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: TE Kenny Yeboah to make NFL debut on Sunday

New York Jets

The New York Jets’ undrafted rookie, who will sub in for the injured Tyler Kroft, became a preseason folk hero last summer.

A New York Jets summer hero is about to make his autumn debut.

Tight end Kenny Yeboah will partake in his first NFL regular season game on Sunday as the Jets battle the Atlanta Falcons in London (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network). Yeboah, an undrafted free agent out of Temple and Mississippi, is perhaps best known as the recipient of a 50-yard Hail Mary at the end of the Jets’ preseason finale against Philadelphia in August. It capped off an evening that saw Yeboah earned 100 yards on four receptions, half of which went for touchdowns.

Yeboah’s debut comes in the absence of primary tight end Tyler Kroft, who is out for Sunday’s contest with a back injury. Safeties Marcus Maye and Adrian Colbert are out with concussions, as is receiver Jeff Smith.

The Jets (1-3) face off against an Atlanta team that will be missing several primary contributors. Top receiver Calvin Ridley is missing the game due to personal reasons as will fellow catcher Russell Gage and defensive lineman Marlon Davidson, each of whom are dealing with ankle issues.

While Ridley (1,374 receiving yards in 2020) is a major part of Atlanta’s attack, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said that his absence won’t make a difference in the metropolitan defensive game plan.

“We may see some different personnel groupings, (but it) doesn’t really affect our game plan, it came in so late,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “Ridley is a heck of a football player. But at the same time, they’ve still got a lot of weapons with (running back/receiver) Cordarrelle Patterson, he’s rejuvenated, (quarterback) Matt Ryan can get the ball to anyone. Their draft pick, (tight end) Kyle Pitts, is pretty freaking good. It’s a challenge, they got a lot of weapons over there.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: Sheldon Rankins sees super things on the D-line

sheldon rankins, jets

Rankins, a playoff staple in New Orleans, sees signs that the New York Jets’ pleasantly surprising defense can compete with the NFL’s finest.

Sheldon Rankins goes into the New York Jets’ London excursion as an avenger of sorts. The former New Orleans Saint could make his former comrades proud with a win on Sunday, as the Jets face the fleur de lis’ biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons, in the NFL’s first international game since November 2019 (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

Tony Stark won’t be available. But Rankins is pleased to say that the Jets’ defense, namely the front seven, has enough “superpowers” to work their way through the trials of the road back to respectability.

“There’s a special thing about the group…everyone has their superpower,” Rankins said on the Inside the Jets show on the team’s official website. “We speak about (Quinnen Williams’) straight-line power to just move people out. Foley (Fatukasi) is a mountain of a man. (John Franklin-Myers) has the versatility to move as quickly as he does. Bryce (Huff) is the Tasmanian devil, that’s what we call him, and he probably got that name 30 minutes ago. Myself? I’m kind of the wily veteran in the room right now.”

The Jets’ defense has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2021 NFL season. Stitched together with additions obtained through the Saturday of draft weekend and decimated by injury, the unit has embraced the challenges inherited by a developing offense. Average defensive possessions start a mere 64 yards away from the end zone, the worst starting situation in the league.

Yet, much like Robert Saleh before them, the unit has been a showcase of adaptability and resiliency. Entering Week 5 action, the Jets have allowed 17 red zone possessions, the worst tally in the league if not for Kansas City and Washington (19 each). The sizable opportunities have been created through eight turnovers, a tally that ranks at the penultimate point of the league’s depths (only Jacksonville is worse at 9).

Fortunately for New York, only six of those possessions have ended in touchdowns, behind only a three-team group of Buffalo, Denver, and New Orleans. The resiliency was prominently on display in the Jets’ first win of the season, a 27-24 overtime triumph over the Tennessee Titans. In that win, the Jets saw the erasure of an early 9-0 lead build solely through Randy Bullock field goals.

