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

mike white, michael carter, jets

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti

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

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

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

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

Bengals 27, Jets 3

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Carpenter

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

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

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

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

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

Bengals 35, Jets 7

quincy wilson, jets

Dylan Price

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

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

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

Bengals 42, Jets 10

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

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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then came the injury.

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

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

mike white, michael carter, jets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets’ lack of on-field progress disfigures offseason work

New York Jets, Joe Douglas

Trading off the faces of the franchise is working to the New York Jets’ benefit, but the on-field yields have made them impossible to enjoy.

The New York Jets’ most fruitful endeavors of the 2021 season came in Week 6. By perhaps no coincidence, that week of action marked the Jets’ annual bye week.

The 2021-22 NFL playoff bracket was never going to be the primary criteria for judging the Jets’ season. This year’s AFC environment was already packed to the brim with established division favorites: the Jets’ own East division is set to be dominated by a Western New York overlord for the foreseeable future. Tennessee has taken over the South as expected while pleasant surprises have emerged in Cincinnati and Las Vegas.

The wild card picture features expected contenders like the Ravens, Chargers, Browns, and Steelers. In Kansas City, the two-time defending conference champion Chiefs are shockingly fighting for their lives. Asking a two-win team to launch themselves into that conversation, no matter how much they changed during the offseason, was always a very tall ask, one not even worth asking. Appearing in the “in the hunt” column on the postseason charts NFL broadcasters break out around the holidays was probably going to be the best-case scenario for the team.

Nonetheless, there was much to gain in year one of the shared Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson era, the official start of Joe Douglas’ general manager tenture after he installed his own head coach and quarterback. Progress was the name of the game and it would’ve been hard to take steps backward from the final years of the Adam Gase era. The Jets were left in such dire straits from Gase’s two-year watch that there was no way for them to fully fill all the boxes on their offseason checklist, but Douglas did a solid job nonetheless.

But the biggest moves of Douglas’ offseason were done not in the name of the present, but the future. Douglas officially left his mark on the organization through the trade of previous franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, paving the way for Wilson’s arrival. In return for a quarterback with a career 78.6 passer rating and an unforunate injury history, Douglas was able to secure a second and fourth-round pick from the Carolina Panthers. Darnold’s departure came nearly nine months after fellow franchise face Jamal Adams was shipped off to Seattle for each of the Seahawks’ first-round picks over the next two drafts.

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For the time being, Douglas’ deals look like the finest New York-based robbery since Clive Owen and Co.’s heist in Spike Lee’s Inside Man. Adams may have earned his desired big contract but has failed to stop Seattle’s Russell Wilson-free descent. His first playoff experience was a Wild Card disappointment that failed to stop an injured Los Angeles Rams passing tandem of Jared Goff and John Wolford. Seattle’s ugly Monday night loss to New Orleans currently positions the Jets in the eighth slot of the current 2022 draft board, one of the two appearances within the first octology.

Meanwhile, Darnold became instant comedic fuel for those seeking a cheap laugh at the Jets’ expense: as his Panthers started 3-0 (wins coming against the Jets, Saints, and Texans), many were ready to put him in Canton for his services of making Gang Green look even more inept. Carolina has since dropped four in a row, the latest loss being a listless 25-3 defeat at the hands of the lowly Giants. Darnold was benched for de facto XFL MVP P.J. Walker in defeat and the Panthers reportedly remain interested in the services of the burdened Deshaun Watson, a sweepstakes Douglas smartly reclused himself from.

Per Tankathon, the Jets are slated to visit the podium four times over the first 45 selections if the current pace continues. That alone should make the team smile and emerge from the 2021 campaign with good feelings.

Alas, what’s happening on the field makes it absolutely impossible to appreciate the yields off of it.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Jets (1-5) are somehow finding rockier bottoms than those reached under Gase, much like how Gase “accomplished” dubious distinctions Rick Kotite’s doomed groups managed to avoid. New York’s new futility was best personified through their most recent defeat, a 54-13 shellacking at the hands of the New England Patriots.

