After a quiet trade deadline for the New York Jets on Tuesday, they will get back on the gridiron in primetime as the NFL season hits week 9. The Jets, coming off a win over the New York Giants, will host the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football at MetLife Stadium.
Today let’s take a look at the Jets’ keys to victory, x-factors, and biggest matchups to watch.
6 Notes Heading into Jets vs Chargers
Jets Offensive Key: Get Others Involved
It has been a very bumpy ride for the Jets so far this season on offense especially when it comes to the receiving core. During the summer fans felt good about the WR room that included Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis, Mecole Hardman, and Randall Cobb. Along with UDFAs Xavier Gipson and Jason Brownlee emerging. However, a lot has changed in a bad way.
Davis retired, Hardman was sent back to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Cobb without Aaron Rodgers is a shell of himself. Plus, Lazard while he has made some nice plays and has been a good leader, he has dealt with a lot of drops. Leaving this team with one dominant and consistent receiver and that is second-year wideout Garrett Wilson. With no acquisitions at the deadline the Jets must rely on what is in the building and two players to watch are the two UDFAs mentioned earlier.
Nathaniel Hackett and this coaching need to find ways to get Gipson and Brownlee more involved in the passing offense. While Gipson has returned punts this season he only has one catch for four yards. Brownlee has rarely been active. The Jets traded Hardman because of the emergence of Gipson, this coaching staff needs to give Gipson a bigger opportunity. As for Brownlee, he was a Training Camp standout, give him a chance.
The bottom line is this, the Jets cannot be scared to give these guys larger roles because of their UDFA status. What they are doing now is not sustainable and things need to change.
Jets Defensive Key: Get Pressure on Justin Herbert
What more needs to be said about this Jets pass rush and defense as a whole? It is one of the most lethal units in the NFL and will face a good test this week against a solid Chargers offensive line. Headlined by Rashawn Slater the Chargers have done a good job keeping star QB Justin Herbert upright. The question is will that continue this week?
To put it simply, when Herbert has time the Chargers win, when he doesn’t have time and is under duress, the Chargers lose. This season in games where Herbert has been sacked three or more times the Chargers are 0-3. Whenever the Jets get a chance on Sunday to bring Herbert down they must take advantage because Herbert has only been sacked 15 times this season which is near the bottom of the NFL. The craziest part about the small number of sacks taken is that Herbert has been blitzed 96 times this year which is fourth most in the NFL.
The Jets must get home on Monday force Herbert into more hurries and ultimately bring him down. When teams get to Herbert it is a recipe for failure. The thing is not many teams have been able to. The Jets will look to break through again in a big way.
Jets Offensive X-Factor: Nathaniel Hackett
Both Hackett and QB Zach Wilson have had highs and lows during the offensive struggles this season, but this week in particular Hackett needs to be better as a play caller. Outside of the Chiefs game, the Jets offense has been very vanilla this season, making things easier for the opposing defense. This week taking chances and adding more creativity could go a long way against a poor pass defense.
The Chargers despite having a good pass rush have struggled in coverage through the course of the season so far. Currently ranking dead last in the NFL in pass yards per game allowed at 297.4. This game is a perfect opportunity in prime time for Hackett to unleash Wilson like he did against Kansas City.
While Wilson has dealt with a lot of inconsistent highs and lows, he has a lot of strengths in his game that the coaching staff has not unlocked yet. Those strengths are talked about a lot. His ability to throw on the run, his arm strength, and even his ability to run a good up-tempo offense. Up-tempo is something the Jets should do more of, while it isn’t sustainable it is something they can add periodically throughout games.
Wilson is a better QB when he isn’t thinking. This has been shown by his ability to make big throws late in games, currently leading the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks with three. It’s time for Hackett to take the training wheels off Zach and this time for good.
Jets Defensive X-Factor: Linebackers
What a season it has been for the Jets’ linebacker room headlined by reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Month Quincy Williams and C.J. Mosley. This week they’ll face a good challenge going against Herbert’s legs and Austin Ekeler‘s receiving ability out of the backfield.
Against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football, Ekeler broke free for a huge 39-yard receiving touchdown. On the day, he had 7 catches for 94 yards and one score. As for Herbert, the Jets cannot allow him to extend plays, get out of the pocket, and turn into a runner which he has done well throughout his career.
Having eyes on Herbert all game will be crucial for this Jets’ defense along with containing Ekeler. This is what makes the Chargers offense so dangerous, but what hasn’t this Jets defense been able to do this season? They’ve checked a lot of boxes, especially against some of the league’s best QBs.
Jets Offensive Matchup to Watch: Jets Offensive Line vs Chargers Defensive Line
Who is going to be on the offensive line for the Jets this weekend? The question many fans and the organization themselves have been asking the entire week. The answer right now is no one knows and it is still completely up in the air with injuries everywhere.
Right when it seemed the Jets offensive line was figured out Alijah-Vera Tucker went down and then it was Joe Tippmann and on Sunday it was Connor McGovern and Wes Schweitzer. Now the newest story has been Laken Tomlinson who landed on the injury report this week. The bullets keep coming.
After McGovern and Schweitzer went down the Jets were left with Xavier Newman as their third-string center. Newman had never snapped a ball to Wilson until he was thrown into the fire against the Giants.
With all these injuries up front, GM Joe Douglas brought in a few veteran pieces that could fill voids. These pieces were two-time Pro Bowler Rodger Saffold and Dennis Kelly. Both have ties with the Jets’ offensive line coach Keith Carter while they were on the Tennessee Titans. Along with this, the Jets could be getting veteran Duane Brown back soon. Does Brown see the field when is healthy again? Only time will tell.
It’ll be very interesting to see who is out there on Monday Night and how can they handle this Chargers pass rush that includes Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. This matchup could decide who comes out on top in primetime.
Jets Defensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Defensive Line vs Chargers Running Backs
The Jets run defense suffered a big blow on Sunday losing top run stuffer Al Woods to a season-ending torn Achilles. Unfortunately, this is the Jets’ third torn Achilles this season with Rodgers and Alijah-Vera Tucker also suffering the same injury. After facing a heavy dose of Saquon Barkley last week, the question entering this matchup is how will the Jets run defense fair without Woods against the Chargers’ rushing offense.
With Woods leaving early Sunday his missing presence was felt as Barkley was able to break a few big runs including a 34-yard run to open up the second half. This week it’ll be Ekeler and Joshua Kelley. Ekeler surprisingly has not had the best-rushing stats through four games only averaging 3.7 yards per carry and a total of 218 yards, of which 117 came in week one leaving him with only 101 rushing yards in his last three games. Kelley has been a solid number two behind Ekeler averaging 4.3 yards per carry which is over his career average of 3.7.
Even with it being a slower start for the Chargers’ rushing offense compared to last year, the Jets must be ready and need to be ready without Al Woods. Currently allowing 144.9 rush yards per game, look for practice squad call-up Tanzel Smart to play a role in stopping the run on Monday.
Prediction: Jets win 20-17