These are not your Same Old Jets
In the blink of an eye, we’re at the midpoint of the 2022 New York Jets season.
According to Robert Saleh, even the most optimistic of Jets fans could not have seen this start coming.
The consensus among most fans and objective analysts was that the Jets would improve this season compared to the last couple, but that a brutal first-half slate would keep their win ceiling low. Vegas was more bearish, placing the Jets’ over/under for season victories at 5.5.
Well, Vegas, the Jets have already taken the over, so be prepared to lose a lot of money on what was a popular preseason pick.
As we previewed the season at its inception, let’s review the first half and talk about what has gone as expected (little), what hasn’t (a lot), who’s up, who’s down, and how the Jets are a team on a mission this season.
This season was going to be all about the youth. No one could have predicted just how good that youth was going to be, specifically the rookies.
Sauce Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick, was considered by most to be one of the top two or three best overall prospects in the draft. However, rookie corners often struggle, and the consensus was that Sauce would take his lumps learning to play zone coverage and keep his hands clean at the NFL level.
Instead, Gardner has already established himself as a Top 5 corner in the league. There aren’t enough superlatives to use to describe the lanky 22-year-old. He hit the ground running from Day 1 when he broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Mark Andrews. Andrews has been followed by many others, including some of the best receivers in the NFL.
Not to be outdone, No. 10 overall pick Garrett Wilson is rapidly establishing himself as the Jets’ best receiver. In the last few weeks, we’ve finally seen Zach Wilson start to develop chemistry with Garrett. The Ohio State product is in the 70th percentile among starting wide receivers with 522 yards and 74th percentile with 42 receptions despite the struggles the Jets have endured at the QB position and the fact that Wilson came into the season fourth on the WR depth chart.
Wilson’s ability to get open, strong hands (despite the occasional focus-related drop), enticing athleticism, and YAC ability make him appear to be a fixture in the Jets’ offense for years to come.
The Jets’ third first-round pick, Jermaine Johnson, may not be lighting up the stat sheet the way his fellow premium picks are, but don’t underestimate the impact of JJ’s edge-setting and toughness. Although Johnson’s pressure rate has been a bit below average by edge rusher standards (8.8% vs. the average of 10.4%), his intense effort means that when he gets pressure, he often converts it into sacks.
Among 133 edge rushers with at least 50 pass-rush snaps, Johnson ranks first with a 5.3% sack rate and second with a 1.67 pressure-to-sack ratio. On just 57 pass-rush attempts, Johnson has been in on three sacks (2.5 in the box score).
Joe Blewett hit the nail on the head in his film review when he said that Johnson might initially struggle to get pressure but could still make an impact by converting his pressures into sacks at a high rate due to his speed and motor. Additionally, the Jets’ downfield coverage gives JJ the extra second or two to get home.
As mentioned, Johnson’s run game contributions are also vast. Among 100 edge defenders with at least 50 run defense snaps, Johnson ranks third with a 17.9% stop rate. He is one of the key contributors on a Jets defense that ranks ninth in the NFL with 110.9 rush yards allowed per game and third with 4.0 yards per carry against. The Jets ranked 29th and 24th in those respective categories in 2021.
Meanwhile, perhaps the Jets’ most explosive pick is no longer with them this season. Breece Hall was well on his way to walking away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, an honor that he was favored to win heading into the season.
Hall’s final stat line and ranks in seven games (among 34 backs with a minimum of 75 rushes) include:
- 66.0 rush yards per game (15th despite ranking 24th with just 11.4 attempts per game)
- 4.11 yards after contact per attempt (2nd)
- 0.242 missed tackles forced per touch (10th)
- 2.00 yards per route run (2nd)
- 5.8 yards per carry (3rd)
- 43.1% breakaway rate (5th, meaning percentage of yards gained on rushes for 15+ yards).
Beyond their four premium picks, the Jets have received significant contributions from two later-round picks. Max Mitchell stepped in at right tackle when Duane Brown hit injured reserve a few days before the season and held up decently. While Mitchell’s 6.8% pressure rate is in the 28th percentile and his 1.05% sack rate is in the 37th percentile, that’s still better than the Jets could have hoped for from a developmental fourth-rounder whom they had not expected to dress on Sundays.
Micheal Clemons has also made his mark in limited snaps. He had a huge blocked punt against the Packers and has made several special teams tackles, impressive for a 269-pound defensive end. He’s also contributed in the run game with six run stops.
