New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh reacts during the...

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh reacts during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 25, 2022. Credit: Noah K. Murray

The expected return of Zach Wilson won’t solve all of the Jets’ problems or save them from themselves.

The Jets are 1-2 and one miraculous and improbable comeback from being winless. Bad penalties, dropped passes, poor line protection, breakdowns on defense, no resistance on third down and a lack of a pass rush have victimized the Jets thus far. Wilson’s presence can’t fix all of that.

“I think it would bring us some motivation,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “So to speak, it really doesn’t matter who’s at that spot. We have to execute regardless. You can have the best quarterback in the world or worst quarterback in the world or anywhere in between, if we’re not executing as a team it won’t matter.”

The Jets’ loss to the Bengals on Sunday was troubling because of all the physical and mental breakdowns.

All three of Cincinnati’s touchdowns were scored on third down. On one, receiver Ja’Marr Chase was wide open in the end zone after Sauce Gardner and Quincy Williams failed to communicate.

The Jets also hurt themselves with 15-yard personal foul penalties. The two on defense (John Franklin-Myers and LaMarcus Joyner) led to points for the Bengals. The one on offense (Corey Davis) may have cost the Jets a touchdown. Davis grabbed Eli Apple’s face mask in the end zone. The Jets ended up kicking a field goal.

“It’s learning to sacrifice what you want at this very moment for what you’re trying to achieve in the future,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “We’ve got to play above the neck in those situations.

“They’re going to go away as time goes on. Part of it is crappy luck. There’s six or seven occasions every team is dealing with certain things that can go one way or the other. We got to find a way to be not so darn snakebit where it explodes back in our face.”

The Jets are showing that despite all the improvements in the offseason and the roster upgrades that gave the organization and fan base hope for the season, they’re still failing to make the necessary plays to stay in or win games.

Rookie running back Breece Hall, who has had some good moments, had two drops on Sunday. The piecemealed offensive line is not protecting well enough. Joe Flacco has been under pressure plenty, which has to be a concern with Wilson expected back from a knee injury to play Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The Jets can’t afford to put the player Saleh called “the future of the organization” in harm’s way.

The defense remains a problem. This was supposed to be Saleh’s bread-and-butter, but the Jets continue to be a letdown on that side of the ball and continue to let up explosive plays.

The Bengals scored a 56-yard touchdown after Tyler Boyd bounced off of Jordan Whitehead. In Week 1, Baltimore’s Rashod Bateman had a 55-yard touchdown reception.

Saleh is more concerned with the Jets’ third-down defense, which  is allowing offenses to convert 51.3% of their third downs. Only Arizona is worse. Seven of the 10 touchdowns the Jets have allowed this season came on third down.

“Our first and second down defense is pretty good. Third down is an issue that we’ve got to get fixed,” Saleh said. “Otherwise, the structure of the defense, everything that’s happening in the run game, stopping the run has been better than it was a year ago. Our first- and second-down defense is better than a year ago. We got to get third down fixed.”

Wilson’s return is important for the franchise. He needs to play, and the Jets need to continue to evaluate whether he is their franchise quarterback.

The Jets, however, have so many other things to fix and address.

“We have to go make that play, not make that penalty,” Mosley said. “Go catch that pass. Go get off the field. It’s just going to come down to those little plays and executing in the fourth quarter.”

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