Few remnants of the New England dynasty linger since Tom Brady flew south, but their monopoly over the Jets is a troubling leftover: of the Patriots’ ten wins earned in the post-Brady era, four have come against the hapless Jets. East Rutherford’ portion of the 2021 meetings was equally ugly, as the Jets failed to visit the end zone in a 25-6 defeat. A week later, they were on the wrong end of a shutout in Denver, the tenth scoreboard blank in the NFL since 2019. Of those no-shows, the Jets have been responsible for three of them.

In further Sunday struggles, the 54 points were the most scored by a Jets opponent since the team let up 56 to those same Patriots in 1979. It was also the eighth time in franchise history that the Jets let up at least 550 yards in a game since opening weekend of the 1998 season. Unlike that overtime thriller in San Francisco, no divisional title/AFC title game appearance awaits at the end.

What New England did on Sunday is what, frankly, the Jets should be doing. Nobody is expecting them to light up the scoreboard on a weekly basis (nor should they) but the Jets’ lack of on-field progress is disturbing. Solace can be gained from the fact that the team is well-set for the future…the elevator ride up the draft board is the sweetest form of gridiron schadenfreude…but it’s hard to get excited when the on-field product suggests that there’s still so much to work on.

Douglas’ drafts have also done little to inspire faith in the draft day rewards. Sure, his primary picks (Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker) have provided a solid foundation for the wall in front of Wilson. But addressing the entire body of work is a new exercise in football frustration and futility.

Take his original class in 2020, for example. Becton has been strong but has spent most of this season on injured reserve (along with sixth-round punter Braden Mann). Nothing more needs to be written about second-round weapon Denzel Mims’ lack of snaps (his 20 on Sunday were a season-best). Jabari Zuniga (3rd) and James Morgan are already gone while Morgan’s fellow fourth-rounders La’Mical Perine and Cameron Clark have united for a single snap this season. While there’s hope for secondary defenders Ashtyn Davis and Bryce Hall, they haven’t made any of the missed opportunities worth forgetting: for example, Jeremy Chinn, Logan Wilson, and Antonio Gibson went within the immediate ten post-Mims picks. The already pointless selection of Morgan is even more bizarre considering Gabriel Davis went to Buffalo three choices later.

It’s great that the Jets have accumulated such valuable draft capital…but does that mean much when the on-field product still wallows in gridiron shame?

Granted, there’s still time for the Jets to come out clean on the other side of this season: arguing about the fates of Saleh and Wilson (who is missing at least the next two weeks with an injury) is pointless: even the Jets won’t be so impatient to give up on them after one year. Another macabre gift has been bestowed in the sense that the Jets’ season is so far gone and already removed from the postseason that they have 11 consequence-free opportunities to stage free research and development for the future, starting with Sunday’s visit from the AFC North leaders from Cincinnati (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Douglas arrived in one of the most thankless jobs in professional sports. To his credit, he’s making the best of it through not only his draft board maneuvering but late summer cuts that have created a professional future for themselves (i.e. Quincy Williams, Ty Johnson). Trading off the franchise faces and his action on the offensive line was refreshing after years of Mike Maccagnan-supervised negligence. To say Douglas has the best intentions would perhaps be the understatement of this young season.

But if good intentions served as championship criteria, everyone would be undefeated.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets reacquire QB Joe Flacco

In the aftermath of Zach Wilson’s injury, the New York Jets have brought back Flacco, last year’s backup who was stationed in Philadelphia.

The New York Jets have welcomed back quarterback Joe Flacco through a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Flacco, 36, was the Jets’ backup quarterback last season before moving on through free agency.

This Monday deal was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who says that the Jets sent over a sixth-round draft pick that could become a fifth depending on Flacco’s playing time.

Flacco’s return comes in the wake of a Zach Wilson injury suffered in Sunday’s 54-13 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots. The second overall pick of last year’s draft underwent an MRI and was diagnosed with a PCL sprain. Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed that Wilson will miss two-to-four weeks during his Monday statements, per notes from the Jets. Mike White finished out the game, completing 20-of-32 passes for 202 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. The Jets also have well-traveled veteran Josh Johnson on their practice squad.

