Development isn't a One Way Street
Good morning ☀️
Week 14 is now upon us with Thursday Night Football tonight, the Jets have a must-win game on Sunday if they hope to keep their AFC East hopes alive, it would certainly help the old playoff chances as well.
We're going to talk a little development today, but before we get to that, here are the good old quick throws.
🙏 Max Mitchell's rookie season is over after he was placed on the non-football injury list, and Saleh confirmed that the 4th round pick would not play again this year. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has taken his spot on the roster and George Fant will start at right tackle the rest of the way. Mike Remmers will be the backup swing tackle now. I don't want to speculate on why Max will be missing and Saleh wouldn't elaborate, so all I want to do is wish Max all the best and hopefully we see him back on the field for OTA's this Spring.
🤕 Von Miller has been placed on season ending reserve after having ACL repair surgery. He was already slated to miss this Sunday's game but he'll now miss the rest of the season, which is a huge blow to Buffalo.
🤧 Unfortunately the Jets have a flu bug doing the rounds. George Fant, D.J Reed, Corey Davis and Micheal Clemons missed practice through the illness. Let's hope they all make a full recovery. Duane Brown, Lamarcus Joyner and Ashtyn Davis were all limited.
👍 On a better note, RB Michael Carter was back at practice yesterday and he should play on Sunday, but Saleh confirmed that Bam Knight isn't going anywhere. I could see Bam still out-snapping Carter through the game.
💪 Saleh has been asked a couple of times this week if he was surprised by White’s ability to make some of those second-half throws and he confirmed that he's seen that ever since he's been here: "He has the arm strength to make every throw on the field."
🗳️ Some updates on the Pro Bowl voting. Quinnen Williams is currently the #2 vote-getter at DT and Sauce Gardner is #3 at the moment. I'd be surprised if either of them don't make it.
🏆 Look who has two of the top three rated rookies according to the ESPN NFL panel. We all know that if Breece was healthy he'd be #1 or #2 on this list.
When Zach Wilson was first benched there was a clear divide in the fanbase, those who thought we were abandoning his development, and those who thought we were doing right by him and the Jets. Over the last week that divide has closed as more and more people have come around to the Mike White experience. I’ve had countless discussions over the last two weeks and one thing has become clear to me, the Jets are in the business of development, they just want to do that while they win.
Consider two things:
Quarterbacks can and often do play into their mid to late thirties, especially QBs who don’t rely on their athleticism to score points. Guys like Kurt Warner were 38 when they retired.
Mike White has started just 5 NFL games in his entire career and is only 27 years old. There is a world where Mike still has a decade of football left in him. Just because he’s not 22 doesn’t mean you don’t try and develop him.
As the title of this column alludes to, development isn’t a one-way street. There is no greater challenge in the NFL than developing a QB, but if you want to be successful over a long period of time, you need to develop more than just one player.
But let’s start with the QB position. It became very clear this year that Zach Wilson was not ready to be a starting QB in the NFL, that doesn’t mean he’ll never be ready but right now he’s not there. The Jets will continue to try and develop Zach, they invested a #2 pick on him, he’s only 23 and he’s counting over $20.5 million against the cap over the next two years. But, that doesn’t stop them from attempting to develop Mike White as well. The Jets would love Zach to be the long-term answer at QB, but they certainly wouldn’t mind if Mike White was instead.
I know that if Mike White has a poor game on Sunday, then there will be calls for him to lose his starting position, which in my mind is ridiculous. White needs to be given a chance to develop, just like Zach was. He needs to have a poor game and then see how he rebounds from it. Josh Allen completed 52% of his passes with 0 TD and 2 INT against the Jets this year. Dak Prescott completed 48% of passes with 0 TD and 1 INT against Tampa, Joe Burrow threw 4 interceptions against Pittsburgh, and even Mahomes completed 57% of passes with 1 INT in a loss to the Colts this season. I’m not saying Mike White is as good as any of them, what I’m saying is that even the best QB’s have bad games and seesawing between QBs is a good way to ensure neither develops.
Garrett Wilson is probably the biggest beneficiary of the move to Mike White, outside of Mike White of course. If you extrapolate his stats with White/Flacco over an entire 17-game season and then compare them to his numbers with Zach Wilson over an entire season, you get the following:
With Zach at QB: 92 targets, 63 catches, 774 yards, 0 TDs
With White/Flacco at QB: 190 targets, 105 catches, 1,601 yards, 14 TDs
Obviously, when you’re doing an exercise such as this you have to base it on the present situation rather than project what it could become, so I very much doubt that Garrett would go a whole season without a TD, regardless of who was playing QB. But as he hasn’t scored a TD with Zach at the helm, you have to use those numbers.
