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Ranking my worst New York Jets takes of the 2023 season

Quinnen Williams, NY Jets, NFL, DT, Prediction
Quinnen Williams, New York Jets, Getty Images

Boy, was I wrong about the 2023 New York Jets

One thing about being a New York Jets analyst is that I am rarely if ever forced to look back. It’s the privilege of all pundits: we can make predictions without being held accountable for those takes. However, there’s a part of me that cringes every time another one of my articles bites the dust. I’m usually content to sweep them under the rug and deny their very existence.

The proof is in the pudding, though: I haven’t deleted any of my articles, which means those takes are still crystal-clear in print. Therefore, in this dead period of June, I figured I would go back and face the music.

Here are some of my worst takes about the 2023 New York Jets. Get ready; this will be a doozy.

9. Believing their defense would regress

Truthfully, I wrote parallel articles explaining why the Jets’ defense could either regress or improve in 2023. The thing is that I was wrong about the potential areas of improvement, but the Jets’ defense still improved from sixth in DVOA to third.

My reasoning that defense tends to vary more often, the offenses the Jets were facing were superior, and that cornerback play varies wildly all proved to be moot, especially cornerback play. The Jets had the best cornerback trio in the league for the second consecutive season.

And yet, I’m doubling down on my prediction: I still think the Jets’ defense might regress somewhat in 2024. You’d think I would have learned my lesson.

8. Calling defensive health an X-factor

I wasn’t so far off in most of the X-factors I listed for the Jets’ 2023 season, including needing the underachievers to bounce back (Laken Tomlinson), the tackle position (duh), and coaching. I was off target with the free safety position since as bad as Jordan Whitehead was (he played deep more often than Tony Adams), the Jets’ defense was still one of the top units in football.

What I was wildly wrong about was calling the Jets’ defensive health a key X-factor. Yes, the Jets were seemingly due to lose more players on defense to injury, and they did get uncommonly lucky in that area again in 2023 (absent having D.J. Reed and Sauce Gardner miss a couple of games). But I totally ignored the tremendous health risks on the offense, starting with Rodgers. There were already obvious risks on the offensive line, and Breece Hall was coming off a torn ACL. I don’t know what I was thinking.

7. The players I thought might take a step back

Every offseason, at least one Jets X-Factor writer lists the players who might take a leap or a step back. In 2023, my list of players who might take a step back was comical. I chose Quinnen Williams, Breece Hall, Bryce Huff, and C.J. Mosley.

Admittedly, when I write those articles, it’s not necessarily about what I expect but what could happen. I didn’t really think Williams would take a step back at all, but there was the possibility he would come back down to earth after his monster 2022 season. Some would claim he did after following up a 12-sack campaign with 5.5 quarterback takedowns, but that’s a shallow misconception.

Truthfully, you could argue that Hall did take a step back from his rookie heights. He averaged only 4.5 yards per carry after posting 5.8 in the seven games of his rookie season.

Still, no one looking at the absolute abomination of the Jets’ 2023 offense would fault Hall for his performance. If anything, he overachieved in a miserable situation, as his expected yards per carry mark was 3.8, giving him 0.7 rush yards over expected per carry (fourth among qualified backs). Furthermore, his 76 receptions for 591 yards led all backs, which was probably not on most Jets fans’ preseason bingo card. Once again, a take that went down the drain.

The funniest of them all, though, was Bryce Huff. I fully take ownership of my belief that he would not sustain his otherworldly pressure production with a higher snap count. I was not eager to give him a contract extension in the 2023 offseason, believing he should prove his worth before getting the dough. Little did I imagine that he’d continue to be such a monster. That’s on me.

I do take some underrated credit for my Mosley take. Mosley’s coverage statistics did take a significant step back from 2022 to 2023, even if his Pro Football Focus coverage grade doesn’t show it. His yards per target went from 6.5 to 8.6, his yards per cover snap rose from 0.776 to 0.950, his targeted completion percentage increased from 65.8% to 80.3%, and his targeted passer rating grew from 83.0 to 101.4.

It’s worth noting that Mosley may not have been as good as his stats indicate in 2022 (many of his targeted passes were dropped), but still, the numbers more clearly indicated a decline in 2023.

6. Claiming Robert Saleh debunked a Rodgers myth

When Robert Saleh tried to set the media straight about who was the alpha in the Jets’ locker room, I accepted Saleh’s words. It angered me that the media portrayed Saleh as Rodgers’ lackey. I wrote, “So much for Rodgers being the commander-in-chief. While Saleh and Joe Douglas value his input, the demand narrative (regarding his pre-trade ‘wish list’) was just another figment of media imagination.”

Um, no. Rodgers ran the show for the Jets in 2023. Saleh completely bet his job on his quarterback.

5. Saying the 2023 Jets would not go the way of the 2022 Broncos and Browns

This one was rather cocky of me. Sean Payton claimed the Jets were the offseason champions and would fade away just as the Broncos had in 2022. I literally called this fiction in an article about whether the Jets should fear their strength of schedule. My reasoning was that Aaron Rodgers was set up for success more than Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson were in 2022.

Well, I didn’t count on Rodgers getting hurt four plays into the season, but it goes beyond that. The Jets’ offensive line was poor from the outset and only got worse with injuries. Rodgers would have been in a far worse position to succeed than the other quarterbacks even if he had stayed healthy. Couple that with the receiving corps, and my hubris looks even sillier.

4. My Mekhi Becton contract suggestion

I really thought Mekhi Becton would play at least reasonably well for the Jets if he could stay healthy. I encouraged the Jets to bet on it with a Jordan Love-style contract extension for Becton, giving him performance escalators for his 2024 contract based on his 2023 performance.

What’s especially deplorable about my take is that many of those escalators would have been tied to snap count rather than play, which means Becton would have earned them despite being one of the worst tackles in the NFL. He ended up playing 89.6% of the Jets’ offensive snaps.

It’s a good thing the Jets didn’t listen. They let Becton ride out his contract and then said sayonara.

3. Giving Nathaniel Hackett credit

I was quivering with righteous indignation when Payton slammed Nathaniel Hackett for the Broncos’ dysfunctional offense in 2022. I sought a way to prove him wrong, and I found it in Pro Football Focus’s list of teams with three or more receivers open on the most plays. The Broncos ranked fourth on the list, and I attributed that to Hackett’s scheming. I blamed the Broncos’ struggles on Russell Wilson rather than Hackett.

Well, the joke was on me. It clearly was Hackett. There’s not enough focus on the fact that Payton was 100% correct about the Jets and Hackett.

2. Arguing that the Jets could make the playoffs after their 3-3 start

I wrote an article enumerating the ways the Jets could make the playoffs during their bye week, when they sat at 3-3. This was my thought process: “All in all, while the goal is to win games, beating AFC opponents is absolutely critical. And the Jets can do it. Their most difficult remaining AFC games are against their division rivals. The Texans and Browns have better-than-expected records, but neither one has blown the doors off their opponents. They’ll be tough, grind-it-out games, which is what the Jets usually play, anyway.”

Yeah, right. The Jets barely survived the Giants the following week and then went into a tailspin, losing their next five games. By the time they played the Texans, their chances of making the playoffs were infinitesimal. Whatever hope the Houston game gave the Jets was eradicated one week later in a 30-0 drubbing at the hands of the Dolphins. Not only did the Jets finish 7-10, but they lost five games by 20+ points, the worst mark in the NFL.

1. Predicting the Jets would go to the AFC Championship

Would this have happened even if Rodgers had stayed healthy? The offense was so historically inept that I don’t think so. The AFC Championship is a more realistic goal in  2024 even with more injury concerns, as the Jets at least have the talent along the offensive line.

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Robby Sabo
5 days ago

Self receipts = best receipts.

6 days ago

We all have takes like this, appreciate the look back.