Jets talent infusion fails in disastrous first impression
The optimism seeped in.
Jets fans arrived early and even sang the national anthem as Robert Saleh publicly urged on Friday.
The Jets coach yearned for the season opener to be electric and there was, indeed, an electricity in the September air that came with the arrival of so many new talents on the roster.
This Jets team was going to be so much better than it has been in the past few years (OK, too) because of this infusion of talent – both young and established.
And yet, the sober reality can be read on the lit scoreboards of the MetLife stadium in the late afternoon: Ravens 24, Jets 9.
Marmot Festival in September. More losses for a franchise that has won 27 over the past six seasons and won just one season opener in that span.
The most disappointing thing about the day: So many of these newcomers were key contributors to the botched loss.
There was kicker Greg Zuerlein, nicknamed « Greg the Leg » for his powerful right leg who produced field goals for 58, 59, 60 and 61 yards in 152 NFL games, giving up four points against a team that the Jets absolutely could. unable to afford charity.
With the Jets trailing 3-0 in the second quarter and their struggling offense, Zuerlein, who entered this season with an 82.2% completion rate on field goals and 95.8% on extra points , snagged his first field goal attempt as a Jet went from 45 yards and later missed an extra point.
There was tight end Tyler Conklin, who was brought in here to reinforce a position that has been a total dead zone for the team in recent years, fumbling the ball back after making a 6-yard catch on third and the 5 for seemingly keeping a potential touchdown drive alive and instead forcing the Jets to settle for a field goal in the second quarter.
There was safety Jordan Whitehead, who was signed out of Tampa Bay after being part of a Super Bowl champion there, losing track of receiver Devin Duvernay in the end zone on a pass from 17 yards from Lamar Jackson in the third and 10 for a 17-3 lead at Baltimore in the third quarter.
There was rookie running back Breece Hall, who fumbled just three times in 800 career touches at Iowa State, fumbling for the ball at Baltimore’s 16-yard line three plays into the fourth quarter trailing 24-3 .
Then there was tight end CJ Uzomah, signed after helping the Bengals get to the Super Bowl last season while throwing 49 receptions for 493 yards and scoring five touchdowns, in witness protection. He was barely on the court and didn’t target a single one of Joe Flacco’s 59 pass attempts.
So much for tight ends being “a quarterback’s best friend” as Flacco was under the strain of the pass rush for much of the day. Uzomah was 0-for-0 and Conklin had three receptions for 11 yards and the fumble before catching a 3-yard touchdown with a minute left in a 24-3 game.
« I know everyone thinks, ‘Even old s-, » Conklin said. « It’s not the same old s—. » We have a good team. Everyone can feel it. We have good players. We have good coaches. Everything will be alright. »
They have to prove it. Until they do, it will remain the same old… well, you know.
To most of the new culprits’ credit, they were responsible for their respective roles in the loss.
“I had a fumble on third and 5 in the red zone and it could have been a touchdown,” Conklin said. « I don’t care if it rains or shines [defensive play], you just can’t make s – like that – especially in the red zone. You don’t want to let your team down like that. When you do, it hurts. You just have to look in the mirror and make sure it won’t happen again. »
Hall, too, lamented his gaffe.
“Coaches always preach to me that after breaking a [tackle], someone else comes and hits him,” he said. “It’s just a learning experience that I have to bring to the next game, because I know I’m going to break more tackles and get more catches. It is very frustrating. I’m not used to it. I don’t usually do that. I don’t accept it.
« I’m going to watch the movie. It’s going to hurt, but I’m going to have amnesia next week. This will not happen again. »
Until what happened on Sunday to dampen the enthusiasm of this franchise and its fans so hungry for success stops happening, the Jets will continue to live with a credibility problem.
It is up to them to change it.