It’s been a while since we talked to our friends over at Gang Green Nation, the Jets site for SB Nation. We asked them a few questions about the upcoming Cowboys and Jets game, where the Cowboys are 9-point favorites according to DraftKings. Read below and get yourself some Jets knowledge.
Blogging The Boys: Let’s get the elephant out of the room. The Aaron Rodgers injury is obviously a huge hit to the Jets. How have the fans responded to his injury, and how do you feel the team is responding?
Gang Green Nation: Jets fans initially responded with a woe is me kind of despair, unsurprisingly. Many feel this team is cursed, and though I personally do not believe in curses, it’s not difficult to understand the sentiment. The Jets are infamous for never having a decent quarterback, but the reality is more nuanced. In fact, the Jets have had four different very good NFL quarterbacks over the last 25 years. Vinny Testaverde in the late 1990’s. Chad Pennington in the 2000’s, Brett Favre in 2008, and Aaron Rodgers this year. Each of those QBs played less than two years for the Jets before they had a career altering injury. None were ever the same for the Jets after the injury (we’ll see how this goes for Aaron Rodgers next year). It just defies belief how unlucky the Jets have been at the quarterback position.
This year the Jets have a lot of excellent young talent and a defense that, if the key players stay relatively healthy, has the potential to be one of the top defenses in the NFL. The Jets brought in Rodgers thinking they might have a shot at a Super Bowl title. And they end up getting four plays out of him before his season, and maybe his career, is over. It’s just such a sucker punch to the gut for Jets fans who finally had hope after a dozen miserable years of varying degrees of incompetence.
However, fans being what they are, there has gradually been a mood shift taking shape. The feeling is, maybe Zach Wilson can give the team just enough to get by while the defense carries the load. Maybe the Jets can ride the defense and Breece Hall to a playoff berth. I have my doubts; Wilson has been dreadful in his first two years with the Jets. But who knows, I guess stranger things have happened.
As far as the Jets are concerned, who really knows how they’re responding? I mean, they’re saying all the right things, and they rallied for an improbable upset victory over a very good Buffalo Bills team after Rodgers went down. But most of these players have first-hand experience of just how bad Zach Wilson has been. And many of those who don’t have first-hand experience came here specifically to play with Aaron Rodgers. I gotta believe confidence is shaken in the Jets locker room, but I have no first-hand knowledge of that, it’s just my opinion.
BTB: What are the flaws in Zach Wilson’s game that caused the Jets to move on from him after the first two years? Do you expect him to be any different this go around?
GGN: The flaws – ah, they are legion. Bad mechanics, inability to make pre-snap reads, inability to make post-snap reads, inaccurate passes, poor judgment, terrible under pressure, poor pocket awareness, inability to step up in the pocket, an unfortunate tendency to retreat and retreat and retreat backwards in the face of a pass rush, a tendency to ignore the open receivers short and try to play hero ball with the deep pass all the time. It’s a long list.
Do I expect things to be different now? Perhaps incrementally. Quarterbacks do grow and learn and improve through their third year and beyond. So will he be better? Probably. Will he be good enough? I hope so, but I doubt it. It’s just such a long list of things he needs to improve upon. I would be pretty surprised if he isn’t still in the bottom quartile of NFL starting quarterbacks this year, at best.
BTB: How healthy is Breece Hall? Is he on a snap count limitation and is the injury still affecting his game at all?
GGN: Breece Hall looks surprisingly healthy. Like he never got injured. He’s still working on his conditioning, and probably can’t take on a bell cow role quite yet, but it’s encouraging just how good he’s looked when he’s been on the field this year. I did not expect that to be the case this early.
BTB: The Jets defense looks elite. Talk about what they do and who are the major impact players on that side of the ball.
GGN: The Jets defense is built on what they hope to be a dominant defensive line that puts a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and a trio of top cornerbacks who make passing the ball difficult for opposing offenses.
The defensive line goes 9 deep and is constantly rotating in fresh guys. The best player on the defensive line is Quinnen Williams, who puts a ton of pressure on the quarterback from the interior, and also plays the run extremely well. Other top guys on the defensive line are John Franklin-Myers, who can play inside or outside and is also adept at rushing the passer and stopping the run, and a trio of young studs on the edge: Jermaine Johnson, a 2022 1st round pick, Will McDonald, a 2023 1st round pick, and Bryce Huff, an undrafted free agent several years ago who may be the best pure pass rusher on the team.
The Jets like to rush four guys and avoid blitzing. When four guys is enough to get pressure, as is often the case with this line, it frees up seven defenders to cover at most five, and often just three or four receivers. That, at least in theory, gives the Jet an edge in coverage.
The guys who are the primary beneficiaries of that edge are cornerbacks Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter, all excellent cover guys. Combine a very good group of cover guys with a defensive line that can get to the quarterback quickly without blitzing and it is pretty difficult for most teams to pass against the Jets.
BTB: The betting line went from roughly 3 points with Dallas as the favorites to nearly 10 points after the Rodgers’ injury (DraftKings now has it at 9 points). What’s your take on that and how do you think the game plays out?
GGN: The 9 points may be too generous for the Jets on the road. Man, Dallas looked incredible on both sides of the ball last Sunday. I know it’s just one game, but this team would have been very difficult to beat if the Jets still had Aaron Rodgers under center. With Zach Wilson, who wilts under pressure, my goodness, things are not looking great for the Jets here. Perhaps the best chance the Jets have is if the defense shows up bigtime and forces several turnovers, like they did Monday night against the Bills. But here’s the thing: even after forcing four Bills turnovers, the Jets still needed overtime and a punt return for a touchdown at home to get the victory. You can’t count on four turnovers and a special teams touchdown very often. If the Cowboys take care of the ball, with the Jets on the road, this is likely going to be a double-digit loss for the Jets.
Thanks to Gang Green Nation for the knowledge.