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Victory Monday: Character Building
As the clock ticked down in the first half, I was preparing myself for the disappointment of a let-down loss. It just had that feel about it. But, as much as we can say it, yesterday we saw it, these aren’t the same old Jets.
Thanks for sticking with me last week as I spent some time with the family. We’re back to normal this week with the usual 5 editions of TJW.
The Jets are now 5-2 on the season, they’ve won 4 games in a row for the first time since 2015 and they have now won in Denver, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Green Bay. But last night’s win came at a cost, let’s get into it.
Breece Hall had just 4 carries before he was forced out of the game with a knee injury, but within those four carried he took the ball 72 yards and scored the team’s only touchdown. The 62-yard touchdown came on a perfectly blocked play with Duane Brown, Laken Tomlinson, and Denzel Mims sealing the lane for Hall to burst through. The Jets rookie then put on the after-burners and streaked down the field for a score, unfortunately for the Jets and Hall that was one of his last contributions.
“I was just trying to go hard and take his head off.” said Mims on the block to spring Hall, when asked if he enjoys run blocking he replied “I love it. It separates the boys from the men .. It’s like they say: ‘No block, no rock.’
Mims didn’t record a catch on the day and a 4th quarter target was thrown slightly behind him but Saleh said that he liked the way Mims played and that Mims is “going to be a big part of it moving forward”. Mims reiterated on Friday that his trade request was still on the table, but he has gone about it in the right way and has continued to trade hard throughout the early portion of the season, despite being inactive for the first 6 games, Mims was asked about it after the game “I’m not really thinking about it. Trade deadline is coming up … all I want to do is continue to win football games and play. As long as we winning, I’m happy.”
Hall was helped off the field in the second quarter and in his post-game press conference Saleh confirmed that the team feared an ACL injury that would force Hall to miss the rest of the 2022 season, Saleh wouldn’t really go into details other than to say that Hall will get an MRI on Monday and that "the initial diagnosis is not good,".
Losing Hall would be a huge body blow to a Jets team in the ascendency. His 681 yards from scrimmage are the fourth most by a Jets player in the team's first seven games over the past 20 seasons, he had become the focal point and the most dynamic player on the Jets offense. With Hall likely done for the season, the Jets will turn to Micheal Carter and Ty Johnson, with the potential that rookie Zonovan “Bam” Knight could be elevated from the practice squad.
Carter was asked to carry the load once Hall went down with 13 carries, but he found it tough against a Denver front who play a fast and physical brand of football, Carter could only manage 29 yards (2.2 yards per attempt) but he had been impacted by the injury to Hall, a player he’s formed a close bond with over the last few months, he was asked after the game how he reacted to the injury: "It hurt me, bro. I was trying to get my head back in the game because I do care about him a lot. I had a prayer with him after the game ... "It’s hard. Especially when you have a connection with somebody like that."
If losing Hall wasn’t bad enough, the Jets also lost two more starters before the halftime siren sounded. The Jet’s best offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker left with an elbow injury and will have a scan this morning to determine the extent of the injury. The Jets also lost Corey Davis with a knee injury and while he was cleared to return, the Jets kept him on the sideline as a precaution.
AVT would be a difficult player to lose considering how much he’s done for the team this year, moving around and excelling at every position. Elbow injuries can be very tricky for offensive linemen and Laken Tomlinson had this to say afterward “It’s tough. Prayers to AVT. The kid is a hell of a player. Everything he sacrifices on the field, I mean, it just sucks having him go down like that.” - The hope is that AVT won’t miss significant time, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t miss a bit of time.
The irony here of course is that the Jets were already down a player with Elijah Moore staying in New Jersey after requesting a trade. With Davis and Hall going down, it stands to reason that he would have been a heavy feature in the game on Sunday had he stayed patient. Instead, the Jets had to struggle through, and while I agree this was an “ugly” win as many are stating, it was also a character win. When you lose your OT1, RB1, and one of your better wide receivers before the half, and still go on to win, that says a lot about your team.
The Jets needed the defense to step up, and you can’t step up much more than limiting the opposing team to 9 points. Before we get to the defense though I think it would be strange to not focus on the offensive struggles. My concern over the last few weeks was centered around the Jets becoming overly reliant on a single player (Hall), and we saw the danger of that yesterday with the Jets unable to move the ball once Hall left the game.
