Jets win underscores one of Joe Douglas’ biggest offseason tasks

The Jets notched their fourth win of the season on Sunday, a 26-21 victory over the dismal Jaguars. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:

1. This is not breaking news, but Sunday’s game underscored how much the Jets need to get Zach Wilson more help this offseason. It is tough to even evaluate him right now because of who he is throwing to. Jeff Smith had a big drop. Denzel Mims made a mistake on the fourth-down play at the end of the first half. Things would be better if he had Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and Jamison Crowder right now, but even that trio could use some help.

Joe Douglas needs to get Wilson two more playmakers this offseason. Ideally, he would get an impact tight end and another receiver who can give Wilson some help in his second year. It does not feel like Wilson has anyone who is making plays for him and helping him out. Wilson did a better job on Sunday of not waiting for players to get open and running when nothing was available, but you can’t live like that.

Zach Wilson (#2) during the Jets’ win over the Jaguars on Sunday.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Hopefully, the Jets can get Moore and Crowder back for the final two games so we can see Wilson with at least a few good weapons on the field to get a better idea of where he is at in his development. Right now, it feels unfair to evaluate what he is doing because of who is out there. His 102 passing yards on Sunday were underwhelming, but the Jets clearly wanted to lean on the running game with the top three receivers and two offensive linemen out. Wilson made several nice plays — the 52-yard run, another run on fourth down and the third-and-9 conversion to Braxton Berrios late in the game were all clutch.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas
Jets general manager Joe Douglas
Bill Kostroun

The level of competition now jumps with the Buccaneers coming to town on Sunday followed by a trip to Buffalo to face the Bills. If Moore and Crowder come back, Wilson might have a fighting chance. But no matter what happens in these last two games, it is clear that Douglas must not only fix the defense this offseason, he also needs to provide Wilson with more help.

2. The Jets defense has been brutal this year, but defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich should not take the heat. Ulbrich has been dealt a brutal hand this season. The Jets did not have that much talent on defense to start the year and then injuries decimated them. Now, COVID has further thinned their ranks. He was using players on Sunday that he probably had never heard of a week ago.

Jason Pinnock and Will Parks were the eighth and ninth starting safeties the Jets have had this year. I can only imagine how much Ulbrich had to limit his defensive calls on Sunday to help all the new players along.

If you look at the defense, there could be 5-7 new starters next season. The easy thing to do is look at the Jets being ranked last in the NFL in defense and blame the coordinator, but Ulbrich should get a pass for this season.

3. Douglas is getting a lot of praise for his 2021 draft class and rightfully so. But the 2020 class continues to look worse. Mekhi Becton has not been able to get back on the field after injuring his knee in Week 1. The Jets gave a timeline of 4-8 weeks and it has now been 14 weeks since he had surgery. Mims had another no-catch performance on Sunday and stepped out of the back of the end zone on fourth down at the end of the first half. If he had caught a touchdown there, it would have been the first in his career. Ashtyn Davis has not played well this season. Jabari Zuniga is on the practice squad. La’Mical Perine can’t get on the field. James Morgan is gone. Cameron Clark suffered an unfortunate season-ending and possibly career-ending injury in training camp. Bryce Hall has been one bright spot at cornerback and Braden Mann has been up and down this season at punter.

It is only two years in and things can turn around, but it’s not looking good for Douglas. It is too soon to write Becton off. He needs to have a good offseason and stay healthy next year. He showed plenty of potential as a rookie. Mims is a mystery. He seems to have lost confidence and the coaching staff clearly does not believe in him. Mims needs to win over the coaching staff this offseason or he will be gone.

4. There are not many interesting storylines left in the Jets season but we get a little one this week. Former Jets coach Todd Bowles returns to the Meadowlands with the Buccaneers as he prepares for another Super Bowl run as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Bowles won’t say much this week so there won’t be a lot of fuel to this storyline, but make no mistake, he will be very happy to humiliate the Jets on Sunday. Bowles loves a lot of people that still work for the Jets but he also has a lot of pride, and that pride was hurt by the team firing him after the 2018 season. Bowles got a tough deal here. He was paired with a general manager he did not know and Mike Maccagnan failed to provide Bowles with a lot of talent. His last two years here were basically spent in a rebuild and Bowles had no shot. Bowles is going to get another shot at being a head coach, possibly in Tampa when Bruce Arians retires. Before that, though, Bowles will get some enjoyment out of blitzing the crap out of Wilson on Sunday.

Revealing stat

Wilson’s 91 rushing yards were the most by a Jets quarterback in franchise history. He passed Sam Darnold, who had 84 on Oct. 1, 2020 against the Broncos. It was a short run for Darnold at the top of the list. Al Dorow had held the record for a long time before Darnold. Dorow rushed for 72 yards on Oct. 16, 1960 for the Titans against the Bills.

Surprising snap count

There were not many surprises since the Jets’ roster was so depleted from COVID. Tyler Kroft got 50 snaps at tight end. I would have thought they would have divided the load a little more. Trevon Wesco had 22 snaps and Daniel Brown had just two.

Game ball

Conor McDermott gets the game ball for scoring a touchdown. The backup offensive line got his moment in the spotlight with the big fourth-quarter catch. He made a nice play on the ball, showing the skills he had as a high school tight end.