The Jets’ only non-contributing rookie is Jeremy Ruckert, who has redshirted most of his rookie season and saw little action when he was in uniform.
Not bad for a seven-pick draft haul.
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Best cornerback trio in football?
Speaking of Sauce Gardner, here are some of the stats the rookie has put up (among 77 corners, min. 200 coverage snaps):
- 0.516 yards per cover snap (5th)
- 9.5 yards per reception (13th despite an average depth of target of 16.5 yards, the longest among all corners)
- 44.6 QB rating against (4th)
- 43.5% completion rate (3rd)
- 17.4 coverage snaps per reception (5th despite a target every 7.5 cover snaps)
- 2 interceptions (T-6th)
- 10 pass breakups (1st)
- 2.85 YAC/reception (15th)
- 26 tackles (T-13th)
- 21.7% forced incompletion rate (5th)
Sauce will be a Pro Bowler and may even get an All-Pro nod. As good as the Jets expected Sauce to be, even they could not have predicted that he’d be elite from Day 1.
Gardner combines with D.J. Reed to form one of the top (if not the top) cornerback duos in the league. Reed is right up there statistically, as well:
- 0.647 yards per cover snap (8th)
- 10.2 yards per reception (22nd despite a 14.7 average depth of target, the 5th-highest)
- 14.9 cover snaps per reception (10th)
- 15.2% forced incompletion rate (15th)
- 58.6 QB rating against (10th)
- 2.25 YAC/reception (5th)
- 52.2% completion rate (11th)
- 6 passes breakups (T-9th)
- 0 touchdowns allowed (T-1st)
Reed will also likely make the Pro Bowl.
The forgotten man in the Jets’ cornerback room is Michael Carter II, their slot corner. The 2021 fifth-round pick has outplayed his draft status by leaps and bounds from Day 1.
Carter II ranks 19th among 34 slot corners (min. 70 slot coverage snaps) with 1.21 yards per cover snap, but that number is inflated by a terrible missed tackle from his teammate, Jordan Whitehead, on a catch against Cincinnati. Without those 46 extra yards, Carter II ranks 14th at 1.02 yards per cover snap. QBs have an 84.9 passer rating when throwing Carter II’s way in slot coverage, which is 10th best. He’s allowed one touchdown (the same play in which Whitehead was mostly at fault) but also nabbed two picks.
These three are clearly the best cornerback trio in football.
— NYJ Communications (@NYJetsPR) November 7, 2022
After an uneven first three seasons that joined flashes of potential with stretches of disappearance, Quinnen Williams is finally putting it all together.
Among 82 defensive tackles with at least 200 snaps, Quinnen ranks first in pressure rate (13.5%, double the IDL average of 6.7%), first in sack rate (3.1%), 12th in stop rate (12.2%), second in pressure + stop rate (13.1%), first in sacks (8 total, 7.0 box score), and second in QB hits (9).
The question about the former No. 3 overall pick has been resoundingly answered: Quinnen earned a large payday. He is one of the biggest reasons for the Jets’ defensive turnaround in 2022.
Better linebacker play
An underrated but critical aspect of the Jets’ improved defense is the increased production they are receiving from the linebacker spot. C.J. Mosley has declined significantly but is still the quarterback of the defense and a good run-stopper.
Among 65 off-ball linebackers with at least 200 snaps, here are Mosley’s numbers and percentile ranks (all numbers per PFF):
- 73.3% completion rate (75th percentile)
- 8.2% missed tackle rate (70th)
- 4 pass breakups (98th)
- 92 QB rating against (71st)
- 24 stops (74th)
- 61 solo tackles (93rd)
- 9.4 yards per reception (59th)
- 0.88 yards per cover snap (59th)
These numbers may not quite match with the eye test, but Mosley is still a pivotal part of the Jets’ defense. Quinnen Williams credited Mosley for his “unbelievable calls and alerts on the field”.
Quinnen Williams said of CJ Mosley: "He gives unbelievable calls and alerts on the field… I don't know where this defense would be without him"
Also said DJ Reed and Sauce Gardner are part of what makes the defense so effective.
— Caroline Hendershot (@cghendy) November 8, 2022
Meanwhile, Quincy Williams is tied with C.J. Mosley with 24 stops. However, because Williams missed two games due to injury, his stop rate is in the 86th percentile among linebackers. This is what the Jets rely on Quincy for: hard hits to force failed offensive plays. Although his missed tackle rate still leaves much to be desired at 15.3% (league average for linebackers is 10.6%), he’s hitting enough to offset the damage.
