The Jets have reached their bye still in search of an identity.
Through five games, it is hard to know exactly who the 2021 Jets are. They are young. We know that. They have played rookies more than any other team in the NFL. That has shown at times, with disjointed play early and some rough patches of play on the way to 1-4.
The rookie drawing the most attention is quarterback Zach Wilson, of course. Wilson has had some really bad moments (four interceptions against the Patriots) and reasons for hope (two 50-yard highlight throws against the Titans).
Wilson has looked very much like a rookie early on. He has struggled to get the ball out on time, and that has led to 18 sacks. He also has thrown the most interceptions (nine) in the NFL. But you can see his talent and the reasons why the Jets made him the No. 2-overall pick. Wilson has a rare ability to make things happen when plays break down. The next step is to make plays within the structure of the offense.
Though all of the attention seems to fall on Wilson and the offense, the Jets’ defense has played well this season. The unit stumbled Sunday in London against the Falcons, but it is hard to blame the defense with how much it has been on the field. The unit led by defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has kept the Jets in games even as the offense sputtered.
First-year coach Robert Saleh has brought energy and a vision to the team early in the season. Now, he must solve the problem the team is having early in games and pile up some more wins. No one is expecting the Jets to be a playoff contender, but fans want to see respectability the rest of the way.
There will be plenty of time to look ahead. Let’s take a look back at the first five games:
Most valuable player
C.J. Mosley has been terrific in his return after missing most of 2019 to injury and 2020 after he opted out. Mosley is all over the field and leads the team with 45 tackles. He also has one sack, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Mosley’s value goes beyond statistics, though. He is the glue in the middle of a very young defense. He makes all the defensive calls and ensures people are in the right position.
Least valuable player
There is not any one player who comes to mind here. The Jets usually have someone who is overpaid and underachieving, but not this year. Instead, I will go with a position group — the tight ends. The Jets are getting nothing out of their tight ends, and they should be a security blanket for Wilson. Tyler Kroft (six catches, 46 yards) and Ryan Griffin (eight catches, 49 yards) need to pick it up.
The secondary has played pretty well. There was a lot of concern entering the season about going with first- and second-year players at cornerback, but they have held up. Bryce Hall and Michael Carter II have had some really nice moments. It is even more impressive when you consider the Jets have been without their starting safeties — LaMarcus Joyner (four games missed) and Marcus Maye (two games) — because of injuries.
All we heard when Saleh and Mike LaFleur were hired as coach and offensive coordinator was how they would bring the 49ers offense with them, and that meant running the ball. Well … the Jets are 30th in the NFL in rushing offense. Their longest run is for 17 yards, and they have only hit 100 yards rushing as a team once.
When you’re 1-4, there are not many moments from which to choose. The win over the Titans is the easy call here. The Jets got some relief with their first win of the season. It came in overtime when Titans kicker Randy Bullock missed a field goal, but the Jets were not worried about style points. Zach Wilson’s 53-yard touchdown strike to Corey Davis in this game is the single-play highlight of the season.
The shutout loss to the Broncos was embarrassing. The Jets got pushed around in a 26-0 loss to a good, not great Denver team. Wilson’s four-interception game against the Patriots is a close second.
Most revealing stat
The Jets have had the ball with the lead for exactly 3 minutes and 33 seconds this season. Their largest lead has been seven points. It is hard to play when you are always trying to come from behind.
Most puzzling development
The Denzel Mims saga has been so strange. The coaches clearly don’t trust the 2020 second-round pick, but he produces when he plays (24.3 yards per catch). He has the potential to be a playmaker. He just needs to get on the field.
GM Joe Douglas is going to have to decide who he wants to move at the Nov. 2 trading deadline. Maye is a candidate, and his agent has made clear that Maye would welcome a move. Will his DUI arrest that recently came to light scare teams off? We’ll see.
Another player to keep an eye on is slot receiver Jamison Crowder. He is in the final year of his contract and is keeping rookie Elijah Moore from playing more slot. The Jets may decide to trade Crowder to clear a path for Moore.