Robert Saleh, Zach Wilson Explain Offensive Disappearance in Week 15

Zach Wilson

Getty New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is sacked in Miami on December 19, 2021.

After a hot start in Miami, the New York Jets offense went M.I.A. during the second half as the Dolphins buckled down and adjusted their strategy.

It was very reminiscent of the Philadelphia Eagles loss in which Zach Wilson had three touchdown drives during the first two quarters and none during the final two. It was the same story today as the Jets led 17-10 at halftime and lost 31-24 with a defensive score as the lone points after the break.

Obviously, some blame falls on Wilson being that he’s the quarterback but there was plenty wrong with this unit as a whole in quarters three and four.

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Saleh Speaks on Miami Clampdown

After the game, head coach Robert Saleh addressed the lack of second-half offense from a defensive perspective, during his postgame press conference.

“They did a good job getting in man coverage and all that stuff,” the Jets HC began, “which is the best way, just play [us] with good eye discipline and early in that third quarter, establishing the line of scrimmage from a defensive standpoint and even the drive that we had going with the two explosives like I talked about — we finally get something going and we gave it back with a sack-fumble — so we could never get anything rolling in the second half.”

That fumble was Wilson’s only turnover in Week 15 and it was a killer. The rookie was under pressure for what felt like the entire second half and on certain plays he was caught holding the ball longer than he should because of tight coverage downfield.

Let me be clear though, the second-half struggles were a collaborative effort. As Saleh mentioned, Dolphins HC Brian Flores switched up his game plan bringing his secondary up in tight man coverage.

They were able to do this because the Jets had no deep threat that scared them — I’m looking at you, Denzel Mims and Keelan Cole.

Wilson’s favorite targets were Jamison Crowder and his tight ends (Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin and Trevon Wesco combined for five receptions off five targets). These are all underneath options, not downfield threats.

This offense is really missing Elijah Moore and Corey Davis right now and the effect of their absence is starting to impact other areas. For example, the offensive line allowed one sack in the first half and five in the second.

With George Fant out and Alijah Vera-Tucker on the sidelines for part of this stretch, the Dolphins pass rush targeted backups like Conor McDermott and Dan Feeney. Starting right tackle Morgan Moses was having a difficult time holding his edge as well the longer the football remained inside the pocket.

It reminded me of the same way Buffalo neutralized Mike White. Wilson talked about this domino effect of inefficiency after the game.

He stated: “Yeah, once you get man coverage [the quick passing] kind of goes away, right? You gotta let guys try and win, you gotta give them time to win on routes, and so it’s gonna cause me to hitch on some but they’ll probably give up some down the field. Unfortunately, we didn’t capitalize on any of those but for the most part, it’s gotta be earned when those [defenders] step up like that. I was trying to do my best of just sitting in the pocket and trusting the protection and just trying to give those guys a shot down the field.”

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Who Deserves the Most Heat?

The quarterback generally gets the most heat when the offense disappoints but we all saw Wilson operating this playbook beautifully throughout the first half — so what gives?

Twice now, halftime adjustments have outsmarted the Jets (considering the Eagles game) but this time, the defense held up their end. Wilson had the ball, he just couldn’t do anything with it.

Some of that falls on Mike LaFleur, who had an incredibly creative first two quarters. Perhaps, the Jets OC showed his best cards too early because the second half lacked ingenuity.

As Wilson noted, Miami was challenging them to win one-on-ones in coverage and on the offensive line and very few Jets players stepped up. That puts all the pressure on a rookie QB to make something out of nothing, and although he worked his magic earlier in the game, Wilson was unable to do so late.

So who’s to blame? Who should we direct our ire toward as fans?

The rookie quarterback slowly finding his way? The offensive coordinator who was outsmarted and out-schemed? The wide receivers who couldn’t create an inch of space? The blockers who folded under pressure? Or the GM for the lack of depth on the roster?

All would be fair assessments, but Saleh simply attributed it to “rhythm.” He voiced: “Offensive football is a rhythm — sustaining drives, creating first downs, keeping the ball in manageable situations… Obviously, it’s something we’ll look at but I don’t know if there’s anything that I can put my finger on right now.”

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