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

robert saleh, jets

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

New York Jets 6 (0-2)

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

New England Patriots 25 (1-1)

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

Offense: D+

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

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

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

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

Defense: C+

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

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

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

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

Special Teams: C+

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

The New York Jets run game has a huge opportunity ahead

michael carter, jets

As Zach Wilson struggles to find his NFL footing, the New York Jets’ run game could become a vital source of offensive stability.

Offensive salvation may have made its way to the New York Jets through the 2021 NFL Draft. But the Cleveland-based gift might’ve arrived not on Thursday of the proceedings…but Saturday.

To the surprise of no rational Jets fan, Zach Wilson’s arrival wasn’t a one-size-fits-all instant fix for New York’s green team. Calling for Wilson’s dismissal and closing the book on his Jets career after two games is asinine but there’s no denying that Gang Green needs to develop some sort of offensive momentum, even if the results don’t translate on the scoreboard.

As one rookie has faltered, it might be prudent to turn over further trust to another: It may be time to give the Michael Carter project a jumpstart…the running back, that is (though the similarly-named safety has likewise done his part on defense).

Yes, turning the offensive reigns over to a rushing attack seems archaic by 2021’s professional football standards. But, as we know by now, the Jets aren’t really in any position to turn any form of offensive assistance. The unit has pulled itself out of the cesspool that Adam Gase dragged them into, as their 336-yard output on Sunday against New England bested their tallies in all but two games from last season. But if the Jets want to look at a 2021 season that likely won’t end in the postseason with proud eyes, they need to push the offense in the right direction.

Nothing more needs to be written about the Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback but a leading rusher has proven equally elusive. No Jets rusher has reached four digits in yardage since Chris Ivory in 2015, three years after Shonn Greene became the most recent homegrown back to do so.

It’s incredibly easy to understand why the Jets would be reluctant to turn over major offensive responsibilities to the run game. The last time they tried that, they got burdened with Le’Veon Bell drama and $4 million in dead cap space. It’s going to be a long time before the Jets ever break the bank open for a rusher and they’re not exactly hiding their minimalist approach: whereas Bell’s four-year deal was worth $52 million, the contracts of the six rushers currently stationed on the Jets’ roster are worth just about a quarter of that.

But the bargain bin, as anyone who has spent ten minutes in their local Target can testify, can yield delightful prizes. The early returns on Carter, and some of his rushing compatriots, suggest he could become a buried cult classic, like a copy of Idiocracy with a $3.99 price sticker. The Meadowlands complex is well-known for hosting the game-changing antics of one North Carolina alum with the surname of Carter. A path is set for another to do the same.

Carter has the makings of a popular fantasy football waiver wire option as the season goes on. The former Tar Heel, subtly slid under the radar in the fourth round as April became May. He currently stands as the fourth-leading rusher in Chapel Hill history, ahead of tenured NFL veterans like Natrone Means and Gio Bernard.

michael carter, jets

The Jets’ rushing situation in the post-Bell era was in a state of flux upon his arrival: Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, and La’Mical Perine (the latter being a fourth-round choice in 2020’s virtual proceedings) were denied extended opportunities in a lost season thanks to the Frank Gore retirement tour while the team also added two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman to the fold on a cheap one-year deal. There was an unspoken understanding that a committee-like approach awaited once the season got underway.

Yet, there was something about Carter’s skillset, praised for his physicality, size, and off-tackle abilities, that convinced observers that he would break away from the pack sooner rather than later. Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur might’ve seen it coming through training camp comments from team reporter Randy Lange.

“He’s got such a good feel for holes and space,” LaFleur said in August. “When you think he’s about to hit something, he’s so tight to the ground and under control that you never really know where he’s going, but it always seems like he makes the right decision.”

That takeover might’ve come earlier than even his most optimistic believers anticipated.

The Jets’ finest offensive outputs came when they turned to Carter on Sunday. He was responsible for a third of the Jets’ 18 first downs (earning the necessary yardage on six of his 13 touches), totaling 88 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Jets rookie running back since Elijah McGuire had 131 in an October 2017 tilt against Jacksonville. Making things all the more impressive was the fact that Carter broke loose on an afternoon where the Jets were without offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton.

It was a performance that head coach Robert Saleh defined as “electric” in the aftermath of the team’s 11th consecutive loss to the Patriots. Saleh praised the way that the run game performed in general, as Johnson put up 50 yards through a dozen carries while Coleman had 24 on five. But he hinted that Carter may be developing the anticipated separation amongst the speedy trio.

