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The improbable quest towards hitting .500

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 30: Members of the New York Jets walk onto the field before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 30, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 30: Members of the New York Jets walk onto the field before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 30, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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JACKSONVILLE, FL – SEPTEMBER 30: Members of the New York Jets walk onto the field before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 30, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL – SEPTEMBER 30: Members of the New York Jets walk onto the field before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 30, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Most disconcerting about last week’s 34-16 shellacking of the visiting Denver Broncos is that the last place New York Jets (2-3) do have the talent to compete on any given Sunday. Can they make it to .500?

New York Jets-land’s thoughts and prayers were with defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, dealing with a non-specified life-threatening illness.  His players responded with one of their most dominating all-around performances in memory.

The medical situation forced head coach Todd Bowles to revert to his old DC role, and on this afternoon, he excelled in all facets of defensive play-calling.  Surely this writer was not the only one thinking that perhaps this job was meant to be the head coach’s true gig all along.

We all understand that Denver coach Vance Joseph is a dead man walking, with less than a dozen games left in his Broncos coaching career.  Some of his head-scratching moves that sealed a Jets victory, in comparison make Bowles appear Lombardi-esque.

Here are four facets to consider, as these Jets test their metal with three well-matched games — at home against Denver and Minnesota, and on the road against Chicago.  Their performances will speak volumes about this head coach, his players, and the trajectory of this organization.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Henry Anderson #96 of the New York Jets celebrates with Leonard Williams #92 of the New York Jets after sacking Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Cleveland Browns (not pictured) during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 20: Henry Anderson #96 of the New York Jets celebrates with Leonard Williams #92 of the New York Jets after sacking Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Cleveland Browns (not pictured) during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 20, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

4. Can U Deliver?

There’s real potential for this Jets defense, with a nice mix of young bucks and reliable vets. But between the previously mentioned undisciplined and inconsistent efforts, poor on-field communication, and general lack of football acumen, there is still a long way to go.

Jamal Adams is fast becoming this team’s spiritual leader, and his emotional pre-game pep talk had much to do with the final outcome.  His positional partner Marcus Maye may never outlive his running out of gas at the Broncos one-yard line after a 104 yard INT return.  Only the Jets could go 104 yards on one play and not score!

When was the last time this front seven registered four sacks — including two by the perennially double-teamed Leonard Williams?  The good news about third-rounder Nathan Shepherd’s long cold spells on the bench has more to do with the relentless QB pursuit of former Colts DE Henry Anderson, easily one of this team’s best under-the-radar acquisitions with 2.5 sacks in his first five Gang Green games.  It’s amazing how much better this unit performs without overpaid over-sleeper Muhammad Wilkerson.

Jets fans know that the defensive pass coverage at cornerback had been downright offensive all season. But with $72 Million disappointment Trumaine Johnson out with a badly injured quad and inserted starter Buster Skrine out after a first-quarter concussion, Morris Claiborne and Darryl Roberts shut down Case Keenum‘s passing game.  Was that merely a coincidence?

Next: 3. Can I Kick It?

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 10: Andre Roberts #19 of the New York Jets runs the ball in for a touchdown on a punt return in the second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 10: Andre Roberts #19 of the New York Jets runs the ball in for a touchdown on a punt return in the second half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

3. Can I Kick It?

Brant Boyer’s oft-maligned special teams unit delivered with a most special effort.  Marist-schooled kicker Jason Myers — his missed 30-yard chip shot notwithstanding — excelled with booming kickoffs and points on the board.

Punter Lach Edwards is quickly developing into one of the league’s elite, with both great hang-time and coffin-corner kicks inside the 20.  Andre Roberts almost changed the course of the punting game — negatively, by muffing and then recovering a Broncos boot, and then positively, with a thrilling 50-plus yard return to Denver’s 11, which helped seal the victory.

One reason for the improved special teams play is the overall roster upgrade.  Just look at all the recognizable names covering kicks downfield.  And look how much does it change the face of this team to finally possess a professional return-man.

The likely 2018-ending injury of Josh Martin will have wider repercussions.  The local Columbia product proved serviceable at starting OLB, but his better-suited skills as a special teams demon will be sorely missed as this season progresses.

Next: 2. Fly By Night

2. Fly By Night

Much credit goes to the heretofore non-productive offensive line, who blew open gaping holes (323 total rushing yards) and bolstered the passing game (just one sack and three hits) against one of the NFL’s premier defensive fronts.  Kudos to guard James Carpenter, who for at least one afternoon, made Von Miller look down-right Quinton Coples-like.

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Don’t expect the league’s 25th-ranked O-line to excel on this level week after week. But if they can continue to open holes, that would both relieve the pressure on and improve the overall play of, their impressive rookie QB.

AFC Offensive Player of the Week Isaiah Crowell delivered with a franchise record 219 on the ground that included a pair of awe-inspiring 50-plus yard gallops, most notably a devastating 76-yard TD sprint.  Bilal Powell’s early fumble accounted for Denver’s only first-half six-pointer, relegating the 30-year-old vet second in this “two-headed monster” battle.  No Dude Wipes jokes, please!

Sam Darnold may not have delivered huge fantasy points (10-22, 198 yards).  But his pocket presence, leading to two TD bombs to deep threat Robby Anderson and a nice six-pointer to an acrobatic Terrelle Pryor bode well for the future.

On the subject of flankers, Mike Maccagnan expended considerable draft capital on currently unemployed flameouts.  Spare derision over 2015 second-round bust Devin Smith who suffered two devastating injuries.  But the sting is now being felt over last year’s two mid-round whiffs Chad Hansen (scooped up and then waived by Bill Belichick after just 72 hours) and last week’s cut/injury settlement, ArDarius Stewart. The Jets GM clearly fell in love with both of their college highlight reels, but the two receivers got jettisoned after invisible rookie seasons and lousy training camps, running sloppy routes, and lacking separation speed.

Next: 1. Duty Now For The Future

JACKSONVILLE, FL – SEPTEMBER 30: Jamal Adams #33 of the New York Jets is seen during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 30, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL – SEPTEMBER 30: Jamal Adams #33 of the New York Jets is seen during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on September 30, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

1. Duty Now For The Future

The future of this franchise includes plenty of question marks.  Thankfully, Sam Darnold is not one of them.  Face it, the kid ain’t yet star material, but he’s proving that he belongs.

But where’s the outside pass rush?  What’s the future of the offensive line?  Can they coach up their tantalizing tight ends?  Will they re-sign Quincy Enunwa (five targets, zero receptions versus Denver)?  Is Darron Lee (zero sacks and 3.7 tackles per game to date) a starting middle linebacker?

A reasonable Jets objective at this point would be to win two of their next three games and go into midseason with a .500 record.  Such success would position this team in the playoff picture, albeit on the outside looking in.

Trending. How good can Sam Darnold be this season?

This front office has a plan, which does not include trying to please the fans. But they must meet the corporate objectives of Chris and Woody Johnson.  The answer to which master is easier to serve remains a decided toss-up, in 2018 and beyond.

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