FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Ouch! Just call him Sack Wilson.
Quarterback Zach Wilson is getting sacked at an alarming rate — 15 in three games. In the last 35 years, the only Jets quarterbacks sacked more in a three-game span were Ken O’Brien (1987, 1989), Neil O’Donnell (1997) and the immortal Luke Falk (2019), who was basically a crash-test dummy as a stand-in for Sam Darnold during the latter’s bout with mononucleosis. O’Brien had it the worst — 19 sacks during the ’87 beatdown.
At his current pace, Wilson would finish with 85, blowing past David Carr’s NFL record (76), set with the expansion Houston Texans in 2002.
The natural reaction is to blame the offensive line, but the Jets’ sack story goes deeper than the five big guys up front. Some of it falls on Wilson, who has a tendency to hold the ball too long. That has to change or else it will shorten his life expectancy as an NFL quarterback.
Time to worry?
“Not yet, but there’s concern that if it keeps up, yeah, for sure,” coach Robert Saleh said.
Wilson has to realize that sometimes he can’t wait for the play to develop, and that he might need to skip progressions and get to his checkdown option if he senses immediate pressure. He’s one of only four quarterbacks averaging at least 3.0 seconds from snap-to-pass. When taking 4.0 or more seconds to throw, his sack total is nine — most in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
In 2012, the Jets had a similar problem with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, prompting then-coach Rex Ryan to install a buzzer system at practice. If they didn’t deliver the ball in 2.5 seconds, the buzzer sounded. Some players thought it was funny, reminding them of dogs being zapped by an invisible fence.
The current staff isn’t going to that extreme with Wilson. The coaches are simply hammering the fundamentals, trying to fine-tune his footwork and eye placement. They see progress in practice, but now he has to take it to the game. The objective: Quick, safe passes.
“When there’s an opportunity to gut the defense,” Saleh said, “then you pull out your knife and you gut the defense.”
2. Woe coordinator: Mike LaFleur is finding out why his position is one of the toughest gigs in the NFL. He’s the team’s eighth offensive coordinator in the last 11 years, and he’s already catching heat because of the abysmal start by the offense. The man is entitled to a honeymoon, especially with a rookie quarterback, but there are adjustments that need to be made.
The Jets version of the West Coast offense is predicated on the running game, play-action passing and designed rollouts. In last week’s loss, the Jets did none of that. LaFleur admittedly gave up too soon on the run and he didn’t call a single play that allowed Wilson to get outside the pocket. Basically, Wilson was a drop-back passer, neutralizing one of his strengths — the ability to throw on the move. The team has called only 25 play-action passes in three games, 25th in the league.
LaFleur’s job is to put Wilson in the best position to succeed. He can do that by getting back to the staples of the offense and incorporating some up-tempo possessions into the game plan. It’s too soon to get down on LaFleur, a first-time coordinator, but the offense shouldn’t look like it’s playing uphill every week.
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3. Maye day! Maye day! Get ready for a month of rampant trade speculation. Safety Marcus Maye and wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Denzel Mims are sure to emerge in the rumor mill as the Nov. 2 deadline nears, especially if the Jets are out of contention. Maye and Crowder are coming off unpleasant contract experiences in the offseason and Mims is frustrated because he can’t get on the field.
Maye’s agent, Erik Burkhardt, fired a salvo on Twitter, noting his client will be recovered from an ankle injury by the trading deadline — a heads up to teams that might be interested in a 28-year-old safety with the ability to play anywhere on the field. Maye wants out because he fears another franchise tag in the offseason. Even if the Jets agree to deal him, it won’t be easy because of his salary — $10.6 million guaranteed. By Nov. 2, he still will have more than $6 million remaining, a big number for another team to take on.
The sense I get is that the Maye story is only beginning. Crowder ($5 million base) is the one most likely to get traded. Mims isn’t going anywhere, based on what general manager Joe Douglas is telling people.
4. Like Mike: He’s overshadowed by Wilson & Co., but he just might be the most impressive player in the Jets’ rookie class. We’re talking about nickelback Michael Carter II, who stepped into a tough job and hasn’t committed any major blunders. He’s steady in coverage and the third-leading tackler on the team. It looks like they found a good one in the fifth round.
“I really feel like he has exceeded our expectations,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “He’s doing an exceptional job back there. He has become a real NFL corner, a real NFL nickel.”
5. Musical corners: The Jets are taking an unconventional approach at cornerback, rotating rookie Brandin Echols and Javelin Guidry at the CB2 spot. Ulbrich acknowledged it’s the first time he’s been involved with a cornerback rotation. Cornerbacks coach Tony Oden hatched the plan; the idea is to give game experience to the young players. It underscores the player-development aspect to this season.
6. Did you know? When it comes to screen passes, the Jets are terrible. They have attempted six screens for a net gain of 1 yard, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. That’s an average of 0.17 yards per attempt.
7. Q x 2: The Williams brothers — Quinnen and Quincy — are spending a lot of time together on and off the field. They both start on defense and they live together. Quincy said they watch a lot of film, talking through how they can play off each other on blitzes. It reminds him of the year they played together in high school.
“It’s good to have a person to go through everything with,” Quincy said.
8. Remember when? Sunday is a homecoming for Tennessee Titans receivers coach Rob Moore, who played with the Jets from 1990 to 1994. The Hempstead, New York product was a terrific wide receiver who finished his career with 9,368 receiving yards, most of them with the Arizona Cardinals. He was a first-round supplemental pick in 1990, and the Jets traded him away.
Some things haven’t changed.
9. Beating the bushes: More than a week ago, the Jets signed former Detroit Lions fullback Nick Bawden to the practice squad. It hardly caused a ripple in the transaction world, but there’s a story there.
The Jets pounced on Bawden before he participated in the HUB Football tryout camp last Wednesday in Carson, California. More than 70 free agents attended the pro day-style event, one-stop shopping for NFL scouts. HUB Football is the brainchild of super agent Don Yee, who represents Tom Brady. The Jets, like a lot of teams, pay close attention to it.
“It’s a more competitive environment than the typical combine-type workout,” said HUB GM Mike Williams, a former Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers executive. “It’s the perfect opportunity for scouts to see a blend of different players.”
As for Bawden, he’s a player to watch, as he’s the only pure fullback among the 69 players on the roster and practice squad.
10. The last word: “People should be frustrated. They want to see success. The fans want to be part of a winner, and they don’t want the season to be over in September — and it’s not. There are still 14 left.” — Saleh on the 0-3 start