“He was running his tail off (on Monday),” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “All three backs I thought showed up to play, but hats off to Michael.”

In addition to Carter’s progress, the Jets also continued to be enthused by veteran Ty Johnson. The former Detroit Lion has become a valuable find on the in-season free agency market, averaging 4.6 yards an attempt since donning a green uniform for the first time in October 2020.

As Wilson continues to deal with the dangerous obstacles traditionally thrown toward a rookie NFL quarterback’s way, the Jets need to find some sort of offensive stability. Both Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur know what it means to lean on a potent rushing attack in lieu of an established quarterback. LaFleur recalled just how important a ground attack led by Coleman, Raheem Mostert, and Matt Breida was in a Super Bowl bowl trek. Last year’s group, with Mostert joining Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, and Jamycal Hasty, helped partially alleviate an injury report that resembled a Pro Bowl roster.

“The run game, in general, is just critical, that’s what we all firmly believe,” LaFleur said in Lange’s aforementioned camp report. “If you can’t run the ball in this league, it gets really hard to throw the ball. There (are) only a few quarterbacks in the history of time that can just drop back and pick people apart and go up and down the field.”

Despite LaFleur’s insistence on having a good run game, the Jets rank in the bottom half of the league’s rushing attempts with 48 compared to 70 passes for Wilson, which currently ranks at the bottom of the top half. In addition to not wearing down Wilson (five of the top ten rookie quarterbacks with the most pass attempts since 2015 are no longer with the team that drafted them), both he and the team need to be as potent as possible, generate as much positive momentum as they can in a year that more than likely won’t end with the Jets’ among the 14 postseason squads.

A strong run game, mere inches away from him in the backfield, could be the perfect way to do that.

The Jets return to action on Sunday afternoon on the road against the Denver Broncos (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

The New York Jets could come to regret not adding an experienced QB

The New York Jets’ backup quarterback conundrum was thrust back into the spotlight when Zach Wilson struggled in Sunday’s home opener.

Two games into the Zach Wilson era, the New York Jets are once again embroiled in a quarterback controversy.

Rest assured, this isn’t a call to usurp Wilson from the Jets’ passing throne, even if many Gang Green supporters potentially did so (even facetiously) after being granted entry to MetLife Stadium for a regular season game for the first time since December 2019 on Sunday. Sam Darnold’s strong early returns in Charlotte have done nothing to quell the storm surrounding Wilson, whose 56.1 passer rating ranks dead last amongst 33 qualified NFL passers.

A four-interception outing during the Jets’ 2021 home opener, a 25-6 defeat at the hands of the Patriots, caused the statistical sinking. The road gets no easier with a visit to the Rocky Mountains to battle the undefeated Denver Broncos and their third-ranked defense (251.5 yards allowed) per game looming this coming Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Even the most naive and optimistic Jets fans had to know that Wilson’s rookie season was going to feature some growing pains. But it’d help if Wilson had some form of on-field assistance and guidance to work through them. Yes, the Jets prepared for Wilson’s arrival by replenishing their offensive cabinet (Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Alijah Vera-Tucker, etc.)…but they need a veteran backup thrower.

As Wilson’s Sunday passer rating continued to numerically resemble the bullpen ERA of New York’s woebegone baseball squads, some began to ponder if leaving him in to clean up the mess his turnovers created was the right move. It was prudent to keep Wilson in the game as the score worsened, as it presented a rare chance for him to build confidence in a consequence-free situation. But Wilson probably could’ve used a veteran voice in his ear to help him work through his tumultuous first taste of NFL regular season action.

Even if the Jets wanted to remove Wilson from Sunday’s carnage, it’s hard to say their current contingency plan would’ve beautified the situation. Mike White appears to be stuck in some sort of gridiron limbo, a quarterback whose first professional passes (in the regular season, anyway) are more likely destined for the third iteration of the XFL than Sundays in the fall. Even if the Jets were to mount an unlikely playoff push, White isn’t exactly the best option in case of a Wilson medical emergency. The South Florida/Western Kentucky alum’s NFL experience has been exclusively limited to preseason work and even that (71.5 passer rating over three summers with New York and Dallas) hasn’t been inspiring.

One of the more unfortunate parts of the affair is that the Jets are actively employing a quarterback who has been there and done this before, a veteran with a multitude of professional experience under his belt. Alas, Josh Johnson has been stashed on the practice squad, his services open to any team in need of an emergency veteran option.

