1st & 10: Early Off-Season Thoughts

Stephen Russo offers his early offseason thoughts on the New York Jets

1st…

There is not much you can take away from the Jets season finale against the Bills. Sure, the offense set a franchise low for yards in a game with 53 – but having a subpar offensive output was expected with Zach Wilson having a JV squad to throw to (I’m being generous) and Jamison Crowder getting hurt in the first quarter. The Jets, by enlarge, were outmanned at every position on the field but managed to keep this a 13-10 game into the 4th quarter, on the road, in terrible conditions, against a very good team that was playing for the division title. If we’re going to take anything away from this game, it should be fight they showed in a meaningless game. 

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TOJ’s 1st & 10: Jets QB Zach Wilson Goes Toe to Toe with The Goat!

1st…

I don’t know what narrative the readers follow regarding Zach Wilson, or what their ideal scenario was for this Jets team prior to draft night, but if you can’t see the steps forward from this young quarterback then I think you simply don’t like him.

22-year-old Zach Wilson just went punch for punch with Tom Brady and should have beaten him – barring a bizarre miscommunication on a 4th down call. The kid played lights out, turnover-free football for four quarters against the defending Super Bowl Champions, while missing his starting receivers, tight ends, and 2/5 of his offensive line! That, my friends, is progress.

The mere fact that since returning from injury, Wilson has had numerous games (Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay) that are being debated as his best games of the season, is a great sign! Since his return from injury in week 12, he has thrown for 1079 yards, 56% completion, 4 passing touchdowns and 4 rushing touchdowns and has only 2 interceptions! Oh and the Jets have been competitive in every game but one…

This is tangible progress from the rookie and from this team as we close out the season.

& 10…

1. Mike LaFleur called another brilliant game. Kudos to him for getting Wilson in a groove early and continuing to build off of that as the game went on. You can make an argument that MLF has been the most improved Jet this season.

2. The Jets young cornerback group has easily been the most impressive unit on the team this season. I think Bryce Hall is an answer at one spot, and Echols may be another. But at least you know that you have depth pieces for the future, at a minimum.

3. Braxton Berrios should be extended… immediately. What a player.

4. I’m glad we got some clarification on the 4th down play call late in the game… It was a bad decision by Wilson to not go to Berrios on the reverse, but I love the aggressiveness to go for it there. Good by Saleh.

5. A close 2nd place to point #2 above would be the offensive line. This coaching staff has done a great job with this unit, and they continue to get better. There is no bigger proof than having the running game they did today against Tampa Bay with Dan Feeney and Chuma Edoga playing big roles. However, this unit is in no way a finished product.

6. Good for Kenny Yeboah for making plays down the middle of the field. It was nice to see a TE make a catch in the seam. Tight end is the biggest need for this offense to address in the offseason. Joe Douglas should make moves in both free agency and the draft.

7. Is it too much to ask for one game to go by where a Jets receiver doesn’t have a crucial, boneheaded drop?

8. Seeing Robert Saleh need his get back coach to pull him off the field after a Tom Brady sack may have been the highlight of the season for me.

9. The Jets defense actually played well today and held up vs. a good Buccaneers offense. You fault them for giving up a 3rd and 20 and for the final drive, but they held their own for most of the day and deserve credit. Per the usual with this team, it’s an insanely low bar to clear but they did it today.

10. The biggest needs the Jets have this offseason are: TE, IOL, WR, Edge, LB, CB and both safeties. My early feeling is to address offense heavy with 3 of the top 4 picks in the draft and try to solve your defensive problems during free agency.
March and May are going to be so unbelievably fun. I believe that there is a clear vision here from Douglas and Saleh and they realize the need to compete in 2022. The Jets have money to spend, draft capital to play with, and a QB and Coach to build for. This will be a wild ride and it will never fail to entertain us…

1st & 10: We Could See This Coming…

Stephen Russo reacts to the Jets’ loss to the Dolphins.

For some reason, this one hurts a little more. Objectively speaking, it’s not that bad. The Jets played a tough team, who came in winning 5 in a row, on the road, and played them close and kept the game within a score while they were without half their roster due to injury. The young quarterback played well, particularly in the first half, and they simply weren’t able to hang for the entire game.
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TOJ’s 1st & 10: A Predictable Dud

Stephen Russo gives 10 thoughts from this Sunday’s Saints game.

