The New York Jets lost in excruciating fashion to a divisional rival yesterday, in a game that may shape the trajectory of their 2017 season. How does a loss like that happen and what does it say about the bigger picture around this franchise?
You should never blow a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter, especially to a team playing their backup quarterback. The Jets have personnel limitations at critical positions but just like they coached around them through three quarters, they should have been able to bleed enough clock to hold on for a victory. There has been encouraging signs from Todd Bowles and his staff this season. On the whole, he has done a much better job through his first seven games this year than he did last year. Yet, days like yesterday are a reminder why there should be serious caution in making him the long term Head Coach through the upcoming years of this rebuild.
…And yes, this is still a rebuild despite a 3-4 record. The NFL is stocked with parity this season and 3-4 means there is only a handful of teams in the league with a worse record than the Jets right now (Cleveland, San Francisco, Giants, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay). The rest of the AFC East is at least two games over .500, while the Jets are now 1.5 games back out of third place and hold only a 1-3 divisional record.
Ironically and maybe somewhat encouragingly, yesterday’s loss was mostly on the remaining veterans on this team who are out of place in the current situation. Josh McCown had a gaudy stat lime but melted down in the fourth quarter again. The Jets have 17 total fourth quarter points over seven games, with 7 of them being in garbage time versus Oakland. McCown’s first half quarterback rating is 109.0, while his second half quarterback rating is 76.4. He has thrown two first half interceptions, compared to five second half interceptions. McCown’s yard per attempt drops from 8.33 to 6.21. You get the picture.
The Jets offense lacks explosiveness when they get off their first half script and they are put in tight, late game situations. For all the love being thrown their way, Jermaine Kearse is averaging 46 yards receiving per game and Jeremy Kerley is averaging 30 yards per game. There is a ceiling to an offense led by these guys and Matt Forte.
Defensively, Buster Skrine was the primary culprit and is a player who isn’t going to be here next year. The Jets didn’t have a good option to bench him for because Xavier Coleman got hurt, Dexter McDougle and Marcus Williams have been jettisoned and Juston Burris cannot play in the slot. Despite it being both of their best games of the season, neither Muhammad Wilkerson or Leonard Williams generated a fourth quarter pass rush. I don’t care about the circumstances or what else he is bringing to the defense, it is disappointing that Williams has one sack over his past 16 games. You need more from the 6th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Wilkerson showed a pulse yesterday, only making if more infuriating that he has been a ghost the first six weeks.
The silver lining on defense was the continued playmaking ability of Marcus Maye, who is slaying the Jets second round curse. Jamal Adams is having his struggles in coverage but remains a versatile and dynamic weapon near the line of scrimmage. Darron Lee is making progress. He is playing faster and with more confidence, he just needs to control himself as the team can’t weather multiple personal fouls on a weekly basis. He is still a liability in pass coverage but if the Jets are smarter with how they deploy him, he can be a useful piece.
If the Jets can’t beat a desperate Atlanta team at home this Sunday, they need to fully embrace being sellers at the trade deadline and shuffling their roster to prepare for 2018 and beyond. Yesterday’s loss aside, there are positives right now with the energy level this team brings every week and the potential of young pieces like Maye, Adams, Lee, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Robby Anderson (regardless of the helmet toss). It is near time to start seeing if the 2017 class outside of Adams and Maye has any contributors, as the other seven picks have done nothing yet outside of one Elijah McGuire touchdown run vs. Jacksonville.
This is not an awful team. This is a young team who has a mediocre quarterback, no pass rush and an inconsistent coaching staff. They are going to compete every week but probably lose way more than they win the rest of the way. Let’s hope long term development is a key priority over these final nine games.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com