The early stages of the 2021 season have also brought back the Jets’ pass rush abilities. Such a revival tour was masked by early losses, but Sunday’s effort was impossible to ignore. The Jets earned seven sacks, their best output in nearly four full seasons, en route to their first addition to the 2021 win column. They’ve earned 16 sacks this season, which once again ranks second, trailing only Sunday’s opponent in that category. These numbers have been posted despite the extended medical leaves of impactful newcomers Carl Lawson (out for the season) and Jarrad Davis (out for at least one contest going into the coming bye week).

In speaking with hosts Dan Graca and Bart Scott, Rankins acknowledged that the Jets’ newfound aggressiveness is a high-risk, high-reward gambit that can let up big plays. But Rankins knows the value of a disturbance in the backfield: New Orleans ranked in the top six of pressure rates in each of the last two seasons en route to 25 wins and the latter half of four consecutive NFC South titles.

Rankins, 27, has posted pedestrian numbers (four tackles and a sack) compared to his young compatriots. He believes, however, that continued collaborative pressure will help bolster everyone’s numbers. To that point, Franklin-Myers has already reached or neared his career-best tallies. His efforts have since been rewarded with a reported four-year extension with his rookie contract set to expire after this season.

Working in such a system has Rankins feeling like another superhero of both the pages and silver screen. Appropriately, this one calls Gotham City home.

“For me, it’s all about being disruptive,” Rankins said on the program. “The numbers are going to come with that. The more that you wreck shop, get off and disrupt the game and cause havoc inside, the numbers are going to come. Once I put the pads on I’m Batman. I feel like I’m going out there and causing damage. I’m not going to stop doing what I’m doing.”

Even if Rankins isn’t sending in showstopping stat sheets, head coach Robert Saleh knows just how important he is to the Jets’ defensive revolution. It was Saleh who convinced general manager Joe Douglas to inquire into the former Saint’s services, even as he was coming off a knee injury that relegated him to the injured reserve. Rankins hasn’t played a full NFL season since 2018, when he tallied 15 pressures, 12 tackles for a loss, and eight sacks in his third season in The Big Easy.

Even as Rankins continues to work his way back, Saleh is pleased to see his faith rewarded.

“I have so much respect for his game,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “It was just a perfect match in terms of his style of play (and) with the way we ask him to play. It’s just a perfect match for the way his game is made, and he’s showing it.”

“You could already see, last year, that he was getting back to what he was when he was drafted and then his second year when he was so productive,” Saleh continued. “Then injuries obviously set him back, but when you talk to people around the league, especially in that building, he is an unbelievable leader, he’s got tremendous work ethic, the way he takes care of his body, he’s meticulous in everything he does, and I’m just really excited for him and the success he’s been having so far.”

Rankins is one of the rare Jets with both extensive experience against the Falcons and on the football pitch: the interior threat has earned 16 tackles, eight pressures, and seven tackles for a loss over eight games against Atlanta and was in the Saints’ starting lineup during their October 2017 tilt against Miami at Wembley Stadium.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Blake Cashman cleared to practice

New York Jets

The New York Jets welcomed back the third-year linebacker to practice after he missed the last three games due to hamstring issues.

The New York Jets announced on Wednesday that linebacker Blake Cashman was made eligible to return to practice. Cashman, a third-year Jet, sustained a hamstring injury during New York’s kickoff weekend contest in Carolina and has missed each of the last three games.

Cashman joined the Jets as a fifth-round pick (157th overall) in the 2019 draft. He enjoyed a breakout campaign when C.J. Mosley went down in his rookie season, tallying 40 tackles (3 for a loss) over seven games before he himself was injured. Career momentum has been hard to generate, as ailments have limited Cashman to a mere five games over the last two seasons and 12 in total. He was limited to special teams snaps during the opening loss in Charlotte.

The Jets placed Cashman on injured reserve and he’s eligible to be activated after the three-game absence. He was one of two Jets linebackers missing significant time, as Jarrad Davis and Hamsah Nasirildeen are also on the IR. Mosley has enjoyed a return to form over the first four games, while rookie Jamien Sherwood and waiver wire pick-ups Del’Shawn Phillips and Quincy Williams have also picked up the slack.

