Keep the panic minimal after the NY Jets’ Week 1 loss
Yes, again. It’s happened yet again for the New York Jets and their diehard fans who flocked to Carolina this past weekend.
Again, in that their team couldn’t match the hype, ultimately falling by a 19-14 final to the Carolina Panthers. Again, in the sense that the injuries are instantly and infuriatingly piling up. Again, in that another former quarterback sought and capitalized on sweet revenge (see Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2017 and Chad Pennington in 2008).
The once jubilant mood that celebrated Joe Douglas’s executive prowess and Robert Saleh’s sideline enthusiasm has turned quicker than a New York minute—faster than a dinner party atmosphere after a faux pas involving Borat and a bag.
“Same old Jets” and “we can’t have nice things” have taken over Jets’ social media circles as fandom drowns in its sorrows.
But wait. Wait just one stinking moment. As depressed as fans should be early this week, there were some legitimate positives coming out of the Week 1 loss.
In this sport, not everything is always as it appears. Legitimately positive aspects popped up this past Sunday.
Simultaneously, of course, panic should set in in multiple areas.
Let’s set the New York Jets panic meter after a disheartening Week 1 loss.
- Chill: Relax. Don’t jump off the deep end, as either more time is needed or the “it’s just one game” reminder needs to take hold.
- The gray area in-between: Tough to define, but most of what’s seen below falls in this area either on the moderately chill or panic side.
- Panic: Sound the alarm. Either push the panic button jump out of the nearest 10-story building, for things couldn’t look or feel worse.
The panic meter also showcases a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 representing the chill side and 10 going all-in on the panic.
NY Jets offense: Timidly chill (3 of 10)
Interestingly, the New York Jets offense should fall somewhere on the “chill” side of the panic meter, yet it shouldn’t travel past the point of goodwill.
Multiple opportunities were left on the table in the first half, especially in the first quarter. First-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s strategy was obvious: establish an identity.
Unfortunately, the opportunity for more yards evaporated due to the attempt in establishing that identity (more on that under the LaFleur section below). But from an overall standpoint, there’s promise on this side of the ball.
Zach Wilson: Beyond chill (1 of 10)
Those who walked away from that game thinking Sam Darnold outplayed Zach Wilson simply don’t know what they’re watching. One quarterback missed several open targets and threw inaccurately while asked to execute a much easier game plan, while the other stood in the face of intense pressure and delivered in his first NFL game.
At the very least, there’s nothing to worry about at the quarterback position. The Jets nailed this decision this past offseason.
Weapons: Cool, calm and relaxed (2 of 10)
- Corey Davis: Completely chill
- Elijah Moore: Impatient chill
- Running backs: Slightly worried
- Tight ends: Somewhat panicked
Corey Davis enjoyed a five-reception, 97-yard, two-touchdown game in his Jets debut. So, there are no complaints there. Elijah Moore is a different story; although, there’s no need to panic.
The Ole Miss product is a flat-out stud. Forget the drop on the shallow cross and the missed opportunity deep for a moment. This was the rookie receiver’s first NFL game after missing time in August and September.
Let him get his feet and head right before evaluating the kid any further. He still belongs in the chill category, albeit in a semi-impatient fashion.
There’s not much to dig into as far as the running backs are concerned; not until the offensive line first does its job. And the tight ends didn’t have a great game when asked to pass block—or run block, for that matter.
Offensive line: Panic with a dash of reason (7 of 10)
- Mekhi Becton: Panic city
- Alijah Vera-Tucker: Frightening chill
- Connor McGovern: Panic city
- Greg Van Roten: Panic town
- George Fant: Indifferent
- Morgan Moses: Moderate chill
As a whole, Jets fans have every right to push the panic button on the offensive line. Finally, the team gets two first-round bodies in the fold and the unit puts up a stinker.
Mekhi Becton is injured again. This time he heads to the shelf courtesy of a dislocated kneecap. While the verdict can certainly be viewed as good news—as fears ran rampant that he’d be out for the season—the Louisville product’s injury history is becoming quite the concern.
Alijah Vera-Tucker was plain awful in his professional debut, as were Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten.
Go ahead and push that panic button while holding onto a dash of reason, for this marked the first time these five men ever played together as a unit. That’s a critical piece of information to keep in mind.
As poorly as the offense played, the defense should top the panic list. A better quarterback would have dropped at least 37 points on Sunday (three more touchdowns).
Miscommunication could be seen in far too many areas, as wide-open Panther weapons were either missed or thrown to inaccurately.
Defensive line: All good (3 of 10)
- Quinnen Williams: Anxious panic
- John Franklin-Myers: Cool
- Foley Fatukasi: All good
- Bryce Huff: Optimistic chill
- Shaq Lawson: “Wait and see” chill
The only saving grace comes upfront. New York’s four-man pass rush performed much better than the feeling that oozed from the broadcast view.
Even what appeared to be a quiet Quinnen Williams debut didn’t match the reality of the situation.
- EDGE Bryce Huff: 25.0% pass-rush win rate
- IDL Foley Fatukasi: 21.4% pass-rush win rate
- EDGE John Franklin-Myers: 20.0% pass-rush win rate
- IDL Quinnen Williams: 17.4% pass-rush win rate
- IDL Sheldon Rankins: 13.6% pass-rush win rate
- EDGE Shaq Lawson: 0.0% pass-rush win rate
2020 league averages: 9.9% for IDL, 12.9% for EDGE
Linebackers: Freak-out time (10 of 10)
- C.J. Mosley: Earnest-effort chill
- Everybody else: Panic beyond belief
It didn’t take a rocket surgeon (as I’ve actually heard it announced as many times over the course of my life) to figure out what Joe Brady’s game plan was early. He wanted to attack the two rookie linebackers.
Using Christian McCaffrey in the flats while maximizing the short, three-step passing game is where Carolina focused early in this one. It worked to a decent degree, but it also didn’t cripple Jeff Ulbrich’s unit.
Now, with Jamien Sherwood expected to miss multiple weeks with an ankle injury, it’s freak-out time.
C.J. Mosley played well when using the eye test, but the analytics folks at PFF didn’t agree (29.3 overall grade that ranks him 80th at linebacker). It was probably that 29.1 pass coverage grade that did him in, as McCaffrey got him more than once when running the angle route.
When it isn’t known who’s actually going to start just five days away from a game, the mood travels beyond panic and into freak out.
Cornerbacks: Surprisingly chill (5 of 10)
- Bryce Hall: The chill leader
- Michael Carter II: The young chill
- Javelin Guidry: The quick chill
- Brandin Echols: The “wait and see” chill
Unlike the general consensus, I wasn’t too worried about the Jets’ cornerback situation heading into the season. Yes, this group is certainly still a “situation” that needs attention and eventual addressing, but today’s NFL landscape makes it an interesting study.
Considering nobody can play the position flawlessly, per the outlandish rules that discriminate against defenders, going young and focusing on the pass rush was the way to go. Nonetheless, the kids played well against the Panthers.
#Jets cornerbacks vs. Carolina
77 yards (5.1 Y/A)
4 first downs (27%)
Really good debut in a tough matchup
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) September 13, 2021
Bryce Hall was tremendous and Michael Carter II showed why he’s the most promising rookie defender on the team. Granted, the Panthers did deploy a lot of three-step stuff, and Darnold wasn’t great in the game, but through one week, the corners deserve a solid grade.
Safeties: ‘Who can play safety’ panic? (8 of 10)
- Marcus Maye: Veteran chill
- Everybody else: “What are they going to do” panic?
Marcus Maye wasn’t great, but he also wasn’t terrible. Similar to the Mosley situation, Maye had to deal with a lot on Sunday (inexperience around him and injuries piling up).
Lamarcus Joyner’s injury means the safety opposite of Maye will be a relative unknown. Newcomer Sheldrick Redwine put forth one of the worst safety plays in recent memory on the Robby Anderson touchdown. To leave yourself that flat-footed with one of the fastest receivers in the league going vertical is a tough situation.
Another newcomer, Adrian Colbert, replaced Redwine to a much more efficient degree. Still, who will start opposite No. 20 in a passing league makes the safety position fall into the panic category without hesitation.
NY Jets special teams: ‘The good, bad and unbelievable’ chill (4 of 10)
- Braden Mann: “Why?” panic
- Matt Ammendola: “Gold star of the week” chill
Braden Mann’s injury is just one of those things. (Just one of those things that seem to happen to Joe Douglas draftees is more like it.)
And although the Jets will have to sign a punter, Matt Ammendola’s punting efforts in Carolina deserve the gold star of the week. Somewhere, Jay Feeley’s chin was held high while watching the kid fill in at punter (harkening back to the 2009 Jets wild-card game in Cincinnati when Steve Weatherford went down).
NY Jets coaching staff: ‘Wait and see’ reasonable thoughts (5 of 10)
Listen, it was the first game. Criticism is warranted but at least some patience is still required.
Robert Saleh: ‘There’s work to do’ chill (5 of 10)
On one hand, the obvious adjustments made at halftime and during the game represent a positive Jets fans haven’t experienced in quite some time. On the other hand, the boneheaded (unforced) penalties were just too much.
Guys not running on the field for special teams, illegal formations and pre-snap stuff that simply cannot happen isn’t something Robert Saleh wants to be known for.
No Robert Saleh panic is warranted just yet, but time is short.
Mike LaFleur: Chill with a raised eyebrow (5 of 10)
Mike LaFleur faced a tough situation in his first game as an NFL play-caller. There isn’t much an offensive coordinator can do when his guys aren’t blocking anybody.
Then again, this is the NFL in the year 2021; there’s always something an offensive mind can do.
A ton of yards and a solid number of points were left on the field in the first quarter. Carolina’s defense came out in aggressive mode right from the get-go, and yet LaFleur was intent on establishing an identity.
Running into loaded boxes and safeties driving down fearlessly helped the Jets to a 2.6 yards-per-carry day. Obviously, a lot of that dealt with poor efforts via one-on-one matchups and group play (as a simple stunt couldn’t be handed in the passing game). But LaFleur rolled with the classic Shanahan principle that “it starts with the rushing attack.”
Eventually, the Jets opened things up and Wilson capitalized. Thinking about keeping Wilson upright had to be in the mind, but force-feeding a run a bit too much when the defense was taking it away hurt the flow early.
Again, LaFleur deserves the benefit of the doubt, to be in the chill category, but with a stare only The Rock could produce.
Jeff Ulbrich: Vanilla gray area (4 of 10)
New York did blitz on a few occasions in the contest, but Saleh’s vanilla yet situationally-principled features were on full display. The idea that a rookie (Mac Jones) is coming to town is a welcomed one when looking ahead to Week 2.
Brant Boyer: ‘What’s he supposed to do’ chill? (5 of 10)
Much like Jeff Ulbrich, there isn’t much to say about Brant Boyer’s first game in 2021. We already know who Boyer is; it’s just a matter of watching this special teams group more than a sole game.