The weakest aspect of this Jets team already has lived up to its billing and more. It’s been a surprise to no one that the Jets’ quarterback play since the fifth snap of this season has been awful, detrimental and debilitating to the organization’s aims. Even Zach Wilson himself took his demotion from starting quarterback to third-stringer this week with knowing acceptance and whatever grace he could muster. His comments after the change to Tim Boyle made you wonder if part of him was starting to question what was taking Robert Saleh so long to make the move.
Asking Boyle to salvage this season is unreasonable and unfair. He may not be as bad as Wilson, but he certainly has his own ceiling that will be nearly impossible to break through.
No, it’s up to the strength of this roster to return to its place of prominence if the Jets are going to emerge from this Black Friday game against the Dolphins as one of the hot must-have items this holiday season (as opposed to being relegated to the league’s bargain bin with the rest of the teams no one wants anything to do with).
It’s up to that championship-caliber defense we always hear about to show what it can do.
It’s up to them to rise to the standards it set for itself.
That’s no easy task against a Dolphins team that zips around the field with unmatched speed and precision. Tua Tagovailoa is completing almost 70% of his passes for 2,934 yards, 21 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 106.0 rating. Tyreek Hill leads the team with 79 receptions for 1,222 yards and nine TDs. Jaylen Waddle has 44 catches for 577 yards and three TDs. Raheem Mostert leads a rushing attack that averages 143 yards, second most in the league.
“It’s a tremendous challenge,” Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said this week. “There’s nothing I can say to you that you don’t already know. They’re fast, they’re coached really well, they play hard, they have a style that shines every time they touch the grass. We’re going to have to play really, really well.”
Unlike, say, last week, when the Jets were torched for 32 points by the Bills.
“It just wasn’t good enough,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said of that performance. “Pretty much that simple. We all took our turns getting beat. This one hurt . . . It’s been a while since our defense got exposed like that, so it was a tough pill for me to swallow.”
“Disappointed,” Ulbrich said of that result. “There were four or five plays, a couple plays from an execution standpoint that we wish we could have back, and then a couple plays from a penalty standpoint. It just wasn’t indicative of who we are. The four or five plays, they can’t happen. And I’ve been talking about this for the last couple of weeks, these ‘except for’ plays, these ‘except for’ drives. To be the defense we want to be, that just can’t be a part of our DNA. Just can’t be.”
To be the team the Jets want to be, it certainly can’t be.
The Jets’ offensive woes and quarterbacking conundrums have given the defense some shelter for most of this season. They’ve played well enough to win in many of their games, even the ones in which they didn’t get the W.
It has created an air of sympathy for them. Those poor guys, giving it their all, unable to overcome their own offense’s inabilities. But they’ve also had a few flops that have damaged the prospects just as much as any interception, fumble or drop on the decidedly weaker side of the ball. Those have gone mostly overlooked in assessing this team.
That pass now has officially expired.
While this season approaches its most perilous moment to date on Friday with a division game that could knock the Jets further down the standings and nearly out of the playoff picture — a potential fourth straight loss after heading into their bye week soaring from a win over the Eagles and then edging the Giants — it isn’t quite over. A sliver of hope still remains, but it has to be maintained with a win on Friday.
The Jets’ offense wound up being exactly what everyone thought it would be. That doesn’t figure to change all that much despite new names atop the depth chart.
It’s time for the defense to be exactly what it thought it would be and carry these Jets on Friday and for the rest of the season.