robert saleh
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How did Jets football fare these past 12 months?

This was never supposed to be a phenomenal season for the New York Jets, but instead, a developmental year with a new coaching staff and quarterback that could hopefully propel the team to a successful 2022 campaign.

However, improvement over the course of this current year has been scarce.

Zach Wilson has been inconsistent, the offensive line isn’t incredible, the defense has been brutal, and injuries to various individuals (Mekhi Becton, Corey Davis, Carl Lawson, etc.) have hindered the team’s overall progression.

There were at least some aspects to look forward to heading into the year, such as how rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and rookie head coach Robert Saleh were to fare in their respective roles.

But in the future, Jets fans are unlikely to look at 2021 as a memorable year in this franchise’s history.

So what have the last 12 months been like exactly for Gang Green?

2021 Best Moment — The “Mike F–king White” Era

mike white
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This seems like it was five years ago already.

Zach Wilson went down with what ended up being a PCL sprain in the Week 7 loss to New England — Mike White was to replace him.

And for about two weeks, Jets fans all of a sudden were on a high. In Week 8, against the much superior Cincinnati Bengals, White started in the absence of Wilson and threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. MetLife Stadium was jumping that day; fans were chanting the primary backup quarterback’s name.

Of course, an abbreviated performance against Indianapolis (due to injury) the following week and a four-interception showing against Buffalo in Week 10 ended the “Mike F–king White” era pretty quickly. Joe Flacco started in Week 11 before Wilson returned from injury in Week 12.

But boy, that short amount of time with White being the new darling of New York football were fun to experience. Will he be back with the team in 2022?

2021 Worst Moment — Carl Lawson’s injury

carl lawson
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets provided defensive end Carl Lawson with a significant contract in free agency earlier this year, signing him to a three-year, $45 million deal. Lawson was supposed to be a premier pass rusher within Robert Saleh/Jeff Ulbrich’s defense — his performance in training camp provided fans with incredible excitement.

But then, Aug. 19 arrived. That was the day Lawson suffered an Achilles rupture during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers.

It was one of those injuries where you knew the degree of it was potentially high right when it occurred. Lawson was carted off the field and eventually learned his 2021 season would prematurely conclude.

Excitement within fans quickly turned to depression — one of the Jets’ big-money free agents was done for the year, and at this point, it’s safe to say his absence has made a notable impact.

2021 MVP — RB Michael Carter

michael carter
Syndication: The Indianapolis Star

The offensive line has struggled, the defense has been putrid, the wide receivers cannot stay healthy or constantly produce, and Zach Wilson has been inconsistent.

That leaves us with running back Michael Carter as the team’s MVP for 2021.

The rookie fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina has proven to be a dynamic back that can produce both on the ground and through the air. He’s certainly the more talented of the Jets’ backs and should be a long-term component of this roster moving forward.

2021 Least Valuable Personnel — DC Jeff Ulbrich

jeff ulbrich
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Ulbrich was supposed to put an up-tempo product on the field when it came to the defense.

But in 2021, the Jets have been a disaster on that side of the football.

Coming out of Week 16, New York’s defense is last in the NFL in total defense (391.3 total yards allowed per game), last in scoring (29.9 points allowed per game), and 30th in rushing (141.3 yards allowed on the ground per game).

Of course, injuries have taken a toll on the unit — defensive end Carl Lawson, safety Marcus Maye, and safety Lamarcus Joyner are all out for the year. But regardless, this unit has not played up to its standards and is a big reason for the organization’s overwhelming struggles in 2021.

Overall 2021 Grade — D

robert saleh
Syndication: The Record

I didn’t want to give the Jets an “F” despite the fact they’re one of the worst teams in the NFL. I think some moves were made in the offseason that could provide the franchise with hope for the future. Even though defensive issues have arisen, I like Robert Saleh as a head coach and believe Zach Wilson has tremendous on-field upside despite him struggling at times.

I also am a fan of the acquisitions of Corey Davis, Carl Lawson, and Jarrad Davis along with the drafting of Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, Michael Carter, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Jamien Sherwood, and Hamsah Nasirildeen.

This is a results league, sure, and the on-field results haven’t been all that great. But I like the vision of both Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas and believe some moves potentially enhanced the future of this franchise.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.