Quincy has also limited the damage on his receptions allowed, as his 8.2 yards per catch is in the 76th percentile among LBs despite allowing 86% of his targets to be caught. That’s largely because he’s in the 86th percentile with just 4.7 YAC per reception allowed.
Kwon Alexander has been a find for the Jets. He’s far outplayed his $1.1 million salary. He’s allowing a 69% catch rate (86th percentile), has a 10% missed tackle rate (59th, nearly half of his 19.1% number from last year), 83.4 QB rating against (86th), 0.94 yards per cover snap (50th), and 4.7 YAC/reception (86th, tied with Quincy Williams).
The Jets’ linebackers are by no means elite, but the stronger-than-expected play from the trio has greatly contributed to the overall strength of the defense. The linebackers were considered one of the weakest links in both the team’s run and pass defense, and while they’re not world-beaters, they’re all hanging in there. Kwon’s improved tackling is a huge boon for the team, while Mosley’s hard hitting has led to many more incomplete passes than expected.
Improved kicking and punting… for the most part
Greg Zuerlein has come in and steadied the Jets’ kicking position for the first time since 2018. He has made 84.2% of his field goals, but the most impressive stat he holds is the reason that he has the nicknames Greg the Leg and Legatron: he is 4-for-5 on attempts from 50+ yards, including a 53-yarder against Buffalo.
Zuerlein’s shakiest range has been from 40-49 yards, where he’s hit 71.4% of his field goals (5 of 7). However, he’s a perfect 7-for-7 from below 40 yards and has become a reliable fixture when the Jets need him. He’s 9th in kicking DVOA at 1.1%. He also hasn’t missed an extra point after his shaky Week 1 performance.
At punter, Braden Mann has mostly enjoyed a good season. He does have two shanked punts, one each against the Ravens and Patriots, but other than that, he’s been rock-solid. Mann ranks 12th among 32 punters with a 48.6 gross average and 10th with a 43.4 net average. He’s tied for 14th with 13 punts downed inside the 20 and 11th with 7.4 yards per return. He’s 10th in punting DVOA at 2.8%.
Overall, the Jets rank ninth in special teams DVOA despite a horrific output in all phases against the Patriots.
- Team MVP: Quinnen Williams, Sauce Gardner
- Offensive MVP: Breece Hall, Alijah Vera-Tucker
- Defensive MVP: Quinnen Williams, Sauce Gardner
- Special teams MVP: Greg Zuerlein, Justin Hardee
- Best coach: Jeff Ulbrich
- Best rookie: Sauce Gardner, Breece Hall
- Most surprising player: Garrett Wilson, Kwon Alexander
- Most disappointing player: Laken Tomlinson, Elijah Moore
Top 10 plays by Win Probability Added (WPA)
10) Michael Carter II picks off Kenny Pickett (+15.2%)
The Jets had scored a touchdown but were still trailing by seven. Pittsburgh was marching into field goal range to essentially seal the game. However, Bryce Huff pressured Kenny Pickett, and Sauce Gardner baited Pickett into an ill-advised throw to Pat Freiermuth. The ball popped up into the air off Freiermuth’s hands, and Michael Carter II made the diving interception. This momentum-changing play allowed Zach Wilson to lead the Jets on a game-winning touchdown drive.
Pickett second INT. pic.twitter.com/xUhvPKdrnq
— Main Team (@MainTeamSports2) October 2, 2022
9) Breece Hall 62-yard TD run (+15.6%)
Breece Hall’s last memorable play was also his longest run of the season. Hall took a toss and ran behind perfectly-executed blocks by Alijah Vera-Tucker and Denzel Mims. He turned on the jets at the end to take it all the way for the touchdown. This was the Jets’ only touchdown of the game, and it gave them a 7-0 lead.
