Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets at New England Patriots

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Can the New York Jets kick off their post-bye slate on the right note? ESM’s experts of green endeavors share their thoughts.

  • What: New York Jets (1-4) @ New England Patriots (2-4)
  • Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS
zach wilson, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti

Though one of the quieter games of a relatively sparse NFL Sunday (six teams are taking Week 6 off), Sunday’s AFC East divisional showdown between the Jets and Patriots showcase (an admittedly uglier case of) the unstoppable force meeting an immoveable object trope.

The Jets are coming out of a bye hoping to cling to the momentum of a decent second half against Atlanta in London, one that would’ve been flawless from a defensive perspective if not for a crucial touchdown drive allowed in the dying stages. Their hosts, the developing New England Patriots, have a prime opportunity to feast: they sandwiched an unfashionable win over the lowly Texans with highly respectable losing efforts against the NFC’s finest (Tampa Bay and Dallas). It’s certainly not the heights fans of the Flying Elvises are used to after they were spoiled by Tom Brady and Co. for nearly two decades, but it’s a sign that the franchise is heading in the right direction after last season’s meandering 7-9 effort.

Whether it’s fair or not, both the Jets and Patriots’ progress in their respective rebuilds, embarked upon under the supervision of a Western New York overlord, is going to be judged solely upon the performances of their rookie quarterbacks. Zach Wilson has shown flashes of brilliance but the British-based effort against the Falcons was undoubtedly a step backward. Mac Jones, on the other hand, has steadily improved with each passing (pun intended) week. The results have yet to make themselves known in the win column, but the proof is in the pudding of freshman statistics: the Alabama alum has found familiar footing, as he’s the top-ranked first-year passer in completion rate, yardage, rating, and touchdown passes. Turnovers have been a problem, but the Jets (the only team in the NFL without an interception) have done little to inspire the idea that they’re capable of forcing consistent, momentum-shifting turnovers.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the Jets to grow as they resume play after their week off. But there still isn’t a lot of evidence that they’re ready to compete with the middling Patriots. Despite a resilient defensive effort, they were soundly beaten by three possessions in the MetLife Stadium portion of the yearly series. The Foxboro affair should be closer…surely Wilson can’t throw four first-half interceptions again…but the Patriots have only gotten better since that September showdown.

The Patriots’ stranglehold of supremacy over their rivalry with the Jets is one of the final remnants of their dynasty; as they slowly mount a march toward another, don’t expect that to dissipate.

Patriots 27, Jets 16

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Dylan Price

This week the Jets travel to New England for their second matchup with the Patriots. The Patriots are coming off a tightly contested battle against the Cowboys this past weekend, one that ended in a heartbreaking overtime defeat. Mac Jones played a good game against America’s team going 15-for-21 for 229 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Jones made some sloppy plays, but that’s to be expected from a rookie thrower. The killer for the Patriots was Bill Belichick getting outcoached by Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys: Belichick was too reluctant to take chances and called too conservative of a game, calls that ultimately cost his team a high-profile win.

Meanwhile, the Jets are coming off a bye and remain 1-4, but the team went into its week off on a sour note: Just when everything was thought to be clicking after Week 4 win over Tennessee, they lost in London to the Falcons.

These are two teams looking to regain some semblance of momentum. In the last meeting, Belichick had Zach Wilson looking like Nathan Peterman. I think Wilson performs better after having extra time to prepare, and the defense likely does well. But the Patriots will likely still force the Jets to shoot themselves in the foot, so I reluctantly go with New England to win this one.

Patriots 23, Jets 10

Best of the Rest

MagliocchettiPrice
Denver @ Cleveland (Thu.)BroncosBroncos
Atlanta @ MiamiFalconsDolphins
Carolina @ NY GiantsPanthersPanthers
Cincinnati @ BaltimoreRavensRavens
Kansas City @ TennesseeChiefsChiefs
Washington @ Green BayPackersPackers
Detroit @ LA RamsRamsRams
Philadelphia @ Las VegasRaidersRaiders
Chicago @ Tampa BayBuccaneersBuccaneers
Houston @ ArizonaCardinalsCardinals
Indianapolis @ San FranciscoColts49ers
New Orleans @ Seattle (Mon.)SaintsSaints
Last Week11-310-4
Overall59-3559-35

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
Dylan Price is on Twitter @dylanprice27

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

zach wilson, jets

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

michael carter, jets

Leaders at the bye week

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

Offense: D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Defense: C+

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Teams: C+

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

robert saleh, jets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ex-NY Jets QB Geno Smith ready for chance at prime time redemption

Geno Smith, New York Jets

Smith, once the future of the New York Jets, has a chance to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career in a new opportunity in Seattle.

