3. NY Jets OC Mike LaFleur must call a better game
For all the attention surrounding Robert Saleh's first game as a head coach last week, and Zach Wilson making his first-ever NFL start, the other key figure on the Jets who was also taking on a new role was first-time offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.
The neophyte play-caller had a shaky debut overall in Week 1 against Carolina. The Jets offense and its players were not ready to play.
It wasn't all bad for LaFleur's offensive unit. His offense and rookie quarterback played better in the second half after LaFleur made some adjustments, which is always a good sign from any coordinator.
But the Jets' offensive struggles and communication issues fall on its coaching staff and, ultimately, the person in charge of the entire unit.
LaFleur's play-calling and utilization of his players left a lot to be desired in Week 1. Carolina's defense threw some basic blitzes at the Jets offense, and the newly-minted offensive coordinator had no answers to counter them.
In the game of chess, LaFleur was playing checkers.
As it pertains to Zach Wilson, LaFleur's job is to make his quarterback's life easier — something he failed to do in Week 1.
Often last Sunday, instead of play calls that would help bail out his rookie quarterback with simple, quick reads and throws. It was Wilson scrambling for his life and bailing the offense out when the play designs did not work.
LaFleur's job in Week 2 gets even more challenging, facing Bill Belichick and his defensive staff. Belichick, in particular, has a great history against rookie quarterbacks.
Over the years, Belichick has humbled some of the league's very best quarterbacks, the first time he has faced them. A year ago, Justin Herbert, in a record-breaking rookie season, had his worst game in 2020 against the Patriots.
In a 45-0 loss at home versus the Patriots defense, Herbert was 26-of-53 for 209 yards with two interceptions.
Belichick's success against Herbert didn't come early in the 2020 campaign when the rookie was still working things out. It came in Week 13 when Herbert was on a tear shredding up opposing secondaries.
Wilson has his work cut out for him going up against Belichick in Week 2.
And although there are some brief instances in the past where a Jets rookie quarterback hasn't faltered against his defense — see Mark Sanchez in 2009, where he threw for a modest 163 yards and a touchdown in a 16-9 home victory — the history books still favor Belichick against Jets and non-Jets rookie quarterbacks.
Once upon a time, a rookie named Geno Smith, in his second-ever start, went 15-of-35 and threw four interceptions at home against Belichick.
The Jets' last franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold, didn't see ghosts against Belichick until a year later, but in his first start against the Patriots, Darnold threw for 167 scoreless yards in a 38-3 loss.
The Jets' young quarterback and offensive coordinator will be facing baptism by fire against Bill Belichick on Sunday. LaFleur is going to need to start growing up fast. He's facing one of the greatest tacticians of all time.
LaFleur has to protect his rookie quarterback and put him in a better situation to succeed than he did last week.