make up for any lost time.

“(General manager Joe Douglas) has a great handle on everything and when it gets done, it gets done,” Saleh said. “He’s got a tremendous drive so when he does get here, I know somehow someway he’ll make up for it.”

The Wilson situation, however, does give the Jets an opportunity to reflect on a rare offseason failure: with Wilson stationed on the other side of the country, the fact that the Jets’ other two rostered quarterbacks (James Morgan and Mike White) have zero NFL regular season passes between them looms larger than ever.

Saleh has never been one to panic over the backup quarterback controversy and continued to keep his cool on Tuesday. He even hinted that quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese, who broke Boomer Esiason’s passing records at East Islip High School on Long Island, has a “live arm” and could be called upon in practice in lieu of a veteran backup.

“I do believe that (Morgan and White) got better as camp went on, the two backups, and so we’ll see where they’re at come tomorrow and today for that matter, and we’ll progress through and make a decision as we see fit,” Saleh said when asked if the Jets would seek veteran help. “I got a lot of faith in Joe. So, we’ll see what happens here in the next couple of hours.”

Saleh’s introductory camp comments were made in the midst of the football landscape’s reshaping: nearly a thousand miles away in Wisconsin, Aaron Rodgers channeled his inner Dwight Schrute in a shirt depicting another character from The Office, Brian Baumgartner’s Kevin Malone. Rodgers temporarily lifted his shun of the Green Bay Packers and signed on for what appears one last ride in yellow and green. It sent a slight ripple throughout the football world, as the team released backup throwers Blake Bortles and Jake Dolegala.

The release of the former can help the Jets right one of the few wrongs they’ve endured this offseason.

Saleh has made it clear throughout the offseason that he’s not going to add a veteran quarterback for the sake of adding one, reasoning that teaching the Jets’ new offensive to an experienced newcomer would be no different from counseling a rookie (which makes their passing on former San Francisco understudy Nick Mullens all the more puzzling).

But the ongoing Wilson situation shows just how fragile the Jets’ current setup at quarterback is. They’re currently trapped with a questionable fourth-round pick and a 2018 day three pick that has been on and off the New York practice squad. Bortles can help a developing team like the Jets in several ways.

Even taking away the relatively cliched idea of a mentorship role…one that he briefly filled for Jared Goff with the LA Rams…Bortles can prove beneficial to New York’s future. Though it’s safe to say that Bortles hasn’t lived up to his third overall pick billing with Jacksonville (the first quarterback chosen in the 2014 proceedings), the 29-year-old has been serviceable enough to build a lengthy NFL career. Since 2014, Bortles has thrown 103 touchdown passes, one of 24 NFL passers to do so in that span despite minimal playing time over the last two seasons. In comparison, the Jets as a team have thrown only 137 in the last seven seasons, dead last in the league. If Wilson is befallen by an emergency…contract, injury, or otherwise…there are far worse options to install.

When Bortles’ five-year term in Jacksonville ended, then-head coach Doug Marrone didn’t buy into the idea that the Central Florida alum was a bust, despite the divorce. Instead, Marrone saw a leader who defined toughness in more ways than one.

“We as coaches always use that term and people think it’s physicality of how you play the game,” Marrone said in a Bortles retrospective penned by Gene Frenette of Jacksonville.com. “Everyone can see the physical toughness, the shots he’s taken, really putting himself out there. We see and appreciate that.”

“The stuff you can’t see is the mental toughness,” Marrone continued. “What I remember from Blake is how he handled himself, standing up there and answering all the questions. Quarterbacks can deflect a lot of issues that occur on the field. Blake didn’t do that. He took a tremendous amount of accountability, maybe more than should have been on his plate.”

Bortles’ one shining moment at the NFL level stands to be his 2017 campaign, when he helped guide the Jaguars to an improbable conference title game appearance (and, arguably, a stolen Super Bowl showing). Signing him would keep up with the theme of big game experience the Jets have created this offseason.

Two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is slated to be their top rusher. Another ring bearer, former Philadelphia Eagles Vinny Curry, should help mentor a young front seven. The team already added one of Bortles’ 2017 teammates, receiver Keelan Cole. Fellow newcomers Corey Davis, Sheldon Rankins, and Tyler Kroft have all likewise competed in a conference title game over the last three seasons. That experience can help a team desperate for any sense of direction or positive reinforcement move forward in their quest to a postseason drought that has reached double digits.