Robert Saleh maintained his faith in Cashman despite the lack of game film over the past two seasons.

“It’s a matter of getting on the field and doing it on defense,” the head coach said in August, per Dennis Waszak Jr. of the Associated Press. “He’s done it before, he’s a phenomenal linebacker and we’re really excited to see him get to work.”

New York (1-3) heads overseas in an attempt to start a winning streak in London against the Atlanta Falcons (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Who Ya Got Wednesday: New York Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons

zach wilson, jets

London’s calling the New York Jets. Can Gang Green start a winning streak overseas against the reeling Falcons?

  • What: New York Jets (1-3) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
  • Where: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
  • When: Sunday at 9:30 a.m ET
  • Watch: NFL Network

robert saleh, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti: Jets 23, Falcons 19

Ah, London. Fish, chips, cup o’ tea, New York Jets football…LONDON!

With apologies to the late, great Dennis Farina, the United Kingdom’s capital is a godsend to the New York Jets in the sense that it’s one of the few countries to host NFL football, that, to date, that has yet to host a Gang Green loss. The Jets won their first visit to the island nation in 2015, paced by a career day from Chris Ivory.

Six years later, the Jets are no closer to a Super Bowl but might be in the unusual position of being a one-win team faced with the closest thing it can possibly get to a trap game. The Jets are coming off an exciting victory against a recent AFC playoff staple from Tennessee (albeit one without the aerial services of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones), one that could be long remembered as the first win of the Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson era. They’re now granted a neutral site game against a Falcons that has failed to feast on a predominantly NFC East slate: they’ve already lost to Philadelphia and Washington and needed all 60 minutes to steal a win from the lowly Giants.

Armed with fresh momentum, particularly on offense, all signs point to the Jets starting a winning streak overseas. This being the Jets, of course, it’s never that easy. Atlanta has played better over the last two weeks after losing their first two contests by a combined 49 points. Cordarrelle Patterson is establishing himself as a legitimate offensive threat while the young talents of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts can’t be denied. Matt Ryan isn’t what he used to be but has remained a serviceable option under center.

The Jets’ defense has tackled (pun intended) a lot of challenges and misconceptions over the past few weeks. Confidence has grown amongst the group, so they should be ready for what Atlanta is ready to throw at it. The big factor this week is how the offense builds on what they were able to do against the Titans. A prime opportunity lingers against a Falcons defense that has allowed 11 touchdown passes and has forced only two turnovers in its first four outings.

Jets-Falcons isn’t the most attractive matchup for the British…well, they did give the world the Cats musical, which in turn led to the garish film adaptation, so consider this revenge…but it should be an interesting case of two desperate teams fighting for 2021 relevancy. For the Jets, it’s a prime opportunity to build the promises of growth and development.

There have already been so many signs of such progress…again, the defense stitched together by draft weekend Saturday pick-ups has been extraordinary…but now there’s an opportunity to post them in the most important stockpile of all: the win column. Putting together consecutive wins is vital in this stage. The sooner Saleh and Wilson get a winning streak off their respective rookie to-do lists, the better.

Dylan Price: Jets 31, Falcons 20

They did it! The Jets finally won a game and now travel overseas for their London game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta has pieced together two strong performances in a row. They won against the Giants and put up 30 points against the Washington Football Team last week. Cordarelle Patterson has looked like a superstar and the Falcons’ offense seems to be picking up momentum.

Meanwhile, the Jets have found some momentum as well. The offense looks to finally have found a rhythm, and their defense looks really good, coming off a performance where they only allowed two scores. If the Jets’ pass rush can replicate their performance from Sunday, or even half of that, they will cause disruptions for Matt Ryan.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons defense has allowed more than 32 points three times this season. This is an opportunity to continue their momentum as long as the Jets continue to open up the playbook. I’m taking the Jets to win and travel home from London happy.

