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With rookie OC Mike LaFleur calling the plays, Jets look uncoordinated on offense

New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur against

New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur against the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

Contrary to what it might look like, the Adam Gase era is over.

After years of anemic offense that eventually led to Sam Darnold relinquishing his title of "quarterback of the future" for the friendlier pastures of Carolina, the Jets have a new young quarterback and a new coach. And, if the 0-3 start is any indication, another chance to squander the potential of another highly touted draft pick in Zach Wilson.

Of course, that’s the last thing that Robert Saleh and first-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur want to happen. But though Saleh certainly projects an air of calm — he said twice Monday that the Jets are merely in round one of a 15-round fight, and far from bloodied — there’s no doubt that they need to make changes, and significant ones, if they’re going to get any traction against the Titans Sunday. After last week’s 26-0 loss to the Broncos, their offense is dead last in the league in points scored and it’s not even close — 20 total points to the Bears’ 40.

They’re also 30th passing and 29th running, and have experienced some questionable play-calling that indicates this is far from just being on Wilson, who’s already been sacked 15 times and thrown seven interceptions.

Part of that, at least, has to be on LaFleur, who is still finding his footing, and hasn’t used some of Wilson’s greatest attributes — his ability to throw on the run, for instance — to their full potential. The running game, too, was not a factor against the Broncos, who have one of the better pass rushes in the game. Saleh was asked Monday what he can do to help his rookie offensive coordinator, and it appears to be a work in progress.

"We talk every day," he said. "We talk about just the overall look of the offense. What are you trying to achieve there? What are you trying to achieve with on a play-to-play basis? Obviously, any time a play doesn’t work it’s a bad call. It is what it is. If some of those plays worked, if we connect on some of those checkdowns, if we protect a little bit better, then everyone’s celebrating the play-caller. You go back, you don’t want to make any rash decisions, you’re going to study the tape and pore it over for the last six or eight hours. If it’s play-calling, it’s play-calling, we’re not afraid to admit that either."

At the same time, "it’s not like our faces are broken or anything," he said. "We’ve just got to continue to work and try to find a way to get better."

Saleh pointed out that it’s a young group — and young groups have been known to make significant jumps in-season — and that he’s been encouraged by practice weeks.

"This league is about precision," he said. "When you get to game day, being off that much can exacerbate an explosive, you can look really, really bad. You trust in the week of preparation, trusting everything that you’re putting into it and then just taking it to the football field and just letting it loose. It’s a young group and it’s just got to find a way to let it loose and trust your preparation."

Rookie running back Michael Carter, one of the few bright spots so far, also indicated that it wasn’t quite Saleh’s fault, or LaFleur’s, for that matter. "At the end of the day, I think a lot of people are harder on play-callers, coaches, but . . . the players have to make plays," he said. "It just all goes back to execution and trusting ourselves."

"Effort isn’t going to win the game — not effort alone. It’s a matter of execution."

It is, though the Jets will have to figure it out how to put it together sooner rather than later if they want this season to break form from all the ones that came before it.

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