The Super Bowl XLVII MVP and Audubon, NJ native now returns to the tri-state area. Partly brought in for his potential as a veteran mentor, Flacco appeared in five games for the Jets (1-5) and made four starts after Sam Darnold missed time with a shoulder injury. He served in a similar capacity in Philadelphia (2-5) as he was listed as the top backup for Jalen Hurts, though he did not appear in any games. Garner Minshew will likely take over that role in Flacco’s place while the team also signed Reid Sinnett off waivers from Miami. Flacco was Denver’s opening day starter in 2019 after 11 years as the Baltimore Ravens’ franchise quarterback.

Flacco posted respectable numbers in New York after coming off neck surgery, tallying 864 yards and six touchdowns against three interceptions. That included a 262-yard, three-touchdown performance in a Monday night contest against the New England Patriots in November.

It remains to be seen if Flacco will be able to start for the Jets’ next contest, as they battle the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS). A Thursday night tilt in Indianapolis awaits after the Bengals’ visit.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson set to miss 2-4 weeks (Report)

zach wilson, jets

The New York Jets have reportedly avoided a major catastrophe when it comes to Zach Wilson’s injury, but another rookie isn’t so fortunate.

Reports from ESPN’s Adam Schefter had good news and bad news when it came to New York Jets-based medical news stemming from Sunday’s disastrous 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots.

The team has appeared to have avoided a major disaster when it comes to franchise quarterback Zach Wilson, as a sprained PCL diagnosed through an MRI is projected to keep him out for the next 2-4 weeks. Safety and fellow rookie Jamien Sherwood, however, isn’t as fortunate: a torn Achilles has been reported to end Sherwood’s season, further devastating a unit that has seen several regulars fall to injury.

Wilson endured several low hits during first half action on Sunday and was diagnosed with a knee injury after he was victimized by Matt Judon in the latter stages of the second quarter. He was initially labeled questionable to return but Mike White played out the remainder of the defeat, throwing for 202 yards and a score in his regular season debut. White, a 2018 draft pick in Dallas, is the only other active quarterback on the Jets’ roster, though tenured veteran Josh Johnson lingers on the practice squad.

Meanwhile, Sherwood’s rookie season is set to end early after the Jets chose him in the fifth round of last spring’s draft. He was a safety at Auburn but the Jets immediately made plans to shift him to linebacker. Sherwood mostly worked on special teams in the early stages of the season but earned sizable responsibilities when he was granted the “green dot” in place of the likewise injured C.J. Mosley. The wearer of the green sticker is the player who communicates with the coaches on the sidelines. Sherwood played a career-high 52 snaps in Sunday’s loss, earning two tackles.

The remaining Jets will look to move forward when they battle the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Four goals for the post-bye slate

rob saleh, jets

Though the playoffs are still a pipe dream, there is plenty for the New York Jets to accomplish over the next dozen weeks.

After a one-week reprieve for their beleaguered fanbase, the New York Jets are back in action.

The Gang Green faithful actually enjoyed the last week of NFL football: no other AFC East team picked up a win and Sam Darnold lost in overtime before Jamal Adams and Geno Smith fell in a prime time thriller. Those latter instances allowed the Jets to shoot up the draft board thanks to prior transactions. Entering Week 7 play, the Jets own two picks in the top ten and four within the first 46.

The fortuitous weekend for Jets fans was perhaps unironically assisted by the fact that their team didn’t play a single down, but that gravy train comes to an end on Sunday afternoon. New York (1-4) resumes their season on Sunday, commencing a dozen weeks of uninterrupted gridiron endeavors at Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Even though the Jets entered Week 7 play only a game-and-a-half out of the last AFC wild card spot, the playoffs remain a pipe dream. Having said that, there’s plenty for the team to accomplish and plenty of ways for them to feel good about the 2021 season as things get back underway in New England…

zach wilson, jets

Break 30 points

The modern NFL is one that worships offense under the supervision of a deity known as fantasy football. Teams reach point and yardage totals that would make Arena Football League (RIP) teams blush…and still lose.