Mags’ Best of the Rest

LA Rams (-1.5) @ Seattle (Thu.)

Divisional redemption awaits the Rams on Thursday night, as they should take advantage of a Seahawks defense still looking for stability.

Who Covers: Rams
Who Wins: Rams

Denver @ Pittsburgh (-1.5)

Denver’s (angry) defense, fresh off a respectable effort against Baltimore, facing off with a Ben Roethlisberger showing his age ultimately should trump the decision under center between Drew Lock and the injured Teddy Bridgewater.

Who Covers: Broncos
Who Wins: Broncos

Detroit @ Minnesota (-7.5)

Nothing’s come easy for the Vikings but they should be able to handle business against a reeling Lions squad.

Who Covers: Lions
Who Wins: Vikings

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay (-3) @ Cincinnati 

Joe Burrow and the Bengals are one of the more feel-good stories of the early stages of the season, but leave it to Aaron Rodgers to provide a healthy dose of reality.

Who Covers: Packers
Who Wins: Packers

Miami @ Tampa Bay (-10.5)

Though the spotlight is removed, Tom Brady should be able to reestablish another lost AFC East tradition: beating up on the hapless Dolphins.

Who Covers: Buccaneers
Who Wins: Buccaneers

New England (-9) @ Houston

The publicized fall to Brady’s new comrades at least proved the Patriots are trending in the right direction and the evidence should be visible on the scoreboard against the woebegone Texans.

Who Covers: Patriots
Who Wins: Patriots

New Orleans (-1.5) @ Washington

Coming off a shocking home loss to the Giants while Tampa Bay and Carolina start to inch away in the NFC South, New Orleans simply needs this game more than Washington’s division title defense does.

Who Covers: Saints
Who Wins: Saints

Philadelphia @ Carolina (-3.5)

The new-look Panthers’ first response to adversity comes against a reeling Eagles defense that let up 461 yards to Kansas City last week.

Who Covers: Panthers
Who Wins: Panthers

Tennessee (-4) @ Jacksonville 

Even if the Titans are forced to sit Brown and Jones again, they have much bigger issues if they can’t take down a Jacksonville dealing with Urban decay.

Who Covers: Titans
Who Wins: Titans

Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago @ Las Vegas (-5.5)

The promise of more Justin Fields will help the Bears in the long run, but growing pains lie on the immediate road ahead.

Who Covers: Raiders
Who Wins: Raiders

Cleveland @ LA Chargers (-1)

This battle of dowtrodden offenses on the rise should come down to the offensive faceoff, and it’s hard to deny that the Chargers have the edge there for the time being.

Who Covers: Chargers
Who Wins: Chargers

NY Giants @ Dallas (-7)

One thing’s for sure: a battle between the exhilarating Cowboys and the determined-to-prove something Giants provide fireworks that rivalry has been lacking in recent stagings, even if it’s a little much to ask New York to stop the rolling Dallas offense on the road.

Who Covers: Giants
Who Wins: Cowboys

San Francisco @ Arizona (-5.5)

The Cardinals aren’t going undefeated…no team in NFL history is ever doing that again…but their unbeaten streak should continue against a pleasantly surprising 49ers team that’s on the cusp of a quarterback controversy.

Who Covers: 49ers
Who Wins: Cardinals

Buffalo @ Kansas City (-3)

The Bills have feasted on subpar competition, but now face one of the scariest challenges in football that hasn’t been seen in years: a Kansas City Chiefs team with something prove in the regular season.

Who Covers: Chiefs
Who Wins: Chiefs

Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-7)

Fresh off a win in Miami, the Colts could sneak back into the division race with Houston, San Francisco, Tennessee, the Jets, and Jacksonville all looming ahead, but asking them to steal a primetime road tilt from Lamar Jackson and Co. is a little too much to ask for.

