Sauce Gardner, Quincy Williams, New York Jets
Sauce Gardner, Quincy Williams, New York Jets, Getty Images

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.

The Good

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

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.

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.

Defensive line

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.

The Bad

Offensive line

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

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.

Free safety

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.

The Ugly

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.

Mistakes

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.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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DHB
DHB
20 days ago

At this rate at least we won’t have a QB controversy when Wilson returns.

mlesko73
mlesko73
20 days ago

I forgot to say in my earlier (longer) comment….Lawson was entirely underwhelming against a third-string left tackle.
Bullrush every single time, no creativity, he looked like a rookie. And for all the talk of alternating our DE’s he played every down while effective pass rushers like JJ and JFM alternated.

mlesko73
mlesko73
20 days ago

I tried to stay positive when commenting on DWH’s piece, and there were def positives (most are mentioned here).
The kicking situation is ridiculous. For a while some of the better kickers in the league were Jets cast-offs; Myers, Nugent, Folk.

I like that you mentioned Daboll chewing out Jones (he stared down the receiver from the snap). It really seems like Saleh needs to learn that the likable “player’s coach” has its time and place. This team lacks focus.

I will be very interested to see your more detailed analysis of the OLine line play (thanks for doing so). It did look like the right side outplayed the left. If I’m not mistaken we had 75 rushing yds at half?

Totally agree that Flacco is indecisive and responsible for a number of the sacks/pressures. There is absolutely zero chance we move to White and/or Strev’. Having watched all the Jets Drive type shows I was very hopeful that LaFleur would grow this year; he says all the right things and he’s a good guy, but c’mon, looks like zero adjustments to talent and situation.

mlesko73
mlesko73
20 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Thanks Rivka
Well, I’m not sure what your staff discussion was, but Saleh singling out Garrett Wilson for not making the first down after evading 3 tacklers like he was Houdini was totally ridiculous. More apparent lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Jets71
Jets71
20 days ago

Nicely said, I know everybody is frustrated, including me but there are things that happened yesterday they can fix. The missed kicks, the fumbles, the key drops, the blown coverages are all things that I believe they will improve as the season goes on. It’s early, and it’s tough to run plays on offense when the OL is jeopardized. Injuries happen, and the line should improve as they play together.

I agree about the pressure up the middle, Lake wasn’t great, and I’ve never been a McGovern fan. That said, there were some plays in the run game, there was just no consistency.

I had the same take away about Zach. I think this offense will look much better when he’s back in there. I thought Flacco missed some easy throws early, looking for more.

The defense responded after the INT, and the limited rushing yards vs. this opponent is encouraging.

Honestly, I’m tired of watching Corey Davis drop passes. I’ve had enough of it. I’m not trying to be insensitive to his situation but we heard all about his mental and physical state last year being in a rough spot. He said he’s in a better place now, all great, I wish the best for him personally but CATCH THE BALL. He was brought here to make the more “difficult” catches.

Joyner’s attitude in press conferences is concerning. I didn’t like his last presser about considering retirement but only wanted to play for the Jets, and I didn’t like how he reacted to the PI call, saying it’s a personal decision. He said he was “playing football.” It was STUPID. There was no chance that receiver would have caught that pass so shame on you for putting the ref to a “personal decision” about throwing the flag. It was a dumb play that could have been completely avoided. His attitude about it after the game deeply bothers me.

This isn’t a popular take this morning but I do feel good about this team. Baltimore is considered one of the better teams in the AFC and a contender and the Jets didn’t look as though they didn’t have the talent to compete. They just didn’t make plays. I think had they made some kicks, not turned it over, and still had some of the other issues it would have been a different game. I believe in Robert Saleh and Mike Lafleur and expect them to respond next week.

Jets71
Jets71
20 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Joyner’s attitude with play is what I should have said, both are concerning. I still think they have better players in the defensive backfield, which is why I believe they can improve the blown coverages. I think last year’s issues shouldn’t be administered to this team. In that same way you’re willing to hang in with Davis, even after last year’s drops I think they should be left with last year’s team.

The offense was terrible, honestly I expected it to some extent with the OL shuffling, back up QB and some new pieces to acclimate.

I worry about the OL vs. the Cleveland DE’s.

This team has some players with winning experience, I think they will respond better and am willing to look at yesterday as an “egg” as you put it (I agree) but am will to chalk it up to growing. Lost of teams wish they had yesterday back.

