The New York Jets fell to the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, 19-14.
For our 10th installment of the Heavy On Jets roundtable discussion, our expert writers Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden Jr and Michael Obermuller will dive into a few of the hot topics that are surrounding the franchise right now after the defeat.
As always, feel free to catch up on any of our previous NYJ chats below.
- Week 1: What to watch in training camp, Joe Douglas’ next moves.
- Week 2: Predicting every major training camp battle.
- Week 3: What Jet would you bet your career on? Love one, hate one, steal one.
- Week 4: Zach Wilson comparisons, roster bubble & how the Jets can contend.
- Week 5: Green & White scrimmage overreactions, preseason primer.
- Week 6: First round of cuts, unofficial depth chart & Snoopy Bowl standouts.
- Week 7: Second round of cuts, replacing Carl Lawson & recapping Green Bay.
- Week 8: Roster cutdown predictions, thoughts on Shaq Lawson.
- Week 9: 2021 projections, team award winners & breakout candidates.
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Zach Wilson & the Silver Lining
1. What did you think of Zach Wilson in his NFL debut?
From a team perspective, it’s always disappointing to eat a loss, but it is very difficult to win in this league. In terms of Wilson’s performance, it truly was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the Jets’ offensive play-calling was restrictive and that lack of aggression bled into the confidence of a young quarterback. The offensive line got pushed around which nullified the running game and didn’t provide any time for Wilson to drop back.
Credit this coaching staff in the second half, they made some protection adjustments and Wilson reverted to his old college days of making plays off-script. He had a fantastic final two quarters — didn’t turn the ball over, kept his yards per attempt high, and found ways to keep his team alive. If the Jets would’ve shown any level of chutzpah in that first half, they would’ve had a real chance to win that game. Arrow is definitely pointing up after Week 1.
Boy Green hit on a lot of my thoughts here. I would describe the rookie’s first half as jittery, due to a combination of his first NFL road game and the putrid performance by his offensive line and wide receivers (besides Corey Davis). There were quite a few drops and the run game brought back flashbacks of Adam Gase’s offense behind an offensive line that was getting bullied. None of that helped Wilson, who was getting his feet wet at the start.
Like my partner, I also loved his tenacity and resilience as he battled throughout the second half and made every throw he needed to. My favorite moment was his reaction to the Derrick Brown sack. The 22-year old got absolutely leveled by the former first-round pick, but he didn’t complain or call out his blockers. Instead, Wilson got back up and delivered a tight-window strike to Davis for touchdown number two.
Who said the BYU star couldn’t take a hit?
2. Detail a silver lining for the Jets in this defeat, whether it’s a player, coach, positional group or whatever works.
Certainly, Wilson provides that ‘lose the battle but win the war’ kind of mentality, but we answered that in the previous question. Another person that really stood out to me was Robert Saleh. If this game happened last season, this Jets team would’ve folded like a used lawn chair in the second half. This 2021 version flipped the switch at halftime and played inspired football and showed signs of life and half-time adjustments.
That speaks to what the Green & White are trying to build and quite frankly, just having a competent football team. Most people take that sort of thing for granted but for Jets fans, that is something that clearly stood out.
My silver lining was the Jets’ cornerbacks. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t without flaws, but they did perform admirably against a very talented wide receiver core. Most people were expecting this group to get torched up and down the field, with fans on Twitter joking that this game was a guaranteed OVER bet.
In the end, betting the UNDER would have been smarter as both defenses made big plays. Gang Green had a ton of trouble with Christian McCaffrey but at the same time, it’s Christian freaking McCaffrey. They were overmatched when it came to guarding the skilled backfield playmaker but they did fairly well with D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr. I know Anderson had the deep touchdown catch and Moore was pesky throughout but these are top-notch wide-outs that you’re going to trade wins and losses with.
Overall, Bryce Hall and elevated starter Brandin Echols held their own, while Michael Carter II may have been the most impressive of the three playing nickel. Considering how much time of possession they were asked to remain on the field, I was pleasantly surprised with the job they did.
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Inexperience & Inefficiency
3. The offensive line was clearly a problem on Sunday. What do you think the issue was and how detrimental is a Mekhi Becton absence if he’s out long-term?
If I knew the answer to that question I wouldn’t be writing for Heavy, I’d be somewhere in the Bahamas with all my millions of dollars. I’m kidding, sort of. There were a few issues that people glossed over during the offseason that ended up being big problems. Alijah Vera-Tucker got injured very early in training camp and didn’t get any physical reps. His first true in-game action came in Week 1, hardly ideal.
