The New York Jets haven’t been above .500 since the 2018 season opener.
At no point since Week 1 of the 2018 season, when Sam Darnold beat the Detroit Lions in his debut game, have the New York Jets won more games than they have lost. That sentence alone is an article in of itself. With a team motivated after a lucky win in Cleveland, and a disgruntled Bengals team coming to town, there was no better opportunity for the Jets to finally get above .500 and advance to 2-1.
They did not.
At least the 27-12 loss provides Jets fans with insights to why this team week in and week out, year in and year out, continue to disappoint one of the most passionate fan bases in the NFL.
Ride The Hot Hand, They Say…
Good news for Jets fans: we’ve hopefully seen the last of Joe Flacco quarterbacking this team, maybe ever. When casual individuals look into the stats and see Flacco throwing for 309, 307, and 285 yards in his first three games, it’s easy to believe the Jets offense is on fire. Until, upon a deeper dive, the 37-year old who can no longer smoothly move in a collapsing pocket has thrown no fewer than 44 attempts each game. Despite being in the top five in passing yards in the NFL, his yards per attempt sit at a league bottom 5.8. It’s not that he’s doing really well, it’s that offensive coordinator Mike LeFluer is calling so many pass plays the numbers inflate themselves.
The Jets have never had a lead this season except for the final 30 seconds of the Cleveland game following that improbable comeback. In 9 straight games the team has allowed 21+ points which is the longest active streak in the NFL. Problem #1: The Jets are always playing from behind, or having to win shootouts. Flacco has also been sacked 9 times, thrown three interceptions, and I’m skeptical to include the final touchdowns in his stats because if it weren’t for Cleveland’s gross clock mismanagement, New York never sees that ball again, and fall to 0-3.
Robert Saleh has been a culture changer in New York. It hasn’t been since Rex Ryan in the early 2010’s that Jets fans saw a coach who has some life or passion in him. And in part, that’s what helps you win over the city of New York. It’s a loud, brash, abrasive city that needs a personality willing to wrangle the same hard working New Yorkers and New Jerseyans willing to spend $12.50 per beer to watch their pride and joy lose.
And really, I do appreciate Coach Saleh standing in front of the media and telling us the team is keeping receipts of the “haters” and the “critics” who say it’s just the “same old Jets.” There’s nothing like your coach sticking their neck out for you. But I have some receipts for him.
Robert Saleh has coached 20 games for the New York Jets. He is 5-15. In those five wins, the average margin of victory is 3.8 points. In those 15 losses, the average margin of failure is 16.1 points. Problem #2: The Jets are either barely escaping with wins, or losing by multiple possessions.
Mike McDaniel is undefeated as Miami’s head coach, and they just knocked off the juggernaut Buffalo Bills. Brian Daboll is winning in the locker room next door with his Giants. Doug Pederson has the Jaguars looking like a whole new team. Where’s the disconnect?
I think all Jets fans can agree: it’s time to fire Jeff Ulbrich. And perhaps, if you aren’t to that point yet, I can persuade you that this defense needs to change.
The Jeff Ulbrich-led New York Jets defense has allowed a 69% completion rating. They’ve allowed 37 touchdowns and stolen only 8 interceptions. Teams average 7.7 yards per play against Gang Green, and an average of 27 points scored.
It has been so terrible that DJ Reed, in his first year with the New York Jets, told to media he wants a defense-only meeting with all players and all coaches to make sure everyone gets on the right page. And frankly, after posting 3 great games at boundary corner for the Jets, I’m inclined to believe him over any coach on the roster. In the same vein, Quinnen Williams was seen yelling at defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton because he wanted the defense to drop more in coverage and stop running complicate blitz schemes that weren’t getting home to Joe Burrow when the safeties and linebackers were getting torched. “Put it on our backs,” he roared.
Once again, I’m finding myself on team Quinnen for that dust up.
Defensive Calling Versus Bengals
The key to stopping the Bengals was to eliminate the deep passing game they so often rely on. Within their first two games, the Achilles heel to Joe Burrow has been Cover 2. In Week 1, Pittsburgh ran Cover 2 30 times (31%) and won 23-20 in overtime. Week 2, Dallas ran Cover 2 26 times (39%) and won 20-17 lead by Cooper Rush. In Week 3, New York ran Cover 2 one time (2%) and lost 27-12. The team had the keys to success in their hand to stop the deep shot game Cincinnati relies so heavily on, had the key to stopping the passing attack, and ran Cover 2 ONCE. Problem #3: Incompetent defensive game plans. It was the coverage Joe Burrow struggled against the most, and the defensive staff is too stubborn in their own scheme. They’d rather be wrong on their own accord, than adjust the scheme and win another way.
Missing: Pass Rush- If Found, Please Return
In the Flight Plan for the Cincinnati Bengals I said we would find out just how good this pass rush is against a struggling Bengals offensive line. Cincinnati allowed 13 sacks in the past two games. The Jets pass rush got home twice. After those 2 sacks, New York has a whopping FIVE sacks in three games. Here’s the numbers so far:
That’s it. Since signing his four-year, $55 million extension last season, John Franklin-Meyers has had 3 sacks and 4 penalties, including a roughing the passer call on 3rd and 9 this past Sunday. He has yet to get to the quarterback once this season. Problem #4: the New York Jets have no pass rush.
No Safeties Are Safe
Robert Saleh rebutted the notion that the Jets failed to play Cover 2, because they were in some version of 2-high safeties 90% of the day. Saleh said in an interview analysts don’t consider it Cover 2 because the corners weren’t playing flat or cloud techniques. He wanted Cincinnati to force the outsides versus their two high-performing corners. The problem with that is that 2-high safeties where the corners aren’t clouding the flat is Cover 4. And Cover 4 is not Cover 2.
But at least still, the two new corners for New York are playing lights out. Sauce Gardner has performed at a high level when he’s in single man coverage. DJ Reed has allowed a QB passer rating of 16.0. For reference, a quarterback spiking the ball is a 39.
Jordan Whitehead has struggled in coverage, with a 53.9 PFF grade and a QB rating of 150.3 when targeted (158.3 is a perfect rating). This is, however, is many respects, expected. Whitehead wasn’t signed to be Ed Reed. He’s a cheap box safety, but isn’t doing that at a high level yet with 6 missed tackles on the season.
Lamarcus Joyner has been the most disappointing player in the secondary. The 31-year old was excited about returning to the New York Jets. He’s earned an impressive 88.3 pass rush grade. But he’s allowed a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted. Imagine, a free safety who simply can’t cover. No interceptions, no passes defensed, and a perfect QB rating when targeted. If you make zero impact to the passer rating when targeted…the defense might as well role 10 players on defense and save him the cardio. Problem #5: Jets safeties are terrible in coverage in a scheme where they need to cover.
Good news folks, not all is lost at 1 Jets Drive.
First of all, as previously stated, cornerbacks DJ Reed and Sauce Gardner have been absolutely stellar. DJ Reed in the first three weeks has been the most impactful free agent signing, not just of this year, but in previous too. His ability shows up on the football field, and I can appreciate his passion and demand for a defense-only meeting when this is his first year with the team. He’ll surely be a captain next year. And Gardner has come as advertised. In a struggling defense, for the first time in a while, our boundary corners are the best part of the team.
And holy smokes, Garrett Wilson is playing football like an NFL veteran. Drops have been an issue for the young buck, but he’s on pace to go over 1,000 yards this season. His body control is phenomenal, he can win the 50/50 balls, and knows where the soft spots in zone defenses are to get open. If Wilson stays producing as he is, he could very well be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year when this season is over. Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner have been immediate returns from where they were taken in the Draft. They’re both playing like Top-10 picks.
Keep your heads up, Jets fans. Either Robert Saleh will get things fixed, or Quinnen Williams and DJ Reed will singlehandedly will change for the New York Jets. The team will face Mitch Trubisky and the struggling Steelers next week, hopefully with Zach Wilson at quarterback.
J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!
This content was originally published here.