Who Covers: Colts
Who Wins: Ravens

Last Week: 9-7
Overall: 38-26

Dylan Price
LA Rams @ Seattle (Thu.) Rams
Denver @ Pittsburgh Broncos
Detroit @ Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay @ Cincinnati Packers
Miami @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England @ Houston Patriots
New Orleans @ Washington Football Team
Philadelphia @ Carolina Panthers
Tennessee @ Jacksonville Titans
Chicago @ Las Vegas Raiders
Cleveland @ LA Chargers Chargers
NY Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
San Francisco @ Arizona Cardinals
Buffalo @ Kansas City Bills
Indianapolis @ Baltimore (Mon.) Ravens

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

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

Another painful loss awaited the New York Jets in their return to MetLife Stadium. ESM takes a look at the plays that changed the game.

There was a new quarterback and new men on the offensive line thanks to injuries. But the New York Jets were forced to endure the same result.

Kyler Murray tallied 401 yards of offense, with 131 of his passing haul going to DeAndre Hopkins. Their Arizona Cardinals tallied a 30-10 road win over the hapless Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Jets (0-5) earned a nominal bright spot in the form of Jamison Crowder, who reached triple digits in receiving for the third time this season (116 yards on 8 receptions).

As we do each week…someone’s got to do it…ESM looks back on four big plays, one from each quarter, that are shaping the Jets’ present and future for better or worse…

1st Quarter: Chase Hit

The Jets’ defense rose to the occasion in the early going, forcing Arizona into a three-and-out on their opening drive. A Joe Flacco-led offense was struggling to get things rolling, but Braden Mann helped the defense out with a 54-yard punt that situated the Cardinals on their own 11. Alas, it only signaled the start of New York’s demise.

Arizona would embark on a scoring drive, needing only eight plays to go 89 yards. The Cardinals (3-2) faced only one third down on the drive, and that was only when they needed a single yard at the cusp of the Jets’ 30. It also brought forth a 29-yard touchdown run from Chase Edmunds, giving the Cardinals a lead they would never relinquish.

Alas for the Jets, long drives and defensive lapses, even if they’re brought forth by short three-and-outs from the offense, have become far too common. When the inevitable purge comes to both the roster and staff, members of the defense should not be exempt.

2nd Quarter: 4th-and-Done

The Jets should be commended for their reckless abandon on fourth down in recent weeks. They know that the playoffs are but a pipe dream and more than likely will be destined for a high draft pick. With all due respect to Mann, a serviceable draft pick to date, he shouldn’t be seeing the field once the Jets cross their own 40. The same could go for Sam Ficken if it’s a long situation, though he continued his perfect streak in the early going with a triple in the first half.

Faced with a single yard to go on the Arizona 13, the Jets opted for an unusual option, handing the ball off to tight end-turned-fullback Trevon Wesco. The intention was pure…Wesco’s brief time in the backfield yielded a couple of first downs last season…but the execution simply wasn’t there. Starting the 6-foot-6-inches Flacco in place of the injured Sam Darnold, the time was perfect for a quarterback sneak. Flacco even showcased some hidden rushing talents to the tune of 20 yards on a quartet of carries. Instead, they tried to force nearly the exact same play, only this time with Le’Veon Bell. The Jets’ willingness to take risks is admirable, but ended a 14-play trek with no points on two failed rushes only adds to their plethora of embarrassment.

3rd Quarter: Manhattan Jam Crowder

The Jets have been through a lot this season, and there’s still a dozen weeks left on the horizon. Their most consistent silver lining has by far been Crowder, who had one of his strongest games of the season. He came up particularly big in the third quarter, first accounting for Flacco’s longest pass of the day at 52 yards, setting the Jets up in Arizona territory. Three plays later, Crowder dodged a pair of Cardinal defenders to earn an 11-yard touchdown that narrowed things to a single possession.

New York has been through a lot this season, much of it showing just how far they are from mere playoff contention, much less a Super Bowl. But the veteran Crowder is making himself essential as a presumed purge lures on the horizon.

