Jets’ ‘unacceptable’ defensive failures continue to doom entire team

Zach Wilson appears to be medically cleared and ready to return under center for the Jets this week when they play in Pittsburgh.

Great news for all participants.

« I think it will provide some motivation, » linebacker CJ Mosley said Monday of the second-year starting quarterback’s impending return from a left knee injury that sidelined Wilson since Game 1 of the preseason. -season. « Zach is ready to go out. »

Yes, but is the defense ready to do its part to make Wilson’s comeback a success?

The Jets’ defense through three games — they’re 1-2 and ranked 26th in the league in points allowed and 16th in yards allowed — has been underwhelming so far relative to the high expectations that come in the season. There just haven’t been enough hard-hitting plays made at critical moments. It was a stark difference in Sunday’s 27-12 loss to the Bengals.

The Bengals offense burned the Jets defense on third down, converting 7 of 14. The Bengals offense’s most decisive plays came on third down.

Cincinnati’s first touchdown came on a third-and-one of 12, with Joe Burrow breaking free from the pass rush and finding running back Samaje Perine in an open spot on the goal line for a 7- 0 on the opening drive.

Tyler Boyd breaks free from several Jets defensemen for a touchdown.
Tyler Boyd breaks free from several Jets defensemen for a 56-yard touchdown.
Getty Images

Then came the killer brutalizing the passer penalty on defensive tackle John Franklin-Myers on an incomplete third-and-9 pass that would have forced a punt and given the Jets the ball just 7-6.

Three plays later, on the third and 7, Burrow hit Tyler Boyd on a 56-yard touchdown for a 14-6 lead thanks to a blatant missed tackle by safety Jordan Whitehead.

The Bengals’ third and final touchdown came on — you guessed it — a third down play. On the third and on goal from the Jets’ 5-yard line, Burrow connected with top receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who was left uncovered in the end zone while cornerback Sauce Gardner and Mosley were inexplicably covering running back Joe Mixon. away from the game.

It was a clear communication blunder, the second in as many weeks by the defense that led to touchdowns.

This led to frustrated cornerback DJ Reed, who came to the Jets this offseason after playing with the 49ers and Seahawks (the two winning organizations), saying after the game that a meeting of players and coaches was intended to resolve communication issues.

“Mental errors are unacceptable,” Reed said.

Head coach Robert Saleh called Monday « the story of our defense right now » his failures on third down.

« Third down is where we gave up all three touchdowns [to the Bengals] » Saleh said. “Critical mistakes at the most inopportune times. It’s bad luck. We have to find a way to not be so damn snakebitten where it explodes in our face.

It’s more than just being « bitten by a snake, » though.

While the Jets have received strong contributions from a number of players – such as Reed and Gardner at cornerback, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who is having a terrific season, and his brother, linebacker Quincy, who was the best player on the court on Sunday before being knocked out with a sprained ankle – other players who thought they were big contributors didn’t.

Pass rusher Carl Lawson, who just suffered an Achilles injury in 2021, was virtually invisible with just a half sack, five quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss.

Both safeties – Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner – fell short of expectations. According to Pro Football Focus, Whitehead has missed six tackles in three games and has a 150.3 passer rating against him. Joyner, meanwhile, has a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on passes thrown his way and has four missed tackles.

Robert Saleh reacts during the Jets' loss to the Bengals.
Robert Saleh reacts during the Jets’ loss to the Bengals.
Bill Kostrun/New York Post

It was supposed to be one of the team’s most improved positions this offseason, with the addition of Whitehead and the return of Joyner from injury.

Mosley, the defense leader and a team captain, knows it has to be better.

« We have the right players – the right young players and the right veterans – to do these things, » he said.

They better start doing those things Sunday in Pittsburgh because Wilson, who hasn’t even played two full sets of preseason football, is going to need all the help he can get.

« It doesn’t matter who’s in there, » Mosley said of the quarterback. “We have to execute no matter what. We can have the best quarterback in the world… but if we don’t execute as a team, it won’t matter.

No truer word has been spoken.


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