A lot went wrong for New York a season-opening lackluster effort
This was close to the worst-case scenario for the New York Jets.
After a rousing rendition of the national anthem by the MetLife faithful, the Jets came out flat and faceplanted after halftime.
Maybe it wasn’t quite as ugly as some of the blowouts from last season, but the second half really made Jets fans shake their heads and sigh, “Same old Jets.” (How could anybody argue with that sentiment after looking at the 24-9 final?)
While it’s too early to overreact to one game against a projected top team in the AFC, it’s fair to wonder what went so wrong.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. Without having access to the tape or the deeper numbers, here are some impressions from Week 1.
Jets run defense
Projected to be perhaps the weakest link in this Jets team, the run defense passed its first test. The Ravens managed just 63 rushing yards. Lamar Jackson was limited to 17 yards on six attempts. Although the absence of J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Ronnie Stanley (and later Ja’Wuan James) curbed the Ravens’ multi-pronged rushing attack, the Jets’ front seven held up much better than expected throughout the game.
There were a few more creases later in the game, but this is an encouraging sign for a team with the Browns on tap next week.
Sauce + Reed = top combo
Jets top two corners as the nearest defender today, per @NextGenStats:
Reed: 0 receptions allowed on 5 targets over 29 coverage snaps.
Gardner: 2 receptions allowed for 19 yards on 4 targets over 29 coverage snaps.
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 11, 2022
Those stats tell a story of a potentially dominant one-two punch at cornerback. Sauce Gardner was in lockstep with Mark Andrews on a pass breakup in the end zone. The rookie’s hands came up the minute Andrews’s did to disrupt the pass.
Meanwhile, D.J. Reed also looked his part, pulling down a leaping interception of Lamar Jackson and generally giving up nothing.
Even Bryce Hall, whose touchdown allowed to Devin Duvernay has fans saying that he had a bad game, had strong coverage on the play.
Can't say Hall didn't have tight coverage:
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) September 11, 2022
You can take that stat to mean that Hall doesn’t have good ball skills, which is one of the reasons that the Jets drafted Sauce. But ultimately, Hall got his hand in there and was as close as could be. Sometimes you just need to tip your cap to the receiver.
Rookies … for the most part
We already talked about Sauce, who looks every bit as good as the Jets expected. Garrett Wilson barely played in the first half but made some good plays on the ball in the second, especially with the ball in his hands. Jermaine Johnson had a sack and had a big part in setting the edge. Micheal Clemons did his part inside and out. Max Mitchell held his own, although he was run over in the run game a few times.
The most disappointing rookie from Week 1 was Breece Hall, who flashed a couple of times but was inconsistent. Michael Carter out-touched him and generally outplayed him. Hall also had a bad fumble that wiped out a moving Jets drive and pretty much put the game out of reach.
Jeremy Ruckert was inactive, as expected. Whether that stays the case in Week 2 after Lawrence Cager led to a Joe Flacco interception by falling down remains to be seen.
Although there wasn’t pressure on every day, the Jets definitely moved the pocket far more than last season. Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, and Jermaine Johnson were the main attackers early on. The Jets will need this unit to get consistent pressure in order to win games this season. The money and draft capital spent on this unit appear to be paying early dividends.
This was a significant concern after the line received very little playing time together. It now appears that Duane Brown will miss extensive time, as head coach Robert Saleh said he hopes that Brown can play again this season.
The Jets allowed pass pressure all day and failed to open consistent holes for their running backs. Most disappointing was the lack of interior space, especially the play of Laken Tomlinson.
Max Mitchell held up as best as he could, but George Fant‘s play at left tackle left a lot to be desired. Although it will take a closer look at the film to find the culprits on each play, the left side of the Jets’ line appeared to let them down.
Joe Flacco threw for over 300 yards in garbage time on 5.1 yards per attempt. He threw an early pick, and his immobility at 37 years of age led to sacks and an inability to throw in pockets that a more mobile QB may have found workable.
The Jets played another very conservative game, refusing to open up the offense and take shots down the field. It’s fair to wonder what this game would have been like with the far more mobile and bigger-armed Zach Wilson.
This was one of the Jets’ biggest known weaknesses, and it showed up on tape. Although we don’t know exactly what each assignment was, the deep touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman featured rookie Sauce Gardner urgently pointing to Lamarcus Joyner to pick up the deep ball.
It may have been a Cover 4 match, in which case it could have been Jordan Whitehead’s fault, but Sauce’s signal to Joyner makes you wonder. There were several throws in which it appeared the free safety was out of position. It places Joyner’s long-term hold on the starting safety position in doubt.
Kicker and punter
The Jets held on to Braden Mann after an up-and-down 2021 season. Mann’s 42.2-yard gross average on six punts belies how poorly he played. His 20-yard shank following the Jets’ first drive of the second half swung the game irrevocably in Baltimore’s favor. It set up the Ravens at the Jets’ 44-yard line, which the Ravens promptly converted for the touchdown pass to Duvernay over Hall.
Meanwhile, Greg Zuerlein won the kicking competition in preseason but made that look dubious in Week 1.
He missed a 45-yard field goal that could have tied the game at three in the second quarter. He coupled that with a late extra point miss when the Jets scored a touchdown in garbage time. After years of kicking struggles that received a brief reprieve from Eddy Pineiro last season, it appears that the kicking position is still not resolved in East Rutherford.
The Jets had many issues last season in all three phases of the game, but the dagger was the influx of mistakes throughout each game. This season opener was no different.
Drops by Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, an interception when Lawrence Cager fell down, and fumbles by Tyler Conklin and Breece Hall swung the game heavily in Baltimore’s favor. When facing a team with superior talent, the first order of business is to take care of the football. The Jets did not do that today, and it showed up in the final score.