No matter what happens during the remainder of his NFL career, Geno Smith will go down as the answer to a trivia question asked by those who cycle through MetLife Stadium’s gates, no matter whether they wear green or blue.

For New York Jets fans, Smith is the last green thrower to toss a perfect game on the gridiron (a 158.3 passer rating) and the only one to do so in the 2010s. In the realms of New York Giants history, he’s the man who ended Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive starts under center.

Smith is finally free from the incessant spotlight of quarterbacking in the metropolitan area, one that has slightly hardened him as he tries to carve out an extended NFL path. While Smith had settled into a backup role in Seattle, a rare injury to Russell Wilson (one expected to keep him out for at least the next three weeks after he was placed on injured reserve) has thrust him back into the gridiron mainstream. His path starts on Sunday night as the Seahawks (2-3) start the process of salvaging their season in prime time against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

The visit to Pittsburgh will be Smith’s first regular season start since his infamously historic single outing as the Giants’ primary man in December 2017. The trust bestowed in Smith to help the Seahawks in their most desperate hour in a long, long time is the highest vote of confidence since former blue head coach Ben McAdoo controversially inserted Smith into the woebegone Giants’ starting lineup once they were among the earliest eliminated from the 2017-18 playoffs. McAdoo did in spite of only Manning’s streak but the prescience of then-rookie Davis Webb, who had been the Giants’ highest selection at quarterback since the instantly-traded Phillip Rivers went fourth overall on a fateful spring afternoon in 2004.

At the time, a respectable performance (21-of-34, 211 yards, a touchdown, and two lost fumbles in a 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders) wasn’t enough to withstand the fury of Giants fans eager to see their Super Bowl hero go out on any semblance of a “right” note. When McAdoo was ousted, one of the Giants’ first moves was to re-establish Manning as the top passer.

McAdoo had a parting gift for Smith upon his firing after the Oakland debacle.

“When Coach Mac was let go and left the building, I talked to him before he left, and he had told me he felt like I deserved to play the rest of the season,” Smith told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News after his metropolitan departure in 2018. “He believed in me. A lot of people did. Guys wanted me to do well. But there are some things that are out of your control.”

“I’m not going to cry cry over spilled milk over things I can’t control. That’s only going to hinder my success or progress. It just added fuel to fire, made my offseason workouts interesting because I’m working harder. That opportunity was taken away from me for whatever reason, so every time I step on the field or in weight room, that’s my motivation.”

Going into Sunday night’s crucial contest, Smith is slightly more laid back, yet still enthusiastic, as he believes he’s made the most out of the past two-plus seasons through watching Wilson work.

“It’s not like I haven’t been playing football at all. The difference is now, it’s physical reps,” Smith told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. “I’m getting all the reps. You always take mental reps and prepare that way, but this is about physical preparation as well, more than just the mental side of playing quarterback. This week was different because I’m taking physical reps, as well.”

Sunday’s return to the spotlight is nearly four years in the making: Smith spent a year as Rivers’ backup with the Los Angeles Chargers before settling in Seattle in 2019. Wilson’s durability has made the job of Pacific Northwest understudy a bit of an afterthought: Sunday night will mark the first time since New Year’s Day 2012 that someone other than “Russ” will start under center for the Seahawks (that honor going to the late Tavaris Jackson).

Yet, Smith had shown enough, primarily through his lasting starting endeavors with the Jets, that he could be a reliable contingency plan in case of an emergency. The West Virginia alum, after all, had his fleeting flashes of brilliance of green, including those earned in a prime time setting. For example, the second-round pick threw three touchdowns and engineered a game-winning field goal drive in a Monday night triumph in Atlanta as a rookie in 2013. While ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of the standings, Smith managed to provide temporary solace to the tumultuous teams of the 2010s, sending Rex Ryan out on the right note with a 37-24 win over Miami.