Continuity overall wasn’t there for this group, they didn’t get enough time to gel together and the lack of chemistry was painfully evident. There’s no way to make up for that sort of thing, you either have it or you don’t. You can’t understate how big of a loss Becton would be for this offensive line group. While certainly, he has had his struggles, there is no one in the NFL with a higher ceiling than he has.
The good news is the Jets have what the kids call a first-world problem. Coach Saleh said in the postgame presser that they believe they have “three starting offensive tackles on their team while other NFL teams hope they have one.” George Fant will slide into the blindside and Morgan Moses will step up at right tackle if Becton misses any time. It’s a great luxury to have and I believe that tackle tandem can be very competent. They will get better with the more time they get together.
I agree that continuity was definitely a major factor. It’s a challenging outside-zone scheme that requires a good deal of trust to operate and this group isn’t quite there yet. Where I disagree is in the unfounded optimism that has surrounded this unit all offseason/camp, leading to the second issue, they were overhyped.
First off, no offensive lineman in the NFL has a higher ceiling than Becton? I get the physical traits but that’s a stretch and a half. I originally wanted Tristan Wirfs from his draft class and he was on the board for Joe Douglas. The starting right tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has outperformed Becton at every turn, even if he’s only 6-foot-5. More importantly, he’s stayed on the field!
I also wasn’t as high on Moses as most fans. Washington’s O-line never impressed me and the veteran was a large part of it for years. If anything, I’d prefer their right guard Brandon Scherff. It didn’t shock me that Fant beat out Moses for the job, he’s an average offensive tackle and this is currently a below-average offensive line until they prove otherwise. Becton’s absence would hurt the run game but it may actually help in pass protection from what I’ve witnessed this summer.
4. We’ve spent a ton of time talking about the Jets’ rookies this summer, so which first-year player stood out most in Week 1 in a positive way besides Wilson?
Carter II. It was a real surprise that he won the starting nickel job over Javelin Guidry, who also got a lot of run in Week 1. He just had so many pass breakups and looked like he belonged. This overall cornerback group has been much maligned this offseason for their lack of experience and while they certainly had some down moments versus the Panthers, they were actually decently impressive all things considered.
Saleh said during camp that the team believed they had multiple starting corners in the nickel competition and apparently he wasn’t kidding. ‘MC2’ has a ton of potential and could be a long-term starter. That’s not too shabby for a day three NFL draft pick.
Great choice by Boy Green. Carter II definitely would have been my pick as well, being that AVT, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter all struggled. Then on the defensive side, Jamien Sherwood left the game with an early injury and Hamsah Nasirildeen was somewhat nonexistent. Jason Pinnock and Jonathan Marshall were inactive so that only leaves the nickelback and Echols.
I’ll pivot and stick with my man from Kentucky who has forced his way onto my radar and many others. I said it before and I’ll say it again, the corners were not the issue in this game. McCaffrey carved up the Jets and he was generally the responsibility of a linebacker or safety. It wasn’t a perfect outing for Echols, but he’s done enough to solidify himself as a starter in my opinion.
Looking Ahead to Week 2
5. Based on the Panthers’ performance, what’s your confidence level heading into Week 2 at home against New England?
I claim to be the most optimistic New York Jets fan on the planet. I think that’s a great way to approach life to always see the glass half full. You can’t control the hand you were dealt, but you can control your attitude about it. While this wasn’t the result I or the team wanted, there’s always next week. This is a 17-game NFL regular season and in Week 2, they’ll have their home opener against a division rival that perks me up like no other.
While Bill Belichick has an outstanding record versus younger quarterbacks, I also love the Saleh-Mac Jones matchup on the other side. This will be the first time in the history of this rivalry that two rookie quarterbacks will be facing off on opposing sidelines. This is a grand opportunity to not only get on the winning ways and battle back to .500, but it’s also a rare chance to send the New England Patriots to an 0-2 hole to start the 2021 campaign. My confidence level is still at a 10, to put it bluntly.
I’ll actually be in attendance at the home opener so perhaps I’ll see some of you there! When I originally picked the Jets schedule I had them beating Carolina and losing Week 2 versus the Pats. At the time I also expected Cam Newton to start. Now let me be clear, Jones is probably better than Newton both long-term and presently. That’s why he won the job.
At the same time, rookie QBs have highs and lows and the Jets might have a better shot on an even playing field. I am extremely nervous about our offensive line against the New England pass-rush, however. If you thought Brian Burns was bad, Matt Judon may have a field day against our tackles among others. This is a game I believe the Jets can win, but they have to clean it up from what we saw in Carolina.