Coming off back-to-back losses to start the regular season, the New England Patriots are in dire need of some momentum. Luckily, they will get to meet the perfect bounce-back team in Week 3: the New York Jets, who have lost 14 straight against their division rivals.
Granted, the Jets have a better record than New England right now and actually sit in second place in the division behind only the 2-0 Miami Dolphins. However, make no mistake: this is a team in a difficult position, not just because it was blown out 30-10 by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The story of the year for the Jets, after all, was the trade to acquire future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers. With Rodgers tearing his Achilles four snaps into the season opener, however, the team is back at square one at the most important position in the game.
The numbers, especially on offense, reflect this:
- Record: 1-1 (2nd AFC East)
- Offense: 16.0 points/game (27th), 252.0 yards/game (29th), -0.221 EPA/play (30th)
- Defense: 23.0 points/game (15th), 348.0 yards/game (21st), 0.011 EPA/play (20th)
- Scoring differential: -14 (24th)
- Turnover differential: -1 (t-19th)
Where as the Jets offense has had its issues, the defense has at least shown some life despite going against two of the better offenses in the league. The problem is that it received little help from the other side of the ball — a problem that is unlikely to get addressed anytime soon.
So, with that said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s Week 3 opponent and what can be expected of the players on its roster.
(Note: The 53-man roster is up-to-date as of Wednesday, 7 a.m. ET; players are listed alphabetically; *indicates projected starter)
Zach Wilson (2)*, Tim Boyle (7)
The second overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Zach Wilson has struggled mightily the first two years of his professional career — prompting the Jets to make their move for Aaron Rodgers in the first place. With Rodgers gone, however, he is back in the lineup and back to his familiar ways.
His first start of the season against the Cowboys last week was more of the same. Playing behind a shaky offensive line and making the same mistakes that have plagued him throughout his career, he completed just 12 of 27 pass attempts for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wilson can be considered a definitive weakness at this point in his development, and one the Patriots defense will again try to exploit.
Breece Hall (20)*, Dalvin Cook (33), Michael Carter (32), Nick Bawden (48 | FB), Israel Abanikanda (25)
Even though it struggled against a potent Dallas defense, the Jets have a potent one-two punch in their backfield on paper. Breece Hall looked very good in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills before gaining just nine yards on four carries last week. He was still more productive than Dalvin Cook, who registered only seven yards on the same number of touches.
The quality of the backs does not appear to be the issue, however. Instead, the blocking up front has not been up to the task so far.
Garrett Wilson (17)*, Allen Lazard (10)*, Randall Cobb (18), Mecole Hartman (6), Xavier Gipson (82 | KR | PR), Jason Brownlee (16)
The Jets completely overhauled their receiving corps this offseason: of six wideouts to catch a pass in 2022, only one remains. That lone holdover is a good one, though, namely reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. The sophomore pass catcher is again looking good and despite subpar quarterback play has managed to catch seven passes for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Wilson is a legitimate WR1 and as the Jets’ best options needs to be treated as a priority. The same cannot be said for the other wideouts on the team: only Allen Lazard has caught a pass among them, hauling in four catches for 69 yards.
Tyler Conklin (83)*, C.J. Uzomah (87)*, Jeremy Ruckert (89)
Whereas the wide receiver position saw considerable turnover, the tight end position is a bastion of stability for the Jets. Led by Tyler Conklin, who ranks second on the team with six catches and 52 yards, all three were with the team last year.
Duane Brown (76 | LT)*, Mekhi Becton (77 | RT)*, Billy Turner (54), Max Mitchell (61)
As noted above, blocking has been a major issue for the Jets this year regardless of run or pass. Against a suspect Buffalo run defense in Week 1, the blocking looked good; that was not the case against the Cowboys. Pass protection has been an issue both weeks, and the numbers show it.
Duane Brown has surrendered eight quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Focus, including two sacks, so far this year. Mekhi Becton has not given up any takedowns, but also has six hurries to his name.
Interior offensive line
Laken Tomlinson (78 | LG)*, Connor McGovern (60 | C)*, Alijah Vera-Tucker (75 | RG)*, Wes Schweitzer (71), Joe Tippmann (66)
Everything that applies to the tackles also can be said about the interior. The group has had its issues so far this year, with pass protection in particular a major problem. Between starters Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern and Alijah Vera-Tucker opposing defenses have registered 18 pressures in two games.
Interior defensive line
Quinnen Williams (95)*, Quinton Jefferson (70)*, Al Woods (96), Solomon Thomas (94)
Arguably the Jets’ best player, Quinnen Williams is a handful and will be a major challenge for New England’s interior O-line. The group did get Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu back last week to bookend David Andrews, but it needs to up its game if it wants to prevent Williams and company to disrupt the rhythm in the passing and running games.
Jermaine Johnson II (11)*, John Franklin-Myers (91)*, Micheal Clemons (72), Bryce Huff (47), Carl Lawson (58), Will McDonald IV (99)
The Jets invested a first-round draft pick in Will McDonald this year, but he has played only 13 defensive snaps so far. Of the players who are regular part of the rotation, meanwhile, John Franklin-Myers and Bryce Huff stand out: they are first and second on the Jets defense with 10 and eight quarterback pressures, respectively.
C.J. Mosley (57)*, Quincy Williams (56)*, Jamien Sherwood (44), Chazz Surratt (55), Zaire Barnes (53)
New York’s linebacker corps is a two-class society: C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams, Quinnen’s brother, are hoarding snaps at the position and rarely leaving the field. And while there are few opportunities for the depth players to go around, they are still actively involved on a week-to-week basis: Jamien Sherwood and Chazz Surratt rank first and fourth in kicking game snaps through two games.
Sauce Gardner (1)*, D.J. Reed (4)*, Michael Carter II (30)*, Brandin Echols (26), Justin Hardee (34), Bryce Hall (37)
Sauce Gardner, who was voted first-team All-Pro and Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2022, is the big name at cornerback for the Jets. And while he has had a slow start to his sophomore campaign — 12 targets, 10 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD — he is more than capable of making a game-changing play when challenged.
Besides Gardner, the Jets are using D.J. Reed and Michael Carter as their starter-level cornerbacks. Reed aligns primarily as the right perimeter cornerback, with Carter guarding the slot.
One name to also mention here is Justin Hardee. While hardly a facto on defense, he is among the better special teamers in the NFL.
Jordan Whitehead (3)*, Tony Adams (22)*, Adrian Amos (0), Ashtyn Davis (21)
Adrian Amos and core special teamer Ashtyn Davis both have starting experience on defense, but the Jets’ top safeties are Jordan Whitehead and Tony Adams. Whitehead in particular has stood out this season, catching three interceptions in a Week 1 win over the Bills.
Greg Zuerlein (9 | K), Thomas Morstead (5 | P), Thomas Hennessy (42 | LS)
While kicker Greg Zuerlein and long snapper Thomas Hennessy stay put from last year, Thomas Morstead was added as the Jets’ punter. Zuerlein’s status will be worth watching, though, after he missed Week 2 with a groin injury.
In the return game, the Jets are employing rookie wideout Xavier Gipson as both their kickoff and punt returner. He scored a 65-yard walk-off touchdown to beat the Bills in overtime.