What to make of last place Jets after four games
By Steven Blush
Things aren’t looking good at all for the New York Jets as here is what to make of this last place team so far this season.
The last place New York Jets were physically spent after a brutal three-games-in-eleven-days to start the regular season. In Week 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, with over a week to lick their wounds and refocus — the team delivered their worst top-to-bottom performances of the Todd Bowles error.
The Jets‘ 48-17 opening-season Monday Night Football thrashing of the Lions, seems light years away. At the quarter-season mark, there are too many causes for concern.
Sunday’s 31-12 blowout in Jacksonville ain’t about losing another game. It’s about how it reflects on the state of the franchise. On paper, this roster possesses above-average talent. But once again, the Jets seemed mentally and tactically unprepared — which all comes back to the coaching.
Todd Bowles won this head coaching job for his reputation as the Cardinals’ whiz defensive coordinator, and for his NFL veteran respect as a motivational leader of young men. Everyone understood that the first-time HC lacked skill in terms of in-game management. However, no one could have foreseen such existential failure.
Blaming the coach may be a loser’s game. But make no bones about it, this coach deserves plenty of blame. No Gang Green leader has received more second chances, and week-by-week his job security is in jeopardy. The situation ain’t quite Rich Kotite redux, but it’s much closer to that than Gang Green’s lone Super Bowl win under Weeb Eubank.
The next quarter of the season will see a tough stretch of three home games, against Case Keenum‘s Broncos, Andrew Luck‘s Colts and Kirk Cousins‘ Vikings, followed by a road trek to face the Mitch Trubinsky‘s Bears. Here are five crucial questions to address going into these next few weeks before the midseason break.
5. New Jack City?
Every NFL coordinator handles Blake Bortles by sitting back in zone coverage and daring him to throw the ball. But the Jets had so much confidence in their secondary that they decided to go man-on-man, and got toasted — and then never adjusted. Who’s fault is that?
When a defensive genius allows a mediocre QB to look down-right Tom Brady-esque (his team shredded for 388 passing yards, 503 total), you’ve got major issues, starting from the top down. There wasn’t a Jets defender within 10 yards of most of the Jaguars’ receivers. And that’s not all the players’ fault.
Honestly, have you ever heard of an NFL team winning the turnover battle 3-0 yet still get blown off the field? Has that ever happened before? Is it even possible?
Bronx-bred Jacksonville HC Doug Marrone has very good reason to loathe the Jets, after suffering ugly character assassination following his failure to win his dream job, eventually given to Bowles — by the one-two punch of Daily News scribe Manish Mehta’s hit piece and Donald Trump’s UK ambassador Woody Johnson‘s derisive comments. Pushing his team to score a bush-league late-game TD, and icing it with a two-pointer, was one huge middle finger directed at Florham Park.
Next: 4. Fly Like A Jet?
4. Fly Like A Jet?
Like clockwork, the Jets’ below-average offense shoots itself in the foot — guilty of even more sloppy fouls and unsportsmanlike behavior than the aforementioned underperforming secondary.
The wide receivers have played abysmally. Jermaine Kearse (2 catches, 23 yards) has really regressed. Trouble-making fumble-machine Robby Anderson (2-18) may be too much of a knucklehead to become that “next Brandon Marshall.” Terrelle Pryor (no stats) stewed on the bench with his arms folded — little surprise, after three games of admitted lazy route-running. The front office better re-sign Quincy Enunwa (4-86) ASAP, because if he hits the open market, they’ll surely lose him, probably to New England.
As for the offensive line, any NFL-caliber five-man wedge can muscle the ball for three or four rushing yards per carry. Last year, the two teams met, and the Jets amassed 256 yards on the ground. In Jacksonville, they mustered a scant 12 carries for 26 yards.
It was troubling that Bilal Powell barely saw the ball after a few nice first-quarter romps (4 carries, 26 yards). And patience is running thin on “can’t miss” free agent Isaiah Crowell (4 carries, zero yards!), between his disgraceful butt-wipe TD celebration in Cleveland, and this game’s unforgivable goal-line safety against the Jags.