End-zone view of Breece Hall’s 62-yard TD. Great zone blocking by OL. Nice downfield block by Denzel Mims. And check out RT Alijah Vera-Tucker. The big man hits 18 mph on a 70-yard sprint. @NextGenStats #Jets pic.twitter.com/JgdHVM7Xpd
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) October 24, 2022
8) Jordan Whitehead picks off Josh Allen (+15.7%)
The game against Buffalo started ominously for the Jets, as Braden Mann tripped on the tee on his opening kickoff and Stefon Diggs beat Sauce Gardner for a 42-yard gain on the next play. However, a pressure by John Franklin-Myers and misread coverage led Josh Allen to throw the ball right into Jordan Whitehead’s hands, ending a sure scoring drive for the Bills.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 6, 2022
7) Sauce Gardner picks off Josh Allen (+16.7%)
Zach Wilson fumbled the ball to frustratingly end an eight-minute drive with no points. However, the Jets’ best players stepped up to the plate. Quinnen Williams sacked Josh Allen, and on the next play, Allen once again tossed the ball right to a Jets’ defender, this time Sauce Gardner. Sauce did not miss it, and the Jets set up shop near the red zone.
SAUCE GARDNER PICK 🥫🔒pic.twitter.com/SXlvCzLCGU
— PFF (@PFF) November 6, 2022
6) Braden Mann’s onside kick is recovered by Justin Hardee (+17.6%)
The Jets had a prayer after a blown coverage led to Corey Davis’s 66-yard touchdown reception with 1:22 remaining against the Browns. However, only around 14% of onside kicks have been successful over the pass number of years, which made the chances of victory remote. After setting up as if to kick to his right, Braden Mann shifted directions and got off a bouncer to his left.
Will Parks did a fantastic job of keeping the ball in bounds but could not come up with the ball. This led to a scramble that Justin Hardee won by pouncing on the ball. As Robert Saleh and several Jets players said after the game, this play led them to believe that they had life.
It's not over! The Jets recover the onside kick!!!
— NFL (@NFL) September 18, 2022
5) Bryce Huff strip-sacks Josh Allen (+18.3%)
The Jets clung for dear life to a 20-17 lead, but Josh Allen was in position to drive downfield and tie or win the game. On 2nd and 2, Bryce Huff beat David Quessenberry cleanly one-on-one and hit Allen’s hand hard, knocking the ball out. Although Buffalo recovered, the 19-yard loss set up 3rd and 21 and crippled the Bills’ chances of getting any sort of rhythm.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) November 6, 2022
This play may have even graver repercussions, as the Bills said that Allen is currently being evaluated for a UCL injury in his elbow. Although the initial reports indicate that Buffalo expects the injury to limit Allen in practice but not keep him out of games, Allen did miss four games in his rookie season with a sprained UCL. An injury to Allen that could force him to miss time could be season-changing for the Jets’ divisional hopes.
4) Lamarcus Joyner picks off Brett Rypien (+21.3%)
The Broncos’ backup QB had played turnover-free football up to that point. However, Quinnen Williams hit Brett Rypien’s arm as Rypien released the ball, and Lamarcus Joyner came down with the interception to set the Jets up in good field position. This play led to a field goal and gave the Jets some breathing room.
— FanSided (@FanSided) October 23, 2022
3) Joe Flacco throws game-winning TD pass to Garrett Wilson (+31.2%)
Obviously, completing the comeback with 22 seconds remaining in the game was going to create a huge momentum shift. The Jets had been down 30-24 and needed a touchdown to win. On third-and-10 from the Cleveland 15, Joe Flacco fired a perfectly-timed strike to Garrett Wilson at the goal line, and the Jets tied the game. The successful extra point from Greg Zuerlein put the finishing touch on an epic rally.
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) September 18, 2022
2) Ashtyn Davis seals the comeback win with an INT (+32.6%)
Despite the phenomenal comeback, Cleveland still had slim hopes. After a 20-yard run by Jacoby Brissett, they needed one more mid-range throw to get into field goal range to potentially win the game. Although Amari Cooper appeared to have leverage on D.J. Reed, Ashtyn Davis read Brissett’s eyes and picked the pass off to seal the Jets’ first victory of 2022.
Awesome view of the game-sealing INT.
Robert Saleh mentioned postgame Ashtyn Davis did a great job reading Jacoby Brissett's eyes and you can see it here. pic.twitter.com/qB7AFuTB0W
— Ethan Greenberg (@EGreenbergJets) September 19, 2022
1) Breece Hall’s one-yard go-ahead TD run (+39.5%)
Zach Wilson had orchestrated the Jets’ comeback, but Breece Hall finished it off with a one-yard touchdown run. Hall nearly fumbled the ball, but he was determined to have crossed the goal line.
