Jets Backups Combine for Epic Failure During Week 14 Audition

Ty Johnson

Getty New York Jets running back Ty Johnson carries the football on December 12, 2021.

The New York Jets have had to deal with key absences all season but in Week 14, the needle pushed itself into the danger zone on the offensive side.

Throughout the past few weeks, Jets playmakers have dropped like flies and against the New Orleans Saints, the contingency plan to account for them finally burst. On Sunday, New York was without:

  • RB Michael Carter, injured reserve.
  • RB Tevin Coleman, concussion protocol.
  • RB Austin Walter, late scratch due to illness.
  • WR Corey Davis, injured reserve.
  • WR Elijah Moore, injured reserve.
  • WR Jeff Smith, COVID absence.
  • TE Tyler Kroft, injured reserve.
  • TE Trevon Wesco, injury absence.
  • LT Mekhi Becton, injured reserve.

And that’s just on offense. For a playoff contender, this would be considered a code red disaster but for a three-win franchise, head coach Robert Saleh looks at it as an audition.

The problem is, right now these replacements are failing that audition with flying colors.

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Drops, Preparation Plague Jets

At the tail-end of his postgame press conference, Coach Saleh addressed the fanbase.

“Nobody in this locker room wants to lose football games,” he voiced, “but at the same time I’ve said it before — the path is crystal clear on where this organization needs to go and the things we need to address as coaches, players, all the way top-down. It’s very very clear and we’ve got to utilize these four weeks to cement what we think we need to do and then from there we just gotta attack everything… It’s gonna flip and this crappy part is part of the process but at the same time, it’s not discouraging in any sense of the imagination because there’s a lot of young guys getting a lot of good playing time and I promise you, they’re learning from all of this.”

The basic message is: Trust us, it may look ugly at times but we’re figuring out what we have on this roster as we prep for 2022.

For better or for worse, that mentality was on full display in Week 14 as the injury-ridden Jets trotted out players like Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith and D.J. Montgomery in elevated roles.

The result — complete and utter ineptitude around quarterback Zach Wilson.

Miscommunication on routes, lack of separation, dropped passes, and mental mistakes plagued this offense. Yes, Wilson was inaccurate but you expect that from a rookie signal-caller on a December day. What you don’t expect is a skill position group that showed zero preparation.

Why is Mims lining up in an illegal formation in Week 14? How come Cole is stopping mid-route? Why can’t Johnson catch a five-yard pass off his hands?

The only offensive weapon that came to play against the Saints was Berrios, that’s it!

Mims — the former second-round pick — finished with zero catches and was benched in favor of a practice squad player at halftime. Jamison Crowder was totally irrelevant. Then there was the run game, which managed 45 yards from its backs on 13 attempts (3.46 per carry). For comparison, Wilson scrambled for 33 yards of his own.

Johnson took full responsibility for his drops during his postgame press conference and I respect that, and any player that owns up to their mistakes. Wilson does this after every game, win or lose.

At the same time, most of these players aren’t number two overall picks. They don’t have as much room for error and sadly, time is running out.

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What to Expect the Rest of the Way

Look, this isn’t meant to be some excuse for the QB. We said this was going to be a tall task heading into the weekend and it didn’t help that Wilson didn’t have his best stuff accuracy-wise.

That’s another discussion for another day. This article is about impending free agents bombing their first 2022 job interview.

Crowder, Cole, Smith, Montgomery, even Mims or Perine to some extent. Whether under contract or not, this roster must get more competitive next season and if the depth doesn’t show up when it’s needed, it’s only a matter of time before these players are replaced. Saleh was a bit more forgiving on these backups after Week 14.

“Well, they’ve got four games obviously, and it’s still not going to define their career. [Mims] is a second-year player, Ty Johnson — he’s done a lot of good things for us, he had a fantastic Cincinnati game — so it’s not like we’re kicking these guys out of the building, they get the opportunity to dress up tomorrow [and] go back to work,” he stated.

Still, you can tell that some of these role-players may be feeling the heat. As the Jets HC said, they have four games to prove themselves and Joe Douglas will be watching very closely.

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