The Jets have been left behind in this regard: over the past two-plus seasons, they have reached the 30-point plateau in only three games…all of which came in November 2019. That’s tied with Pittsburgh (which has been weighed down by aging and backup quarterbacks) for the second-worst such tally in football and besting only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.

Growing pains were to be well-expected with a rookie quarterback in tow. No broadcast of a 2021 Jets game is complete without showcasing the fact that Peyton Manning, for example, threw 28 interceptions during his rookie campaign near the turn of the century. But that doesn’t mean the Jets should wave the white flag on offensive development.

Through five games, it’s tough to make a case that the Jets have generated any form of offensive consistency. Week 4’s upset win over Tennessee, a game that saw the Jets earn their first touchdown in a first half, seemed like a great catalyst, but they followed that up with a brutal half-hour of game time in London before salvaging a respectable final score against the Atlanta Falcons. It’s great that a defense held together by the flimsy tape of draft weekend Saturday acquisitions and late summer camp cuts has held its own, but there’s no need to make a gargantuan task even harder.

Reaching the landmark of 30 points would be a strong step forward for the offense, a nice task to cross off the Zach Wilson NFL to-do list. The Jets need to finally get with the times; doing so sooner rather than later would have all kinds of benefits.

elijah moore, jets

Maximize Mims and Moore

It’s been a long, long time since the Jets have had a homegrown big-play receiver. Robby Anderson had a chance to be that weapon but the Adam Gase era scared him away from further metropolitan efforts. The last realistic option is probably a toss-up between Santana Moss (2001) and Jerricho Cotchery (2004).

Over the past two springs, the Jets have spent their primary picks on necessary upgrades to the offensive line (Mekhi Becton/Alijah Vera-Tucker) but found diamonds in the second-round rough through Denzel Mims (59th overall in 2019) and Elijah Moore (34th last April). Each entered this season with something to prove: Mims was forced into a de facto redshirt year after hamstring issues ate away at his rookie training camp while Moore wants to show the football world that he should’ve been a first-rounder.

When the winds of change swept through the Jets’ offense, both Mims and Moore were expected to become sizable parts of the offensive revolution. But each has found themselves awkwardly sidelined: Mims was a surprise healthy scratch for two of the first five games and has struggled to beat out reserves like Braxton Berrios and Jeff Smith for playing time. Moore missed the Tennessee win with a concussion sustained the week prior in Denver but struggled to work his way back into the London lineup, partaking in only 41 percent of offensive snaps (though one drew a length pass interference penalty that set up the Jets’ final touchdown of the day).

The Jets have invested a lot into Mims and Moore. In choosing the former, for example, the Jets passed on instant, consistent contributors like Jeremy Chinn, Logan Wilson, and Antonio Gibson. Time is on Moore’s side, but the Jets are nearing a point of no return with Mims. If offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur wants to leave a lasting positive impression on the long-suffering unit, the best way to do that would be to carve out roles for two undeniably talented playmakers. The Jets have lost enough ground in the big-play race; they have the resources to restabilize themselves and would be foolish not to take advantage.

marcus maye, jets

Turnaround the Turnover Game

Their 1-4 record may mask it to the broad, national scene, but the Jets’ defense has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the NFL’s early slate. The group’s efforts have been particularly impressive considering that the average drive starts less than 66 yards from the end zone (an NFL-worst). New York has established one of the scarier pass rushing units in the league, their success personified by a four-year extension bestowed to John Franklin-Myers worth a guaranteed $30 million.

But their efforts in forcing turnovers have left much to be desired: the Jets have earned only four takeaways over the first five games, half of which came through fumble recoveries in London. Through the first six weeks of play, they’re the only team in the league that has yet to record an interception.

It doesn’t take much research to show how important it is to force turnovers in today’s NFL. The resurgent Dallas Cowboys are allowing 295 aerial yards per game (30th in the league) yet their defense is the talk of the football town thanks to a league-best 11 interceptions, seven of which have landed in the arms of Trevon Diggs. The Jets have done a solid job of limiting damage from Wilson turnovers, but it’s time to take the next step. With Marcus Maye not only returning from an ankle injury but also reiterating his immediate dedication to the team, there’s a prime opportunity to generate positive momentum in New England.

zach wilson, jets

Beat Another Contender

Though the playoffs are probably out of the question, there are prime opportunities for the Jets to earn victories. A six-game stretch that stretches from Thanksgiving to Christmas looks particularly tasty, as that slate (Miami twice, Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Jacksonville) comes against teams that own a combined eight wins (three of which come from the Saints).

But if the Jets truly want to provide an “ahem” moment to the rest of the league, a warning that they’re going to be a problem in the near future, they need to beat one of the elite squads that reside on the immediate road ahead. They still have to face the Buffalo Bills twice, while New England, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati linger at the cusp of contention. The Jets also ring in the new year with a visit from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their MetLife Stadium finale on Jan. 2.

The Jets might’ve taken care of that with the aforementioned over the AFC South-leading Titans, but any good vibes were erased by a listless first-half against an Atlanta squad whose wins have come against the cursed New York football duology. A shutout loss in Denver also looks particularly ugly now that the Broncos have lost four in a row.

Playing out the slate after a slow start is a task the Jets have become far too comfortable with over recent seasons. The first year of the Gase era, for example, forced them to work through a 1-7 start. They would finish that year with a respectable 7-9 ledger, but almost all of those wins came against teams in equally dire straits. Another win over an established contender wouldn’t cancel out listless showings against mediocre squads. But it would help the Jets feel more comfortable with what they’ve built and the investments they’ve made so far.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti

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

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

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

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

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

Patriots 27, Jets 16

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Dylan Price

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

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

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

Patriots 23, Jets 10

michael carter, jets

Brendan Carpenter

The Jets have had more than enough time to decompress from their subpar trip to London as they’re coming off of a bye week. They now have to travel to Foxboro to face the Patriots for the second time this season.

This could be a game where both offenses struggle and the defenses prevail. The Patriots don’t have an explosive offense and the Jets offense is…inconsistent, to say the least. To their credit, the unit has been playing somewhat better over their past few games.

If neither offense gets in a groove early, this is going to be a tight, low-scoring game. If that’s the case, homefield will play a large enough role for the Patriots to sweep the season series, no matter how much it pains me to say.

Patriots 17, Jets 14

Best of the Rest

MagliocchettiPriceCarpenter
Denver @ Cleveland (Thu.)BroncosBroncosBroncos
Atlanta @ MiamiFalconsDolphinsFalcons
Carolina @ NY GiantsPanthersPanthersPanthers
Cincinnati @ BaltimoreRavensRavensBengals
Kansas City @ TennesseeChiefsChiefsChiefs
Washington @ Green BayPackersPackersPackers
Detroit @ LA RamsRamsRamsRams
Philadelphia @ Las VegasRaidersRaidersRaiders
Chicago @ Tampa BayBuccaneersBuccaneersBuccaneers
Houston @ ArizonaCardinalsCardinalsCardinals
Indianapolis @ San FranciscoColts49ersColts
New Orleans @ Seattle (Mon.)SaintsSaintsSaints
Last Week11-310-47-7
Overall59-3559-3555-39

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
Dylan Price is on Twitter @dylanprice27
Brendan Carpenter is on Twitter @brendan_carp

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

robert saleh, jets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

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

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

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

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

Should the New York Jets inquire?

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

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

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

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

That’s where Beckham can help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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

zach wilson, jets

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

John Franklin-Myers, jets

Geoff Magliocchetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bye Week Grade: C-

jets, zach wilson

Dylan Price

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

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

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

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

Bye Week Grade: C

Best of the Rest

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

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