4th Quarter: Buried by Kingsbury

Sunday’s second half featured plenty of instances where one could declare “only the Jets!”. For example, an untimed down at the end of the third quarter led to a false start. That duplicated an incident in the second quarter when they took a delay of game after an interception (on a red zone drive that eventually led to Ficken’s field goal). But a neutral zone infraction after Arizona’s final touchdown (a 37-yard hookup between Murray and Hopkins) led to Kliff Kingsbury opting to go for two despite owning a 30-10 led that became the final margin. Who knows what the Jets did to Kingsbury, who pair of NFL passes came in New York, but it was enough to try and help anyone who had Arizona -21.5 out and goes to show how far the Jets have fallen.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

 

New York Jets Game Preview Week 5: Arizona Cardinals

New York Giants, Lorenzo Carter

The New York Jets have been cleared for Sunday action at MetLife Stadium, but a dangerous, angry opponent awaits.

What: Arizona Cardinals @ New York Jets
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Watch: CBS

After the ongoing health crisis invaded the NFL realm in Florham Park, the New York Jets have been cleared for Sunday action barring any unforeseen developments. They’re set to take on an avian invasion at home, one seeking revenge after a strong start has given way to distress.

The Jets (0-4) will take to the field for the first time in 10 days, as they battle the Arizona Cardinals at MetLife Stadium. They’ll go into battle with a quarterback who previously earned plenty of success with a bird on his helmet, as backup Joe Flacco takes over for the injured Sam Darnold.

New York last took the field on October 1, opening the Week 4 slate in a Thursday night tilt against the Denver Broncos. In what became their closest game of the season, the Jets fell in a 37-28 decision. Darnold earned 314 yards of offense, including a career-best 84 on the ground. A majority of that tally came on a 46-yard scoring rush that gave the Jets their first lead of the season. Jamison Crowder broke the century mark in receiving yardage (104) while Pierre Desir had two interceptions on defense.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals (2-2) have suffered consecutive defeats after a strong start. They by a 31-21 final to the Carolina Panthers last weekend in Charlotte after dropping a home tilt with the Detroit Lions. Kyler Murray threw a trio of touchdown passes in the Carolina defeat, while Jordan Hicks had four tackles for a loss.

The Series

The Cardinals are on the Jets’ opposite coast in more ways than one. Not only do they play three time zones away from New Jersey, but they play in a different conference. In other words, meetings between the Jets and Cardinals are not very common, even with the latter franchise lingering around in some way, shape, or form since 1898.

In either case, the Jets lead the all-time series 6-3, earning each win in succession between 1978 and 2012 (the first one coming under the Cardinals’ St. Louis moniker). Arizona broke the streak in their last meeting in 2016, when they took home a 28-3 decision in Glendale.

History Happens: 2008

Brett Favre’s brief yet eventful time as a New York Jet got off to a tough start. The Jets sat at 1-2 and were reeling from a one-sided Sunday night loss in San Diego in a return to Giants Stadium. An ensuing matchup with future NFC champions Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin was perhaps one of the earliest signs that the 2008 was going to be quite out of the ordinary.

The Jets scoring 34 points seems like a pipe dream to some modern fans, but they acquired that tally in a single quarter on a late September afternoon against the Cardinals. Dressed in their New York Titans-inspired throwbacks, Favre and Laveranues Coles united for three scores while Darrelle Revis took back a Warner interception back for a touchdown. Arizona slowly worked their way back with three unanswered rushing scores (two from Edgerrin James) in the third quarter, but Favre kept the Cardinals down with three more touchdown passes. Jerricho Cotchery was the recipient of two, while Dustin Keller had the last. New York took the game by a 56-35 final. The six touchdown passes were a career-best for Favre, who united with Warner to throw for 761 passing yards.