What’s even more puzzling about this situation is that the Jets know just how valuable a veteran backup quarterback can be. Head coach Robert Saleh has repeatedly declared his reluctance to add a veteran backup for tradition’s sake. But recent history should’ve pushed the Jets in that direction.

Darnold’s finest New York hours, for example, came in the shadow of another well-traveled veteran: Josh McCown. Brought in as an emergency starter in 2017, McCown took Darnold under his wing during the latter’s rookie season and put him on a path to success. Darnold credited a sterling stretch at the end of year one (99.1 passer rating, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception, a comeback win over Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills over his final four freshman games) to observing and working with McCown.

“(I watched) the way he went about studying the plays that are in the game plan, it’s literally everything, walkthrough, practice, how he treated everything,” Darnold told reporters of McCown’s impact in December 2018. “I think it was just awesome to be able to learn (from) and watch him.”

A similar situation served as a subplot in the Jets’ most recent glory days: in helping the Jets reach the latter of consecutive AFC title game appearances, Mark Sanchez had the therapeutic services of Mark Brunell, the architect of Jacksonville’s conference championship game visits toward the turn of the century. Under Brunell’s watch, Sanchez posted the finest numbers of his career. In the five years after Brunell’s retirement, the rest of his career was anchored down by 31 touchdowns and 38 interceptions over 32 games in New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Washington. With Brunell behind him, he had 43 touchdowns and 31 interceptions over 32 starts, posting a 19-13 record as a starter in that span.

Sanchez would later fulfill a similar role with the Cowboys during the 2016 season, helping oversee Dak Prescott’s breakout freshman season in the absence of the injured Tony Romo.

Even in the fickle, hard-to-please world of NFL quarterbacking, Sanchez was happy to embrace the role of a mentor. The pair partook in a 13-win season for the Cowboys, matching their best victory tally in the new century.

“I don’t want to cloud (his) head, but from my experience, I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what happened to me,” Sanchez said at the time, per Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News. The former Jet went on to recall a humorous incident during Dallas’ October visit to Green Bay, in which he heard that a “crazed fan” attacked Prescott after leading a 97-yard, 33-second scoring drive just before the half. That lunatic turned out to be Sanchez, the afternoon’s backup and the first person to greet Prescott following the game-changing drive, which ended on a 20-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler.

Shortly before that possession, Dallas was reeling from a pair of Prescott fumbles (one lost, one forcing America’s Team to resign itself to a field goal) that allowed Green Bay to linger in a crucial NFC showdown. Cameras caught Prescott in constant contact with Sanchez after the miscues, which accounted for some of the first blemishes on his NFL ledger. Prescott had entered that anticipated matchup with just a single lost fumble to his name.

Not only did that drive of recovery permanently shift momentum into Dallas’ corner (taking a 17-6 lead into the halftime break en route to a 30-16 triumph) but it arguably sealed Prescott’s destiny as the Cowboys’ franchise quarterback.

“I jumped on him because I was so just happy for him, because you talk about coming back from adversity and he hadn’t really faced it yet,” Sanchez said in Hairopoulos’ report. “On the road, they’re trying to call timeouts to get the ball back and he takes it (97) yards. That was awesome.”

That’s quite an impact for a guy with 18 passes with a star on his helmet to leave on an organization.

Barring injury or an absolute meltdown…say, consecutive games with an imperfect 0.0 passer rating…it would be foolhardy to bench Wilson at any point this season. The Jets’ current situation enured that the playoffs were a long-shot right from the get-go. but this season still offers a bittersweet gift in the sense that he (and the rest of the fledgling Jets) gets 17 consequence-free opportunities to find himself and crack open the dangerous yet euphoric puzzle box that is passing success in the NFL.

Unless the Jets miraculously convince the Kansas City Chiefs to send Patrick Mahomes their way, no one wants to see anyone other than Wilson under center for the Jets this year. This is his time to work things out, to build confidence for the road ahead.

The Jets has spent the last five decades search for the long-sought successor to Joe Namath. Their failure to add a veteran, on-field quarterback in these vital hours of development only eliminates more clues and landmarks toward ending that hunt.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: 3 silver linings from another loss to New England

robert saleh, jets

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

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

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

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

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

Get Carter (More Touches)

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

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

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

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

Defensive Fine

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

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

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

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

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

BB’s Great

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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

michael carter, jets

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

New quarterback, same painful result.