New York managed just 10 first downs all afternoon as opposed to the 21 Denver put on the board, and the Jets converted just 3/14 third down opportunities, that’s simply not good enough and most weeks will lose you the football game. You can’t rely on your defense to pitch a basic shutout for three quarters every week.
Zach Wilson struggled and while he was under pressure too much, he missed some wide-open throws, he seemed indecisive with his reads and bailed out of the pocket too quickly. The positive in all of this is Zach didn’t force any turnovers, although he had a few turnover-worthy plays to his name. This is the first time since 2010 the Jets have played 3 straight games without a giveaway.
With Hall missing the Jets are going to have to throw the ball more, and as a result, they’re going to need their QB to do more. I’m not panicking about Zach yet, but we really haven’t seen a huge amount of growth this year so far and I think not pointing out the issues and struggles would be just burying your head in the sand.
Saying that the offense was never able to get into a rhythm considering all the yellow laundry that was flying. The Jets had 11 penalties which cost them 85 yards, and while they weren’t all on the offensive side of the ball, the majority were. We’ll be taking a look at the penalties and the biggest offenders in tomorrow’s stat pack, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.
For as bad as the offense was, the defense was phenomenal. Not just good, they were outstanding, led by the secondary which is quickly becoming one of the best secondaries in the NFL. The Broncos were forced to throw the ball 46 times and they completed just 24, Brett Rypien received good protection for much of the afternoon but struggled to find his receivers with the Jet’s blanket coverage. It was also another game where the Jets have not allowed a passing touchdown.
I’m running out of things to say about Sauce, he’s a rookie who’s playing like a veteran. He had numerous pass defenses yesterday, two of which came in the end zone to break up touchdowns. The 4th quarter PBU saved the game for the Jets and capped off an impressive afternoon. According to Next Gen Stats Sauce was targeted 9 times against Denver and he allowed 3 catches for just 8 yards. When asked about that 4th quarter PBU Sauce said “I pride myself on being the best teammate I can be, in whatever way, I knew my teammates were counting on me when the ball was in the air, I knew I had to step up and make a play”.
Not sure if that was a small dig at Elijah Moore, or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.
Sauce’s performance have caught the eye of fellow corner DJ Reed who said: "He's ready for this, man. If we didn't go by rookies, second, third, fourth, fifth year, you wouldn't be able to tell he's a rookie out there. He's playing like a savvy veteran who's been in the league for multiple years. He's elite."
Overall it was a team effort on defense, Joyner came up with the big interception and Jordan Whitehead also got his hands on one that he couldn’t bring down. Mosley had an interception that was overturned (looked OK to me) and the run defense turned up when they needed to, limiting both Gordon and Murray to 3.0 yards per attempt. If we’re going to mention Sauce we need to mention Reed who had another outstanding game, including an absolute stick in the first quarter which rocked Jeudy to his core.
Some people will point to the fact that the Broncos were playing without Russell Wilson, but considering how he’s played this year I’m not sure that was much of an advantage for the Jets. Wilson’s issues have been seeing the center of the field and that’s where the Jets are weakest, mainly because their boundary coverage is so good. So if anything, Rypien did a nice job at points working over the middle, rookie tight end Greg Dulcich had 6 catches for 51 yards.
A special mention also needs to go to the special teams who were outstanding yesterday. Braden Mann had to punt 8 times and he constantly pinned the Broncos deep. Justin Hardee was excellent on coverage and Greg Zuerlein was perfect in difficult conditions. It’s nice to be able to rely on a special teams unit and not have heart palpitations every time you line up for a field goal. The Jets have the defense and special teams, now they need to find that offense.
The Jets can now say they have one of the best defenses in the NFL, next up it’ll be New England and Mac Jones/Bailey Zappe, despite winning 4 games the Jets have opened as 1 point underdogs against New England, which suits me just fine considering we’re 5-2 and have been underdogs in every game this season.
The simple fact is it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t the best game we’ll play, but it was a victory. Last season we were able to celebrate victory Monday on just four occasions all season, we’re only in week 7 and we’ve already had five. We wanted progress for the team this year, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. I do know one thing, if the Jets want to keep this winning feeling, Zach Wilson is going to have to do so much more.