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NY Jets must get control over self-inflicted issue

Robert Saleh, NY Jets, Penalties
Robert Saleh, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets self-destruct in one inexcusable area

It’s hard enough for fans to endure New York Jets misery year after year. When that misery comes with a large dose of self-inflicted injury, it’s even more painful. That’s exactly what the Jets did in 2023.

The Jets sustained 150 flags in 2023, the most in the NFL. 124 of those were accepted, second only to the Houston Texans, who played in two more games — giving the Jets the highest per-game accepted penalty count (7.29). They lost the seventh-most yards on those penalties (745). Considering that they were the beneficiaries of just 93 penalties for 780 yards, their -31 differential in penalty calls was the worst in the NFL, and their -165 yardage differential was fifth-worst.

Unsurprisingly, the Jets had more offensive penalties (65) than defensive (48), but both of those were among the six worst in the league (second and sixth, respectively). They managed to stay relatively clean on special teams, sustaining 11 accepted penalties (T-12th-fewest).

The Jets took the second-most pre-snap penalties in the NFL (52), an area considered largely a coaching issue. They were also the worst offender on a per-game basis for unnecessary roughness (0.59 per game), illegal blindside blocks (0.12), and illegal contact (0.41).

The somewhat unexpected part of this analysis is that it was a new issue for the Jets. In each of Robert Saleh’s first two seasons with the team, they ranked 15th in the league in penalties per game (6.00 and 5.35). That number skyrocketed in 2023.

The biggest issues the Jets must clean up are the pre-snap penalties and unnecessary roughness. Other penalties will happen within the context of the game, but those are eminently preventable. The addition of veteran leadership along the offensive line should help, although John Simpson takes many penalties (21 penalties in two full seasons). If injuries start bringing players in and out of the lineup, though, the Jets could be in trouble once more. Unfortunately, with two 33-year-old tackles, one with an extensive injury history, and another player coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries, that is a noted possibility.

Saleh has been muted in his response to the Jets’ unnecessary roughness issue. Perhaps the problem lies therein. The Jets want their defense to play aggressively, and they seem content to take the penalties that come with it. Quincy Williams’ twitchy helmet (3 calls) and Jermaine Johnson’s frustration (2) got the best of them at times in 2023.

It’s worth noting that some of the more heavily penalized teams in the NFL made the playoffs in 2023. Houston, Dallas, and Cleveland were the next three most-penalized teams per game after the Jets, and they made the postseason. Baltimore, Buffalo, and Green Bay were also in the top 10. Half of the 2023 playoff teams were in the top 12 in penalties. Furthermore, of the 10 least-penalized teams in the NFL, only the Rams and Steelers made the playoffs.

Therefore, it’s clear that mitigating penalties is not a requirement to win. Still, it’s an important component of staying ahead of the chains, especially for a team that has struggled so mightily on offense. The Jets must find a way to reduce their penalty calls in 2024.

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Jonathan Richter
10 days ago

Nowhere to go but up.

Maybe you could break down the roster swaps we’ve had in terms of their propensity to commit penalties: Laken v Simpson, Smith v. Mekhi, Moses v. Warren/Mitchell/Turner, Clark v. Whitehead, etc.?

12 days ago

I think you miskeyed one of the total yardages, for or against.