Jets coach Robert Saleh turned to a boxing analogy Monday to describe the state of his 0-3 team.
“We’re three games in. It’s Round 1 of a 15-round fight,” Saleh said. “It’s not like our faces are broken or anything. We’ve just got to continue to work and try to find a way to get better.”
Their faces may not be broken, but their offense looks like it is. If the Jets were a boxer, they would be one who has taken a lot of punches in the early rounds. In Sunday’s 26-0 loss to the Broncos, the offense looked inept. The group managed just 162 yards and had only 55 at halftime. The Jets are averaging a league-worst 6.7 points per game and are 30th in yards per game.
Saleh has spoken several times about how most games in the NFL are one-score games in the fourth quarter decided by who makes a play. But the Jets have been out of the game well before the fourth quarter in each of the last two weeks. Saleh said he never felt like the 25-6 loss to the Patriots in Week 2 was a blowout because the Jets moved the ball but were doomed by Zach Wilson’s four interceptions. He acknowledged that the loss to the Broncos was different.
“[Sunday] was disappointing,” Saleh said. “You do want these opportunities to be in the fourth quarter to see if we can make the plays. It just didn’t materialize. It happens to the best teams in the league. Green Bay is a championship roster and lost [38-3] to New Orleans. Sometimes you just get punched in the mouth. How you pick yourself up and how you get back to work on Monday and throughout the week preparing for the next week is all that matters.”
There is plenty of blame to go around for the Jets offensive issues. Much of it is falling on offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who is in his first year as a play-caller, and Wilson, the rookie quarterback from BYU. But receivers are struggling to get open, receivers and running backs dropped passes and the team failed to establish a rushing attack Sunday. The offensive line held up OK in pass protection but Wilson needs to get rid of the ball quicker.
Saleh emphasized that Wilson’s footwork and getting through his progressions are the key.
“When his footwork is clean and he progresses on the route, you can see why he was the No. 2 pick and why we think he’s going to have an unbelievable future,” Saleh said. “He’s got to gain more consistency and trust what he sees and progress, get the ball where he needs to go.”
As for LaFleur, Saleh said he talks to his offensive coordinator every day about their plan. On Sunday, LaFleur did not seem to have any answers.
“Obviously, anytime a play doesn’t work, it’s a bad call. It is what it is,” Saleh said. “Some of those plays work if we connect on some of those checkdowns; if we protect it a little bit better, then everyone’s celebrating the play call. You don’t want to make any rash decisions. You’ve got to study the tape. We’ve pored over it for the last six, seven, eight hours. If it’s play-calling, it’s play-calling. We’re not afraid to admit that either. “
Running back Michael Carter had a drop on a pass that looked like it could be a long gain and maybe even a touchdown.
“I should have caught the ball,” Carter said. “People can say the ball was tipped, but it really doesn’t matter. It was in my hands. I’ve made that catch 100,000 times. I dropped that one but I’ll make the next one.”
Carter knows that the Jets skill players need to start making plays for Wilson.
“I’ve never seen a quarterback win on his own. Even if he throws the ball, someone has to catch it,” Carter said. “It’s executing. When your number is called, it’s a beautiful opportunity. I think that type of mentality is something we’re building. We’re going to explode soon. I’m excited. We have the team to do it.”