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

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

Honorable Mentions

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

3rd Star: WR Braxton Berrios

7 receptions, 73 yards

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

2nd Star: S Marcus Maye

6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

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

1st Star: RB Michael Carter

11 carries, 59 yards, 2 receptions, 29 yards

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Now’s not the time to worry about Denzel Mims

The receiver’s predicament is worth keeping an eye on, but the New York Jets have bigger, broader things to worry about.

For all the talk about the New York Jets’ perpetual search for a franchise quarterback, metropolitan football has been equally bereft of a homegrown big-play receiver.

It has been nearly 15 seasons since a receiver that originally began his career with the Jets reached four digits in yardage (Jerricho Cotchery in 2007). The Jets have had some offensive teases since then: Robby Anderson was a diamond in the rough of the undrafted, but the Adam Gase era caused him to “lose his love” for the game. Day three Quincy Enunwa came close but saw his metropolitan career eaten away by injury.

Denzel Mims was supposed to end that streak during 2020’s virtual draft. Brought in from the offensive Valhalla that is Baylor, Mims’ arrival was the sweetest of consolation prizes: the Jets passed on several elite receiving talents to draft offensive line anchor Mekhi Becton. While the offensive line required undeniable assistance, it left the Sam Darnold era without the talents of a high-profile receiver. Jamison Crowder had done well in the slot but Darnold’s top options by conventional means consisted of first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman) and antiques from New England (Chris Hogan).

When Mims fell into their lap at 59th overall, Joe Douglas appeared to have pulled off an Ocean’s-style heist: he not only got Darnold his protection but topped it off with weaponry, a potent talent that contributed 28 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards to Waco’s gridiron cause. His name is frequently mentioned in the offensive chapters of the Bears’ record books, appearing alongside collegiate legends like K.D Cannon, Corey Coleman, Tevin Reese, Terrance Williams, and Kendall Wright. That group brought Baylor football to unprecedented modern heights: Mims’ senior squad, for example, went to Sugar Bowl and finished 13th in the final Associated Press poll, the program’s best showing since 1960.

Through the Waco experience, Mims knew what it was like to prop up one historically downtrodden green football franchise. Many expected him to do so with another up north. Alas, Mims has instead become the latest victim of whatever gridiron demon has refused to loosen the grip it has held on the Jets for the last five decades.

True to metropolitan form, Mims’ professional career was beset by factors behind his control. Issues with each of his hamstrings kept him out of training camp activities already handicapped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such ailments cost Mims nearly half of his 2021 season but he left an impact in his limited time: his 357 yards were good for fourth on the woebegone 2020 Jets despite his early absence with 106 of that haul tallied after the catch. The 15.5 yards earned per catch was seventh amongst rookie receivers with 20 catches.

Mims’ mini-emergence didn’t stop the Jets’ new powers that be on the coaching staff from revamping the receiver’s cabinet. They added Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and used another second-round pick on Elijah Moore. The emergence of the newcomers shifted Mims into the background during training camp and his role has been furthered reduced in the infantile stages of the regular season.

By now, anyone with a passing interest in Jets football knows that Mims partook in only three snaps of the Jets’ opening weekend loss in Carolina. Mims carried on the theme of taking advantage of making the most of whatever scraps were offered to him: his 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter set up the Jets’ final touchdown of a 19-14 final.

Asked about the brewing controversy as the Jets prepare for Sunday’s home opener against New England (1 p.m. ET, CBS), head coach Robert Saleh addressed the Mims restriction. He first blamed the Jets’ stagnant pace in the first half but a far more blunt reveal awaited.

“In that first half, (there were) a lot of three-and-outs, a lot of short drives…Because of it, those (starting) receivers were able to play,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “You roll with your top three guys and if they need a break, that’s where the other guys step in.”

“Mims (has) been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day but, he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh continued. “If the Z, the F or, the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”

Saleh continued to insist that the timing of the game was the primary reason behind Mims’ de facto benching, but his comments suggested something slightly more troubling: Mims simply hasn’t earned extended opportunities.

To that end…there’s little issue.

 Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After the sad circus atmosphere of the Gase era, one no doubt exacerbated assistants like Gregg Williams, Jets fans yearned for accountability from the team’s new boss. Todd Bowles, reborn in Tampa Bay, was beloved by his players but his stoic to a fault personality ran its course. Gase spent half of his public comments insisting that he wasn’t verbally sparring with the franchise’s more renowned faces.

Now, a new coach comes armed with a quotable promise: All Gas, No Brake. If a player isn’t living up to those requirements, it stands to reason that the offender will not earn prime opportunities. It just so happens that a well-invested, supposedly indispensable part of the eternal rebuild’s latest chapter is the subject this time around.

