But there’s still an entire second half of the year to worry about. “Job’s not finished,” as the late Kobe Bryant would say. The Jets still must stack up victories to stay afloat in the tough AFC East division.
It should be an interesting final eight games. But before they all occur, let’s reflect on how this Jets season has played out thus far.
Zach Wilson improving? Zach Wilson is 5-1 as a starter since returning from injury in Week 4. But don’t let that fool you — the second-year quarterback has struggled for the most part. There’s even a chance the Jets made Mike White the No. 2 quarterback in Week 8 to push Wilson to play better.
Entering the bye, Wilson has a completion rate of 57.5% and passer rating of 75.5. Both of these marks are second-worst in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats.
Not to mention the connection with Elijah Moore has faded. The second-year wide receiver, who the Jets drafted one round after they took Wilson at No. 2 overall, was dissatisfied with his role and requested a trade last month. Moore is still with the team, but that role is continuing to diminish from last year. He’s averaging only 3.75 targets per game compared to his 7.0 targets per game in 2021.
But despite all this, there is good news: Wilson definitely looked improved in the win over the Bills. Except for a lost fumble, the young passer was careful with the football and completed 72% of his throws for a 101.1 rating.
He bounced back from a three-interception performance against New England and didn’t make the big mistakes. Now we’ll see if Wilson uses this performance as a stepping stone.
TEs’ up-and-down start. The Jets made various moves to bulk up the tight end position in the offseason. Douglas signed veterans C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin (both to three-year deals) before drafting Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert in the third round.
Conklin, despite earning $1.25 million less per year than Uzomah, has established himself as the team’s top tight end. He’s second on the team in catches (33), third in receiving yards (316), and first in touchdown receptions (three). More importantly, he’s shown the ability to assist in Wilson’s development.
Uzomah’s and Ruckert’s roles (or lack thereof) are concerning, however.
Uzomah is the team’s most expensive tight end but he’s only been on the field for 52% of the offensive snaps through eight games. In comparison, Conklin has taken 80% of the offensive reps across nine games. Uzomah has only 10 catches for 82 yards on the year.
As for Ruckert, fans didn’t expect the rookie to consistently dominate. But the Jets still spent a third-round draft pick on him, and he has only one target in five games (no catches).
Maybe the pair of underperforming tight ends will have stronger second halves, but that isn’t guaranteed. Especially amid Conklin’s strong start to the year.
Sauce-Reed Masterclass. The Jets were 30th in pass defense last year, which obviously prompted general manager Joe Douglas to fix the secondary in the offseason.
And boy did he ever.
D.J. Reed (signed in free agency) and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (drafted at No. 4 overall) make up arguably the strongest cornerback tandem in the NFL. These two have been a huge reason why the Jets defense is seventh in total defense and tied for eighth in scoring.
While Reed (three years, $33 million) is getting paid like the team’s top corner, it’s clear Gardner is the better talent. His size and athleticism provide him with incredible upside and he can already be trusted to cover opposing No. 1 receivers.
Saleh’s pass rush. But what helps the secondary out is this productive defensive front. Douglas and Saleh set out to build a strong defensive line like the one the former coached in San Francisco. And through nine weeks, the Jets are 11th in the NFL with a 44% pass rush win rate, per ESPN.
Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has already matched his single-season career-high of 7.0 sacks. He leads the team in that category and also in quarterback hits (17). Defensive end Carl Lawson is right behind him with 16 quarterback hits.
The Jets would benefit from a healthier Jermaine Johnson, however. The rookie first-round defensive end missed Weeks 6-8 due to an ankle injury before returning against Buffalo. Expect Johnson to be in the mix if he can just stay on the field.