The New York Jets (4-7) set their sights on the 2018 season, after yet another crushing 4th quarter meltdown, in a very winnable game to the playoff-bound Carolina Panthers (8-3). Here are 5 overriding issues as Gang Green play out the string, in search of a winning culture and a positive attitude.
The New York Jets had much to ruminate over their blown opportunities during the bye-week. After a putrid performance two weeks ago in Tampa Bay, the Jets seemingly blew their first playoff opportunity in six seasons. But then they sat back over the break, and watched with great surprise, fully recognizing the on-field implosion of every other playoff pretender in front of them. That message got delivered loud and clear all week-long. But it was obviously not received.
Going into this tough assignment against Cam Newton‘s Carolina Panthers, and having lost four of their last five, the Jets were still just one game out of the final playoff spot. Were you confident Gang Green would capitalize on such a golden opportunity and play with focus and fire at home for 60 minutes versus a team that’s already won more games than the Jets won’t exceed this season? Of course, you weren’t — and for good reason.
Todd Bowles‘ teams have shown a propensity for self-destruction. The Jets handed this coach the keys to a $155 million rebuild, and after a feel-good start to this season, his squad has suffered three fourth-quarter meltdowns in the last five games. It’s nice to get your players fired up, but this roster doesn’t have enough talent to endure such back-breaking penalties, miscues, and misreads. This free-fall could, in fact, ruin a crop of young hungry ballers. This 35-27 loss was so Jets-like that one has to question Bowles’ future Florham Park employment. The NFL is the big time; there’s no room for participation trophies.
The Jets have every reason to be infuriated by the replay officiating. It’s now been two games they’ve gotten jaked by phantom call reversals. Both calls involved Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdowns overturned without irrefutable evidence. The call reversal was clearly made by someone who never played the game. When a large man catches a ball in-bounds, with his elbows and a knee inbound, they may bobble the ball a little when they hit the ground. In contrast, on a rushing play, they’ll allow any TD as long as the tip of the ball crosses that white line. Here’s a novel solution, only overturn irrefutably blown calls.
Here are five Motörhead classics that define that Not-For-Long lifestyle. If Gang Green can ever play as smart and fast of the late Lemmy Kilmister’s crew, they will one day be Super Bowl bound.
Next: 5. Iron Fist
5. Iron Fist
The Jets went into this game understanding that the “D” had to carry the load down the stretch. The unit had its moments, but you can’t really say that they got the job done either. They were responsible for allowing 21 of the Panthers 35 points.
Two storylines stood out going into the Carolina game. Former Panther Kony Ealy was seeking revenge against the team that cut him. And the Jets needed to beware of Wayne, NJ tight end Greg Olsen playing on his home turf, in his first game since breaking his foot in Week 2. The defense was also concerned about the inevitable breakout of Christian McCaffrey. None of that backstory played out in the final score.
The Jets defense played inspired football, and they by and large kept Cam Newton in check, both in passing (11-28, 164 yards) and rushing (9-28). Morris Claiborne displayed more than a few shutdown corner moves. Buster Skrine played excellent, worthy of his fat contract. But Darryl Roberts was no match for Panthers star receiver Devin Funchess (7-108).
None of this matters because all that fans will remember from this game were the brain-locked penalties. Two decisive Panthers fourth-quarter drives got stopped by impressive third and fourth down stands — only to be converted into scores after yellow flags on Jordan Jenkins and Mike Pennel, the latter in for an injured Steve McLendon. These continued mistakes are a very poor reflection on the head coach, and his program’s attention to detail. Coach Bowles is a Bruce Arians disciple, but a Bruce Arians team does not consistently make such mentally lazy mistakes.
Next: 4. Damage Case
4. Damage Case
There have been a few suggestions of replacing Bowles with first year offensive coordinator John Morton. But his reign will be etched in Jets lore for passing the ball three straight times with first and goal inside the Panthers’ one-yard line. Sure, they got rooked on that second-down ASJ non-TD call. And that four-point swing after settling for 19-yard FG changed the face of the contest. But there’s also the that fact of his sputtering offense having to punt seven times in this game.
Fantasy freaks can find value in Josh McCown (19-36, 307 yards, 3 TDs, 109.4 QBR). But to Jets fans, all his highlight-reel moments matter little because of yet another 4th quarter rookie-like ball security error by the near 40-year-old journeyman. For Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg to make such mistakes would be one thing. But such a foolish fumble coming from a 16-year vet is quite another. If the Jets were to be honest with themselves, they’d admit that they’ve already received the very best ol’ man McCown has to offer at this point in time, and get ready to move on.
The offensive line made plenty of costly penalties and miscues. The fact that they get so badly blown off the ball at times points more to talent than to schemes. But the pile-driving five has regressed so much over the past four games that the running game can’t gain traction (26-109). Against the Panthers, the morass resulted in three sacks and nine hurries. There were plenty of great shots of Kelvin Beachum and Brandon Shell getting bull-rushed, and mindless drive-killing penalties by Brian Winters and Wesley Johnson. There are far worse situations in the NFL, but the fact remains that not one member of this line has earned a job in 2018.
The Jets can take solace in its evolving receiving corps, between blossoming young buck sprinter Robby Anderson, the professional Jermaine Kearse, and the 2018 return of Quincy Enunwa. Rookies Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart look at best like works in progress. Coming out of the bye, Hansen was targeted for one overthrown pass, and Stewart did not factor into the stat line. That means they both need to make big strides down the stretch in these final five games.
Next: 3. The Chase Is Better Than The Catch
3. The Chase Is Better Than The Catch
You can’t blame former Jets special teams coaching great Mike Westhoff for ditching his gig with SNY for one last chance to possibly coach in a Super Bowl with the Saints. This unit has suffered since he departed the field over a half-decade ago. Special teams coach Brant Boyer hasn’t exactly built anything in his two seasons with this team, and he probably earned his walking papers after Sunday’s MetLife flame-out.
Punter Lachlan Edwards was another Jets performer flashing solid stats (7 punts, 45.4 yards per average) but with an asterisk next to his name. His final punt of the game was also his longest at 60 yards. But it resulted in Kaelin Clay‘s game-winning 61-yard TD return, in which numerous special teamers — most notably long snapper Thomas Hennessy, totally whiffed on game-saving tackles. Rontez Miles somehow missed two punt blocks; Fox TV announcer Chris Spielman pointed to poor hand positioning; another indictment of Bowles’ choice for special teams coaching.
How badly has the kick return game devolved since the four-game P.E.D. suspension of Jeremy Kerley? It’s already time for the end of the JoJo Natson era — which will best be remembered for his running backward and losing seven yards on a punt return! The 5’7″ player outta Akron will certainly get replaced by the injury-rehabbed and re-signed former Cowboy Lucky Whitehead.
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As for Kerley, he recently made press comments of high comedy. As per the Media Relations Department of the Jets, the veteran receiver said that he “wasn’t thinking straight” when he “accidentally” ingested an anabolic steroid. Then this week, he expressly forbid his eight-year-old son from playing football due to the surrounding concussion issues. Guess he wants his son to keep “thinking straight!”
Next: 2. No Remorse
2. No Remorse
The best way for this team to “build a winning culture” is to play meaningful games in December. That will likely now not happen. Todd Bowles needs to continue to prove he can continue to motivate his raw roster into focus performers. If not, the Johnson brothers need to turn the page. A win next week against the nose-diving Chiefs would do a great deal to stave off the bleeding.
The defensive line has long been considered this franchise’s strength. But at this point, the team needs to consider a D-line rebuild. Muhammad Wilkerson has shown flashes of past domination. But is that worth a few more years at $20 million per? Leonard Williams‘ alleged breakout year — derailed by a cast after a preseason wrist bruise — raises question marks about the top-rated talent of the 2015 NFL Draft. Both players had solid games against Carolina. An argument can be made that Gang Green’s top linemen of 2017 have been veteran castoffs Steve McLendon and Kony Ealy; neither part of this team’s rebuild. The back side of the “D” is doing a nice job at pass coverage, but they get exposed by the line’s lack of sustained pass rush.
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Going into 2018, this team has holes to fill with their bounty of draft picks and cap space. The Jets need to rebuild the defensive line around Williams, and the offensive line, probably around Brandon Shell and Brian Winters. They really need a bruising running back, a young shutdown corner, a blitzing outside linebacker, another receiver, and a game-changing kick/punt returner.
Of course, the Jets desperately need a franchise quarterback. The team’s scouting staff is reportedly enamored with Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and if they keep losing like they are, the team has an excellent chance to snag him. Iconic Jets gunslinger Chad Pennington makes a compelling case for bringing back Josh McCown, as a bridge to whomever they pick next April. Is it realistic to expect GM Mike Maccagnan to strike pay dirt this offseason in addressing over a dozen positional needs? Consider this the beginning of a long, hard rebuild.
Next: 1. Live To Win
1. Live To Win
There’s every reason to believe the Jets can repeat what the beleaguered New York Giants did a few weeks ago at MetLife and crush the folding Chiefs. Like New York, Kansas City are going into this game having lost four of their last five. There’s no reason not to believe Gang Green’s defense can’t rattle Alex Smith and a suddenly mortal Kareem Hunt — both getting wrecked on a regular basis by their overmatched/exposed mess of an offensive line. On Sunday, the Chiefs imploded at home versus Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo Bills. There are already calls out of Kansas City for a switch to rookie first-round QB Patrick Mahomes II.
This is a crucial game for the Jets — for the GM, the head coach, the assistants, the young players, the veteran leaders, and the organization itself. This season is on the line, in that a possible collapse lurks after such a nice start to a 2017 season with low expectations. And excuses get this franchise nowhere because they could’ve easily been a playoff team in this woefully weak AFC. Were it not for self-inflicted wounds, this should be at least a .500 team. But this is the third-most penalized team in the league; it’s nothing that’s gonna get fixed in the next few weeks. This is where Todd Bowles has failed — and if things turn for the bad, he could very well be coaching for his career. If he loses this young locker room, he is most certainly done.
This game will now be a grudge match with Kansas City’s signing last week of Darrelle Revis. The Jets, of course, are paying Revis the $7 million due him this year; now to play against him on Sunday. Andy Reid seems willing to give the future Pro Football Hall of Famer a chance to “freelance” in coverage — which will be dangerous or disastrous. Can the Jets please finish this season on a high note?