The Jets are coming toward the end of an intriguing offseason that can be remarkably classified as macabre yet hopeful: the 2020 season was garish that almost any adjustment would’ve qualified as an improvement. Yet, there are legitimate upgrades on this roster that will help them in both immediately and in the future. Failing to add a backup quarterback was a rare shortcoming that could’ve been avoided.

Rodgers’ return sent ripples throughout the football world and offered the Jets a rare gift. They must do their best to take advantage.

How important is it for the Jets to add a veteran QB like Bortles to the fold? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and keep the conversation going.

New York Jets: Trade for Nick Foles “seems unlikely” (Report)

It’s becoming more likely that the New York Jets will go into camp with James Morgan and Mike White backing up Zach Wilson.

According to a report from Brian Costello of the New York Post, those expecting Super Bowl hero Nick Foles to don a new shade of green shouldn’t get their hopes up.

In addressing the New York Jets’ backup quarterback situation, Costello reports that the team has “had discussions” with the Chicago Bears about adding Foles as the understudy and mentor to incoming franchise man Zach Wilson. However, he acknowledges that such a deal “seems unlikely”.

Foles, who guided the Philadelphia Eagles to a championship in 2018, is projected to be Chicago’s third-string option behind first-round pick Justin Fields and incoming veteran Andy Dalton. With Wilson set to take over, he seems like a perfect candidate to not only serve as a mentor to the rookie but step up in case of an emergency. The 32-year-old Foles posted an 80.8 passer rating in nine games (seven starts) in place of Mitchell Trubisky last season.

However, Costello says that Foles’ salary is the biggest roadblock in the path to getting him in a green helmet. Foles came over from the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020 and restructured his contract to be a three-year deal worth $24 million ($17 million guaranteed). Chicago would be out $14 million in dead money if they were to release Foles, rendering a trade the only likely departure from the Windy City.

It appears more likely that the Jets will go into the season with either James Morgan or Mike White as their backup quarterback. Like Wilson, neither has thrown a pass in a regular season NFL game. Morgan was chosen in the fourth round during the 2020 draft and did not dress in no games last season. White is a 2018 fifth-round pick from Dallas who has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last two seasons.

Head coach Robert Saleh admitted that the team had discussions with former San Francisco backup Nick Mullens (who eventually signed with Philadephia), but he was interested in seeing what Morgan and White had to offer.

“It doesn’t mean that just because (a newcomer is) a veteran it’ll help the (rookie) quarterback,” Saleh said in June, per notes from the Jets. “There’s a match that has to happen, there’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen. If you just bring in a veteran that doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is.”

“I think Zach, and that entire quarterback room, is already ahead of the curve on, with how they handle their bodies and study. I don’t know if there’s much value aside from being comfortable that if something hits the fan, that you have a veteran who’s played football. It’s more of a comforting feeling, rather than trying to work your ass off to develop the quarterbacks that are already in the building.”

The Jets are slated to begin training camp activities on Tuesday.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets 2021 offseason recap: Quarterbacks

new york jets, zach wilson

ESM looks back on a fateful offseason for the New York Jets, starting with the big changes at quarterback.

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. We start off at the quarterback spot…

Jan 3, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws on the run against the New England Patriots during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

How It Started

The Jets’ offseason centered around a puzzling conundrum: the NFL future of Sam Darnold. Conventional stats (as well as the fact they held the second overall pick in the draft) more or less implored the Jets to move on: Darnold ranked 40th in competition rate (59.8) and 41st in passer rating (78.5) amongst 42 quarterbacks (min. 500 attempts). Yet, there was a tantalizing case to prolong his New York career, a major temptation to answer a question Jets fans have asked and continued to ask…what would Darnold look like in a system that wasn’t overseen by Adam Gase?

For all the offensive malarkey the Jets had gone through in the Gase era, Darnold has still provided momentary flashes of brilliance that eeked through the endless layers of green gridiron gloom. Some felt that Darnold had the necessary skills to survive in the NFL, he just needed the proper support staff. There was only so much Darnold could’ve done while working in a Gase system and his top options being first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and current lacrosse stars pulled out of New England’s antique pile (Chris Hogan). In March, the Jets added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, a pair of consistently reliable talents looking to make a bigger impact. Had Darnold been kept aroud for the eventual drafting of Elijah Moore, it would’ve been the most talented receiver class Darnold ever had to work with.

