The New York Jets are four losses away from becoming the third team in NFL history to go 0-16. Considering only one team has ever gone 16-0 and we’re now looking at a possible third 0-16 squad in 12 years, I think we can conclude that it is much easier to end up as a “lose every game” team than a “win every game” force. This weekend they take on the reeling Seattle Seahawks, who were shocked by a surging New York Giants team and now find themselves in 2nd in the NFC West.
New York nearly made it a rare double victory day last Sunday, except Gregg Williams’ all-out blitz against the Las Vegas Raiders didn’t get home and Derek Carr found Henry Ruggs III for the dramatic winning touchdown. It’s been that kind of season for them. To talk more about the Seahawks vs. Jets matchup, I spoke with MacGregor Wells of Gang Green Nation in this week’s edition of 5 Qs and 5 As.
1) What are your thoughts on Gregg Williams getting canned for the Cover 0 blitz that led to the winning touchdown for the Raiders? It sounds like the Jets players were done with him anyway.
With 13 seconds left and the Raiders at midfield with no timeouts left, Gregg Williams called an all out blitz, leaving three Jets cornerbacks in man to man coverage with no safety help. The Jets have one of the worst cornerback groups in the NFL. Lamar Jackson, the Jets rookie UDFA cornerback with 4.55 speed, was matched against one of the fastest men in the NFL, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who has sub 4.3 speed. There was almost no conceivable way the Jets could lose that game … except if you called the coverage Williams called. Ruggs predictably burned Jackson, Derek Carr delivered a strike, and the Jets lost an un-loseable game.
Should Williams get fired for one monumentally stupid decision? Probably not. As awful as the result was, it was one terrible call in a lost season. Winning that game would have made no difference to the Jets, other than possibly damaging their draft position. But Williams’ defense has under-performed all year, Adam Gase and the Jets brass needed a scapegoat for how horrendous the Jets have been all year, and Williams provided the perfect opportunity to fire somebody. Williams is an abrasive person who has a long track record of wearing out his welcome in short order at every stop he’s made in a career spanning more than two decades. There was no love lost between Gase and Williams, and the players seem to also have had enough. It was time for Williams to go. Gase and the rest of the Jets coaching staff will follow him out the door in a month. Personally I really don’t care when Williams or any other current Jets coach is fired, just so long as they’re gone when the season ends. And they will be.
2) It’s really hard to ask this about a winless team but what have been some of the positives from this season in terms of performance? This could be a specific player or a positional group.
The list of positives is pretty short. On offense rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton has been great for a rookie. I believe he’s currently one of the leading candidates for starting for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, and while he’s probably not THAT good quite yet, he has elite tools and has adjusted well to the NFL. It’s not difficult to envision Becton becoming a perennial Pro Bowl left tackle in this league. Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims was sidelined the first six games of the year with injuries, but in the six games he’s played he has been the best Jets receiver, and he looks like he has the tools to become a Pro Bowl receiver in the future. Mims has size, speed, hands and the ability to consistently win 50/50 balls. Jets fans are excited about what he can become. Jets slot receiver Jamison Crowder doesn’t have the upside of Mims, but he has been solid, a better than average slot receiver. That pretty much is it for the offense.
On defense Quinnen Williams has emerged as a force on the interior line after a disappointing rookie year in 2019. Williams has been outstanding both against the run and rushing the passer. His linemate Folorunso Fatukasi is one of the best in the game as a run stuffer, but he provides nothing as a pass rusher. Rookie cornerback Bryce Hall missed the first eight games of the season with an ankle injury. In the four games he’s played Hall has looked solid at cornerback, unlike the rest of the Jets’ awful corners. Free safety Marcus Maye is an above average free safety, and has done his usual solid work as the last line of defense for the Jets. Lastly, rookie safety Ashtyn Davis has been good against the run, but suspect against the pass. Jets fans hope he can develop into a solid NFL starter.
3) Seahawks fans will be curious to know how Bradley McDougald and George Fant have fared in their respective first seasons with the Jets. Evidently both have dealt with injuries and in McDougald’s case he’s probably done for the year, but how have they performed when healthy?
Bradley McDougald is out for the year due to injury. Prior to getting hurt McDougald was pretty brutal. Blown coverages, missed tackles, an apparent lack of effort on some plays – McDougald looked nothing like the solid NFL safety Jets fans thought they were getting. The Jets would probably have been better off if McDougald wasn’t part of the trade package that netted the Seahawks Jamal Adams. Sometimes guys take some time to adjust to new teammates, coaches and defensive schemes. Sometimes players from winning programs struggle to adjust to the disheartening effects of going to a losing program. Whatever the reasons, McDougald was pretty awful before he got hurt.
George Fant, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise. Jets fans were stunned at the size of the contract the Jets gave Fant, who never was able to secure a starting position on a Seattle offensive line that has never been considered one of the better lines in the NFL. The common view was this was a really bad contract, and Fant was not going to help all that much. However, George Fant has been pretty decent at right tackle, particularly in pass blocking. He’s certainly no star, but an average-ish starting right tackle is a pretty valuable commodity in the NFL, which makes Fant’s $7.25 million cap hit look like a relative bargain, something most Jets fans are pretty pleased about.
