On a beautiful October Sunday, life returned to the Meadowlands. A less-than-capacity crowd witnessed the electricity rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, can provide. After a ho-hum first half that saw the Jets trailing 9-7, Wilson provided the spark that had MetLife Stadium buzzing for the first time in years. No play got the crowd amped like the “go long” play. With Wilson rolling out, he motioned wide receiver Corey Davis to go long and heaved a 53-yard perfect strike to Davis for a touchdown. The stadium was alive as the crowd was feeding off the energy of the young signal-caller.
The Jets ultimately prevailed in overtime 27-24 moving to 1-3 as they head to London to face the Atlanta Falcons. This win does not mean the Jets have turned the corner but you can now see why Wilson was the second overall pick. There are still likely to be growing pains but on this Sunday, Wilson and his ability to make explosive plays got a fanbase charged up. Here is the Week Four Report Card:
Wilson was not perfect on Sunday but he was electric. He finished the day going 21 of 34 for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Wilson definitely left some plays on the field like the third-down pass he missed to Davis that would have ended the game. Or the passed he underthrew to Ryan Griffin in overtime that also could have ended the game.
The former BYU Couger took what the defense was giving him for much of the game completing 14 of 20 passes of less than 10 yards. But it was the off-schedule plays you saw from Wilson in college that he was able to make on Sunday allowing the Jets and head coach Robert Saleh to get their first win.
Offensive line: C+
This was easily the offensive line’s best performance of 2021. They allowed nine total pressures in the game. The unit had given up at least 10 in the three previous games. Greg Van Roten allowed the lone sack of Wilson. Rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker had the best performance of his freshman campaign in terms of pass blocking. The former USC Trojan did not allow a single pressure on Wilson. His 82.6 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF) was ninth-best among all guards and second-best among rookies.
Running Backs: C-
The Jets running game has still not been able to get off the ground in 2021 but there are signs of life. New York’s back combined for 66 yards on 25 carries, a 2.64 yard per carry average, and one score. Rookie Michael Carter seems to have become the lead back, rushing 13 times for 38 yards (28 of those yards came after contact), and recording his first career touchdown. Tevon Coleman added 14 yards on four carries and two receptions for 17 yards. Gang Green has not had the run game get going yet as they continue to try to carve out more clearly define the roles of each back. I would expect Carter, who was a spark plug in college to have a bigger impact as he adapts to the NFL game.
Wide Receivers: B
At the start of the game, it sure did look like Davis would continue to be mired in his two-game funk. I tweeted out curse words after his drop but he turn it around and turned in a nice performance. Davis ended the day with four catches for 111 yards, including the 53 yard “Go Long” bomb in the fourth quarter. Jamison Crowder made his season debut and had an instant impact, hauling in seven balls for 61 yards and a score. The veteran provided a nice security blanket for Wilson. Receivers that know how to get open, like Crowder, are the perfect medicine for a struggling quarterback.
Keelan Cole also had his best game as a Jet, catching three passes for 92 yards. The wide receiver group was charged with just two drops on Sunday. The Jets expect to get Elijah Moore back this week. Getting as many good players healthy and on the field can only help Wilson.
Defensive Line: A
Just how good was the Jets’ defensive line on Sunday? Well, they had four players rank in the top 12 in total pressures against the Titans. John Franklin-Myers lead the way with nine, tied for the week four lead with Myles Garrett. Bryce Huff added six, and both Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins recorded five.
The unit recorded 4.5 sacks and had Ryan Tannehill running for his life most of the game. PFF’s highest-graded defensive player for the Jets was Folorunso Fatukasi with a 76.4. Fatukasi had three total pressures, four tackles, and three stops. The group, who is without Carl Lawson, was dominant on Sunday and was one of the keys to the Jets recording their first win of the season.
C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams were all over the field on Sunday, making big play after big play. PFF has a stat called defensive stops (stops). A defensive stop is a tackle that constitutes a “failure” for the offense. Mosley lead the league this week with nine, Williams was second (tied) with six. Mosley added 13 tackles and a sack. Williams had nine tackles and a sack. Where the duo struggled was in coverage. They each allowed nine catches.
Bryce Hall was once again spectacular. He was targeted eight times. He allowed two catches for just 27 yards adding in a sack. Rookie Michael Carter II also continued his strong play, allowing just three receptions for 27 yards. Carter is third among rookies in passer rating allowed.
The Jets recorded seven sacks against the Titans while the defensive line was indeed dominant the coverage in the secondary certainly helps those guys get home. In PFF’s coverage grades of cornerbacks that have played at least 50% of team coverage snaps Hall is ranked 13th and Carter is 15th. Carter leads all corners in yards per reception at 5.5. I’m not sure even the most optimistic of Jets fans could have predicted this leave of play from Gang Green’s young defensive backs.
During the offseason, many predicted that Mike LaFleur was on the fast track to a head coaching job. Most figured he would only be here for a season or two. But after four weeks of the season in the books, it looks like defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich is the one that will be receiving head coaching interviews in the not-to-distant future. Coach Ulbrich has this defense playing above and beyond anyone’s expectations despite a slue of injuries. The Jets defense ranks 13th in yards allowed, seventh in yards per play (5.1), 12th in passing yards allowed (905), and first in passing touchdowns allowed (2).
LaFleur also had a solid game, getting Wilson some easy reads and getting him on the move more often. I believe as Wilson has more success you will see LaFleur become more creative with his play calling.