It is hard to say yesterday’s New York Jets loss was shocking. Despite the good vibes of a primetime win over a quickly fading Buffalo team, the Jets entered yesterday 1-3 on the road, who was well in the 20s in total offense, total defense and DVOA rankings. The NFL and particularly the AFC is filled with mediocre parity this year. This Jets team can be competitive most weeks because of it but also lose in any given week because of it. Yesterday was disappointing because it did not only amplify the team’s talent shortcomings, it also amplified a lack of maturity to avoid a “let down” game.
The quotes coming out of the Jets locker room were consistent yesterday: they came out flat and didn’t play with the same hunger of previous weeks. It seems absurd that a 4-5 team who hasn’t made the playoffs in seven years could get caught up reading their press clippings for winning one of their previous four games but that appears to be what happened…that falls on coaching. Todd Bowles and John Morton played not to lose yesterday and this team doesn’t have enough talent to play that way against anybody. It was an uninspired, flat game plan that magnified all of their talent problems, rather than working around them.
Josh McCown has been a nice story this year and has an easy on the eyes stat line because he regularly throws 4 yard passes on 3rd and 10. You can talk about his completion percentage all you want but the Jets cannot win close games or beat teams with superior talent with any consistency with him under center. The “bridge/mentor” narrative is wildly overdone. McCown has helped Robby Anderson, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a few other young pieces take encouraging steps with somewhat stable play but any notion of paying him money to play quarterback here next year is insane. The Jets need to go get a legitimate starting quarterback and they do not need to sink 6-8 million dollars into McCown to back him up. If you want him to coach, hire him as a coach and use your salary cap money elsewhere.
Defensively, the Jets suffered when Morris Claiborne left early in the game with an injury after already missing last week’s game versus Buffalo. Any type of long term contract that sinks heavy guaranteed money into Claiborne is an extreme risk and something the Jets need to avoid. Nobody doubts he can play but there is a reason he was dirt cheap on the market last year, he can’t stay healthy.
Yesterday was also another week the pass rush did not show up, as the Jets only managed to drop Ryan Fitzpatrick once. After a three game surge, Muhammad Wilkerson was back to being invisible. He is on track to have the third highest cap hit for a non-quarterback in the NFL next year. A few spurts of productivity against Vladimir Ducasse does not justify that type of investment.
Premium positions are quarterback, tackle, pass rusher and cover corner. For the Jets, they are mediocre or banged up at all of those spots. The offensive line has been better than expected but were exposed yesterday against a strong front. We will likely get a much better idea of just how much help they need when evaluating their performance against Carolina, Kansas City and Denver over the next three games.
Through ten games, the Jets have navigated a fairly soft schedule roughly to the best of their ability. After the upcoming bye week, reality will begin setting in as the schedule becomes substantially more difficult. If the Jets are flat in December, the result won’t be losses to teams they “should” beat. The result will be blowouts, the likes of which we are yet to see this season but were hallmarks of the 2016 season.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com