Sunday’s 45-20 road loss to the Oakland Raiders was no surprise. But the lopsided score was another stinging indictment of defensive guru Todd Bowles’ defensive alignments of the New York Jets.
The New York Jets played an impressive first half of football in Week 2. Unfortunately, there are two halves to every game. And the most exciting second half action was Raider running back Marshawn Lynch‘s stadium-rocking “Beast Mode” dance on the sidelines.
The Jets had the momentum to grab the lead at halftime, or to at least go into the locker room down a couple of points. But then Kalif Raymond muffed a punt in “The Black Hole” sun inside their own 15 with 1:50 remaining, and the score 14-10.
The play was a complete game changer — sucking the life out of Gang Green, and energizing a deflated Oakland-Alameda Coliseum crowd. Not sure why, but general manager Mike Maccagnan has proven incapable of landing a top-notched return man. So expect Jeremy Kerley or the suspended Jalin Marshall to resume these duties sooner rather than later.
This week in practice, head coach Todd Bowles challenged his defense — particularly his vaunted defensive front — to live up to their potential. His emphatic message was definitely not received. There is no candy-coating this problem: the Jets defense was atrocious. In fact, this game was the most points the Jets have allowed in the Bowles era — which, judging by last season’s cavalcade of blowout losses, is really saying something.
Next week’s MetLife home opener against the undefeated Jay Cutler-led Dolphins (1-0) can go either way. If the defense can actually defend, and the offense can move the pile like they did at times in Oakland, the Jets can win their home opener against Miami — who somehow beat the lowly Los Angeles Chargers after kicker YoungHoe Koo missed yet another field goal. Here are the top five insights of this Week 2 routing of the Jets.
Next: 5. Hold the Line
5. Hold the Line
In Oakland, the Jets defense allowed 410 yards of total offense. That’s an abysmal 818 total yards in two games. So much for that ferocious Bowles containment defense. Can anyone on this team tackle?
Derek Carr dealt with no sustained pass rush from Muhammad Wilkerson or Leonard Williams, after a total of zero sacks. Inside linebackers Darron Lee and Demario Davis were non-factors, missing tackles, and blowing assignments. One year and two games into his career, Lee does not play like an NFL inside linebacker. The game has not slowed down for him. He is still biting on the most basic play actions and looks unable to get off his blocks. Davis — Rex Ryan‘s anointed “next Ray Lewis” — may have lots of heart, but be may also be the slowest ILB in the entire league.
Cornerback Juston Burris got exposed, burned on two touchdown passes and a 43-yard touchdown run. Buster Skrine whiffed terribly on another Michael Crabtree barn-burnin’ six-point fade pass. Skrine also missed several key tackles and got called for a dubious unnecessary roughness penalty. His last solid game as a Jet probably dates back to the fall of 2015. And after just two games in Green and White, there’s little wonder as to why the Cowboys gave up on Morris Claiborne, the No. 6 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The former LSU star was better this week than Week 1 in Buffalo, but not by much.
Incredibly, Wilkerson, Lee, and others claim to see a light at the end of the tunnel. How do you spell “delusional?”
Next: 4. Drop the Bomb
4. Drop the Bomb
Josh McCown (17-25, 166 yards) is a solid NFL quarterback; he and the offense (271 total yards) are not the problems. In fact, the 38-year-old kept this team in the game. Twenty points against a Super Bowl-worthy Raiders front was impressive, for a team said to have no firepower.
The offensive line did a nice job of protection, and those occasional seven-man line sets did the job — developing a pocket for McCown to establish his proficient passing game. Kudos to Raiders great Art Shell’s nephew Brandon Shell for the finest game of his short NFL career, shutting down the highly rated Khalil Mack, for the first half of this contest.
Jermaine Kearse caught two touchdowns on just four passes and has shown considerable heart. After two games, he is the only Jets receiver earning his paycheck. Kearse is likely the best offensive talent on this team. The other young flankers don’t seem able to create separation. Robby Anderson (2 catches for 28 yards) is big and fast, but can the team’s No. 2 receiver get open when it matters?
Matt Forte had some nice runs from scrimmage. But he also had another backbreaking pass drop, that, according to Bowles, may relegate the 31-year-old millionaire to pine time. Bilal Powell had a few solid moments. And this team may have found something in sixth-rounder Elijah McGuire (six carries for 29 yards).
As for quarterback, is there any good reason that down three touchdowns in a rebuilding season, they couldn’t have given field time to Bryce Petty? The organization sees the Baylor product as little more than a backup. But it’s obvious that he will one day become an NFL contributor — with or without the Jets. He’s certainly light years ahead of the head-scratching Christian Hackenberg.
Next: 3. Kick Out the Jams
3. Kick Out the Jams
The Jets got a nice special teams performance in Week 1 against the Bills. Such was not the case this past weekend in Oakland.
It is true that special teams coordinator Brant Boyer can’t choose the players or go out and make big plays like he once did as a ten-year practice squadder. But he certainly has a lot to answer for after another game-changing kicking game meltdown.
Kalif Raymond is an electrifying returner with ball security issues. But if you can’t see the ball feet away from your own goal line, why bother trying to set up a return? At such a critical juncture, why not tell the kid to avoid the kick? Or bring in the human fair catch machine Jeremy Kerley?
Chandler Catanzaro again went 2-for-2 on field goals. The second one, a 46-yarder off the baseball infield dirt, was really quite impressive. Lach Edwards made no terrible punts, which is another form of addition by subtraction.
Classy former Jets coordinator Mike Westhoff was cringing after the game. When the team’s last decent special team’s coach unloads on the current unit, you know that there are serious issues.
Next: 2. Leader of the Pack
2. Leader of the Pack
Another week, another Jets defense steamrolled. Do you blame Bowles for this mess? Or does he get yet another chance, and this time be allowed to lay the blame on his best friend, defense coordinator Kacy Rodgers — hired to implement the worn-out pages of his tattered playbook?
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A blitzing defense cannot work with no pressure up the middle, and an inability to tackle. There were a few nice adjustments on both offense and defense, but not enough to make a difference, and not enough when it counted.
In the second half alone, the Jets allowed runs of 52 and 43 yards (the latter a vanilla third-and-one handoff up the middle). Derek Carr had so much time back in the pocket, he could’ve been dancing the Macarena.
For the past two seasons, this Jets defense has looked woefully out of position. How else can one explain being so frequently out of position and susceptible to the long ball? Perhaps the problem is that Bowles is a defensive coordinator masquerading as a head coach (see Rex Ryan, Eric Mangini, etc). Is that his fault, or the man who hired him, Woody Johnson?
Bowles is not a great communicator and has not proven to be that leader of men. His offense is better than his defense, which is almost impossible to believe, given his defensive acumen, and the barren offense with a first-time offensive coordinator and a geriatric starting quarterback. Is this franchise seriously thinking of bringing him back in 2018?
Next: 1. Flick of the Switch
1. Flick of the Switch
The Jets have started their season 0-2, for the first time in over a decade. That is not good news. And things can only get worse.
This team needs to show some tough physical play next week in their home opener. It’s time to display some intestinal fortitude — to let loose and get nasty. Someone in this locker room has to show real leadership. Darron Lee is miscast as an NFL linebacker. The $87 Million Man Muhammad Wilkerson has been utterly invisible (5 tackles, 2 hurries, and no sacks are better than Week 1, but still unsatisfactory).
Gang Green’s rebuild is not going as planned. They certainly could have won in Buffalo, and had a chance to compete for a few minutes in Oakland. As constructed, this team should be losing by scores of 17-0 or 14-3. Giving up 45 and getting thoroughly rocked in Week 2 is a coaching and leadership issue.
The Jets have to play almost mistake-free football to win. But they haven’t, so they can’t. Instead, they continue to dig their own deep hole. The defense can’t tackle and always seems in poor positions to make the plays.
The good news is that the Jets did not roll over in the first half to the high-flying Raiders. The offensive line played well enough to give this offense some promise next week against Miami. There’s no good reason that the Jets cannot defeat the visiting Dolphins. Except for the fact that these are the Todd Bowles Jets, who, when the chips are down, continue to lay down like dogs.