From the outside looking in, the Jets' 26-0 loss to the Broncos Sunday was an unmitigated knockout – a team so metaphorically bloodied and bruised that one would be tempted to poke them to see if they were still alive. And it wasn’t just Sunday, but the game before that and the one before that, leading fans to already take to social media, worried that the season is over before it barely started.
But despite the crushing losses, Robert Saleh Monday instead painted the picture of a team that has merely sustained a flesh wound – and one that he believes will bounce back in Week 4 against the AFC South leading Titans.
"It’s three games in," he said in a Zoom conference with reporters. "It’s Round 1 of a 15-round fight, so 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…We don’t have any cuts yet, we’re not bleeding. We got a kidney punch and we got the wind knocked out of us but we’ll get our wind back."
Saleh’s confidence appeared to be founded on a belief that Zach Wilson is progressing daily, and will continue to get better as he becomes more confident – an absolute necessity as he tries to navigate a dysfunctional offense and his own vulnerability (lack of protection, along with Wilson’s hesitance, led him to get sacked five times Sunday).
There have been moments "you can see why he was the [second] pick and why we think he’s going to have an unbelievable future," Saleh said of the 22-year-old rookie. "He’s just got to gain more consistency and trust what he sees progress – get the ball where it needs to go."
"There are some good plays that we can take from yesterday but there are also a lot of teachable moments in terms of, once you hitch in this league, from a defensive perspective – we tell our D-line, it’s mandatory: If a quarterback hitches, he better smell your breath. If he takes two hitches, you better be on the ground. That’s the leaguewide talk, so for the quarterback to understand that two hitches is asking a lot of your protection. [Zach] will start to learn and he’ll start to figure out that he’s got to be able to access the checkdowns and start moving quicker."
Wilson, who has seven picks on the season, went 19-for-35 for 160 yards with two interceptions. He had no help from the run game, which totaled 43 yards, and had to struggle against some questionable playcalling, along with his own mistakes.
And even despite his optimism, Salehadmitted that Sunday hit harder than their 25-6 loss to the Patriots a week earlier.
"Yesterday was disappointing," he said. "I wasn’t as disappointed at New England, because I felt with New England, we did very well, we [were just] turning the ball over…Even in the third quarter, I was like, shoot, we’re moving the ball, let’s just piece it together. So it never felt like it was a blowout … [But] sometimes, you just get punched in the mouth, but how you pick yourself up, how you get back to work on Monday and how you prepare yourself for next week is all that matters."
Michael Carter, for his part, said that though the focus is on Wilson, the mounting losses aren’t on his shoulders alone. He, like Saleh, believes the Jets are on the brink of a breakthrough.
"I’ve never seen a quarterback just win on his own, ever and, at the end of the day, if he throws the ball, someone has to catch it. It comes down to executing, and whenever your number is called, it’s a beautiful opportunity," he said. "We’re going to explode soon. I’m excited. We have the team to do it."