Darnold’s support problems were not limited to his receiving arsenal. The crucial developmental stages of his NFL career were staged in the midst of constant rumors surrounding Le’Veon Bell, who was a discount version in everything but his price tag ($52.5 million). That big contract and several other factors (i.e. general negligence) delayed any plans to bolster the offensive line. Darnold, after all, went through three different primary centers over his first three NFL seasons. To their credit, the Jets seemed to finally be seeing the light in the late stages of Darnold’s tenure, passing on elite receiving talent to draft Louisville blocker Mekhi Becton and later trade up with Minnesota for Alijah Vera-Tucker.

As for the backup quarterback spot, the Jets had the right idea when it came to Joe Flacco. The cheap deal signed late in the offseason (one-year, $1.5 million) and Flacco’s own words made it clear that he wasn’t meant to be any long-term backup solution. It was a contract that gave Darnold a year under Flacco’s watch while the one-time Super Bowl MVP (who truly sought a new area to take over the QB1 role) had a chance to prove to new suitors that he could still be a serviceable NFL option after enduring a neck injury during his previous stop in Denver.

new york jets, zach wilson

How It’s Going

Ultimately, the Jets sent Darnold south, trading him to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for three draft picks, one of which was a second-round choice to be used next season. Even before Darnold was shipped off to Charlotte, the Jets spent the offseason in the thick of the quarterback discussion. Not only were they present at all major rookie quarterback showcases, but they were said to be in the thick of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes before assault allegations ended that conversation.

Those factors all but assured that the Jets were going to use their premier pick on a non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback, eventually revealed to be Zach Wilson when the league converged on Cleveland in April. With the selection of Wilson out of BYU, general manager Joe Douglas has officially etched his signature onto his New York mosaic. He now has his own head coach (Robert Saleh) and quarterback running the show after working with the used parts of the Mike Maccagnan era’s final days.

As expected, Flacco moved during the offseason, joining a curious passing situation in Philadelphia that has been implied to give him a chance to compete for the starter’s spot. Despite several serviceable backup candidates emerging (i.e. Brian Hoyer, Nick Mullens), the Jets curiously opted to stick with their current backup situation of James Morgan and Mike White.

Dec 24, 2019; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) celebrates with teammates after running in a touchdown against the Hawaii Warriors in the second half of the Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Are They Better Off?

One could have, and probably still can, make the case for Darnold staying in New York. The temptation to see him with a new support staff could’ve allowed the Jets to either use the second overall pick on one of their many other areas of need or even trade it to further reinforce those positions.

Ultimately, though, trading the Darnold was the best move for all parties. There’s no use in comparing Darnold and Wilson right now, especially when the latter has yet to throw an NFL pass (Lord knows the post-Week 1 discourse following the Jets and Panthers’ meeting in Charlotte will be arduous enough). But wondering whether Darnold’s issue was simply a coaching thing was a question the Jets couldn’t afford to answer anymore, especially when holding a draft choice that allowed them the pick of the non-Lawrence litter in Cleveland.

For Darnold, this move works on a personal level as well. He can now try to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career in relative obscurity in Carolina, a stark contrast to the constant tabloid attention in New York and the meme makers that pounce on the slightest green controversy on the internet (let’s face it, if the “I’m seeing ghosts” thing happened anywhere else, it’d be forgotten in a week). Time will tell if Wilson is the long-sought answer under center after decades of false prophets, but the Jets at least deserve some props for knowing when to cut ties and go back to the drawing board.

The Jets’ backup situation remains rather curious, however. As it stands, the Jets’ trio of quarterbacks has zero NFL regular season passes between them. New York is obviously pinning its future hopes and dreams on Wilson’s development. Holding minicamp with Wilson as the primary man more or less guarantees that the Jets aren’t practicing the “Kansas City model” a la Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes.

But that shouldn’t mean that Wilson immediately must become the most experienced quarterback in the room. Even if one claims that adding a veteran to mentor the rookie (Chicago’s Nick Foles, perhaps?) is a passing cliche at this point, the Jets should at least bring on some insurance in case of an emergency. The team was 0-10 in the three-year Darnold era when backup quarterbacks had to step in. There’s no evidence that White or Morgan (who didn’t even dress for a game in his rookie year) are capable of breaking that trend if the unthinkable happened to Wilson. The playoffs remain a tall ask, but that doesn’t mean the Jets should punt on 2021 contests.

The Jets were right to kick off a new era of football, efficiently hitting the fast-forward button in their franchise timeline. But that doesn’t mean he should have to do this alone, especially in his own position room.

Final Offseason Grade: C+

Did the Jets make the right move in drafting Wilson? Or should they have stuck with Sam? Continue the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags