The New York Jets were comically short handed on the offensive side of the football today due to a rash of injuries. Without their three best skill position players available (Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Bilal Powell), they rolled out a mish mash of Jermaine Kearse, Deontay Burnett, Andre Roberts, Trenton Cannon, a seemingly hobbled Isaiah Crowell and recently signed Rishard Matthews at receiver and running back.
Considering the circumstances expecting a Jets loss on the road was reasonable, however the organization playing like they expected to lose and playing like they welcomed a competitive loss is a problem. This is the culture of mediocrity we discussed last week and have talked about ad nauseous on this site. Today was another perfect demonstration of it in an uninspiring 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears.
It is not easy to build a game plan with limited weapons. It is easier to have your offensive unit avoid repeated false start penalties. It is also easier to avoid repeatedly throwing your apparently hobbled “lead back” into the A Gap on 1st and 2nd down so your rookie quarterback is living on third and long. Sam Darnold was 14/29 for 153 yards with 1 TD, 0 turnovers and 22 rushing yards. It was a good performance, box score scouting aside. He was regularly forced to throw the football away with nobody open down the field and not helped by Kearse, who had two drops and only managed to pull in 3 of his 10 targets for 30 yards.
The Jets went above and beyond with how conservative their game plan was. It was a “let’s play to keep the score close” strategy, not a “let’s see if we can take advantage of playing a Mitch Trubisky led beatable Bears team and steal a win” strategy. There was no play action. There was nothing creative to take swings down the field. There was nothing outside the box. It was just a vanilla, week 2 of the preseason offensive game plan.
Rookie tight Chris Herndon caught his third touchdown of the season but only received 2 targets on the day. Rookie UDFA Deontay Burnett flashed with 4 receptions for 61 yards, including a beautiful leaping grab down the sideline (he caught all 4 of his targets). Neal Sterling was forced to leave with an injury and the Jets got nothing out of Jordan Leggett or Andre Roberts. The running game was non existent. Crowell has 37 carries for 94 yards since his explosion in the Denver game. Trenton Cannon continues to look overmatched at this level, only finishing with 22 yards on 9 touches. Hopefully, Elijah McGuire is ready to walk into a bigger role when he returns from short term IR.
Defensively, the Jets are not receiving help from their offense but they are not playing well enough. They did not force a turnover for the second week in a row. They were embarrassingly gashed for a 70 yard touchdown on a screen pass. In the fourth quarter, when the Jets cut the lead to 17-10, they wilted and allowed the Bears to march right down the field for a touchdown to put the game away. They weren’t ran off the field but they couldn’t make any big plays, particularly when the game was tight.
This is a team who has used three top twenty picks on their defense, including two top six picks in the past 4 years. These moves were supposed to address every level of the unit but it was another afternoon where it was hard to remember that Leonard Williams and Darron Lee were on the team. It was also not Jamal Adams best effort as he missed multiple tackles and struggled with containing Trubisky in the pocket. The bar is set high for these players, particularly Williams and Adams, but they simply don’t play to the All-Pro level that fans assign to them with anywhere near enough consistency.
There was no new news today. Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles’ teams have started 3-5 each of the past three years. They are 23-33 overall (41%). It is a below average roster being led by a below average coaching staff. 3.5 seasons is an eternity in the NFL but the Jets are still running in mud in most aspects of their organization week to week. Competitive losses shouldn’t be celebrated or accepted. They are losses.