The New York Jets showed up to play yesterday, punching the Patriots in the mouth en route to a 14-0 lead. Unfortunately that lead and that punch were fleeting. What can we take away from a hard fought loss against an alleged Super Bowl favorite that dropped the Jets to 3-3?
Yesterday’s loss was predominantly due to the quarterback disparity between the two teams and the Jets offensive shortcomings. After scoring a quick two touchdowns, thanks to Jeremy Kerley deciding to become Jerry Rice for a short period of time, the offense went into a shell and looked like the unit many feared it would be in the pre-season. Over the final three plus quarters, the Jets turned the ball over three times and scored three points. You can’t play beat Tom Brady like that. You are hanging your defense out to dry, despite playing against one of the league’s worst defenses in your building.
From the eye test standpoint, it is understandable to praise the work John Morton and Josh McCown have done through six weeks. They are moving the ball and allowing the team to compete on a weekly basis. Morton, despite some struggles in short yardage, is making the most out of a unit stocked with predominantly journeymen and rookies. McCown is playing about as well as you can expect McCown to play, which puts him somewhere around the 25th-28th best quarterback in the NFL. The yards are there but so are the turnovers, blatantly missed open receivers and large stretches of inconsistency.
Despite passing the eye test, the Jets are averaging 17 points per game. In every single game this season they have scored two touchdowns, except in week one when they only scored one. New England has allowed 20 more points or more four times this year but the Jets couldn’t crack that number. They are the only team to not pass 20 points on Cleveland. There is not going to be any sustained winning unless the Jets start scoring more.
The next four games heading into the bye week are likely to have spreads at 4 points or less: at Miami, vs. Atlanta, vs. Buffalo, at Tampa Bay. These are all roughly “coin flip” games. This stretch will determine if the Jets are a 5-11 type team, who could go as young as possible after the bye or if they are a 8-8 type team who will stay with their current lineup because they’ll be playing potentially meaningful December football. They have three ugly losses over the past two years coming off a win or one possession loss against New England and must avoid a hangover performance on the road this Sunday. Miami is not the same lifeless team who the Jets steamrolled a month ago and will not be as easy to beat away from MetLife.
Through six games, this has been a generally well coached team that is competing like hell for Todd Bowles. The roster is a weird collection of stopgap veterans (Kearse, Kerley, McCown, Davis), post August waiver wire/trade additions (Ealy, Bass, Stinson, Brooks, Cadet), rookies or early career players flashing potential as building blocks (Adams, Maye, ASJ, Williams, Shell, Anderson, McGuire) and overpaid remnants of previous years (Wilkerson, Forte). Despite that mishmash, they are showing up each week and scrapping together competitive football. Previous Jets teams lay down and die at 24-14 versus England and lose 38-14. This team was within one McCown “open your eyes and throw it to a wide open Travaris Cadet on 4th and 16” from potentially tying the game in regulation.
There are long term roster issues that badly need to be fixed but there are signs of an infrastructure in place that the Jets can build on. If Bowles and Morton can coach competently, it is two less holes that need to be filled this offseason. If the Jets found a defensive scheme that can be built around Adams, Maye, stronger than expected cornerback play and replaced Mo Wilkerson’s corpse with a much cheaper Kony Ealy, there is more to build on than expected. Offensively, they are better than they are given credit for on the line, found a tight end and a useful long term pieces at RB and WR.
There are bits and pieces to work with here. Can the Jets keep building and competing heading into their bye week or will they show this 3-3 start was a mirage? We will start getting a better idea next week.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com