Seattle was partly rewarded when Smith allowed them to keep pace in yet another nationally televised instance: as the Seahawks struggled to keep pace with the mighty Los Angeles Rams, the departure of Wilson could’ve been damning.

Instead, Smith rose to the occasion, keeping the increasingly desperate Seahawks in the game through a 131-yard performance that yielded 10 points over his first two drives in the fourth quarter. The affair ended in heartbreak…Smith was forced into a Nick Scott interception when intended receiver Tyler Lockett fell down on a route…but it was enough to keep the faith amongst Seattle brass.

“If Geno is going to play for us some as Russ comes back, you know, he showed that we’re in good hands,” Carroll said in the LA aftermath, per Liz Mathews of Yahoo! Sports. “I was just proud for him and the fact that he hung with us all this time and believed in being part of this program. Then when he got his chance, he did really. That was pretty good.”

“I went right to Geno afterwards and said, you been waiting a long time for your opportunity,” Carroll told reporters. “The faith you’ve shown in our program and us to stay with us, so proud that when he got in there, he did great. He really looked good. He’s been working for that. He’s a talented football player.”

Smith now gets to prove such acument on a long-term basis. The opportunity provided in Seattle affords him a rare chance as a high-profile washout (a status granted through factors partly beyond his control) to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career and perhaps get back on the radars of teams searching for starters.

But Smith appears to be embracing this chance with a sense of healthy abandon, one set to savor every moment of this comeback.

“I’m fresh, I feel like I’m 21 years old. I’m ready!” Smith said during Pittsburgh prep, per Rapoport. “The moment is what it is. We have a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. It’s one night, not the rest of my life. Mostly, it’s a game I love to play, a game that I’m passionate about. It’s one that I prepare for and am ready for whether I get to play or not. It’s not a chance to showcase anything, that’s how I see it. I’m not going to change my stripes. I’m just looking forward to playing football.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A mock draft for the bye week

New York Jets

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

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

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

4th overall: RT Evan Neal, Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Full First Round

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Jets…so crazy it just might work?

The last thing the New York Jets need is a distraction, but the new offensive era could use an established top option at receiver.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s time working with the resurrection of one downtrodden franchise could be coming to an end. Could he assist in a new one via a return to East Rutherford?

A report from Jeff Howe of The Athletic hints that the Cleveland Browns could be moving on from the former New York Giant, who has failed to match the hype that surrounded 2019’s blockbuster trade that led to a blue-to-orange makeover. Beckham earned 1,035 yards in his first season in Cuyahoga County but an ACL injury limited him to only seven games of Cleveland’s first playoff run since 2002. He missed the first two games of this season while recovering from last year’s injury and earned 77 yards in his debut against Chicago, but has earned only 47 on four catches (10 targets) over the past two games. In that time, Cleveland’s aerial efforts have been headlined by David Njoku, Rashard Higgins, and Donovan Peoples-Jones.

There’s no guarantee that Cleveland (3-2) will ship Beckham off; the Browns earn back no cap relief if they trade him now and would save $15 million against the cap if they release him over the offseason. But a commodity like Beckham could fetch them a fine prize before the Nov. 2 trade deadline.

Should the New York Jets inquire?

At first glance, Beckham is perhaps the last thing this chapter of the Jets’ perpetual rebuild needs: they couldn’t avoid the temptation of Le’Veon Bell but stepping out of the Deshaun Watson/Antonio Brown sweepstakes turned out to be the right move. Sure, Brown won a Super Bowl, but he was part of a team effort in Tampa Bay that also featured the talents of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette…and, of course, the immortal Tom Brady.

But perhaps that’s what the Jets need: established talent in the skill position as they attempt to open a new, lasting era under center.

Even with the lack of early returns in the win column, it’s hard to quarrel with the Jets’ offseason yields. For a team that went 2-14 the year before, a spring haul of Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and draft pick Elijah Moore (not to mention retaining Jamison Crowder on a far more affordable deal) was like winning the gridiron lottery.

