The New York Jets put forth an embarrassing effort on Sunday falling to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The supposed “revenge game of the year” was an absolute dud. Who’s to blame for this shameful showing?
If the New York Jets were on cloud nine following last week’s triumph over the Buffalo Bills this must be what rock bottom feels like.
This was a team that was looking like it had finally put it all together. They had just finished a dominating victory over a playoff-caliber team, the defense’s dance moves set social media ablaze as the Jets were finally a meme for a GOOD reason, and the team sat at 4-5 with only the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers standing in their way before the bye week.
And then Sunday came along.
The Jets traveled to the Sunshine State but nobody extended the invitation to the team’s offense. The unit looked lost all day against a second-rate Tampa defense as the team’s passing attack looked putrid led by Josh McCown who put together his worst game of the season. Running the ball wasn’t any easier as the offensive line failed to open up any holes for the duo of Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire as the two mustered up just 52 yards on the ground.
This game was a wake-up call: for the fans, the players, and the coaching staff. It’s a reminder that despite all the progress this team has made over the course of this season there is still a lot of work to be done before this team could be considered legitimate contenders in this league.
But as they say, it’s better to live in the now. And now it’s time to focus on the five individuals that contributed to the Jets Week 10 loss.
Next: 5. Brian Winters
5. Offensive Guard Brian Winters
This was an awful performance from the offensive line which has quickly become the unit of most concern with this Jets squad, but more on that later.
Although none of the Jets five starting offensive linemen had a good game by any means, perhaps the biggest culprit of them all was Brian Winters. The veteran guard struggled mightily throughout the game matched up against one of the league’s best in Gerald McCoy. That, however, is no excuse for the utterly miserable performance he displayed on Sunday.
Winters was beaten multiple times across his face and failed to create any sort of a push up front to open up lanes for the running backs. He was also overpowered by the big defensive tackle and shoved back into his quarterback repeatedly. Unfortunately for the Jets, these aren’t areas that he was alone in as the entire offensive line was guilty of similar offenses.
The reason Winters is signaled out here is more so for his penchant for untimely penalties. He accounted for a pair of holding penalties in the game against the Bucs which has become a recurring problem as of late. Winters is now second on the team, only to Buster Skrine, with seven penalties and he leads all offensive players in that category.
Penalties have been the primary Achilles’ heel for this Jets squad and players such as Winters are a large part of the reason they’re 4-6 right now instead of 6-4. Winters is going to have to start blocking more consistently and cut back on the penalties if he wants to prove that he’s worth that hefty contract extension the Jets gave him this past January.
Next: 4. Todd Bowles
4. Head Coach Todd Bowles
To say that the Jets were not prepared for Sunday’s game would be putting it mildly. It would be more accurate to compare the matchup to an overzealous student who had ample time to study for a test……but forgot to bring his pencil on the day of the exam.
The Jets came off their biggest conquest as a team when they defeated their division rivals, the Bills, on primetime television in front of the whole country on Thursday Night Football. And if that wasn’t enough, the team now had over a week to prepare for their next opponent, a Buccaneers team that was in complete disarray and who would be without both Jameis Winston and Mike Evans. Then, after a cakewalk on vacation in Florida, the team would go into the bye week at 5-5 with higher expectations than anyone could’ve predicted at the start of the year.
But the Jets made one fatal flaw: they forgot to bring a pencil.
The team was completely unprepared for Sunday’s game and it showed in both the play-calling and execution of the players on the field. Given that the team had over a week to prepare, this is unacceptable and a large portion of the blame should fall on the coach. Bowles did not have his team ready to play and the lack of fire from his players and absence of creativity in the playbook ended all chances at a Jets victory.
There also has to be a point where he needs to be held accountable for all these penalties. The Jets committed eight more on Sunday and now have 73 on the season, “good” for second worst in the league. Bowles can talk about how the team needs to cut down on penalties all he wants but until actual improvement is seen on the field blame will continue to be sent his way.
The former Arizona Cardinal defensive coordinator deserves a lot of credit for how the Jets have played so far this year, but this past week was a major misstep in what has been an otherwise solid season.
Next: 3. John Morton
3. Offensive Coordinator John Morton
From one lackluster coaching effort to another.
To his credit, offensive coordinator John Morton has done a fantastic job to this point in his first season with the Jets turning one of the least talented offenses on paper into a respectable NFL offense.
He’s worked to the strengths of journeyman Josh McCown and has done a good job at disguising his many flaws. Morton has been creative in his play-calling and has found ways to get role players such as Eric Tomlinson involved regularly in the offense. This creativity has given the unit flexibility as Morton understands that this team simply doesn’t have the talent at their disposal to run a basic, formulaic NFL offense.
For whatever reason, Morton decided that the best approach against Tampa Bay was to do the opposite of all that.
In what was one of the Jets most uninspiring offensive performances in quite some time, Morton called his worst game as a member of Gang Green and the final stats and scoreboard indicate such an assertion. New York managed only three points through the first 59 minutes and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was held without a catch for three and a half quarters against his former team.
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Against a Buccaneers defense which was amongst one of the worst in the league, the Jets offensive gameplan was dull and uninspiring, to say the least. There was no variation in the play-calling as the team repeatedly ran the ball on first down (7-8 man boxes and all) and offered no answer for the Bucs defense as the game progressed.
There’s an old proverb that goes something like “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Someone should alert Morton that if it IS “broke”, you should probably look into fixing it.
Next: 2. Josh McCown
2. Quarterback Josh McCown
McCown has been a part of one of the more heartfelt stories of the 2017 NFL season. A 38-year-old veteran quarterback who finds himself playing for his eighth different team has turned a rebuilding franchise’s season around by playing the best football of his career. He entered Sunday’s game second in completion percentage and top-10 in quarterback rating and even had some calling for him to make the Pro Bowl.
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And then reality set in.
The Josh McCown that we saw this past Sunday is the Josh McCown that many expected to see heading into this season. He was erratic, made bad reads, and looked completely lost at times as he labored his way through a rough game of football, his worst of the season thus far.
Much of this blame could be placed on the offensive line, and believe me it will, but McCown’s dreadful stat line says it all. In the first half alone, McCown had an ugly quarterback rating of 28.6, well below his season average of 96.4 he entered Sunday’s game with. If not for some late garbage time completions and a meaningless touchdown to Robby Anderson, the veteran’s stats would’ve looked even worse.
It was a rough day at the office for Mr. McCown and a reality check for the portion of the Jets fanbase that thinks he’s the answer at the quarterback position. The ultimate journeyman has done an admirable job thus far and still stands as one of the feel-good stories of the season, but Sunday’s game was the long overdue fall from grace that McCown had somehow avoided to this point.
The question now is how the 38-year-old will respond to this recent tribulation. Luckily for McCown, he has a history of dealing with adversity.
Next: 1. The Offensive Line
1. The Offensive Line
The Jets offensive line has had their fair share of ups and downs through the first 10 weeks of the season but nothing comes close to the absolute disgrace of a performance by the unit this past game against the Buccaneers.
Too harsh? Maybe, but the point still stands that the offensive line put together their worst performance of the season on Sunday.
Tampa Bay entered Sunday’s game with a league-worst eight sacks through their first eight games of the season. The team went on to combine for a total of six sacks against a deplorable Jets offensive line. SIX. That is a totally unacceptable performance from a unit that is quickly becoming the biggest weakness of this Jets squad.
The Jets were completely dominated at the point of attack as not only were they unable to create any sort of a pocket for quarterback Josh McCown, but another week passed by without a running game and it’s time to start holding the offensive line accountable. This was a Buccaneers team that graded out as one of the worst pass-rushing and run-stopping teams in the league and yet the Jets offensive line got absolutely obliterated by the Bucs front-seven all game long.
As it stands, there is no area of strength on the offensive line. Guards James Carpenter and Brian Winters who had very solid seasons last year have taken major steps back and are no longer quality starters at their position. Center Wesley Johnson has failed to provide any sort of a push up front for the running game and the grades out as one of the worst centers in the league, per Pro Football Focus.
At tackle, free agent acquisition Kelvin Beachum has had some good moments but still remains an inconsistent blocker on a weekly basis. First-year starter Brandon Shell has also shined at times but he too gets beat too often around the edge and isn’t quick enough to hang with the better pass-rushers in the league, sans his game against Khalil Mack back in Week 2.
The incompetence of the Jets interior blocking forces the team to shy away from running between the tackles and often times the running game altogether. And the ineptitude of the tackles to create a pocket leaves McCown under constant pressure forcing the passing game to be shut down.
Therein lies the problem with this Jets offense. If the offensive line plays well as it did against Buffalo, they will win games. However, if they start to play more like how they did against Tampa, teams will continue to bully around the Jets offense and the whole team will suffer as a result.
The Jets need better production out of their offensive line. The success and development of the team going forwards depend on it.