The New York Jets were let down by their veterans in season-opening loss to Baltimore
This is a New York Jets team that is still on the young side. They had six rookies playing integral roles in the 2022 season opener.
But it wasn’t the Jets’ youthful inexperience that proved to be their downfall in the 24-9 loss to Baltimore. Shockingly, the loss was primarily caused by some wildly disappointing performances from a few of the team’s veterans.
These five vets dropped the ball on Sunday.
QB Joe Flacco
We start with the Jets’ 37-year-old backup quarterback, who did nothing to make his former team miss him.
Joe Flacco was supposed to bring poise, smarts, and a cool demeanor to the New York offense during Zach Wilson’s absence. Instead, he looked just as flustered as you would expect a young quarterback to look against Baltimore’s tricky defense. Flacco was indecisive and erratic as he struggled to command the offense.
We know Flacco doesn’t bring any special physical traits to the table at this point of his career. So, if he is not executing in the fundamental/intangible department, then he’s a massive liability.
That’s what we saw on Sunday. Flacco couldn’t execute the game-managing stuff that you’d expect from a stable veteran quarterback, and then when the game called for him to try and deliver a tight-window throw or make something out of nothing in a pressured situation, he crumbled nearly every time.
Even with a bunch of garbage-time completions handed to him, Flacco only mustered up 307 passing yards on a whopping 59 attempts. That’s a paltry 5.2 yards per attempt, which ranked 26th out of 29 qualified quarterbacks in Week 1 prior to Monday Night Football.
Flacco’s biggest problem in this game was his inability to beat pressure. When pressured, Flacco completed 5-of-19 passes for 43 yards (2.3 per attempt).
LT George Fant
George Fant got the chance to slide back into his preferred left tackle spot due to Duane Brown’s injury leading up to the game. He failed to take advantage.
After a 2021 season in which he was quite reliable in pass protection, Fant was frequently the primary culprit for botched passing plays on Sunday. Fant was credited with allowing 4 pressures, tying him for fifth-most among NFL tackles in Week 1 prior to Monday Night Football. That total includes one sack and one knockdown.
The 4-pressure number barely tells the whole story as Fant was beaten far more often than just four times (luckily the ball was out quick on some other lost reps, bailing him out from the pressure credit). Fant also had a holding penalty.
For perspective on how out of character this game was for Fant, consider this: he only allowed 1.2 pressures per game in 2021 (18 in 15 games), and his season-worst total was 3.
Veteran edge rusher Justin Houston took Fant to school, racking up 6 pressures to lead the game. It also ties him for second-best in the NFL among edge rushers in Week 1 prior to MNF.
We’re one week into the season and Fant has already beaten his season-high for pressures from a year ago. This was a brutal start in his quest to prove that 2021 was not an outlier for him.
LG Laken Tomlinson
The left side of the offensive line was not supposed to be an issue for the Jets. They entered the game with a pair of veterans who had great 2021 seasons in Fant and Laken Tomlinson.
Tomlinson, like Fant, stunk it up on Sunday. He was credited with allowing an abhorrent total of 8 pressures, which leads all NFL guards in Week 1 heading into Monday Night Football. It’s tied for the worst total among all offensive linemen regardless of position. His run-blocking was also woeful.
Tomlinson gave up just 24 pressures in 17 games last year (1.4 per game). His worst total in a single game was 4, which he has already doubled. It’s his worst mark since 2017.
It’s easy to point to this unit’s lack of time to gel as the main reason for its struggles. But when you flip on the tape, communication and chemistry weren’t really the issues. Tomlinson and Fant were just flat-out getting smoked in one-on-one situations.
Why Tomlinson and Fant played so far below their previous standards is a mystery. What’s not up for debate is that the Jets’ season will soon go down the drain if these two cornerstone pieces of the offense do not get back on track immediately.
FS Lamarcus Joyner
Most of the Jets’ defense played a strong game on Sunday. The Jets held a prolific offense to 24 points and 274 total yards despite minimal assistance from the offense and special teams.
The only defensive player who consistently popped out in a negative way was Lamarcus Joyner. New York’s veteran free safety looked like anything but a veteran as he was frequently caught out of position in deep coverage.
Joyner coughed up a 55-yard touchdown pass and committed a 32-yard pass interference penalty. There are also a few other plays on tape where he appeared to allow a receiver to get open on a deep route, but he lucked out and wasn’t targeted.
The 31-year-old’s porous season debut follows up an offseason in which he was shaky throughout training camp and the preseason. Joyner is clearly the Jets’ greatest liability in the defensive starting lineup as of right now. It will be interesting to see how much longer the Jets ride him out before giving a shot to the promising Tony Adams.
P Braden Mann
Greg Zuerlein would be an obvious choice for this column due to his missed 45-yard field goal and missed extra point. But everyone already knows about this. It’s a low-hanging fruit.
I decided to climb further up the tree and grab a fruit that is a bit obscured behind the leaves but should be getting more attention: the Braden Mann conundrum.
It’s time for the Jets to start seriously thinking about Mann’s future with the team. They made a relatively rich investment in Mann when they picked him in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. When you draft a punter (especially in the sixth round), it is expected that he becomes a high-ranking player at his position.
Now that we are 27 games into Mann’s career, he barely even looks like one of the NFL’s top 32 punters, let alone a very good one.
Mann had a shank-fest on Sunday as he launched a handful of ugly punts that lacked both distance and hang-time. Most notably, Mann shanked a 20-yarder from his own 24-yard line to set the Ravens up at the Jets’ 44. Baltimore ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive.
A couple of Mann’s punts took favorable bounces to make his box-score stats look better, but that was pure luck. Mann’s punts tended to be ghastly.
The ugliness of Mann’s performance on Sunday is reflected by the pEPA/punt (Punter Estimated Points Added per punt) metric, courtesy of Puntalytics. Prior to MNF, Mann stands as the NFL’s second-worst punter of Week 1 based on pEPA/punt.
Punter performance in week one!! pEPA!! pending MNF!!
On small sample size, Bailey and Stoney are grooving and Haack is Back.
On even smaller sample size, AJ Cole is the greatest punter in history
— Puntalytics (@ThePuntRunts) September 12, 2022
The pEPA/punt stat is one of the best tools out there for evaluating punters individually. It isolates the punter’s performance from his coverage team and the luck of the bounce while adjusting his expectations based on the field position from where his punts are made. Adding all of this context makes pEPA/punt a far better metric than something like yards per punt or net yards per punt.
In fairness to Mann, he ranked much more respectably in this metric last year, placing 14th-best out of 33 qualifiers.
FINAL 2021 PUNTER RANKINGS 🦵🦿
#RaiderNation AJ Cole finishes first overall, puts a stamp on his elite season, and sends his team to the playoffs#DUUUVAL Logan Cooke is that young superstar to build the team around
— Puntalytics (@ThePuntRunts) January 10, 2022
The Jets need Mann to get back to that mid-tier level at the very least. His performance on Sunday was unacceptable.