Each was armed with something to prove. Davis, for example, was serviceable in Nashville after entering as 2017’s fifth overall draft pick, but that didn’t stop the Tennessee Titans from adding Julio Jones to work next to A.J. Brown. Some were surprised to see Moore drop to the second round of the draft. But the Jets were still lacking a proven, established No. 1 target, and that’s haunted the early stages of the Zach Wilson era so far. There’s a strong possibility one of their current representatives can become a top target in due time, but that doesn’t do them any good in the immediate future.

That’s where Beckham can help.

Bringing Beckham back to New Jersey…and the off-the-field extracurriculars and recreation attached to it and neighboring New York City…comes with its precautions. But from an on-field perspective, the Jets could use someone with his acumen. The lack of a consistent, established big-play talent has been one of the Jets’ long-tenured issues: they haven’t had a receiver hit four digits since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker’s tandem season in the thousands back in 2015. Not only is that an eternity in football years but it should be downright impossible for a team in today’s NFL, one that worships a fantasy football deity, to not feature a 1,000-yard season. Robby Anderson might’ve been the one to break the spell but repping the Jets proved outright depressing and guided him toward Carolina.

Further assisting the Jets’ cause in a trade for Beckham, or another high-ticket deadline option, is the fact they have the capital for such deals. Parting with one of the firsts is obviously out of the question, but the Jets own eight total picks over the first four rounds of next spring’s draft. Adding a veteran asset like Ty Johnson or Denzel Mims…serviceable options who are buried on the offensive depth chart for different reasons…or Marcus Maye…whose support staff has made their interest in the trade deadline no secret…could help sweeten the pot.

Sep 16, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) runs the ball against New York Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts (27) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A doable deal for Beckham could help Wilson take the next step of his development and could even hit the fast-forward button toward it. The next question, however, is whether Beckham even would accept such a deal. He himself admitted that his “ultimate goal” is to win a Super Bowl (the disastrous, post-boat trip, visit to Green Bay in the 2016-17 NFC Wild Card playoffs is his lone postseason contest to date) and no one needs to update the Jets’ gargantuan distance from the Big Game. What he could truly use is a nice, peaceful, quiet place to hit reset on his career from a personal perspective. Beckham’s endeavors on and off the field…and the media extravaganza that often follows…don’t afford him such a luxury, but moving on to a team that’s not-as-burdened with expectations could afford him the closest thing.

Having said all that, it’s perhaps the Jets once again watch the transactional proceedings involving a star player from the side. No matter how they play the Beckham situation, it’s going to create some unwanted fanfare. Beckham is more likely to get his wish of being sent to a contender while the Jets themselves are better off developing their young aerial talent (the time, thought, and energy around a deal for Beckham is likely better spent trying to find a role for the explosive Mims).

But, provided it doesn’t derail the rest of this chapter…one armed with hope, maturation, and development despite negative early returns…the idea of Beckham joining the Jets shouldn’t be automatically erased and laughed at.

After all, at this point, what’s there to lose…for either side?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

zach wilson, jets

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye Week Grade: C-

jets, zach wilson

Dylan Price

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

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

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

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

Bye Week Grade: C

Best of the Rest

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

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

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

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

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

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

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

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

Coupling the Q Train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locking up JFT to the NYJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcoming the Trojan Horse

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

The New York Jets are resilient…but is that enough to succeed in 2021?

zach wilson, jets

The New York Jets have undoubtedly grown over the past year on the football calendar. But is this type of progress acceptable?

The modern New York Jets are a team of many labels. “Boring”, however, doesn’t make the cut. Many watch the Jets for gridiron schadenfreude and meme ammunition, but even the most relentless virtual court jesters who rely upon the Jets for their material had to take a legitimate interest in what the team had cooking in 2021.

The highly-sought Robert Saleh was granted the head coaching reins while rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was surrounded by the best offensive weaponry a 2-14 team could afford. Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Keelan Cole, Tyler Kroft, and Morgan Moses weren’t forming an All-Pro team, but each had two vital traits for a metropolitan squad in transition: postseason experience and something to prove.

It was hard to label the Jets’ 2021 expectations: they upgraded from the previous year’s group if only because anything short of folding the franchise would’ve been seen as an improvement after last season, the cursed final year of Adam Gase’s doomed tenure. There were legitimate reasons for excitement, but nothing that would allow the Jets to crash the AFC’s postseason party hosted by Kansas City and Buffalo.