They Said It

“I’m not looking at it in terms of bringing a spark,” Flacco said. “Of course, we want to get things rolling as a team and kind of get our morale up and get us headed in the right direction. But not one guy, including myself, can try to do too much. We just have to go out there, take it play-by-play and let things fall in place.”Jets QB Joe Flacco on starting Sunday, per Eric Allen 

“I think this week particularly, all of us want to get back on the field. There was frustration with how we played last week, so we’ve been chomping at the bit to get back after it. So when you hear that initially, you’re like, ‘Oh no, we really want to get back out there.’ And then you settle in and realize, hey, you can control what you can control.”-Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury on dealing with the Cardinals’ current situation, per Katherine Fitzgerald 

Matchup To Watch

RB Le’Veon Bell vs. Arizona’s Run Defense

Even when we were having the “Is Joe Flacco elite?” debate every week, it was never wise to put the game solely in his hands. The Jets have averaged 35 pass attempts a game over the first four games of the 2020 season. Flacco-led are 31-48 in the regular season when he throws the ball at least 35 times.

New York enjoys a bit of a boost this week with Le’Veon Bell making his return from injury, but the reunion comes in a game where Mekhi Becton, one of the Jets’ rare silver linings, list listed as doubtful on the injury report. With the franchise quarterback down and the receiving corps still missing links (Breshad Perriman is likewise doubtful and Denzel Mims is still inactive), Bell may be called upon to take on an increased workload to alleviate the pressure on Flacco.

Head coach Adam Gase was pleased with the way Bell kept himself in game shape during his injury absence. Bell hasn’t played since the Week 1 defeat in Buffalo.

“I think he can be pretty effective,” Gase said his top rusher in a report from ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “He did a good job of getting healthy and then staying in good shape. (He) did a good job making sure that he maintained where his weight was. I think he feels even better now than he did when we kind of hit that first game.”

Arizona’s run defense ins’t anything to truly write home about, stagnant in around the middle of the pack in the statistical rankings. If Bell can get his legs back quickly and overcome the losses of some starting big men on the line, he can earn a long-awaited return to form and shoulder some of the load a desperate offense needs to properly distribute.

The Jets Will Win If…

They contain Kyler Murray.

Over the past two weeks, the Jets’ defense failed to contain an aging Phillip Rivers and a third-stringer in Denver making his first career start…and they had trouble with Nick Mullens and the 49ers’ reserves the week before that. That was all before they ran into a showdown with Murray, a dual-threat who was working on MVP candidacy over the first two weeks before running into trouble against Detroit and Carolina. Murray has no doubt seen the struggles of the Jets’ defense and has to be licking his chops going into this matchup. The Jets have earned only six sacks so far and was already torched by one dual-threat, Josh Allen, in aforementioned opener against Buffalo. Murray’s prescience has loomed over Jets practice all week.

“To keep him in the pocket, try to make him one-dimensional because he can throw and use his feet as well once he gets outside the pocket,” safety Marcus Maye said on Thursday, per Kristian Dyer of Sports Illustrated. “If we can pressure him, make him one-dimensional, I think we can be OK.”

The Cardinals Will Win If…

They embrace their sense of desperation.

Arizona was seen by some as a team able to play consequence-free football in 2020. Murray excelled in his rookie year, and the outlook was mostly positive moving forward. Expectations rose slightly when DeAndre Hopkins was gifted to them from Houston, but there still would’ve been no shame from a Cardinal standpoint if they didn’t beat out the Seahawks or 49ers in the competitive NFC West.

However, after topping the Niners in Week 1, the Cardinals were seen as surprise contenders. The past two weeks have been disappointed, and Arizona now sits at .500 while the Seahawks remain dominant, the 49ers thrive despite several big injuries, and the Rams start to reintroduce themselves to the NFL scene. A terrifying trap game scenario awaits in New York. It’s a game that’s starting at 10 a.m. local time. It’s a game that the eternal Cardinal Fitzgerald has labeled a “must-win”.

Seattle is the leader in our division, 4-0 right now, and they are rolling,” Fitzgerald said, per team writer Darren Urban. “We have to be able to find a way to get back on the right track. Another road game, going across three time zones to play, you have to find a way to put together four good quarters in all three phases. It’s as simple as that.”

“We need to be able to keep pace with the Rams and the other teams playing well in the division. It’s definitely a must-win.”

Prediction

Even with Arizona’s struggles, it’s far too much to ask this Jets team to pull off what would nonetheless be a miracle. The loss against Denver provided a small hint of momentum, but topping an interconference foe bent on division domination is too far out of the Jets’ realm of possibilities.

Cardinals 23, Jets 10

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills stand by in wake of opponent’s COVID woes

The Buffalo Bills can only be patient as their battle of unbeatens against the Titans hangs in doubt due to Tennessee’s COVID woes.

The ongoing health crisis has officially invaded the NFL’s bubble…or lack thereof…in the form of an outbreak amongst the Tennessee Titans organization. A Thursday report from ESPN indicated that another member of the Titans’ organization has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing their total to 23 since September 24. The positives have forced a shutdown of the Titans’ Nashville facility.

It obviously pales in comparison, but the positive tests put a highly anticipated NFL showdown in jeopardy. Already forced to reschedule their Week 4 matchup against Pittsburgh, the Titans are, as of press time, slated to battle the Buffalo Bills this coming Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

As the situation awaits further developments, the Bills (4-0) are going to continue to push forward with business as usual while taking the proper precautions to ensure that they’re not forced to deal with an outbreak themselves.

“The best thing that we can do is prepare like we’re playing a game on Sunday,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said earlier this week, in a report from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “If the game does happen I trust what coach Sean McDermott and the league tell us to do…It takes one guy to go to the grocery store and it’s simple as that sometimes. You don’t ever suspect anybody to have it in the facility, but you’ve got to hope that guys are wearing their masks and the contact tracers are working.

“It’s just like holding each other accountable to that standard where if you are feeling something, tell somebody,” Allen added. “We are accountable, and we trust the guys in this locker room to do the right thing.”

Buffalo previously deal with a rash of false positives during training camp. Allen was among those affected by those and was forced to miss a practice session as a result.

The continuing situation is all part of the challenges a most unusual season that veterans like safety Jordan Poyer saw coming.

“I think coming into the season everybody knew that it was going to be something different. Everybody knew that there were a lot of challenges and obstacles that we’re going to have to overcome,” Poyer said, per Maddy Glab and Dante Lasting at BuffaloBills.com. “I figured at some point during the season this situation was going to happen, I just didn’t know when. I think Sean said it before the season, having the understanding that mentally, it’s going to be different than any other season that we’ve been a part of. We’re going to have to overcome it.”

While the previous matchup against the Steelers was pushed back three weeks (during Pittsburgh’s original open date), postponing the Bills game could be very tricky. Buffalo is scheduled to partake in Week 6’s Thursday night opener, another high-profile matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. ESPN’s Dianna Russini states that their tilt against Tennessee could be moved to Monday or Tuesday, not unlike how the Chiefs and New England Patriots rescheduled their own Week 4 matchup from Sunday to Monday after a few positives tests on each side, including the latter’s starting quarterback Cam Newton. If that were the case, the Bills’ Thursday night visit to Kansas City would shift to Saturday.

A Tennessee forfeit is also on the table, though players would not receive a game check in such an event. Many fans have clamored for such a result after Tennessee reportedly broke protocol by practicing at a Nashville preparatory school while their facility was shut down.

Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, however, held no ill will toward the Titans and advocated to play if everything is safe and secure.

“This isn’t just a league-wide disaster or whatever, the world’s going through it as well,” Diggs said in Parrino’s report. “(We’re) handling it one day at a time. I’m being understanding more than anything because I feel for those guys, too. You don’t want anybody sick.”

The NFL has continued to monitor their attempts to work through the health crisis, which has proved risky without a bubble setting adopted by other leagues like the NHL, NBA, and WNBA. Adopting face coverings on the sidelines has proved to be a problem for coaches, forcing the league to threaten more progressive penalties, such as the forfeiture of draft picks.

Geoff Magliocchett is on Twitter @GeoffJMags