The New York Jets hit the bye week at 3-3 coming off a thrilling 20-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at home. Considering the Jets lost their Hall of Fame quarterback four plays into the season, going into the bye week at .500 is a good spot to be in.
Today let’s grade this Jets team as they head into the bye week. Taking a look at the Jets’ offense, defense, special teams, and coaching.
Jets Team Grades Heading into Bye Week
As we all know, the Jets offense suffered a brutal blow losing Aaron Rodgers four plays into the 2023 season. What was supposed to be a year where Zach Wilson would sit and learn, quickly turned into another year of Wilson starting at quarterback. When you look at this team as a whole, the offense has been the weakness for many reasons, both coaching and the overall play on the field.
Starting with Zach Wilson. Through six games this season, he has thrown for 1,097 yards, four touchdowns, and five interceptions. While the numbers don’t look that good, he has made progress from where he was a year ago. He was one of the worst quarterbacks in football and now is a competent backup who is a game manager of an offense headlined by its run game. One of Wilson’s biggest knocks early in his career was his inability to make the easy throws resulting in a low completion percentage. This year, you have seen that change through six games his completion percentage is over 60% and he had two games in a row against Kansas City and Denver where he saw his completion percentage rise above 70%.
Now, while there has been progress, there is a lot that needs to be cleaned up specifically in the red zone. The Jets are currently 5/17 this season in the red zone which is a conversion rate of only 29.4%. Along with this, they are only one for their last nine with their only red zone touchdown during that span coming late in Sunday’s contest on a run from Breece Hall. As mentioned in the last two weeks, these struggles came against the Broncos who have one of the worst defenses in football, and the Eagles who, despite a very good defense, have not been successful in stopping teams in the red zone. Going into Sunday’s game against the Jets, the Eagles were allowing a red zone conversion rate of 75%.
The bottom line is Nathaniel Hackett and Zach Wilson need to be better in the red zone if this team wants to make the postseason. From Wilson’s perspective, he has to start giving the ball to his playmakers inside the 20 and finding the open receivers which he has missed a lot this season. For Hackett, creativity from a play-calling perspective would help a lot. Scheming guys open like Garrett Wilson and Tyler Conklin, specifically, in the end zone could be key. The Jets have not taken many shots to the end zone this season and that needs to change.
One big question does remain. Will Aaron Rodgers return this season? Only time will tell but it is something worth noting as the season goes on.
After the 20-14 win over the Eagles, Robert Saleh was asked how this defense has fared against some of the league’s best quarterbacks so far. His answer “We embarrassed all of them.” He’s right. This is one of the most dominant Jets defenses we have seen take the field weekly. One of the best parts about this defense is everyone is contributing from veterans to young pieces and starters to backups it is a full team effort.
Through three of the first six weeks of the 2023 campaign, the Jets have faced Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts. Arguably these are the three best quarterbacks in the NFL but not when they faced the Jets. Combined against the Jets they have completed 74-114 which is 64.9% of passes for three touchdowns and eight interceptions. Most recently, it came against Jalen Hurts and they forced three interceptions while missing Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Brandin Echols. Players like Bryce Hall, Craig James, and Tae Hayes all made impacts in that Eagles game. The next-man-up mentality worked in a big way.
Two players specifically are having career years so far through the first six games and those two players are Quincy Williams and Bryce Huff. Both Williams and Huff have flown under the radar throughout their careers but now they are getting much deserved attention. Quincy Williams is currently top 10 in the NFL in tackles and has made big plays when it matters most.
Against the Denver Broncos, he forced a fumble to win the game and this past weekend against the Eagles he recovered a fumble. To add on, against Philadelphia, Quincy and Quinnen Williams became the first pair of brothers since 2010 to each have a takeaway in the same game. Quincy Williams has also been one of the best coverage linebackers in the game this season. His 87.1 PFF coverage grade is second among linebackers only behind teammate C.J. Mosley who has posted a coverage grade of 88.1.
Now onto Bryce Huff who many Jets fans including myself would like to see get extended before he hits free agency during this upcoming offseason. Huff has exploded onto the scene this season as one of the best pure pass rushers in the game. Dating back to the start of last season Huff has the highest pass rush pressure percentage in the NFL at 25.7%. Along with this, he has 33 pressures this season which ranks fourth in the NFL and 20 of those have come on third and fourth down which leads the NFL. The crazy part of this he is only 25 years old and only entering the prime of his career.
The only knock on this Jets’ defense has been the slow starts but they have made up for it by making adjustments at halftime and dominating the second half of games. It’s crazy to think this defense could get better if they begin to start games faster. We will see if that happens starting week 8 against the New York Giants.
In past years the Jets’ special teams have been a major weakness and one of the worst units in football. However, this year that has changed the Jets went from bad to great on special teams. Headlined by a few offseason acquisitions over the past few years the Jets’ special teams has turned into one of the better units in football.
Those acquisitions include Thomas Morstead who replaced struggling punter Braden Mann this past offseason, Greg Zuerlein who signed in 2022, and Justin Hardee who is in his third year with the Jets. These three pieces have played a big role in special teams’ success. Also, an under-the-radar player has been Irvin Charles who took over for the injured Hardee.
Morstead so far this season ranks seventh in the NFL in net yards per punt at 44.4 yards. Along with this, he has placed 12 punts inside the 20-yard line and six inside the 10-yard line. Both of these rank inside the top five. Meanwhile, Greg Zuerlein has also put together a strong campaign so far. Currently, Zuerlein also known by many as “Greg The Leg” is 14-15 on field goals which is 93.3%. His longest kick of the season came from 52 yards out.
Moving on, both Justin Hardee and Irvin Charles have made their presence felt this season. Unfortunately for Hardee, he underwent hamstring surgery last week that will require him to miss 4-6 weeks. Hardee has been a team captain in each of his three seasons with the Jets and was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season. While it is a tough loss Irvin Charles stepped up right away. The Jets elevated Charles from the practice squad ahead of their week five matchup against the Broncos and in his first career game, he forced a fumble on special teams.
Throughout his time as head coach Robert Saleh has faced a lot of criticism from fans and the media. Even though some of it has been warranted, he deserves just as much praise for his job this season. Especially on Sunday when he pulled off his biggest win yet as head coach beating the Eagles.
Losing your Hall of Fame quarterback four plays into the season is not something any team would expect. It’s not only the Rodgers injury, the Jets have dealt with many injuries that they have overcome. The fact is not many teams in the NFL would be playing .500 football without their Hall of Fame quarterback and best offensive linemen. In the win over the Eagles, the Jets were also missing their top two corners. Saleh has kept this locker room together and they are very much alive in the AFC and he deserves a lot of credit.
Along with Saleh looking at the coordinators it has been mostly good. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has played a big role in the Jets’ success on defense. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett does have a lot more to prove the rest of the way. The offense needs to be better in the red zone, if that happens the coaching grade will only rise. Finally, special teams coordinator Brant Boyer who has been with the team since 2016 is leading one of the best special teams units in the league.
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