Using the statistics from the 2021 season, here’s how Garrett would rank using the statistics with White and Flacco:
That’s the kind of player we’re dealing with here, not just a top-10 receiver but a top-5 receiver in the league. Ensuring that he gets the service he needs to develop is of the utmost importance for the future of this franchise. Receivers get frustrated when they do everything right and the ball doesn’t come their way, you could see the frustration on Garrett’s face against New England where after he ran a perfect route that gained numerous yards of separation, Zach fired a ball over his head, his response was to throw up his hands in exasperation. If you look at the numbers with White, you’ll understand why Wilson is a happy man right now.
You don’t need to restrict this to Garrett Wilson, you can extend it to players like Elijah Moore. Moore was so frustrated he requested a trade, but over the last two games, he’s received 8 targets, catching 4 for 71 yards and a TD. He’s not quite at the level we saw last year, but if he continues to get targets, he’ll start turning those catches into big plays.
Move to the running backs, a good passing game opens lanes for the RBs. We know we have a star in Breece Hall, but over the last two weeks, we’ve seen evidence of Zonovan Knight being a long-term option for the position. The juice in the running game is exceptional and when defenses tried to cheat down, White found the option over the top. Zonovan has had 8 targets and caught 100% of those for 62 yards, and Whtie’s ability to find the check-down and put the ball in the perfect position for yards after the catch is something that was noted by the broadcast crew on Sunday.
Then you go to the offensive line and the one key metric that stands out is the following:
Zach Wilson's time to throw: 3.09
Mike White’s time to throw: 2.47
White’s number is right around where you want it to be. Tua is at 2.50, Joe Burrow at 2.52, and Dak Prescott at 2.57. When you hold onto the ball you ask your linemen to do a lot, no linemen likes giving up sacks, and mentally sacks can drain your confidence. Fortunately, we have a very experienced line, but I’m talking long-term here. Next year we may have Becton who despite being in year four, will be playing just his second season of NFL football, AVT will be playing his second full season and Max Mitchell will also be into his second season. Linemen like to know where their QB is and they like a QB who gets the ball out on time and in rhythm.
One other thing I just wanted to mention was the ability to complete passes under pressure. That’s such a key aspect of any QB playing in the NFL, and again, developing that ability is vital to long-term success, for the QB, for the receivers, and for the team. Here are some comparisons for performance under pressure as of today:
Mike White: 53.8% completion, 161 yards, 12.4 average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks
Zach Wilson: 26.7% completion, 196 yards, 3.3 average, 1 TD, 5 INT, 16 sacks
That 53.8% completion ranks White 11th in the league out of 51 qualifying QBs, that number is right around Dak Prescott (54.2%), Joe Burrow (54.4%), Josh Allen (51.7%) and Tua Tagovailoa (54.5%). Again this is not designed to bag on Zach, it’s more to explain why moving to White is a chance for both QBs to develop, but also for the rest of the roster to develop as well.
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I think there is a chance that the Jets will have two developmental QB’s in 2023. Signing White will be a challenge, with all the CAP Restrictions, but White & Wilson combined will have a salary less than 20 million at a time when average starting QB’s salary is over 25 million. I am hoping that Streveler gets a package to help the Jets Short Yardage, and Red zone woes.
The developmental star at WR is Wilson, 10th pick of the draft , but is exceeding all expectations. The running backs, Carter, Knight, & Johnson have developed in the passing game, demonstrating that a check down can be a big play, Zach pay attention. The developmental stars of the Offensive Line has to be Herbig & Max Mitchell, just good coaching. On the Defensive side, Johnson & Michael Clemons have been limited because of a deep defensive line rotation and have shown promise. Their development will enable the Jets to part ways with Carl Lawson in 2023, saving 15 million. The development of Sauce has been simply astounding, great talent, but he has adjusted to the NFL game flawlessly, and at times dominates. A player that is under the radar, that has developed nicely, is Michael Carter 2, giving the Jets three outstanding CB’s in their secondary.
All of these young players are succeeding because of good coaching, culture, and the support from all parts of the organization.
Great piece today