Isn’t this form of accountability that Jets fans wanted and yearned for?

It’s fair for frustration to linger, especially when one looks back at the post-Mims draft board: Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn and Washington rusher Antonio Gibson were among those chosen in the immediate ten picks after him. Mims’ situation is definitely worth monitoring for the rest of the season. But the Jets have far greater, immediate issues to worry about.

If the Jets’ biggest issue was a receiver at an early crossroads in Week 2, they would be very, very lucky. Alas, that’s not the New York way. There are far bigger issues to worry about at this point in time, including how the offensive line is going to tread water until Mekhi Becton comes back…and the group is already reeling from a performance that saw them let up six sacks with Becton in town. The Jets’ defensive issues are also broadly on display through a lack of experience in the secondary, and those issues don’t even account for the vital financial decision looming around Marcus Maye’s future.

The soothing about this situation is that there’s plenty of time for Mims to restabilize his infantile NFL career and his attitude has never been a problem. He’s had every reason to curse the football gods for his current predicament…a chance to prove himself during training camp was partially erased by a bout with food poisoning…but he’s been ready to embrace all opportunities presented to him.

“You always got to battle each and every day no matter where you’re at,” Mims said during camp, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “You can be starting at X or (be the) number one receiver, you gotta battle each and every day because you slack and someone else can come take your spot.”

“I just got to focus on my job and just continue to be myself and focus on my craft so I can get better. If you worry, you won’t get (any) better.”

The apparent experiment in discipline isn’t to say that Saleh and his staff are infallible. If anything, this further shortens a metropolitan honeymoon that’s never lengthy. The pressure particularly rises on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who must find forge a role for a pricey, talented target.

But this is nowhere near the Jets’ largest issue. If only, many inside and outside the organization likely believe, that was the case.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder activated from COVID-19 list

The New York Jets’ most potent offensive weapon from the last two seasons will be available for the team’s home opener against New England.

The New York Jets announced the activation of receiver Jamison Crowder from the COVID-19 list on Thursday. Crowder will be available to partake in the Jets’ Week 2 contest, their home opener against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Former of Washington, Crowder is set to enter his third season with the Jets. In that span, he has developed into one of the league’s most reliable slot receivers. He has been the team’s most consistent offensive producer over the last two seasons, earning 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, 12 of which went for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for a team-high over the last two seasons.

Crowder inked a three-year, $28.5 million deal in March 2019. He restructured his deal over this offseason, one centered around a $4.5 million guaranteed salary. The Duke alum was on the reserve list after testing positive on September 3.

The Jets (0-1) were without two of their top receivers during their season opener on Sunday, a 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Keelan Cole, who was acquired from Jacksonville over the most recent offseason, missed the contest with a knee injury and has been limited in practice this week. Zach Wilson threw for 258 yards in Sunday’s defeat, while Corey Davis paced the team with 97 yards on seven receptions. Braxton Berrios (5 receptions, 51 yards) took over Crowder’s duties in the slot.

“Those guys do things the right way,” Saleh said of Cole and Crowder, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “They’re where they’re supposed to be. They’re all gas 100% of the time. They’re reliable. For a quarterback, you can’t ask for much more than that. To have two more options on the field for the quarterback is priceless.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

Reeling from several injuries from their opener, the road ahead gets no easier for the New York Jets, who face an angry Patriots squad.

  • What: New England Patriots (0-1) at New York Jets (0-1)
  • Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
  • When: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
  • Watch: CBS
 (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Geoff Magliocchetti

If one were scripting the Robert Saleh era for the big screen, the subplot of his Jets opening up their MetLife Stadium slate and harkening the return of fans against the hated Patriots would likely be rejected for its lack of subtlety. Nonetheless, it’s what the powers-that-be at the NFL asked for.

There would be no better way to welcome supporters back and kick off the Saleh era on the right note than ending several dubious streaks against New England. The Patriots haven’t lost at MetLife Stadium since 2015. Their last regulation loss on Route 3 came in MetLife’s current parking lot, then known as Giants Stadium, in 2009. Overall, the Patriots have won ten straight against the Jets. Even New England’s struggles in year one A.B. (After Brady) weren’t enough for the Jets to steal a victory, though they needed every inch of clock to win the November showing in the Garden State.

One of the attainable goals for the modern Gang Green should be to earn a showcase victory or two, a throat-clearing gesture that would warn the football world that this isn’t your father’s Jets, your older brother’s Jets…heck, your twin brother’s Jets. Finally flipping the script on this one-sided rivalry would certainly be one way to do that, especially with green fans walking through MetLife’s turnstiles for a meaningful game for the first time since December 2019.

But circumstances aren’t tilted in the Jets’ favor: the 2021 NFL season is only a week old, but the Jets have suffered at least a month’s worth of medically-induced calamities, one that that has turned their injury ledger into the top of a depth chart. Everyone knew that Carl Lawson and Jarrad Davis wouldn’t be ready to go for the return to East Rutherford but the kickoff contest in Carolina erased Mekhi Becton, Lamarcus Joyner, and Blake Cashman, each of whom landed on injured reserve. Another fallen starter, linebacker Jamien Sherwood, avoided major catastrophe, but will still miss New England’s visit.

The makeshift Jets deserve a lot of credit for what happened in Carolina, particularly in a second half won by a 14-3 margin. Alas, in what’s set to become a recurring theme in 2021, many of the green victories won’t be seen on the scoreboard. Asking this ragtag group, one that has already had to seek sizable help from abroad, to not only exorcise some bad Boston-based juju but to conquer a Bill Belichick-led team that’s no doubt still peeved over dropping a winnable divisional contest is too much at this point.

Patriots 24, Jets 17

zach wilson, jets

Brendan Carpenter

The Jets’ future fell just short to their past Sunday, as Sam Darnold and the Panthers came away victorious in a 19-14 final. While they didn’t get the win, there are some positives to be taken away regarding the offense that should have them excited for the home opener against the Patriots this weekend.

For starters, Zach Wilson looked poised, collected, and exciting. He made those eye-popping throws that fans rave about, most notably ones that were caught by Corey Davis for a touchdown and a potential deep-gain that was dropped by Elijah Moore. The downside of seeing him make those throws? They almost all came after horrible blocking and breakdowns by the offensive line.

The offensive line needs to hold up better against New England, a task made all the more difficult now that Mekhi Becton is out. The offensive line should play better throughout, though, and won’t be the deciding factor: that burden instead falls to the defense.

The young secondary played well in Week 1 and the Patriots’ receivers aren’t as lethal as they were in years past, so that should be encouraging. However, the Jets are going to have to bring more pressure against Mac Jones and make him uncomfortable because if they don’t, he’ll dissect the defense. If that happens, game over.

The biggest thing the Jets’ defense has to do, though, is what they didn’t do against Carolina: they allowed 93 receiving yards to Panther running backs (namely Christian McCaffrey). The Patriots have James White, who had six catches in Week 1’s loss to Miami. Linebackers will need to make watching the running backs, even during passing plays, a priority.

The Jets will have their work cut out for them against a team that has, putting it nicely, had their number for the last decade-plus. With defensive injuries to linebackers Blake Cashman and Jamien Sherwood and safety Lamarcus Joyner, they’re thin. The offense will play better but the defense will seemingly have some difficulty.

Patriots 27, Jets 21

 (Photo By Streeter Lecka)

Dylan Price

The Jets dropped Sunday’s opener to the Panthers in a 19-14 outing. Gang Green came out of the gates with a first half that could be described as abysmal at best. Blockers failed to protect Zach Wilson, who had little to no time in the pocket. The defense was worn out as the Panthers controlled the time of possession throughout the first half.

In the second half, though, we saw a different team. The offensive line still struggled, but the team finished the game with momentum. Heading into Sunday, the Jets’ two largest challenges will be the offensive line and containing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. The Jets’ defense should have a chance to capitalize on the inexperienced Mac Jones, especially if the secondary can replicate Sunday’s second half performance. Ultimately, I foresee a tight game that ends with the Patriots narrowly etching out the win.

Patriots 20, Jets 17

Best of the Rest

Magliocchetti Carpenter Price
NY Giants @ Washington (Thu.) Giants Football Team Football Team
Buffalo @ Miami Bills Bills Bills
Cincinnati @ Chicago Bears Bengals Bengals
Denver @ Jacksonville Broncos Broncos Broncos
Houston @ Cleveland Browns Browns Browns
Las Vegas @ Pittsburgh Steelers Raiders Raiders
LA Rams @ Indianapolis Rams Rams Rams
New Orleans @ Carolina Saints Saints Saints
San Francisco @ Philadelphia 49ers 49ers 49ers
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers Buccaneers
Minnesota @ Arizona Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals
Dallas @ LA Chargers Cowboys Cowboys Chargers
Tennessee @ Seattle Titans Seahawks Seahawks
Kansas City @ Baltimore Ravens Chiefs Chiefs
Detroit @ Green Bay (Mon.) Packers Packers Lions
Last Week 7-9 7-9 6-10

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Now what? Solutions to the New York Jets’ injury woes

mekhi becton, jets

The New York Jets’ injury report resembles the top of its depth chart. What can they do to hold down the fort in the early going?

There are growing pains, and then there’s what Robert Saleh has had to deal with within his first 24 hours of being a ledgered head coach of the New York Jets.

In his comments from the aftermath of a 19-14 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers, Saleh’s injury updates resembled the unveiling of the Jets’ starting lineup seen shortly after kickoff during Sunday broadcasts. The headliner is offensive tackle and 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton, who’s out for at least four weeks after dislocating his kneecap on the Jets’ first scoring play of the afternoon.

For Saleh, adaptation after intervention from the football gods is nothing new. He had to work through several medically-induced absences during his final year as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator last season, posting respectable results after losing Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, K’Wuan Williams, and Richard Sherman, among others, to injuries. He hinted that help from abroad may be on the horizon.

“There’s going to be talks, obviously,” Saleh said per notes from the Jets. “(General manager Joe Douglas) and his staff getting together and gathering names, but there are going to have to be some additions.”

The Jets have four games left prior to their Week 6 sabbatical, starting with Sunday’s home opener against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS). ESM looks at each affected area and ponders the Jets’ next moves…

Offensive Line

Of Saleh’s subtractions, none may be more glaring that than the loss of Becton, the Jets’ anchor of the offensive line and their top pick from the 2020 draft. The Jets’ Sunday protection looked scary enough with Becton there: Zach Wilson was sacked six times and Jets rushers put up less than three yards a carry.

Saleh claimed that Becton’s departure may not be a death blow in part due to his limited prep time going into the 2021 season: injuries limited the Louisville alum to two practices in the “two or three weeks” leading up to game day in Carolina. Saleh confirmed that George Fant will assume Becton’s duties on the blindside while Morgan Moses will fill in for Fant on the right, as was the case on Sunday afternoon in Carolina. Becton is not expected to undergo surgery, but that could change if a second opinion recommends such a measure.

The Jets’ blocking depth took a hit before the season started: Connor McDermott and Becton’s fellow 2020 selection Cameron Clark linger on injured reserve and won’t be eligible to come back until Week 4. Jimmy Murray, Isaiah Williams, and undrafted rookie Grant Hermanns were part of the Jets’ final cuts from training camp but were retained on the practice squad. A promotion or two may be in the cards.

But simple promotions haven’t been the Douglas way: in making up for the blocking negligence of the Mike Maccagnan era, Douglas has left no stone unturned, no matter how seasoned that stone may be. His first moves upon taking office were to trade for Alex Lewis from Baltimore and convince Ryan Kalil to postpone his retirement. The trend continued this offseason when the team added Moses in the latter stages of the pre-training camp slate.

Not everything has worked out, but that’s probably not going to deter the proactive Douglas. Most available names have shown a preference for the right, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Douglas nonetheless inquire. Asking for a name like Russell Okung might be a stretch, but the team could possibly take a waiver on someone like veteran Ricky Wagner or Chaz Green. An intriguing journeyman to watch could be Corbin Kaufusi, a former metropolitan practice squad rep (2019-20) whose time at BYU overlapped with Zach Wilson’s by a year (2018).

Linebacker

A rare sign of good medical news in the linebacking corps…that in the fact that C.J. Mosley was finally able to complete a game for the first time in his Jets career…was immediately offset by further calamities. Blake Cashman has return to the injury report with a hamstring issue while Jamien Sherwood sprained his ankle in his NFL debut. Each is expected to miss two weeks.

New York was already missing one potentially sizable contributor in Jarrad Davis, who was lost in the preseason visit to Green Bay. Del’Shawn Phillips filled in serviceably on Sunday, earning a team-best dozen tackles in defeat. Formerly of Buffalo, Phillips should remain on the active roster after his recent promotion from the practice squad.

The signing of Quincy Williams after cuts toward the original 53-man rosters feel particularly timely. He was inactive for Sunday’s game but he should be ready for the home opener. The older brother of Quinnen, the Jets renowned third-year defender, has starting experience from his two seasons in Jacksonville but, perhaps more importantly, has a long-term NFL case to prove.