Breece Hall Game Winning TD for the Jets🌪 pic.twitter.com/kefcg57jYO
— cyclone.sports🌪 (@clones_sports) October 2, 2022
Top 10 plays by skill level
10) Sauce clinches two games
Teams have not gotten the memo yet: don’t test Sauce Gardner, and especially don’t test him with the game on the line. The Broncos and Bills both learned this the hard way, as Courtland Sutton and Gabe Davis were lost in the Sauce. Trying to beat Gardner with a tall, physical receiver is not a fair fight.
Sauce Gardner vs Courtland Sutton 🍿
— PFF (@PFF) October 23, 2022
Sauce Gardner is him.
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) November 6, 2022
9) Wilson hits Wilson for 54 yards
In a nightmarish game overall for Zach Wilson, one of his earlier throws resulted in a huge play. Wilson escaped pressure, rolled to his right, and uncorked a bullet to Garrett Wilson that hit him right between the numbers. Garrett took off downfield for some extra YAC. You can nitpick this throw and say that a toss further outside leads to a touchdown, but ultimately, it was a beautiful throw on the move that showcased the talent that Wilson has flashed too rarely in the NFL.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) October 30, 2022
8) Denzel Mims’s 63-yard catch-and-run
Denzel Mims took a simple in-breaking route, bounced off a Patriots’ defender, and scampered downfield for a 63-yard reception. The catch itself was routine, but Mims’s physicality is established, and his YAC ability was one of the reasons he was a second-round pick. The play did not ultimately lead to a comeback, but the Jets did score a TD on the drive to pull within one score of the Patriots.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) November 1, 2022
7) Breece Hall’s 32-yard TD run
Breece Hall took a trap handoff from Zach Wilson that was supposed to be pitched back to Garrett Wilson. Seeing that Garrett was covered on the safety blitz, Hall exploded upfield through the wide-open middle and used his speed to score. The play developed strangely due to the off-script nature of Hall’s run, but it demonstrated the elite cutting ability, speed, and elusiveness of the Jets’ RB. The Jets took a two-touchdown lead over the Packers, putting the game nearly out of reach.
Breece Hall going, going, gone! @BreeceH
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2022
6) Garrett Wilson goes around the defender for catch
This play looked routine on TV, but when you watch the All-22 film, you see how Garrett Wilson contorted his body to make the catch. Wilson has incredibly strong hands despite some drop issues. He went around the defender to make the first-down reception.
From where I was sitting I could see this was an outstanding catch by Garrett Wilson, but after rewatching it on the broadcast view I don't know if people at home got a good enough angle to appreciate how tough it was. What a grab pic.twitter.com/XkKhOClHeZ
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) October 31, 2022
5) D.J. Reed’s leaping pick
Although this play was mostly meaningless at the time, the individual skill level vaults the play into the Top 5. With 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Jets trailing 24-3, D.J. Reed elevated for an athletic interception of Lamar Jackson. His midfield celebration ticked off some fans until they learned that it was a tribute to his father, whose passing he had learned about shortly before the game.
DJ REED PICKS OFF LAMAR
— NFL Football Everything (@nflfootballeve1) September 11, 2022
4) Berrios cuts upfield to make something out of nothing
Braxton Berrios took a jet sweep that was well-covered by the Broncos and gained 25 yards. He did so by making a sharp cut upfield and using his speed to outrun defenders in the hole. This was a play that far exceed expectations from the state of his blocking. Great play by Berrios.
Love this run by Berrios, this has no business being a gain, let alone a 25-yarder. What a cut pic.twitter.com/eHPVrazDGU
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) October 26, 2022
3) Bryce Huff strip-sack of Josh Allen
This is the only play that overlaps between win probability added and talent level. It speaks to the clutchness that Bryce Huff demonstrated. In the key moment of the game, the most efficient pass rusher in the NFL right now delivered for his team.
When it hit me that Quessenberry was the same guy that Bryce Huff and the Jets beat up against the Titans last year, I had a feeling it was going to be a good day for the Jets pass rush, and sure enough, it happened.
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) November 7, 2022
2) Jermaine Johnson’s sack of Josh Allen
More recency bias, but this was truly an elite tackle on one of the hardest quarterbacks to bring down. Jermaine Johnson may not have gotten his pass-rushing legs fully under him yet, but he brings 100% effort on every single play.
From the angle at which Johnson was chasing, it seemed highly unlikely that he would succeed in taking Josh Allen down. There was wide open space ahead for Allen to run. However, Johnson utilized his pure speed to close the gap and take out Allen’s legs, preventing Buffalo from entering field goal range and allowing the Jets to regain the ball for their game-winning march.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) November 6, 2022
1) Quinnen Williams smokes Tyreek Hill
This play must be No. 1 just because of how epic it was. A strip-sack by Carl Lawson was picked up by Quinnen Williams, who absolutely blasted Tyreek Hill with the stiff arm in his return. There was some poetic justice there after Hill spurned the Jets in favor of the Dolphins in his offseason trade from the Chiefs.
Jets DT Quinnen Williams threw a stiff arm on Tyreek Hill 😳
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 9, 2022
The Jets have the seventh-hardest schedule going forward, per Football Outsiders. That’s down from the third-hardest schedule through the bye week. Tilts against the 7-1 Vikings, 6-3 Seahawks, 6-3 Dolphins, 6-2 Bills, and always-tough 5-4 Patriots promote the continuing difficulty. However, there are three must-win games on the schedule: the 2-6 Lions, 3-6 Bears, and 3-6 Jaguars.
If the Jets can win those three games, they’ll only have to win one of the other five to reach 10 victories, which is seemingly the magic number required to ensure a playoff berth. 24 out of 25 teams with 10+ victories have made the playoffs since the field was expanded to seven postseason teams in each conference two seasons ago.
The Jets currently have between a 59% and 72% chance of making the playoffs, depending on which projection you believe (FiveThirtyEight is on the lower end, the New York Times in the middle, Football Outsiders near the top, and ESPNAnalytics at the highest). According to the New York Times, that chance would increase to 84% with a victory over the Patriots coming out of the bye.
Keys to the remainder of the season
Let Zach manage the game
The Zach Wilson who took the field against Buffalo looked radically different than the one who threw three picks against New England the week prior. Wilson got the ball out quickly, stepped up in the pocket, and ran if no one was open. He also held the ball for a sack on the final drive of the game rather than trying to force one for a potential disaster.
If Wilson can continue to play this brand of football, it will build his confidence and give the Jets a good chance to win each week. The run game that showed up against Buffalo is still strong and can be the focal point of the offense. Wilson does not need to be the Jets’ savior, and Mike LaFleur can game-plan for him to be Robin instead of Batman.
Top clean-pocket EPA per dropback averages this season, per TruMedia/PFF:
1. Patrick Mahomes
2. Jalen Hurts
3. Tua Tagovailoa
4. Jimmy Garoppolo
5. Zach Wilson
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) November 7, 2022
Get healthy, stay healthy
This Jets team has, once again, endured a tough injury slate. Mekhi Becton, Breece Hall, and Alijah Vera-Tucker are lost for the season. Duane Brown is playing through a torn rotator cuff and missed the first four games. George Fant has missed the previous six games with a never-healed knee injury, and Max Mitchell has missed five. Corey Davis missed the last two games with a knee sprain. Jermaine Johnson missed three games. Now Sheldon Rankins is out as long as 4-6 weeks with a dislocated elbow.
These are big pieces on the Jets, especially the offensive side of the ball. However, Fant and Mitchell should return following the bye, giving the team a boost at right tackle (at the very least) and providing some insurance should Brown not be able to continue. Cedric Ogbuehi did his best, but he’s not a viable option at tackle for the remainder of the season.
The return of Corey Davis means that the Jets’ receiving corps runs five deep. How they choose to incorporate all their weapons, along with the tight ends and the running backs, remains to be seen. But having back Zach Wilson’s favorite target and the Jets’ most clutch receiver this season can only be a good thing.
Despite all the injuries, the Jets remain in a favorable position moving forward.
Offensive line alignment
Speaking of injuries and returns, Fant and Mitchell are expected back after the bye. How the Jets will deploy their line once that happens is an interesting question. Duane Brown has been up-and-down for the last number of weeks, putting up horrible performances against the Broncos and Patriots sandwiched by better ones vs. the Packers and Bengals. His torn rotator cuff and advanced age raise questions about his viability as the left tackle.
However, Fant played abominably as the left tackle prior to his injury. Do the Jets want to see what he can do now that his knee is (presumably) healthy? Fant had a great year at left tackle in 2021 and wanted to be paid at that position. If Fant goes to left tackle, then Max Mitchell moves to RT. If not, Fant goes to right tackle and Mitchell becomes a backup as he was meant to be entering the season.
The Jets have deployed seven different offensive line combinations in nine weeks. How they align their players and the results they receive will make a huge difference down the stretch.
Continue to run the ball
Following the loss of Breece Hall, the Jets have had a subpar rushing game and a fantastic one. It will take more time to learn exactly what this rushing attack looks like without Hall, but Michael Carter and James Robinson both showed that they’re capable of making it work on the ground.
Carter is not nearly as fast as Hall, but he still breaks many tackles and racks up yards after contact (6.08 per rush attempt against the Bills). He may not have 60-yard speed, but he does have 20-to-30 yard speed, which is enough to keep the Jets in rhythm and give Zach Wilson favorable throwing situations.
The Jets face the Patriots again coming out of the bye, and, as in the Week 8 matchup, New England will likely sell out to stop the run. Unlike the previous matchup, though, Mike LaFleur needs to show more willingness to stick with it, as he did against Pittsburgh earlier in the season. Whether it’s jet sweeps or read-option plays to keep the Patriots moving horizontally rather than vertically, designed quarterback runs, or spreading the offense and letting Zach run it against man coverage, the Jets will have their run game resolve tested out of the gate and will need to rise to the occasion.
Get Elijah Moore back in the offense
With Garrett Wilson’s unexpectedly strong rookie season, the drama surrounding Elijah Moore has almost taken a backseat from a gameplay perspective. Wilson is essentially taking Moore’s place as the short-to-intermediate route runner. The Jets have an abundance of other skill position weapons, including the returning Corey Davis, Braxton Berrios, the newly-involved Denzel Mims, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, and both running backs.
However, not using Moore at all means that having him on the field is a waste. Keeping him on the sideline in favor of Jeff Smith is cutting off their nose to spite their face. Moore is an ineffective decoy if Zach Wilson never even glances his way, and those 27 snaps might as well be zero.
We’ve hashed out and re-hashed all the drama surrounding Moore. But the Jets chose not to trade him and have continued to say that they need to get him more involved in the offense. Actions speak louder than words. Though Moore is clearly in the doghouse, it’s time to stop being foolish and do what’s best for the offense as a whole. It’s difficult to sell any fan who watched Moore play last season that the team is better without giving him touches.
No letdowns vs. inferior opponents
A staple of “Same Old Jets” football was losing to opponents that they should have beaten. Although the Jets were the better team than the Patriots in Week 8, New England’s 5-4 record makes them enough of a contender not to fall into that category. Other than that, the Jets’ other two losses are against the 6-3 Ravens and 5-4 Bengals, both games in which they were significant home underdogs.
As mentioned earlier, there are three must-win games on the Jets’ schedule for the second half of the season: the Lions, Bears, and Jaguars are all facing potential Top 10 picks in the 2023 draft. The Jets need to make those teams look like they belong with the lottery picks. No letdowns against inferior opponents, even on the road. Beat these three teams.
Avoid unforced errors
This has been one of the Jets’ biggest flaws this season. They often cannot get out of their own way. Whether it’s terrible and ill-timed penalties during plays, boneheaded late hits drawing penalties after the play, inexcusably poor decision-making by individual players, players blowing offensive and defensive assignments, or unforced turnovers—the Jets have had them all.
John Franklin-Myers is the No. 1 culprit who will come to mind, as his controversial roughing the passer penalty against New England negated a pick-six by Michael Carter II. However, Justin Hardee, Corey Davis, Jordan Whitehead, Lamarcus Joyner, Carl Lawson, Nathan Shepherd, Vinny Curry, and Micheal Clemons have also drawn abysmal personal fouls.
Zach Wilson is the primary culprit in decision-making leading to turnovers (although Garrett Wilson’s double-pump that caused him to fumble nearly qualified). Joyner has blown multiple defensive assignments in boneheaded fashion. (Sauce Gardner has also blown one, but it’s more understandable in a rookie.)
One of the biggest signs that these are not the Same Old Jets is the fact that the team is winning despite these errors. However, against the five playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, it will be difficult to win while having to overcome unforced errors.
The New York Jets will continue to take receipts on all those who doubt them. They finish the season with an 11-6 record, defeating the Patriots, Bears, Lions, Jaguars, and Dolphins, and lock up the No. 5 seed in the AFC, setting up a Wild Card Round showdown in Tennessee. The Jets take down the Titans and head to Arrowhead, where they upset the Chiefs. However, the run of brilliance comes to an end in Buffalo, where Josh Allen gets the ultimate revenge by beating his divisional rival to go to the Super Bowl.