So, the Jets are in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with a chance to take over the division, yes, the division with a victory over the Patriots on Sunday.
If the Jets are to win on Sunday there are three major things that need fixing:
Offense slow to start
In 11 first-quarter possessions, spanning five games, the Jets have seven three-and-outs, missed one field goal and scored one touchdown. Against the Browns on Sunday, quarterback Josh McCown said he couldn’t find a rhythm and he wasn’t helped by penalties.
On the Jets first possession of the game, rookie defensive end Myles Garrett sacked McCown, getting past two linemen in the process, on third down. The second possession the Jets were penalized three times, twice negating a seven-yard run by Bilal Powell and a six-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse.
“We started slow, they mixed the [defensive coverages]. They did a good job of doing some different things,” McCown said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. “We had some penalties early and we got behind the sticks. The second drive out there that kind of killed that one. We got to start faster. We got to figure out a way to get that done and for the most part its things we can do to be better, its execution.”
In the middle of the game, the Jets went to a no-huddle offense. It allows McCown to get the play from the sideline faster and he can examine the defense a little longer. That might help against the Patriots.
“I just don’t think we were quite there after that first quarter and the penalties set us back,” Kearse said. “But after the first quarter we were able to get some things going. As far as tempo wise, I don’t know if that would be a factor of having more success but I feel like it’s something we could incorporate.”
Where is the pass rush?
Before the Browns game, the general feeling was the Jets could bring down rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and force him into mistakes. He was sacked once and threw an interception. His replacement Kevin Hogan wasn’t sacked but was picked off after taking a hit on a blitz. The two best pass rushers, defensive ends Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, combined for four tackles and zero quarterback hits. The Jets’ sacks came from strong side linebacker Demario Davis and his hit on Hogan forced a turnover. As a whole, the Jets hit the quarterback six times, four from Davis and two more from outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins. Todd Bowles said opponents’ double-teaming Williams and Wilkerson is the reason they can’t get to the quarterback.
No quarterback likes to get hit, just ask McCown, but Tom Brady isn’t one to deal with it too kindly. In both of the Patriots’ losses, Brady was sacked six times taken down three more times in the victory over Tampa Bay last Thursday night. On the season, Brady has been sacked 16 times. Last season, through five games, Brady was sacked 10 times.
The Jets need to press the pocket because Brady isn’t that mobile.
“They’re playing hard. I don’t worry about their sacks,” Bowles said. “Their sacks will come, but they’re playing hard. They’re taking a lot of doubles up for everybody else, but there are certain schemes that require different things, and they are doing those different things.”
Cut down on penalties
You can say a lot of things about Bowles’ teams but taking penalties isn’t one of them. In 2015 and 2016, the Jets were tied for the fewest penalties in the NFL with 189. Now? Well during the three-game win streak the Jets were flagged 29 times, something that’s way too high for a team with such a small margin for error, especially when facing the Patriots.
“Some of them are ticky-tacky,” Bowles said. “Some were legit, some you can question. Either way we got to get them down.”