4) The Seahawks offense has struggled considerably for several weeks but I think some of it has to be attributed to playing much better defenses than, say, the Cowboys or the pre-fired Dan Quinn Falcons. Do you see any way the Jets can add to Seattle’s offensive misery by slowing Russell Wilson down or could this be the “Get well” game?
With the caveat that on any given Sunday wildly improbable things (like, for example, Russell Wilson throwing, say, three or four interceptions without any particular pressure from the Jets) are always possible, the chances of Wilson playing poorly on Sunday seem pretty remote. The Jets have arguably the worst set of starting cornerbacks in the NFL in Lamar Jackson, Bryce Hall and Arthur Maulet/Javelin Guidry (not clear which one will be starting at slot corner on Sunday). There is no way those cornerbacks have any business lining up opposite guys like Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Of course, you can neutralize some of the disadvantage at cornerback with superior pressure on the quarterback. Unfortunately for the Jets, they also have arguably the worst set of edge rushers in the NFL in Bryce Huff, Tarell Basham and Jordan Jenkins. Those three have combined for fewer sacks (5) than Jamal Adams has produced himself, even with Adams missing significant time this year. Suffice it to say the Jets edge rushers are probably not keeping the Seahawks’ defensive coaches up at nights worrying how to neutralize them. The Jets do an excellent job of neutralizing their own pass rush. The one Jet that could give Wilson problems is Quinnen Williams, who has been playing lights out recently. It’s likely Williams will put some pressure on Wilson on more than one occasion in this game. But with just one guy on the entire defense capable of providing consistent pressure, Williams can be double teamed to neutralize the threat.
Barring Russell Wilson just inexplicably having a terribly off day, about the only thing that is likely to hold him back from dominating would be if Pete Carroll decides he wants to run the ball 40+ times this game. There aren’t a lot of things this Jets team does well, but run defense is one of them. If the Seahawks go ultra-conservative and try to run the ball right down the Jets’ throats all game, that is the one scenario where I could see the Jets being competitive in this game. The whole “Let Russ Cook” meme? That is tailor made for this game. Let Russ cook and the game will be out of reach for the Jets by the 3rd quarter if not before.
5) You’ve almost beaten the Raiders and Patriots over the past month, and I suppose you had a decent shot at taking the Chargers to overtime. The final four games are daunting (Seahawks, Rams, Browns, Patriots). Do you think they can pull off one upset (including this Sunday) or is it 0-16 all the way?
This Sunday is a terrible matchup for the Jets for all the reasons stated above. Any of the three games after this Sunday provide a small but not impossible window for a Jets victory. The Rams quarterback Jared Goff is prone to occasional bouts of multiple turnover games. The Rams have had two games this year with four turnovers on offense. If Goff just starts to implode, the Jets could steal a win. The Browns offense has been wildly erratic. They’ve had four games where they scored 10 points or less. Baker Mayfield can’t carry an offense. Shut down the run game and the Browns become vulnerable. Shutting down the run game is what the Jets do best. The Browns are a far better team than the Jets, but the NFL is about matchups, and the Jets matchup well with the Browns. A win there is possible. And the Jets should have beaten the Patriots earlier in the year. The Jets dominated all but the last few minutes of that game. With the Patriots possibly being eliminated from playoff contention before the last game of the season, an unmotivated Patriots team that could have backups playing for them might very well fall to the Jets.
That all sounds too optimistic, so let me clarify. I don’t expect the Jets to win a game this year. The Jets will be, and should be, underdogs in every remaining game, probably by a touchdown or more in each game. While I expect the Jets to lose each game, I can see a path to an upset in each of the last three games of the year. Not a likely path, but a plausible path, if everything goes right (or if you’re interested in draft position, wrong) for the Jets in these games.
BONUS: What will be the first thing you do when Adam Gase is fired?
Heh. This season, and the last 10 straight seasons of Jets football without a single playoff appearance, has slowly sapped the life out of me as a Jets fan. I suppose you may be thinking some kind of celebration is in order. But the truth is, to me it is already a done deal. What happens on Black Monday or shortly thereafter is already inevitable. So the news in my mind has already been delivered. Adam Gase and the entire coaching staff will not be back. So the actual news will probably just be an anticlimactic sigh of relief. It’s finally over. And then the existential dread of how the Jets will screw up the next hiring decision will creep in. Somehow, some way, the Jets always manage to choose the worst of all available options. Until they change that script, it’s a bit difficult to hope for a brighter day next year. If they surprise me and make a great hire for head coach, then it will be time to celebrate. Perhaps by May we will be looking at a team with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, a solid coaching staff, a potential perennial Pro Bowl left tackle in Mekhi Becton, a potential Pro Bowl wide receiver in Denzel Mims, a potential perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Quinnen Williams, a returning Pro Bowl linebacker after missing the season for COVID-19 reasons in C.J.Mosley, a slew of promising draft picks and free agent signings, and a GM in Joe Douglas who seems to know what he is doing. That would be a nice start to the turnaround. Until then, I’m just waiting to see how the Jets screw this up.
Damn. That got dark in a hurry. It could always be worse, Seahawks fans.
Anyway, thanks to MacGregor for answering my questions. You can read my answers to his questions over at GGN this weekend.