After five games, the 1-4 NY Jets are who we thought they would be. The growing pains have been painful for the NFL's youngest team.
The team's rookie head coach Robert Saleh, first-time offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and the Jets' newly minted franchise quarterback Zach Wilson are all going through a challenging learning curve.
It hasn't all been bad, though, for Gang Green. After all, the 2021 Jets won't have to wait until December to notch their first win like their 2020 predecessor did thanks to a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory at home in week four against the Tennessee Titans.
Save for a brutal two-week stretch at home versus the New England Patriots and on the road in Denver, where the Jets were outscored 51-6 in those games, the team has had close losses in Carolina (19-14) and in London to Atlanta (27-20), where the Jets battled back and competed.
That's a positive sign for any young football team. The execution level and coaching, quite frankly, haven't been where they need to be, but the effort level has.
I know that it's hard as a supporter of the Jets to find any silver lining or reasons for optimism. After all, the Jets are heading for another losing season.
With the playoffs being such a distant memory for the franchise, it's difficult to remember what it felt like when the team played games late in the year in contention. It's been so long.
However, there are some signs and facts that could help the team improve as the season progresses.
Provided that they get lucky in the health department, the Jets have a chance to be better in their next 12 games than they were in their opening five.
The NY Jets have plenty of reasons for optimism as the season progresses
Firstly, the offense will be getting back left tackle Mekhi Becton sometime in the next few weeks. The play of first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker has steadily improved since opening week.
Vera-Tucker has shown signs that he can be a dominant force. Getting Becton by his side could improve the Jets' run blocking immensely. Seeing Becton and Vera-Tucker out there together paving the road could be a hint of better days to come.
The Jets' younger players on offense like running back Michael Carter have shown positive signs to this point. Getting the most out of wide receicer Elijah Moore and his skill set should be one of the Jets' top priorities coming off their bye week.
Although he's been in uniform, the summer version of Moore seems like he hasn't shown up yet. That guy looked like a superstar.
Another reason for optimism is Gang Green's defense. One of the team's strengths after five games, this is an area that should improve.
Pending his trade status, returning safety Marcus Maye could be joined by injured linebacker Jarrad Davis. These would be significant additions to a Jets defense that has shown some positive signs early in the season.
The Jets' defensive line is the best aspect of the entire team. It's loaded with young talent. C.J. Mosley is having a fantastic season, and the Jets' young linebackers should get better as the season goes on.
The area that has overachieved is New York's secondary. Young defensive backs like Bryce Hall, Javelin Guidry, and Michael Carter have proven to be keepers. Credit to the Jets defensive staff, particularly assistants Tony Oden, Marquand Manuel, Chip Vaughn, and Ricky Manning, for getting the most out of this group.
Furthermore, it stands to reason that as the season progresses, Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur, and the Jets' entire coaching staff will better understand their jobs and the players they are coaching. The coaching staff is going through a deep learning curve too.
Lastly, rookie QB Zach Wilson will have a chance, like his coaches, to get better. The comfort level, if the parties involved take the proper steps, should significantly improve. The Jets need Wilson to play better and come into his own. The experience for him will be invaluable in the long run.
The Jets' current bye week allows the team and entire franchise an opportunity to reset and reassess what needs to be done for the overall franchise to head in the right direction. The current timeframe is an evaluation and reevaluation process.
The Jets' remaining 12 games will not be about their win-loss record. The bottom line will be how the team progresses and grows over the final three-quarters of the 2021 season.
When the smoke clears at season's end, the entire team, coaches, and players included, need to be better than they were before the season started and better than they were coming into and out of their bye week.
When the Jets beat the Titans at home in Week 4, and Zach Wilson was crowned NFL Rookie of the Week, hope, which had been a distant feeling for the entire Jets' fan base for a long time, finally returned.
It was short-lived after watching the team falter in London, but it doesn't mean that the feeling can't come back again.