The New York Jets have lost three games in a row and are quickly careening towards a record most expected for them prior to the season. Why can’t this team hold on to a lead or win close games? Will they be realistic about where the rest of this season is headed?
Considering their talent level, the Jets are doing a good job game planning each week. When they are on script in the first half, they are able to move the football and make plays on defense. Yet, teams in the NFL know how to counterpunch. When they do hit back and get themselves into a tight game, the Jets cannot make the plays to get over the hump. This should not be surprising, although it remains frustrating to watch on a weekly basis.
The team’s 3-5 record has led many to forget just how talent poor this roster is. If the season ended today, there would not be a single player on the Jets who would receive All-Pro or Pro-Bowl consideration, outside of maybe Morris Claiborne who is now hurt. More importantly, they remain thoroughly below average at the most important positions in football: Quarterback, Pass Rusher, Tackle and Cornerback. They also lack a playmaker on either side of the ball who can make a game changing play in a critical spot.
When the game gets close, certain matchups are magnified. The Jets lose when the quarterback head to head is magnified, unless they are playing Blake Bortles or DeShone Kizer. They lose when Brent Qvale needs to block a team’s best pass rusher. They lose when their no name group of linebackers and underachieving defensive line needs a sack on a critical fourth quarter third down. They lose when they are giving major reps at corner to street free agents and previously benched middle round picks against top flight receivers.
This coaching staff has been pretty good this year and definitely better than most expected but they aren’t improved enough yet to coach around these talent disparities at critical positions. They are going to be able to steal a few games here or there in the right matchups but ultimately the ceiling of this roster will remain a reality check most weeks.
The reality check for the Jets right now is this: they should be sellers at the trade deadline. They should recognize they are not making the playoffs this year or likely even getting close to them. Their first half schedule was substantially easier than their second half schedule will be and they are only pacing to 6-10. It is time to gradually integrate younger pieces and start evaluating the 2017 class of picks. So far outside of one run versus Jacksonville by Elijah McGuire, nobody from that class has contributed anything outside of the first two picks. It is time get more tape on ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Elijah McGuire Derrick Jones and Jeremy Clark/Jordan Leggett if they can get healthy. It is time to give more downfield targets to Robby Anderson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. It is time to set up a plan to eventually get Bryce Petty a few starts post bye week so you can determine if he can be the long term backup here.
It is hard to be too bummed out about these Jets losses. The team has been more competitive than expected. Certain young players are flashing each week, so there is signs of hope for the future. Players like McCown, Buster Skrine, Muhammad Wilkerson, Matt Forte, Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley are playing major roles but are unlikely to be back next year so there is limited attachment to them. This remains a weird patchwork roster of veteran placeholders, ascending young talent and enormous, gaping question marks.
This team fights each week, which counts for something but as the season gets further along and the games remain close, inferior talent becomes a harder and harder thing to overcome. All of the problems discussed in the preseason with this team still exist. The three game wining streak was more of a mirage than anything and shouldn’t have changed the narrative as much as it did about the state of this roster. Expectations should be set accordingly for the final eight games.
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