Then there’s tight end Eric Tomlinson (no stats), heralded as a sixth-lineman blocking powerhouse. This year, the third-year vet out of UTEP has already amassed more back-breaking penalties than pass receptions. His senseless first-quarter holding call far away from the play negated a brilliant 38-yard acrobatic leap by rookie fourth-rounder Chris Herndon (1-18) that could have changed this game’s tenor. At least last season’s fifth-rounder Jordan Leggett (3-13) caught his first NFL TD.
Next: 3. Pass It Around?
3. Pass it Around?
If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Sam Darnold is not the problem. But it is everyone and everything around him. The youngest starting QB in NFL history has no weapons and no protection. Hope and pray that he does not get hurt.
Darnold has certainly regressed week by week. There were a few times on Sunday that the rookie looked lost, jittery in the pocket and developing bad habits. Those issues point to his distrust in a worse-than-advertised offensive line. Call out this veteran unit by name: Brandon Shell, Brian Winters, Spencer Long, James Carpenter, and Kelvin Beachum got rocked all afternoon by the most vanilla of D-line stunts.
This writer hailed the hiring of offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. But now one must question the “quarterback whisperer” and his future role in grooming Darnold as the face of this franchise. Sure the Jets again fell behind early in Jacksonville — they barely had the ball in the first half — but the new OC’s need to pass the ball to set up the run is not exactly a strong teaching point.
We are now hearing calls to sit Darnold for a few weeks, for him to sit back and pick up the speed of the game. But six weeks of watching his 39-year-old backup Josh McCown is not what Sam needs. He just needs the rest of his offensive unit to play up to their contracts.
Next: 2. Bowl-ing for Soup?
2. Bowl-ing for Soup?
When Bowles berated his players post-game, he addressed “awful underneath coverage,” which speaks to the linebackers, stacked too close to the line of scrimmage in “condensed formation.” In other words, teams keep beating them on the outside, so they tighten the formation to move to the other side of the field faster. That’s why we constantly see the same grotesque defensive breakdowns, with opposing players wide open the middle of the field for big plays.
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Great defenses excel at communication — and schematic discipline could solve this problem. Yet game after game, the secondary still has difficulty with some very basic gridiron concepts.
Bart Scott believes that the Jets have fast talented players who are very weak in terms of football acumen. So for Bowles, a former defensive player and coordinator — it is beyond troubling that in his fourth season, his players still can’t communicate.
Like why is first-round bust Darron Lee — easily the worst middle linebacker in the league — still the primary defensive signal-caller?
Of his four seasons, Bowles has lost the locker room at least two of them. Remember “Sheldon Richardson vs. Brandon Marshall” or Revis Island’s closing due to a profound lack of physical contact? This season could similarly unravel.
It’s the players who run this asylum. The defense thinks they’re better than they are. The only thing big-money free agent cornerback Trumaine Johnson has in common with Darrelle Revis is the $17 Million per. “New Jack City” t-shirts anyone?
Next: 1. This is the End?
1. This is the End?
There’s something very wrong in Jets-land. If Todd Bowles wants to fight to keep his coaching job, he must counteract everything he’d done to date. He must almost change who he is, which sounds next to impossible.
No one wants a mild-mannered good man unemployed, but to date, the Elizabeth, NJ kid has not shown enough to merit a 2019 return. Sad to say, but if the players truly loved and respected Coach Bowles, they would show it on the field. And that’s a damning indictment.
GM Mike Maccagnan earns no free-pass either. Trader Mike earned his rep as the Texans’ tape-room genius, unearthing talent in the lower rounds of the draft and with UDFAs. Sure, Maccagnan has bolstered the lower rungs of this roster with a slew of smart signings and under-the-radar acquisitions. But after four seven-round drafts, there’s little to show beyond Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Jordan Jenkins, Sam Darnold, Lachlan Edwards, and maybe Brandon Shell. Hopefully, some combo of tight ends Chris Herndon and Jordan Leggett, D-linemen Nathan Shepherd and Folorunso Fatukasi, and young corners Parry Nickerson and Derrick Jones prove to be something worth mentioning in the future.
NFL insiders who felt the Jets could turn things around by 2019 now point towards 2020. By that time, Woody Johnson will likely return, and calm and patience with the lousy on-field product will diminish. In other words, the Jets’ front office better figure out a way to right this sinking ship.