To say the least, the Jets are the same team they have been for the past three seasons: a competent defense with little to no protection on the offensive line. While the excitement of a new quarterback and coaching staff was supposed to dominate the headlines of this past Sunday, it was again the lackluster performance from the offensive line that has taken over the news cycle. The frustration that stemmed from the first half of play was somewhat alleviated in the second half thanks to comeback led by first year man Zach Wilson, which was ultimately cut short.
While there was plenty to be annoyed about after the conclusion of Sunday's game, there were also a few positives to consider as the season progresses. Here's a deep dive into the cons and pros list (yes, reverse order) of Week 1:
Zach Wilson (1st Half): To say Zach Wilson's first half of football was underwhelming would be an understatement. 4 main statistics I will be looking at for Wilson will be his completions with more than 2.5 seconds to throw, completions under duress, completions 15+ yards through the air, and completions on third down. The results are as follows:
Completions with 2.5s of time: 1-11 with an INT
Completions under duress: 0-7
Completions 15+ yards through the air: 0-3
Completions on third down: 0-4
Again, these are first half stats, but bad nonetheless. After 30 minutes of football I was seriously contemplating my fandom to the New York Jets, but that isn't anything new. The maturity and understanding of the offense that Zach displayed in the preseason seemed to disappear at the start of the game, and he truly looked like a rookie for two quarters.
Offensive Line (obviously): The struggle that has plagued the Jets for nearly have a decade now has yet to go away at the start of the 2021 season. George Fant started the game at Right Tackle, and after his performance Sunday, it's safe to say that he can comfortably ride the bench for the remaining 16 games. Fant finished with a pass block grade of 48.9 and an overall grade of 60.1, both the lowest grades of the starting offensive linemen for the Jets. Once Becton went down with his knee injury, and Moses took over the Right Tackle position, he boasted a PFF pass block grade of 81.9, which (hopefully) has put to bed the debate over who should be starting at Right Tackle.
As I just mentioned, Mekhi Becton, who wasn't playing very stellar on Sunday, went down with what is assumed to be a strained MCL in his knee. This is awful for the Jets on a number of levels, but none more than the fact we have to see more of George Fant and his abysmal pass blocking going forward.
If Becton is out for a long duration of time, Wilson is in big trouble going forward.
Zach Wilson (2nd Half): Whatever issues plagued Zach Wilson in the first half against Carolina seemingly disappeared for the last two quarters. Yes, Wilson was still unable to settle in the pocket and was running for his life, but the statistics I mentioned earlier greatly improved:
Completions with 2.5s of time: 8-9 with a TD
Completions under duress: 3-6
Completions 15+ yards in the air: 4-5
Completions on third down: 3-5
Wilson almost completed a Week 1 comeback in his first career NFL game, and if it wasn't for 5 dropped passes total, with 3 going for 40+ yards, this game could have had a different outcome.
Ultimately, Zach Wilson finished 20-37 with 2 TDs and an INT. Not bad, not great. I see a nice relationship building between Corey Davis and Wilson, as Davis went for 5 catches resulting in 97 yards and 2 TDs. Hopefully Jets fans can see second half Zach Wilson for the majority of the season.
Cornerback Play: One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2021 season for the Jets was what to expect from the secondary, specifically the CB position. Over the course of 60 minutes, Jets cornerbacks only allowed 77 yards through the air, 9 catches, and 4 first downs total. For a core mainly made up of second year players and rookies, yesterday was a stellar and encouraging debut.
Matt Ammendola: Early in the game the Jets lost their "star" punter Braden Mann to what looked like a knee injury. Without another punter on the active roster, the Jets had to resort to using UDFA kicker Matt Ammendola for the punt duties. On his first attempt, Ammendola boomed a 74 YARD PUNT (!!!) that pinned Carolina within their own 20. This isn't a super big deal, but Ammendola deserves some credit for a pretty special debut in a position he has never played. Does this raise questions about Braden Mann's job? We'll see.
The Jets make their home debut against the ever relevant New England Patriots and their very own rookie QB, Mac Jones. The Pats are also coming off a loss, and will be looking to bounce back in a big way against a now banged up Jets offensive line. It may be a few weeks before the Jets see their first win, but Zach Wilson and the rest of the bunch will be looking to take some of the second half magic into the rest of the season moving forward.