In this installment of the 1st & 10 column, Stephen Russo recaps his biggest takeaways from the Jets-Falcons game this past Sunday.
The overwhelming reality from the Jets loss in London to the Falcons on Sunday was clear: this was a major disappointment. It wasn’t so much that they lost the game, it was the way in which they did it. A poor defensive game plan. A flat, uninspiring offensive performance – particularly in the first half. And basically, just a dud that followed up a fantastic win that ignited an entire fanbase. This letdown was way too reminiscent of past regimes like Rex, Bowles and Gase – they’d give you hope just to rip it away a week later. And while this isn’t the end of the world, it does provoke us all to ask the question: When will it get better?
Last week, in a roller coaster victory over Tennessee, we saw an electric offense with big plays, a rookie quarterback actually look the part, an aggressive coaching staff, and a defense play out of their minds to close out a game.
Sunday in London was the exact opposite.
It seemed like the players sleepwalked through the first half. Ulbrich and Saleh called a scared and weak defense. LaFleur seemed to do the same and was way too cute with his play calling at times. And the Jets, for the 5th straight week, had too many inexcusable penalties that hurt their chances of winning this game.
The bottom line is that this team is young, inexperienced, and still has plenty of holes on the roster. The combination of these three things leads to the team needing to execute almost perfectly to win games. They simply aren’t good enough to overcome continuously shooting themselves in the foot each and every week.
That being said, the Jets did everything they could to lose this game, and still had a shot to win it in the 4th quarter.
That… is progress.
1. The NFL needs to take a hard look in the mirror at what they are doing to the league with roughing the passer calls. It is beyond ridiculous at this point, and I challenge you find anyone that agrees with the current state of the rule. In the world of the Jets, I firmly believe that if that call doesn’t go against Quincy Williams on the first drive, we’re talking about a different game.
2. It is both surprising and discouraging that the Jets vaunted defensive line couldn’t get a single sack against an immobile Matt Ryan, especially considering he was without his top two targets.
3. Zach Wilson needs to begin to hit the layups. At this point, it seems he is more comfortable when he is pushing the ball down the field than he is throwing a quick and easy screen pass. I believe its just jitters for a young quarterback who is too amped up and needs to settle, and I am going to wait a bit before panicking.
4. Nathan Shepard should be left in London.
5. Whatever is plaguing the Jets and making them start so slow on offense needs to be priority #1 for Saleh and LaFleur at the bye week. As I stated in the opening, they simply aren’t good enough to dig themselves out of 10-0 holes every week.
6. CJ Mosley is, without a doubt, the MVP of this team through 5 weeks.
7. Why is our newly extended beast of a pass rusher John Franklin-Myers covering Kyle Pitts in the red zone?
8. LaFleur needs to figure out how to manufacture touches to Elijah Moore early and often. This kid is far too good to only get 2-3 targets per game.
9. I wonder if the Jets make a move for a pass-catching tight end over the bye and/or before the deadline. Seems that they love to run two tight end sets regardless of the talent level they have at the position, maybe they need to get someone who can actually make plays? Don’t know who is available, but it’s worth Joe Douglas kicking the tires with all that draft capital. It’s either that, or realize you don’t have the personnel to keep running it and you need to involve more of your talented receiving group.
10. The Jets defense has played out of their minds for the first 4 weeks, and this game was a letdown. However, they stepped up in the second half and still had the team in the game. That being said, you have to find a way to get off the field on 3rd & 13, and play more aggressive on 3rd & 2 late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Those are plays that need to be made to give your young team a shot. As good as Ulbrich has had this defense playing, those mistakes are on him.
One More Yard…
We all knew this season wasn’t going to be easy. We knew it was going to be a wild ride. You have a rookie quarterback, rookie head coach, rookie play caller, youngest team in the league, etc. When you step back and look at it, it’s easy to see how and why the Jets would be 1-4. But, that’s easier said than done when we’re watching the games unfold on Sunday’s, isn’t it? It’s hard to preach patience to yourself when you’re rooting so hard and these games are right there for the taking. And, in doing that, the Jets are doing the same stupid things you’ve watched them do for far too long.
However, despite the slow start, the stupid penalties, the questionable situational play calling (figure out 2nd down, LaFleur!), the missed throws, the Jets were in this game and down 20-17 in the 4th quarter with a chance for the defense to stop them to get the ball back. The 2nd half was exciting, which is what we wanted, right? There is progress here, though sometimes hard to find.
If Quincy Williams doesn’t get called for roughing, if Zach Wilson hits the bubble screen to Crowder or the screen to Tevin Coleman, my money says we’re talking about a different outcome.
In 2002, a young quarterback named Chad Pennington and coach Herm Edwards took a 1-4 team into the bye week, and came out of it and went 8-3 down the stretch on his way to the Jets last division title. I’m not saying Zach and Saleh can do the same, but they don’t have to.
Come out of the bye, start fast and win a game against a very beatable New England Team, and this is a much different narrative the rest of the way. Find a way to get to 7-10 and make us believe, better yet, let us know, you’re both the real deal.
Give us something we’ve lacked for a long time… hope.