Jets71
Jets71
20 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

None of them will be easy that’s for sure!!

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
20 days ago

Not ready to quit on Mann because of one bad punt. the rest of his kicks were good. I did want Piniero rather than Zeurline. Not sure whose call that was.

Jets71
Jets71
20 days ago

I’m done with Mann. If it was one bad punt I’d agree with you but his inconsistency has been consistent over the past couple of seasons. This is his pattern and by now he can’t have 20 yard punts, even if he hits some good ones.

I am not a fan of either of the kickers, I’m guessing it was the coach’s call and they went with experience as the deciding factor. I was very upset about it but after looking at the kicking throughout the league I started thinking…”who would they get?” The kickers are not good all around. Yes, there are some good ones, but there are a bunch of teams thinking like us this morning about their kicking situation. Cincy has a “great” kicking game and look what happened to them.

Jets71
Jets71
20 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

I thought so too…although his low kicking was a concern.

DFargas
DFargas
21 days ago

This game exposed a number of mistakes by management and coaching, such as how badly they bungled the Becton injury situation. Fant wasn’t on his game in part because he had been jerked around from LT to RT and back to LT. You don’t mess with the LT position. You leave your best player (Fant) there and work around that. Management/coaching deserves a lot of blame there. The OC LaFleur also deserves blame for not adapting to the bad situation on the OL fast enough and giving Flacco enough quick outs to get the passing game going. He did eventually, but by that time the game was slipping away. Finally, you have the awful game from Joyner who Douglas bet heavily on when he released Pinnock. Looks like Douglas is going to have egg on his face there and may have to scramble (no pun intended) to pick up someone who can play free safety.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
20 days ago
Reply to  DFargas

I don’t think the flipping back and forth is what hurt Fant. It was that he was hurt most of the preseason and didn’t really get any playing time in preseason games. I was also really disappointed in Laken Tomlinson’s pass pro.

Jim G
Jim G
21 days ago

Good analysis of the game, it pretty much matches what I saw from the Jets and many other teams in the NFL. I was impressed that the Jets were competitive in the first half. The second half was a different story. I’m not sure whether the second half play was the result of (1) lack of starters playing, particularly playing together, in pre-season, (2) lack of player conditioning or (3) better half-time adjustments by the Ravens.

I watched a lot of yesterday’s games. It was not unique to the Jets that, likely due to starters not playing as much in pre-season, defenses were generally playing better quality ball than offenses (the Chiefs being a rather obvious exception). The Jets run defense shutting down a vaunted rushing attack was impressive and something to build upon.

I don’t know how to explain the dropped passes. Most drops appeared to be on the receivers. Not a good sign. Unless Coach Saleh was trying to pump up Joe Flacco’s confidence, I cannot equate what I saw yesterday to Coach Saleh’s pre-season comments.

Watching the Giants’ 4:14 pm game, I saw a team that came out after halftime intending to kick some a$$, and they did. Compared to a Jets team that lost concentration in the second half, the comparison is not favorable.

The frustration on Coach Saleh’s post game presser was clear and easily understood. If the mistakes were cut in half this would have been a competitive game. Back to the drawing board for the Browns.

Barry Bryant
Barry Bryant
21 days ago

No mention of coaching. We didn’t get the ball out fast enough. Even the Giants get the ball out quickly. With an immobile quarterback and an offensive line that hasn’t gelled, where were the quick slant passes? The passes to the tight ends? At home you can’t see the coverage, but it sure looked like a terrible game plan. We lack the plays to offset the rush and convert on third down, the quick high-percentage 7-yard pass. That isn’t a talent problem or a performance problem, that’s a coaching problem.

JetOrange
JetOrange
21 days ago

Very nice write up. Offensive Line performance was not good but encouraged that Max Mitchell was not a turnstile. Linebacker play was very good, surprisingly.

Anika
Anika
21 days ago

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jNYC1
jNYC1
21 days ago

Really appreciate great write-up!

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
21 days ago

Flacco’s performance didn’t surprise me one bit
If Streveler is still out there get him back, send Flacco packing and start White next week.
The like was no joy but a better, quicker QB makes alot more plays and moves the pocket instead of trying to throw from two yards from the line.
Saleh, wake up! the honeymoon is over!!!!