The Jets are navigating on a tightrope. They believe in their young players and are excited about their future, but the Jets also want to win now.
“We’re young at skill spots, we’re young at critical positions,” Robert Saleh said. “We’ve got to go grow quick.”
The young guys aren’t the only ones who made mistakes in the Jets’ 15-point loss to the Ravens on Sunday. The veterans had more than their share of struggles. That’s what makes the performance troubling.
Since the game, though, Saleh has been expressing more urgency. It was only Week 1, but it felt like more of a statement of how far away the Jets are from being a functioning offense and overall competitive team.
That’s a reflection on Saleh and his coaching staff, and he came out swinging at the critics on Monday.
Saleh said, “We want to win, and we want to win now,” and he’s “taking receipts on all the people who continually mock” the Jets. Saleh, 4-14 as the Jets' coach, was mocked on social media and sports radio for the receipts remark.
The defense played well early against Baltimore and showed stark improvement from last season, but they gave up what Saleh called “three explosive plays.” The offense was atrocious, totaling nine points on 84 offensive snaps. Their lone touchdown came on snap 84.
Where was the creativity from offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur? Where was the tight end usage? Tyler Conklin was targeted seven times in 77 snaps and C.J. Uzomah wasn’t thrown to at all.
The Jets made numerous mistakes that hurt or killed drives. Immediately after the game, Saleh specifically mentioned rookie back Breece Hall, who fumbled in the red zone, and Garrett Wilson. The rookie receiver made a series of moves to try and get enough yards for a first down, but he came up short of the marker.
“Just stick your shoulder down instead of making the extra move,” Saleh said.
Five first- or second-year players started Sunday and nine played at least 30% of the snaps. The most important one, second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, returns from a knee injury in Week 4 at the earliest.
Saleh said the coaches need to help the young players “accelerate” their growth, and the players will learn from their mistakes.
“These guys are first-timers, a lot of them,” Saleh said. “Even the second-year guys, they’re still pups.”
The veterans that the Jets are relying on to balance this young roster are not exempt from criticism after Sunday’s game.
Joe Flacco, the 37-year-old quarterback, looked his age when he was under pressure and made some poor decisions with the football.
Flacco acknowledged he should have thrown to his checkdown receiver more. He attempted 59 passes, which earned some razzing from Peyton Manning during ESPN’s "ManningCast" for Monday Night Football
“The Jets threw it 59 times and that worked out well for them. They looked good,” Manning said. “You can’t throw it 59 times in the opener. You can’t do it. It’s illegal. Guaranteed you’re not going to win.”
Other veterans on both sides of the ball hurt the Jets.
Pro Bowl left guard Laken Tomlinson, in his Jets debut, allowed eight pressures, according to Pro Football Focus, Corey Davis dropped a third-down pass early in the game. Conklin fumbled the ball near the red zone. Garrett Wilson recovered it, but the ball went backward, negating what would have been a first down.
Safeties Jordan Whitehead and LaMarcus Joyner had some breakdowns in the back end. One led to a 55-yard touchdown catch by Rashod Bateman. Joyner also had a costly 32-yard pass interference penalty. Baltimore scored three plays later.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a field goal and extra point. Braden Mann shanked a 20-yard punt. Jacob Martin was flagged for holding on a kickoff return, forcing the Jets to start a drive from their 9-yard line.
The Jets have much more to worry about than the young pups growing up.
“Collectively as a group, we got to figure out how to win and figure out how to win quick,” Saleh said, “coaches included.”
After Mann’s rough outing, the Jets worked out four punters on Tuesday: Michael Palardy, Ty Long, Joseph Charlton and Jake Julien.