1st…

At the start of this season, you all probably (much like me) knew there would be a game or two (or three or four) like this one. A game where the whole team looks flat. Nothing goes right. It’s boring. There’s nothing to cheer for. It is, in a word, meh. We knew they were coming, but it doesn’t make that pill any easier to swallow when it’s here. It’s easy to say before the season begins that the Jets will probably finish 6-11 or 5-12, because you know, objectively, that is what will happen. But when you’re in it, watching another boring game on a Sunday in December feeling like you’ve wasted another 3 hours of your weekend, those 11 or 12 losses sting just a little bit extra… especially knowing you’ve wasted way too many Sundays like this over the past decade.

I am here to say that I agree… it sucks.

But, it’s not the end of the world. It was one game, against a well-coached Saints team that was due for a win. A team that could run the ball, which as simple as it sounds, attacks our biggest weakness. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that the Jets are not a very good football team. When you couple that with being as injury riddled as they are, it’s not a recipe for success. Should they have played the Saints tougher? Sure. But are we really surprised by an outcome like this, especially when they enter the game without their top 2 receivers, starting tight end, and top 2 running backs? I don’t think so.

So, as bad as it was on Sunday, the sky is not falling. The world is not over. And Zach Wilson is not a bust after 9 full games.

This past Sunday sucked. Let’s dust ourselves off and move on.

& 10…

1. I think we can put the collective defense of Denzel Mims to bed… officially.

2. Catch the ball please, Ty Johnson.

3. Sundays are so much more enjoyable watching Elijah Moore catch passes for your team, regardless of how bad they are.

4. One silver lining was Eddie Pineiro went 3/3 on field goal attempts!

5. Feels like Braxton Berrios was the only receiver that showed up to play on Sunday. The fanbase had a collective outrage when he was getting too many targets earlier this season, but he has played his butt off at receiver and on special teams. The Jets should re-sign him.

6. I think Joe Douglas has his work cut out for him this offseason. It’s time for him to mix up his typical approach, and marry his “build through the draft” strategy with an aggressive free agency period in March. This is how you build a competitor in 2022 and a team that can stay in the hunt for a wild card spot. Hopefully Woody forces him to open up the checkbook.

7. Despite growing calls for his job after the season, I would run it back with Jeff Ulbrich. I think continuity is something this organization has severely lacked for a long time. I believe that getting these younger players comfortable in a system and mixing in seasoned veterans would be the best way to improve this defense.

8. I am a big fan of John Franklin-Myers and Quinnen Williams. But too often, their presence simply hasn’t been felt for entire games. I think it is right on point to say that this defensive line has been very underwhelming this season.

9. If I were Joe Douglas, I would allocate those first 4 picks in the draft to: OL, WR, Edge, and LB, in no particular order. I would pair that with going aggressively in free agency to sign veteran starters at: TE, CB, S. That being said, my mind could change depending on who comes available in free agency… hello Michael Gallup.

10. I will not be out on Zach Wilson at any point during his first season. I will admit, however, that I think it is mildly concerning that he is still struggling to hit layups (screen to Berrios and boot to Ryan Griffin. On the other hand, when you’re an offense led by a rookie quarterback, sometimes to have to lift him up. So, when you’re a team decimated by injury and missing top weapons, you cannot have: 5+ drops, costly penalties, no receiver separation, and no running game. That is no way to lift your young quarterback up.

Robert Saleh said he doesn’t want Zach Wilson to play hero ball… it’s time his team stopped making him play that way.

TOJ’s 1st & 10: Is the Defense Really This Bad?

1st…

As frustrating as yesterday was, and believe me when I say I understand, it was about one thing: Zach Wilson. Wilson’s game against the Eagles was arguably his best all season. He started fast and, although the points production dwindled to zero after the first three drives, progress was made by Wilson and the offense. He stayed within the system, looked confident, hit throws – easy and difficult – and managed the game the best he has all season. While the result wasn’t what any of us wanted, Wilson and Mike LaFleur continued to show growth and that there are true building blocks for the future.

Wilson finished the day going 23/38 for 226 yards with 2 passing touchdowns and a bad interception, but also ran for another touchdown. He looked competent and decisive, and he efficiently led the Jets on offense during a game where they received no help from the other side of the ball. It was great to see true progress as he and LaFleur looked to be truly in a groove. The prospect of a legitimate play caller, quarterback and #1 wide receiver should have every Jets fan excited.

& 10…

1. The Jets defense has allowed 367 points through 12 games, which is an average of more than 30 points per game. This is a historically bad Jets defense, and that’s saying something. They can’t stop the run, can’t stop the pass, and don’t get after the quarterback consistency. They also have no ability to make a game changing play, whether its strip sacks or turnovers given their affinity for not intercepting the ball and not falling on fumbles. Other than that, they’re pretty good.