Saleh, a stabilizing force for a franchise in desperate need of any footing, was kind enough to stop the debate over the Jets’ expectations during the fanfare surrounding his introductory press conference in February. The former San Francisco defensive coordinator flat out promised that the road back to NFL respectability would be paved with adversity. But he was willing to embrace such hardships with open arms in the name of growth.

michael carter, jets

“I’m genuinely excited for adversity, because a lot of different things are going to pop up,” Saleh told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated shortly after his hire. “Everybody’s going to find out a little more about themselves when adversity hits. I think that’s when teams have their greatest amount of growth, it’s through adversity…that’s what I’m most excited for. I want to see how people respond.”

Having arrived at a league-mandated landmark…their Week 6 open date traditionally granted to those partaking in the NFL International Series…with a 1-4 record premature analysis of the Saleh era has gotten underway. The latest defeat came overseas, as the Jets fell by a 27-20 final to the Atlanta Falcons in London.

There’s no use in fully assessing Saleh and Wilson; barring complete and utter disaster, they’ll return for 2022. Even the most optimistic Jets supporter would’ve been foolhardy to assume playoffs and the overwhelming standings onslaught has come to pass.

The Western New York juggernaut that rules the East division has been everything advertised and then some. A desperate wild card bid is likely already thwarted by the usual expected suspects (i.e. Cleveland, LA Chargers) and surprise surges in Denver, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas.

Developmental growth is what will define the Jets’ individual seasons and efforts until a more complete team is assembled…so what can be said about 2021?

Through five games, it’s undeniably clear that this team is blessed with resiliency, perhaps the best trait you can ask for when you’re prophetically doomed to a year of rebuilding. That trait is best on display through a defense held together with the masking tape of additions obtained through Saturdays of draft weekends past and present (i.e. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols). A unit that was supposed to be headlined by the antics of Carl Lawson, Marcus Maye, and Jarrad Davis has given way to breakout campaigns from bargain bin, end-of-camp releases like Quincy Williams and John Franklin-Myers.

quincy wilson, jets

For better or worse, the Jets have kept their fans more invested in their games from a scoreboard perspective. New York has faced sizable deficits over its first five games (summiting at a 26-point shutout margin in Denver) but they’ve had the decency…or cruelty?…to keep pace with their powerful opponents until the dam of gridiron destiny finally broke.

But while the Jets have kept things close in terms of the final score, the matters and context as to how they got there have been dubious. Sunday’s latest defeat was a prime opportunity for the Jets to cash in: they were coming off an inspiring win over division leaders from Nashville while Atlanta was missing blooming top receiver Calvin Ridley. Going up against the sputtering Falcons, whose pair of victories have come against the horrifying metropolitan duology of MetLife Stadium, could’ve been almost scripted by a pro-Jets screenwriter.

Instead, the Jets allowed the Falcons’ aging franchise quarterback to look like the Matt Ryan of old (season-best 342 yards) and heralded a Kyle Pitts breakout session (9 receptions, 119 yards, and a score). Granted, perhaps a defensive regression should’ve been expected: the unit has been carrying water for the offense all year forced to start an average drive only 65 yards away from the end zone, an NFL worse. At some point, they probably had to snap, and a breaking point of sorts came on Sunday.

But, despite that, the Jets keep things decent in their final margins, especially when removing the particularly ugly Denver outlier. For as much hullabaloo the Sam Darnold reunion caused, his new employer prevailed only by a five-point margin. After four Wilson interceptions, a visit from the New England Patriots was still only a two-possession game at the half.

So the Jets have established themselves as a resilient team, a pesky group that isn’t going to back down from a challenge and could perhaps even play up to its competition. But how long can they do this? How long can beautifying the scoreboard be a sustainable, respectable goal?

Last week’s win over the Tennessee Titans personified that best-case scenario of what the 2021 season can be: it was a win over a contender, a throat-clearing gesture to the rest of the football world that better times were finally ahead for one of professional sports’ most downtrodden and lampooned franchises. Sure, the win came as the Titans were missing the services of firey receiving options A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, but considering the long-term medical woes the Jets have endured over the first month of regular season play alone that’s hardly a valid excuse.

