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New York Jets
NFL

Are The New York Jets Fixable?

  • Justin Melo
  • September 26, 2022
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The New York Jets suffered another lowly defeat on Sunday, getting brushed aside 27-12 by Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Jets were truly dreadful on both offense and defense. A miraculous Week 2 comeback victory against the Cleveland Browns is the lone reason the Jets aren’t winless. The Jets should improve marginally once Zach Wilson returns at quarterback, but their wide-ranging issues don’t appear fixable this season.

The offense is abysmal. Quarterback Joe Flacco is overseeing an offense that’s scoring the 21st-ranked 17.3 points per game. Mental errors have also been present. Jets receivers lead the league in drops with nine through three contests. This is an expensive, revamped group that’s seen a ton of capital poured into it via draft selections and high-priced free agency acquisitions.

Wilson can only do so much. The likeliest outcome is the Jets’ offense will be overly reliant on a sophomore quarterback that’s still acclimating himself. Wilson completed 55.6% of his passing attempts as a rookie while throwing more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (9). Wilson remains a high-upside quarterback, but he’s not about to single-handedly rescue a free-falling Jets squad.

There are some positives to take away from the Bengals’ loss. Tight end Tyler Conklin continues to be a bright spot. Conklin averaged a healthy 5.87 yards of separation against the Bengals, per Next Gen Stats. Rookie starlet receiver Garrett Wilson averaged 3.83. The league average of separation is currently 2.91 yards. Flacco simply wasn’t completing passes to open receivers with consistency. Wilson should take advantage of his receiving targets with more success. Rookie offensive tackle Max Mitchell allowed two pressures and zero sacks while scoring his highest pass-block efficiency of the season at 98.2, via Pro Football Focus. Several injuries have thrust Mitchell into action. The Jets’ young players are getting better, but it’s not leading to tangible victories. It may be a while before that desired outcome arrives.

Perhaps the concerns on the defensive side of the ball are more telling. The Jets were expected to field a much-improved defense this season. General manager Joe Douglas drafted cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and EDGE Jermaine Johnson II in the first round. Fellow pass rusher Carl Lawson returned from a season-ending Achilles injury. The secondary received additional boosts via the additions of Jordan Whitehead and D.J. Reed in free agency, the latter of which was paid $11 million annually. None of these moves have led to the desired improvement.

Whitehead has missed six tackles and is allowing a passer rating of 150.3 when targeted, per Pro Football Focus. Fellow safety Lamarcus Joyner finds himself in similar territory. Joyner has missed four tackles and is allowing a passer rating of 158.3 when targeted. Whitehead and Joyner are forming the worst starting safety duo in football. The Jets’ passing defense is a bottom-five unit in EPA.

The Jets are allowing 27.0 points per contest. Only five squads are currently allowing more. Their inability to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks is serving as the squad’s Achilles heel. The Jets have totaled 5.0 sacks through three contests. Not a single EDGE defender has recorded a full sack (Lawson and Johnson have recorded half a sack each). Lawson doesn’t appear to be the same pass rusher he was pre-injury. Johnson, who the Jets traded back into the first round for, is still developing (as expected).

The lack of an appropriate defensive game plan put together by Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich ahead of the Bengals game is concerning. In Weeks 1 and 2, the Bengals’ offense saw 31% and 39% of the opposing defensive snaps in Cover 2. The Bengals have struggled to defeat Cover 2 this season. The Jets stubbornly ran Cover 2 on an astounding 1% of defensive snaps. It suggests Saleh and Ulbrich are married to their scheme regardless of personnel and matchup opportunities.

Saleh arrived in East Rutherford from San Francisco after overseeing a dominant 49ers defense. That success was however largely found through elite front-four play in the trenches. A revamped secondary that’s supposed to be better suited to Saleh’s preferred play style hasn’t paid immediate dividends. Saleh isn’t receiving those results in New York and his scheme is being exposed as a result.

Saleh is now 4-20 through the first 16 games of his Jets tenure. Touted for his defensive-minded approach, Saleh’s defense is worse this season despite being undeniably better on paper. Wilson’s impending return offers a lifeline and banner of optimism, but the Jets’ issues are too grand to be fixed by a young, inexperienced quarterback. The Jets could be headed for another lengthy rebuild if things continue snowballing.

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Justin Melo