2. Elijah Moore is solidifying himself week after week as this team’s #1 WR AND I am here for all of it.

3. The offensive line has continued to be impressive throughout the course of the season. I don’t believe that they are a unit that’s in the top half of the league (yet), but I do believe that progress is being made and they are a serviceable line that is going in the right direction. Much like LaFleur’s move to the booth, you can attribute the offensive success, in part, to the growth of the offensive line.

4. The Jets kicking game is an absolute embarrassment. It is borderline malpractice that Joe Douglas continues to allow this to happen. I would expect the Jets to sign a viable veteran this offseason (BREAKING: they signed veteran Kicker Eddy Piniero).

5. I think it’s reasonable to say that this defense will need 7 new starters next season. Outside of the newly-inked John Franklyn Myers, future Pro Bowler Quinnen Williams, a rejuvenated CJ Mosley and Cornerback Bryce Hall, who are they not replacing? Lawson will come back and be a starter, and Michael Carter II has been a nice piece, but I still think that you need to invest heavily in linebacker, cornerback, safety, and another edge.

6. NFL Officiating continues to be a joke and it has never been more evident and one-sided than it was in this game. I have no idea how they throw a flag on Bryce Hall for interference on Goedert or how they can claim to have sufficient evidence to overturn the 4th &a 1 call. It is wildly inconsistent and never provides clarity. It is hurting the product and officials continue to insert themselves into games more and more. The NFL has a legitimate problem on their hands.

7. It’s safe to say that Corey Davis has been a disappointment thus far in his Jets tenure. The drops and injuries greatly outweigh the few bright moments he’s had. I hope that he can return this season and show that he’s worth the money paid. If healthy and playing to his potential, he and Elijah Moore would be a nice, balanced 1-2 punch in the passing game.

8. I don’t think Ashtyn Davis is the guy at safety.

9. It may be understated how much the Jets miss Bryce Huff and Brandin Echols, but the defense should still be able to remain semi-competent in their absence… which they are not.

10. I, like many of us, lauded Robert Saleh for taking the CEO approach to the Head Coach position and giving his assistants the autonomy to do the jobs their way. It was a smart step forward, especially considering his predecessor. However, it is time for him to re-evaluate a bit and take more of a stronghold in the defense. Making his presence known is not a bad thing nor a knock on Ulbrich, but rather recognizing that help is needed and trying to fix a problem.

TOJ’s 1st & 10: An Ugly Win is Still a Win

Stephen Russo walks fans through how they should feel about yesterday’s Jets win.

1st…

Was this the game we all wanted to see? Absolutely not. We had all hoped for Zach Wilson to come back from more than a month away and look like Aaron Rodgers in a high-powered offense and throw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns because booth Mike LaFleur is clearly the second coming of Mike Martz and can get any QB to look like a Hall of Famer. But that’s not what we got. What we did get was a gritty performance by a young team and a young quarterback who got better as the game went on.

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1st & 10: Another Division Loss… but with Encouraging Signs!

Stephen Russo offers 10 thoughts on the Jets ahead of this week’s Texans game.

1st…

These are the types of losses that we can stomach. Competent, competitive football with young, core players making big plays with a shot to win in the 4th quarter. This is what the season is about for the youngest team, with the most snaps played by rookies, coached by a very green coaching staff is about. While no one is walking away feeling like this is a moral victory (it is not), you can come away with some encouragement about this team and the direction it is heading – particularly when Zach Wilson returns. I am certainly not OK with being 0-10 in the last 10 division games, or losing to a bad Miami team at home, but following the last few weeks, there is progress there. I am happy about that.

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1st & 10: Another Ugly Division Loss

Stephen Russo tackles the topics on Jets fans’ minds after a humiliating loss last week against the Bills.

1st…

The Mike White era was fun while it lasted. He provided us with excitement, albeit short lived, and we enjoyed every minute of it. From the 405 yards against Cincinnati and the “Secaucus Special” two-point conversion to the Elijah Moore touchdown against the Colts and the “what could have been” if he stayed in the game. It was fun.

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1st & 10: The Football Gods Giveth and Taketh Away

Stephen Russo gives his 10 takeaways from the Jets-Colts game.

1st…

We’ve had four days to let this loss marinate and while I thought it would get easier… it didn’t. Jets fans have been through enough, particularly in the quarterback department. For far too long, we’ve experienced inept quarterback play before we’ve even gotten to the backup.  From Luke Falk to Bryce Petty to Greg McElroy to Brooks Bollinger (shall I keep going?), it’s been death by a thousand cuts. I feel like we’d have to go all the way back to Ray Lucas to talk about a backup quarterback that had any sort of success with the Jets. But not this year! Mike F’n White comes out of nowhere to throw for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Bengals to lead this team to victory and give us all a glimmer of hope for some exciting football on Thursday night. Then, the kid actually follows it up by delivering a game-tying touchdown pass to our beloved Elijah Moore in the first quarter before realizing that he has no feeling in the fingers on his throwing hand and will miss the rest of the game…

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TOJ’s 1st & 10: New York Jets QB Mike White? The GOAT!

1st…

The story of the day is Mike White. I think I speak for all fans when I say that leading up to this game, this kid was a complete mystery. None of us had any idea of what he was or could be, and probably envisioned another Luke Falk game as we braced ourselves for yet another stinkfest as the Jets took on a hot Bengals team on Halloween. Most, if not all, of us probably also spent the better part of the offseason criticizing Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh for not bringing in a true veteran quarterback to back up Zach Wilson… I know I’m guilty of that.

Well, for at least one week, we were ALL wrong.

White came out and impressed in a way that we have never seen. He only threw 8 incompletions all day on 45 attempts! He racked up 405 yards and 3 touchdowns against a good Bengals defense. The kid looked poised, competent, and controlled as he led the Jets to victory.  He took shots where he could, he checked down when he had to.  He executed the offense to near perfection.  What can’t be overlooked or undersold is how much fight he had in him. Coming back from back-to-back tipped ball interceptions (so many young QB’s would fold after that), a late first half fumble by Crowder, and an 11-point 4th quarter deficit to lead this team the way he did was unbelievable. Mike White deserves all the credit for this incredible performance. And I am so happy that something finally bounced in the Jets direction.

& 10…

1. Michael Carter was outstanding. He consistently made play after play, both in the run and pass game, and was a major reason why the Jets won this game. I don’t know if anyone else sees this, but Carter reminds me of Leon Washington. He is smaller in stature, deceptively quick, and a dual threat that consistently gets all yards available and then some. And he seems to rarely make a bad play (Oh and by the way, he’s a 4th round pick from an ACC school). Carter and Ty Johnson seem to forming a formidable running back tandem that compliment each other very well.

2. Mike LaFleur has been public enemy #1 amongst Jets fans for the first part of this season – right, wrong, or indifferent. However, credit him for this performance. He called a masterful game: pulled out the bag of tricks, improved situational play calling, and stuck to the gameplan despite being knocked down early. LaFleur called his best game as a Jet coach yesterday, and per Saleh, needs to stick in the booth moving forward.

3. I loved Elijah Moore’s involvement yesterday in every facet. His most important play was his touchdown-saving tackle on the interception.  That play alone probably saved the game for the Jets.

4. The Jets defense played well yesterday despite giving up 31 points. They were put in difficult positions early, but held their own. Sheldon Rankins was a force inside making plays in the run game and tallying a huge sack, and the rest of the defensive line played great as well. CJ Mosley looked like he was out for blood yesterday and I am all for it.

5. Here are some stats from the Jets offense yesterday: 12 possessions, 34 points, 32 first downs(!), 36:20 time of possession, 10 different receivers caught passes (14 catches for RB’s), and a 9 YPA for Mike White. Whatever you did, Mr. LaFleur, keep doing it.

6. If I have one complaint from yesterday, it is this: STOP ATTEMPTING 50+ YARD FIELD GOALS. If you’re at 40 yards and in, go ahead and kick. Anything else on the opponent’s side of the field, go for it.

7. Two things that I loved yesterday were: the offensive personnel use (limited TE targets and mixed WR/RB groups) as well as the young core involvement. The Jets won on the backs of Carter, Johnson, Moore and Mims. It was great to see and something to be very excited about moving forward.

8. The Stealth Black should be the Jets’ permanent uniforms. 

9. I don’t believe there is a quarterback controversy… yet. It was one week, let’s see what happens in Indy before we cross that bridge. But, if Mike White lights it up again, things could get interesting. I do believe though, that Zach Wilson will benefit a lot by taking a few games to reset and learn from how White executed this offense. I think we can pump the brakes on the Bledsoe/Brady comparisons for a bit.

10. This game is exactly what the fans want. Even if the Jets had fallen short, and ended up losing 38-34, that would have been ok. It is great to win, don’t get me wrong. Victory Monday’s feel amazing and there are so few for us that we have to enjoy them. But ultimately, having something to root for and be so invested in for 3+ hours on a Sunday afternoon is exactly what the fans want and need. Whatever happens, just be exciting and competitive… that’s all we ask.