Wilson, the architect of 297 yards, two touchdown passes, and the Jets’ first comeback from two possessions down since December 2018, created a point on the team franchise timeline that couldn’t be ignored. Of note, was focused on not only the positives but on the work ahead as well.

zach wilson, jets

“I wouldn’t say we’ve fully arrived,” Wilson said, per Jack Bell of the team website. “This is just another puzzle piece of where I want to get. Now we have to stack the blocks. This was a step in the right direction.” Saleh concurred, noting that he hoped the win over the Titans would help the young team’s confidence “snowball”.

Alas, the opportunity to create a winning streak fell by the wayside on New White Hart Lane and leaves a sour taste in the Jets’ mouths. The lost chance to create a rare, guaranteed, three-week period of good vibes is likely not lost on a team that has embraced the low expectations and opinion the football-loving public has bestowed upon them.

Saleh, Wilson, and Co. can preach for hours on end about the Jets’ growth and development, how pleased they are in what they’re building. But all that means nothing if they can’t prove their progress in the most important…or at the very least most conventional…metrics: the win column and the three-hour windows on Sunday afternoon (or, in the London case, morning). Improving the former is a little too much to ask for, but the team can hardly prove that they’re moving in the right direction when they’re falling behind by two possessions in each of its games.

The Jets have been macabrely blessed with the gift of the fact that this season is an automatic improvement over last year’s disaster. But that doesn’t mean they have to be satisfied with it.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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

New York Jets

The New York Jets took a few steps forward after a brutal first half, but their overseas comeback effort fell just short.

Deja vu flirted with the New York Jets, but Gang Green couldn’t seal the international deal against the Atlanta Falcons.

Matt Ryan threw for 342 yards, 119 of which went to rookie Kyle Pitts. The fourth overall pick from April’s Draft proceedings also had a touchdown alongside fellow tight end Hayden Hurst as Atlanta escaped with a 27-20 victory after the Jets nearly came back from three possessions down. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson had rushing touchdowns for the Jets (1-4) while Zach Wilson threw his ninth interception of the season as Atlanta built its early lead. The loss comes after the Jets erased a nine-point lead against the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium.

Both the Jets and Falcons (2-3) will now take the standard week off granted to teams that partake in overseas contests. New York re-opens its season on Oct. 24 as they head up to Foxboro to battle the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

ESM has three game balls to bestow as silver linings from this latest loss…

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Ty Johnson: 4 carries, 12 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions, 22 yards
  • WR Corey Davis: 4 receptions, 45 yards
  • WR Keelan Cole: 2 receptions, 38 yards
  • WR Denzel Mims: 2 receptions, 33 yards
  • WR Jamison Crowder: 4 receptions, 24 yards, two-point conversion
  • CB Bryce Hall: 7 tackles, 2 passes defended
  • CB Brandin Echols: 9 tackles

3rd Star: LB C.J. Mosley

8 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Mosley’s reintroduction to the NFL has been a wonder to behold. He temporarily transferred momentum to the Jets’ side by forcing a fumble from Hurst when Atlanta entered the red zone again. His cough-up was recovered by Michael Carter II and the Jets embarked on a 16-play drive that netted a Matt Ammendola field goal.

2nd Star: RB Michael Carter

10 carries, 38 yards, 3 receptions, 20 yards

Despite some solid contributions from Johnson, Carter’s takeover of the primary rushing duties took another step forward on Sunday. The Jets’ best first down yardage came from Carter touches, ones that set the Jets up handsomely on the latter strikes. With his Sunday score, Carter is one of only three rookie running backs to visit the end zone twice. He also capitalized on extended duties through the air, his three receptions sitting behind only Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder.

1st Star: LB Quincy Williams

8 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 QB hit

The Jets’ pass rush struggled to build upon the momentum established against the Tennessee Titans last week, failing to get to Ryan at any point in London. Williams did what he could to establish pressure and once again stifled a dangerous run game with some clutch takedowns. He also forced two fumbles in the second half: another forced from Hurst bounced harmlessly out of bounds but another taken away from Mike Davis and recovered by Shaq Lawson stopped an Atlanta drive in New York territory.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags