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

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

New York Jets 0 (0-3)

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

Denver Broncos 26 (3-0)

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

Offense: F

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

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

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

Defense: C-

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

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

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

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

Special Teams: C-

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets WR Denzel Mims inactive once again

The New York Jets will be missing two top receivers, Mims and Jamison Crowder, for the second consecutive week.

Denzel Mims will not dress for the New York Jets for the second consecutive weekend, joining fellow top target Jamison Crowder. Neither will dress for the Jets Sunday

Mims’ modern endeavors have a point of contention for the 0-2 Jets, as the second-round pick has partaken in only three snaps this season. All of them came on kickoff weekend against Carolina, though one produced a 40-yard reception that set up the Jets’ final score of the day.

New York management apparently still believes in Mims to the point where they are hanging up on trade offers for the second-year receiver, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. But Mims’ inability to contribute on special teams has buried him on the depth chart. The return of veteran acquisition Keelan Cole officially made Mims a healthy scratch. He missed half of his rookie season with hamstring issues after the Jets made him the 59th overall pick of the 2020 draft but managed to tally 357 yards on 23 receptions in nine games (eight starts).

The scratch of Mims comes after Robert Saleh labeled him a “game-time decision” on Friday. New York’s head coach was enthused about Mims’ progress, as he was “pumped” about the week of practice he had.

Also inactive for the Jets is Crowder, the team’s leading receiver over the last two seasons. The veteran slot option has been working his way back after dealing with a bout of COVID-19. Another top option on the depth chart, rusher Tevin Coleman, is out with a non-COVID illness, while La’mical Perine is out for the third straight game. Sixth-round pick Jonathan Marshall will likewise remain a healthy scratch.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Indianapolis

A scoring drive in the first quarter provided hope, but the New York Jets endured yet another one-sided defeat in Indianapolis.

In a city best known for auto racing, the New York Jets fell off the pace in a hurry.

Sam Darnold threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns en route to a 36-7 defeat at Lucas Oil Stadium at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets (0-3) have been outscored by 57 points over their first three games and are the only team in the league that has yet to hold a lead over this young season.

Which plays best personified the Jets’ latest defeat? ESM investigates so you don’t have to, taking one play from each quarter…

1st Quarter: Sam-I-Ran

Whether it’s scripted or (more-often-than-not) improvised, Sam Darnold seems to do his finest work on the rollout. They saw one such play last week against San Francisco, one that could’ve been a rare touchdown had Chris Herndon held onto the ball. The early stages of the game saw Darnold channel some suppressed rushing powers that allowed the Jets to extend some drives…and, by association, rare Sunday hope.

Making a rare visit to the red zone, Darnold sent a clear message to those chanting the name of Trevor Lawrence by escaping a furious rush from the Colts to fire a 16-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Berrios. It’s a small moment that will get lost in the carnage of yet another one-sided defeat, but it was yet another flash of brilliance from Darnold in the murky mess that is New York football. It was perhaps a sign that Darnold knows that the final stretches of the season could be the make-or-break portion of his NFL career.

2nd Quarter: Same ‘Goal Jets

Alas for Darnold, the rest of the game was filled by a dangerously contagious 2020 trope: making throws that a third-year franchise man should never be making.

The Jets trailed 17-7 in the middle stages of the second quarter, but embarked on a red zone trek kickstarted by Josh Malone’s return to the New York 40. This drive seemed to further establish the slot replacement Berrios as a potential silver lining in a stagnant offense, as he and Darnold hooked up for a 28-yard gain that situated the Jets 12 yards away from another touchdown.

Alas, Darnold launched a potential touchdown pass to Lawrence Cager in triple coverage that was instead taken by Colts defender Xavier Rhodes. No points immediately emerged from the disastrous throw, but the Jets never truly threatened the game from there on out. Darnold’s first interception, also taken by Rhodes (albeit that former turnover for a score), was another bad decision tossed into a crowded era, a mistake that the Jets never truly recovered from.

3rd Quarter: Taylor’s Swift

Despite a pedestrian lead at “only” 10 points, the Colts were allowed to more or less run a cooldown lap in the second half. The Jets’ defense wasn’t doing much to inspire fear and the lack of consequences was best on display when the Colts opted to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from New York’s one-yard-line.

The Jets got off to a good start on the tightly packed play, as Bradley McDougald invaded the backfield after the handoff to rookie rusher Jonathan Taylor. But Taylor eluded the diving safety to punch in what was more or less the final blow to the Jets’ dying hopes. McDougald, who has so far been a rare beacon of consistency since coming over from Seattle, left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury, dealing yet another medical blow to a woebegone unit.

4th Quarter: Safety Last

Someone must’ve uttered “how can this get any worse???” during the fourth quarter, because the Colts checked off one of the final boxes in the latter stages.

Another crucial injury loss, that of Mekhi Becton, was on brutal display during one of the Jets’ final drives. Backed up to their own four-yard-line after a Rigoberto Sanchez punt, the Jets advanced two yards before Darnold dropped back to pass on third down. Alas, Becton’s replacement, Connor McDermott, failed to account for the blitzing Justin Houston, taking Darnold down in the end zone for a Pacers/Fever-style two-pointer.

With Becton out for most of the second half, the rushing lanes shut down and Darnold was forced to run for his life. If the Jets miss Becton this much…and they truly have to hope that this won’t be a long-term issue…the first-round rookie might warrant a few MVP votes.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets call up two from practice squad in lead-up to Indy

New York Jets

The depleted New York Jets promoted two players from their practice squad prior to their Sunday showdown with the Colts.

Decimated by injuries, the New York Jets added two players from their practice squad as they prepare to battle the Indianapolis Colts on the road this Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). Receiver Lawrence Cager and offensive lineman Jimmy Murray will each join the active roster, the team confirmed on Saturday night.

Cager, 23, earned positive reviews during his training camp stretch with the Jets over the summer. He joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia. Cager had transferred to the Bulldogs after three seasons with Miami. Overall, he earned 1,157 yards on 78 receptions, 14 good for touchdowns, in his time in Athens and Coral Gables. Injuries limited him to only one full season, his junior campaign of 2018 when he scored a career-best six scores.

The Jets (0-2) are very much depleted on the receiving front. Second-round rookie Denzel Mims is on injured reserve while veterans Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder have already been ruled out due to injuries. Chris Hogan and Braxton Berrios are expected to be the top options for quarterback Sam Darnold at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Meanwhile, Murray joins the team’s active roster for the first time since joining up with the practice squad in November. He was waived at the end of the summer’s training camp activities but was signed back to the squad the next day. An alum of Holy Cross (where he earned second-team All-Patriot League nominations in 2016 and 2017), the 25-year-old blocker has partaken in two regular season NFL games, each with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018.

Murray’s name was called during the offensive lineman portion of last fall’s XFL Draft. He was chosen in the eighth round by the St. Louis BattleHawks but opted not to sign with the team and remained with the Jets’ practice squad.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets Game Preview Week 3: Indianapolis Colts

The depleted New York Jets hit the road to take on an Indianapolis Colts squad looking to start a winning streak.

What: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
When: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS

“Next man up” has routinely been a mantra for NFL squads when a major contributor is lost to an injury. The New York Jets, however, may need a next team up entirely if current events keep pace.

The Jets (0-2) will be missing at least five representatives as they hit the road to battle the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday late afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). That manifest includes two of their top receivers (Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder) and two members of the secondary (Quincy Wilson, Ashtyn Davis), as well as a starting offensive lineman (George Fant). Not counted are the numerous players on injured reserve, such as running back Le’Veon Bell.

Head coach Adam Gase remarked this week that “whoever’s got a pulse right now” should be ready for action in Circle City.

“I look at it as if we’re the only team going through this it would be one thing,” Gase said in an attempt to find a silver lining, through Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “You’re seeing guys going down left and right whether it be in practice or games. We’re having soft-tissue things happen to us. It seems a lot of these other teams are going through major, major season-ending type injuries.”

The Jets are coming off a one-sided loss to the San Francisco, falling 31-13 in their 2020 debut at MetLife Stadium. Strong points were hard to come by in the ugly defeat, but Quinnen Williams earned the first multi-sack game of his career. Pierre Desir also had the first interception of his New York tenure, while Sam Darnold found Braxton Berrios for a 30-yard score late in the game. Desir will make his

On the AFC South side of things, Indianapolis (1-1) earned their first win of the season with a 28-11 advantage over the Minnesota Vikings last weekend. The Colts took three interceptions from Kirk Cousins while rookie Jonathan Taylor earned the first triple-digit yardage game of his career, picking up 101 and a touchdown. Mo Allie-Cox led all receivers with 111 yards on five receptions.

The Series

This will be the 75th meeting between the Jets and Colts, former AFC East rivals prior to divisional realignment in 2002. Indianapolis leads the series 42-32, but the Jets have won five of the last seven get-togethers. The most recent meeting came in 2018 in East Rutherford, a matchup the Jets took by a 42-32 final. Andrew Luck threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to counter three interceptions, including one by Avery Williamson. Then-rookie Sam Darnold has a strong game as well, throwing for 280 yards and two scores.

History Happens: 2011

The Jets will return to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, the site of one of their most recent playoff victories. They topped the Colts 17-16 in the 2011 AFC Wild Card playoffs en route to the latter of back-to-back trips to the conference title game. Indianapolis took the lead on a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining, but Antonio Cromartie set the Jets up with a strong return to the New York 46. Three Mark Sanchez throws later (two caught by Braylon Edwards), Nick Folk booted a 32-yard field goal that punched the Jets’ ticket to New England. LaDainian Tomlinson scored two one-yard touchdowns for the Jets in their victory.

They Said It

“We don’t do 3/4ths. We don’t do half-speed…That’s how we practice on defense…Those guys, whether it was misunderstood, they are taking ownership. Especially after a game, like we all do. Me first, then them. We practice very hard. It’s shocking when other people come into wherever this staff is, when they’ve been allowed to do certain things a certain way other places, that’s not what we do here.”Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on the Jets’ practices after several players spoke out against them this week, per SNY

“He’s a tough runner. He doesn’t quit, he’s not an out-of-bounds guy, he’s going to lower his shoulder. He reminds me a lot of Adrian Peterson and how they’re 17 years into the league, that’s when football was football where you’re going to run between the tackles, man on man, is my man stronger than you, is my will better than yours? And he still has that mentality. I think that’s what makes him who he is, because when he gets between those tackles he’s going to lower his shoulder, he’s going to try to run you over, and that’s what type of mentality you need playing at running back and not a lot of this other stuff you see at running back.”-Colts LB Darius Leonard on Frank Gore, per Andrew Walker

Matchup to Watch

Quinnen Williams vs. Colts offensive line

Williams put up his best New York performance to date during last Sunday’s loss, picking up seven tackles and two sacks while forcing a fumble against the Niners. It’s up to him to prove that won’t be a fluke. That challenge won’t be easy against a Colts line anchored by Quinton Nelson.

Nelson has an indirect, yet eternal, part in Jets history. In the 2018 draft proceedings, the Jets were originally slated to choose sixth. That pick was later shipped to Indianapolis for the right to select in the third slot, where Sam Darnold’s name was called. Nelson went in the rebranded sixth slot and has gone on to become one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen.

“You don’t really hear a ton of things about offensive linemen especially interior guys when you’re coming out of college,” Gase said of Nelson in a report from team writer Ethan Greenberg. “This guy was the talk of the combine. Everyone was talking about him leading up to the draft. Not only is he extremely smart, but he plays really physical. He’s mean. He sets the attitude of the entire room, but his technique and fundamentals are phenomenal. You can tell this guy takes a lot of pride in what he does.”

The Colts’ offensive line has done a solid job of protecting aging quarterback Phillip Rivers in the early going, allowing only two sacks over the first couple of weeks.

The Jets Will Win If…

Williams and the front seven can win the battle in the trenches.

With so many offensive contributors sidelined, the Jets will have to win the “ugly” way…low scoring, may multiple turnovers, and making the wary Rivers uncomfortable. The defense is missing key components as well, some of whom aren’t coming back (noted opt-out C.J. Mosley). If the defensive substitutes can rise to the occasion, they may stand a fighting chance in a low-scoring game, to the tune of a 16-13 or 13-10 final.

The Colts Will Win If…

Like many Jets games for the remainder of the season, the battle will be won if they take care of business.

The Colts are in an interesting spot in the AFC South. For example, the Houston Texans, division champions in four of the past five seasons, could well be winless in three games by the end of the weekend. The rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars have been no slouches, as the Colts found out the hard way in Week 1. At the top, the Tennessee Titans are proving that their conference title game appearance was no fluke, at least so far. Simply put, this game very well may be a must-win for the 1-1 Colts.

Indianapolis will need substitutions of their own to step up on Sunday. Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin will be missing his second consecutive game, leading to the rise of T.J. Carrie. Several Colts are also looking to atone for slow starts, like former receiving yardage leader T.Y. Hilton (7 receptions, 81 yards). They could certainly benefit from a derailed Jets squad dealing with countless departures.

Prediction

The Jets have endured a brutal week, and it seems only right to end this with yet another tough defeat. If a depleted 49ers squad at home was too much to handle, it stands to reason that a slightly banged-up Colts squad that has everything to lose in front of their fans (Lucas Oil Stadium will admit 7,500 to Sunday’s game) would produce a similar result.

New York can keep things more respectable this time around. Wins, however, are far too tough to come by right now. A meeting with the equally famished Broncos on Thursday? That could be another story…

Colts 23, Jets 6

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags