Ranking the New York Jets’ most culpable players for 1-4 start
The New York Jets are 1-4 with an average scoring margin of -10.8, which is third-worst in the NFL. They have been out-gained by 105.8 yards per game, ranking 31st.
Even for an extremely young team in rebuilding mode, those results are fairly disappointing.
These 10 players deserve the most blame for the lack of fun that Jets fans have had while observing their favorite football team this season.
10. Hamsah Nasirildeen
The Jets’ defense has been decent, allowing the 17th-fewest points per drive (2.14) despite playing with the NFL’s worst average starting field position (opponent’s 34.5-yard line).
With that being said, the unit has been held back from elite status by its backups, scrap-heap pickups, and rookies.
Hamsah Nasirildeen falls into the final category. At a relatively slight (for the LB position) 215 pounds while converting from safety, the rookie linebacker has been pushed around in the run game this season. He was responsible for many of the productive rushes given up by the Jets from Weeks 1-2, leading to him being taken out of the defensive rotation and relegated to a special teams role.
9. Shaq Lawson
Shaq Lawson is doing a solid job in the run game but he has been a liability as a pass rusher. He has recorded only six pressures over 103 pass-rush snaps, a rate of 5.8% that ranks 66th out of 73 qualified edge rushers.
Plus, Lawson’s splashy moments in the run game have been balanced out by a number of missed tackles. He has four missed tackles in the run game, tied for third in the NFL among edge rushers.
Lawson also ranks second on the Jets’ defense with three penalties.
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8. Sheldrick Redwine
The play of the backup safeties in the wake of injuries to Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Maye has been the Jets defense’s biggest issue this season. Sharrod Neasman has been okay, but Adrian Colbert, Jarrod Wilson, and Sheldrick Redwine have made crucial mistakes.
Redwine only played 21 defensive snaps in one game but that was enough to land him on this list. He was destroyed in coverage during the Jets’ season-opening loss to the Panthers.
Over just 12 coverage snaps in relief of Lamarcus Joyner, Redwine coughed up a 26-yard catch to D.J. Moore and a 57-yard touchdown bomb to Robby Anderson. Redwine still ranks seventh on the Jets’ defense in yards allowed despite ranking 15th in coverage snaps.
It is easy to picture the Jets winning the Carolina game if Joyner never exited. The Anderson touchdown likely doesn’t happen, and from there, it’s anybody’s guess how things play out differently in a game that the Panthers ended up winning by only five points.
Redwine was released from the Jets’ practice squad on Oct. 12 and is now a member of the Panthers’ practice squad.
7. Adrian Colbert
Adrian Colbert is tied for third on the Jets in missed tackles (4) despite ranking 11th in total tackles (16). He has the eighth-worst missed tackle rate in the league out of 92 qualified safeties.
6. Jarrod Wilson
Jarrod Wilson has committed a couple of huge pass interference penalties.
With the Jets one play away from sealing a win over the Titans in Week 4, Wilson arrived early on a fourth-down pass and was flagged.
In Week 5, Wilson was called for DPI on a third-down play by the Falcons near the end of the first half, allowing them to sustain a drive that ultimately resulted in a field goal to close the half.
Overall, including his two penalties, Wilson has yielded 96 yards and five first downs on only seven targets this season.
5. Nathan Shepherd
Nathan Shepherd is a great fit for the Jets’ 4-3 scheme. He has always played with a highly aggressive gap-shooting mindset (to a fault), which can be maximized in an attacking front.
Shepherd is rushing the passer solidly this season. He has six pressures on 67 pass-rush snaps, a rate of 9.0% that ranks 27th out of 117 qualified interior defensive linemen.
However, Shepherd’s solid pass rushing is not nearly enough to cancel out the rapid frequency at which he has prompted people in striped shirts to throw yellow flags on the football field.
Despite ranking 96th among defensive tackles with 133 defensive snaps, Shepherd leads all players at the position with five penalties, two more than any other player. He has committed a penalty once every 26.6 snaps, which is absurdly bad.
Things will probably balance out – I would be shocked if Shepherd continued averaging one penalty per game all year – but for now, Shepherd’s penalty proneness has been abhorrent.
All five of Shepherd’s penalties occurred from Weeks 4-5 against the Titans and Falcons.
Plus, while Shepherd’s pass rushing has been good, he has struggled mightily against the run. He ranks at the 21st percentile among interior defensive linemen in PFF’s run defense grade (46.0), the 2nd percentile in missed tackle rate against the run (33.3%), and the 14th percentile in run stop rate (3.2%).
Shepherd has always been a lackluster run defender, but those woes have been magnified in a scheme that asks him to shoot through gaps with reckless abandon.
It’s all or nothing for Shepherd: he either creates explosive penetration or just completely runs himself out of the play. In the run game, it’s often been the latter as teams have used draw plays to expose him. Screen plays are another way that opponents have exposed the downhill style of Shepherd and other Jets defenders.
4. Tyler Kroft
Tyler Kroft is averaging 41.8 snaps per game for the Jets. He is playing a huge role but doing nothing with it.
As a receiver, Kroft has been non-existent. He has six catches on 10 targets for 46 yards, zero touchdowns, and two first downs. Out of 49 qualified tight ends, he ranks 48th in yards per route run (0.52).
Kroft is known as a good blocker but is not performing to his usual standards in that phase. He has already given up two pressures in pass protection after yielding only one in each of the previous three seasons. His run blocking has not been nearly as forceful or consistent as he showed during his days with the Bills and Bengals.
3. Ryan Griffin
Ryan Griffin joins Kroft as the Jets’ second tight end in their oft-used 12 personnel (2 TE) packages. He has been just as woeful.
Griffin has eight catches on 15 targets for 49 yards, zero touchdowns, and one first down. His average of 0.62 yards per route run ranks one spot ahead of Kroft as the third-worst among 49 qualified tight ends.
Fans who focused on Griffin’s blocking over his first two years with the Jets should know that he is not reliable in that phase, and that has continued this year. He is tied for third among tight ends with three pressures allowed and routinely allows his man to quickly finish tackles in the run game.
2. Greg Van Roten
Greg Van Roten has allowed the second-most pressures among all guards in the NFL (21) and consistently ruins wide-zone running plays by allowing defenders to cross his face and penetrate. He has been part of an incredibly high percentage of the Jets’ offensive line’s worst reps.
1. Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson is a rookie, so he obviously gets a pass for his early issues as it pertains to his long-term potential. He is dealing with the bumps and bruises of being a quarterback, which is to be expected.
But when looking solely at Wilson’s impact on the 2021 Jets, it cannot be denied that he is one of the primary reasons that the team is 1-4.
Wilson leads the NFL with nine interceptions and has the worst passer rating among qualified quarterbacks (62.9). He wasted a strong team effort against the Patriots in Week 2 with his four turnovers, and in Week 5, the Jets lost to the Falcons by one score in a game where Wilson misfired on countless open throws.
On the positive side, Wilson did put forth a heroic effort against the Titans in Week 4, sparking a dormant offense with his pinpoint off-schedule deep throws (although even in that game Wilson nearly cost the Jets a victory with multiple untimely misses in the fourth quarter and overtime).
The worst aspect of Wilson’s play thus far is the fact that he is having a rough time even when the team is helping him out.
You can blame the offensive line all you want, but seven of Wilson’s nine interceptions were thrown from a clean pocket. Wilson’s clean-pocket passer rating of 70.1 is the worst in the NFL. There are 22 quarterbacks with an under-pressure passer rating that is better than Wilson’s clean-pocket passer rating.
It’s still a little too early for Wilson’s struggles to severely impact his long-term outlook. He has all the time in the world to iron out his weaknesses and develop into a franchise quarterback.
With that being said, when taking out the rookie disclaimer and looking objectively at the Jets’ first five games of the 2021 season, it is clear that Wilson has had an enormous negative impact on the team’s performance.