“We care about winning football games. That’s all that matters to us. He is not just Q’s brother. We want to win,” Quinnen said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “Whether he’s my brother or not, we play football games to win, not to lose. He needs to come in and put (his) best foot forward every day, and we need to hold each other accountable.”

Despite the emergence of Phillips and the potential arrival of the elder Williams, the Jets will likely look to practice squads and free agency for assistance. Several former Jets linger on the latter front, including Avery Williamson and James Burgess.

Safety

Enough has been written about the Jets’ problems and lack of experience at cornerback, but the makeshift group held its own on Sunday. Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II, and Javelin Guidry united to allow only 77 yards and four first downs.

The true issues lied at safety, where some inopportune deep balls led to the Jets’ demise. Lamarcus Joyner was forced to leave the game early with an elbow issue, which Saleh as since diagnosed as torn tendons that will keep him out for remainder of the season. Sheldrick Redwine, a final cut from Cleveland, took over in Joyner’s wake. Alas, his lasting mark from Sunday’s game was getting victimized by the long scoring hook-up between Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson that helped Carolina break the game open.

Joyner was already standing in for Ashtyn Davis, who’s stuck on injured reserve (along with another safety, Sharrod Neasman). Neither will be back until Week 4. It’s thus inevitable that the Jets will seek further assistance elsewhere. Adrian Colbert, another recent practice squad promotee, is likely on board to stay.

Punter

The Jets will be without sophomore punter Braden Mann for 4-6 weeks, suffering a knee injury on his second attempt of the day. Mann made several trips in and out of the medical tent and was later seen pacing the sidelines in a knee brace on his left leg. According to Saleh, Mann’s situation is not expected to require surgery.

One almost wouldn’t blame the Jets if they stood pat at punter: Matt Ammendola stepped in and wound up amongst the league’s Week 1 leaders. The 65-yard boot on his second attempt was the best individual effort amongst Sunday competitors. But there’s no use in wearing down Ammendola, especially with kicker being such a vital role for an offense in transition. Saleh declared that the Jets will work out several legs.

It’s a surprisingly opportune time to be searching for a punter from a Jets standpoint, as several veteran names linger on the open market. Thomas Morestead is a former Pro Bowler from New Orleans while two entries from the Colquitt punting dynasty (Britton and Dustin) are also available. Chris Jones recently wrapped a decade-long stretch as Dallas’ fourth-down man. The Jets probably aren’t looking for a long-term solution here, as they have a little something invested in the sophomore Mann, a sixth-round choice from 2020.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Ashtyn Davis, Vinny Curry set to miss Week 1

Head coach Robert Saleh announced on Wednesday that the New York Jets will be without two key defenders come opening day in Carolina.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh broke some tough news as training camp practices commenced on Wednesday.

By a “conservative” estimate, safety Ashtyn Davis won’t come off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list until the Jets’ home opener in Week 2 against New England. Saleh likewise predicted that Vinny Curry would also miss the Jets’ kickoff weekend showdown with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on September 12.

According to Saleh, Davis’ problem is the same foot injury that kept him out of the final four games of last season. Davis, a third-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley in last year’s virtual draft, is expected to take on a larger role in the strong safety spot. Veteran newcomer Lamarcus Joyner will likely take on an expanded role, backed by fellow acquisition Sharrod Neasman and former XFL representative Elijah Campbell.

As for Curry, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, Saleh mentioned that an offseason procedure “is going to hold him up”. The Super Bowl champion spent parts of last season on injured reserve with a hamstring issue that cost him four games.

Saleh’s injury updates weren’t fully dire. The head coach mentioned that both Quinnen Williams and Kyle Phillips are anticipated to be ready for the Jets’ visit to Green Bay during the second week of the preseason. New York will partake in joint practice sessions with the Packers before an exhibition battle on August 21.

The head coach went into a little more detail on Williams, whose return is one of the most anticipated of the season after his breakthrough sophomore season. Williams has been sidelined with a foot injury suffered while working out at the team’s training facility over the spring. Saleh said that the third pick of the 2019 draft hasn’t partaken in team activities yet for precautionary reasons, per notes provided by the Jets.

“(We’re taking a) slower approach in terms of making sure that this doesn’t happen to the other foot and all that stuff,” Saleh said. “I’m still not concerned at all about Quinnen, he does look good out there. He started running, he’s in good shape. He’s going through all of it, he’s been here. We’re confident when he hits the field, he’ll hit the ground running.”

Asked if Williams would be ready for Week 1 in Carolina, Saleh merely replied “I don’t want to jinx it”.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags