It was a historically bad day for the New York Jets as they fell to the Denver Broncos 23-0 in a game that lacked energy from the very beginning. Who’s to blame for the team’s embarrassing loss?
This week of New York Jets football, if that’s what you want to call it, was an optimist’s worst nightmare.
With all the progress that this team has made over the course of this season, the Jets most recent game has threatened to discard all of that and fall back into the trap that past Jets teams have.
The best part about the Jets this year has been how a group of young players and overachieving veterans have been able to defy the odds by always playing hard and competing in every game they’ve played.
None of that was the case when Gang Green made the trip to Denver.
The Jets made history on Sunday; just not in the way they would have wanted.
The team mustered up just 100 total yards of offense which marks their second-lowest total in team history, and worst since 1976. They were shut out for the first time since 2014 against the Chargers when Geno Smith was the team’s starting quarterback. And the Jets only accounted for one passing first down, which was the fewest by any team in the NFL since 2010.
It was an all-time horrid performance, one that both the Jets franchise and fans alike will look to forget as soon as possible. Though it may be hard just to focus on five examples, who’s at fault for the disgraceful display of ineptitude the Jets put forth this past week?
Next: 5. The Pass Rush
5. The Pass Rush
The Jets have a serious problem with their pass rush.
The team lacks a true edge rusher at outside linebacker as neither Jordan Jenkins or Josh Martin fits the bill of a game-changing, or even game-affecting, pass rusher. Situational pass rushers David Bass, Freddie Bishop, and Obum Gwacham have done next to nothing this year and Patriots castoff Kony Ealy has been almost invisible since his hot start to the season.
On the interior, Muhammad Wilkerson continues to show little-to-no effort on most plays and is constantly getting overpowered by inferior offensive linemen. This game was no different as the seventh-year pro was essentially a non-factor matched up against backup right guard Connor McGovern who had been filling in for the injured Ronald Leary.
There is no excuse for a player of Wilkerson’s caliber to be shut down regularly by players who are, for all intents and purposes, less talented than the former first-round pick. This has been a problem all season and as Wilkerson plays out what will likely be his last few games with the team, the Jets are left wondering what could’ve been with the All-Pro defensive lineman. Regardless of whether or not Wilkerson’s performance improves in the last few weeks of the season, it seems clear that the Jets will cut ties with him and his career with the team will forever be hampered by his last couple seasons in green and white.
Unfortunately, it seems as if third-year defensive end Leonard Williams has been the primary victim of the team’s pass rushing woes. Williams is consistently double-teamed on seemingly every down the Jets don’t blitz and his numbers have taken a significant blow this year as a result.
Could he still be providing more pressure when he’s not double-teamed? Probably. But there’s no question that the lack of respect other team’s have for the remainder of this Jets pass rush has certainly impacted Williams’ season in a negative way.
The Jets must find a way to establish some sort of a pass rush going into next season and that starts with finally getting an impact player at edge rusher that the Jets have lacked for so long.
As for Wilkerson, it’s fair to wonder whether the former All-Pro defensive lineman puts less effort into showing up on time for team activities or actually playing football.
The world may never know.
Next: 4. Josh McCown
4. Quarterback Josh McCown
It truly feels horrible putting Josh McCown on this list after what likely was the last game of his season and may very well have been the last game of his Jets (or even his own) career. Regardless, his spot is deserving as despite getting little help from his offensive line McCown put together a poor performance and his play was ultimately detrimental to the Jets potential success.
McCown finished the game 6-of-12 for 46 yards and an interception. With those numbers and the knowledge that McCown was injured, it might leave many to believe that he was in fact hurt early in the game and was never able to return. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Those are McCown’s number through almost three-quarters of action. The veteran quarterback left Sunday’s game with what was ultimately determined to be a broken left hand with just about three minutes remaining in the third quarter. That means that through around 42 minutes of action, McCown had completed only six passes and thrown for under 50 yards. Throw in an interception and a lost fumble in the first half and you have all the ingredients for a disastrous outing from the 38-year-old signal-caller.
Now it should be pointed out that this lackluster showing wasn’t all the fault of McCown. The experienced quarterback was under constant pressure and was hit on many occasions which resulted in him leaving the game not once, but twice for separate injuries. The latter injury was the product of a hit he took after a 14-yard completion to running back Matt Forte, the Jets longest play on the day, which resulted in a broken left hand.
It’s incredible to think that just a week ago McCown was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and riding a wave of momentum. Now, his season is likely over and the Jets appear on the verge of a total collapse.
Whether or not McCown plays another game with the Jets, this organization should be grateful for what he has done this season. McCown has shown grit and determination and in many ways has personified the Jets season with his overachieving ways. You’d be hard-pressed to find a human being tougher and humbler than McCown is on and off the gridiron.
Alas, it doesn’t appear that there will be a fairytale ending to what has been one of the more inspiring underdog stories of the 2017 NFL season. Instead, this story will end how many thought it would begin.
WIth a dreadful performance from McCown.
Next: 3. Morris Claiborne
3. Cornerback Morris Claiborne
Cornerback Morris Claiborne has been a welcome surprise this year and has played very solid more often than not. However, his game against the Broncos was far from his finest effort of the season.
Matching up man-to-man against a receiver of Demaryius Thomas‘ caliber is no easy task for any defensive back. That being said, Claiborne got absolutely torched on Sunday allowing Thomas to record eight receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Claiborne looked lost all day and was completely outmatched when asked to cover Thomas one-on-one.
The former Dallas Cowboy was also in coverage for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders‘ only catch of the day which went for 16 yards. All in all, Claiborne allowed 109 yards on the air which was good for more than half of the Broncos team passing yards.
Claiborne also struggled with penalties, as he has all season, picking up two more with a defensive holding and pass interference call. The former occurred on third down and ultimately extended a Broncos drive which resulted in a field goal. Claiborne is now tied for third on the team in penalties and his play over the past few weeks has become increasingly concerning.
Since he missed the team’s game against the Bills with a foot injury, the former top-10 draft pick simply hasn’t been the same. Claiborne took himself out of the game a few weeks back against the Buccaneers so it’s fair to wonder whether that foot is still bothering him. This would likely account for his increased penalty numbers in recent weeks as he seems to be a step or two slower.
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Whatever the reason, Claiborne needs to get healthy and finish the season strong if he wants to continue to make a strong case for the Jets to bring him back next season. The next few weeks should prove to be a solid indicator as to whether or not the Jets decide to re-sign him in the offseason.
And Claiborne is very well aware of this.
Next: 2. The Offensive Line
2. The Offensive Live
The Jets offensive line has been an absolute mess for a large part of this season and Sunday’s game was no different.
The unit allowed a total of four sacks, one of which resulted in a strip sack that set up a Broncos touchdown that put the Jets in an early 10-0 hole that they were never able to recover from. Quarterback Josh McCown was under constant pressure and took a good amount of hits. This time it finally caught up with him.
McCown first left the game early in the second quarter with a back injury but returned soon after, albeit looking hobbled and obviously still in pain. McCown’s exit wouldn’t be his last as he would later leave late in the third quarter with what would later be diagnosed as a broken left hand after suffering a hit as he threw the ball.
McCown’s durability this season has been an incredible surprise given his history of injuries and the lackluster play of the team’s offensive line. The Jets are a bottom-10 team in sacks allowed and are likely even worse when QB pressures and hits are taken into account.
Moreover, the ground game wasn’t able to get anything going once again as the team mustered up just 59 yards rushing on the day. The whole offense struggled and in this case, it was a direct result of the performance by the team’s offensive line. In fact, there seems to be a common trend that has formed.
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In weeks the Jets dominate up front and the offensive line plays well, the team generally win. Look no further than the team’s games against Jacksonville, Buffalo, and most recently Kansas City as prime examples of this tendency in action. However, when the offensive line struggles, the Jets aren’t able to get anything going on offense and games such as the ones against the Buccaneers and Falcons stick to this ideology.
The Jets are in need of some massive retooling of their offensive line this offseason. Players like center Wesley Johnson could soon find themselves looking for work elsewhere because the play of this unit has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season.
A strong end to the season is much needed for the struggling offensive line, but unfortunately, this seems unlikely as the Jets will be up against a couple stout defensive fronts in their upcoming games with the Saints and Chargers looming.
Bryce Petty should start filing for his life insurance papers now.
Next: 1. The Coaching Staff
1. The Coaching Staff
There is absolutely no excuse for the total lack of leadership that came from the Jets coaching staff on Sunday. The team looked unmotivated, lacked energy, and seemed generally apathetic to the utter thrashing they were dealt at the hands of the Broncos. And for a team that has prided themselves on attitude and determination throughout the season, the sheer lack of either quality in Denver is a huge problem that threatens to undo all the progress the Jets have made this season.
The Jets offseason roster purge signaled a change in culture for the team’s locker room. Gone were the overpaid veterans who were more concerned with their bank accounts than winning (here’s looking at you Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis) and in came the new look Jets team. The Jets, although not expected to be great, defied most people’s expectations and played competent football for weeks on end. Despite a few hiccups and fourth-quarter meltdowns, the team was always competitive and the young leadership and overachieving qualities of the players gave the team a new, fun vibe. The locker room transformation appeared to be complete.
And now, in one fell swoop, one game has seemingly erased all of that. These weren’t the Jets that we had come to know and love over the past 13 weeks. This wasn’t the energetic squad that danced their way to victory against the Bills on Thursday Night Football. Nor were they the fervent bunch that fought back from an early deficit to score 38 points and beat the Chiefs just last week. This was a football team reminiscent of last year’s Jets.
Head coach Todd Bowles‘ inability to fire his team up and prepare them for road games is starting to rear its ugly head. The Jets play like a 10-6 team capable of hanging with anyone when at home and look like a 3-13 team and one of the league’s worst teams when on the road.
In terms of game planning and playcalling, Bowles might have very well had his worst game in that department as well. Bowles played this game not to lose, rather than to win. As a result, the Jets didn’t score a single point and barely sniffed Broncos territory all game long. The worst offense came towards the end of the second half when the Broncos were attempting a field goal with a little over a minute to go. Instead of calling a timeout to give his team around a minute with an opportunity to score heading into halftime, Bowles decided to let the clock run and simply take a knee with 30 seconds remaining. The Jets didn’t use any of their first-half timeouts.
Someone should inform Todd Bowles that timeouts do not carry over into the second half.
Elsewhere, the decision to continue blitzing on third down leaving Claiborne in single coverage working against Thomas is an offense that has already been covered but is worth mentioning again.
Offensively, John Morton called his worst game of the year as the team had no answer for anything the Broncos were doing on defense. Not once did the Jets take a deep shot downfield and the team insisted on running routes a couple yards short of the first down marker on third downs.
An all-around abysmal performance mercifully came to an end with a Jets punt, their eighth of the day, and a Trevor Siemian kneel. Ultimately, the team had conceded defeat long before the penultimate punt.
A loss like this has the chance to derail an entire season and curtail any progress made over the course of this year. Road games await in New Orleans and Foxborough and if the Jets thought playing Denver was rough, then in the words of Judas Priest, “you got another thing coming.”
Despite the overachieving status, Bowles still has a lot to prove before the Jets make a commitment to keeping him around for the future. These last three games will be imperative for Bowles if he wants to remain a part of this organization going forward.
Will he be able to rally the troops and finish out the season strong or will his team crumble after this week’s destructive loss?
For the sake of Bowles and the New York Jets franchise, we should all hope it’s the former.