The Jets defense is incredible, but the offense is an inescapable black hole of mediocrity

The second Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn achilles in Week 1 it was clear the 2023 season for the Jets was heading off the rails. Nine weeks in it’s almost impossible to believe just how far they’ve gone off course.

New York’s loss on Monday Night Football to the Chargers underscored everything wrong with the Jets, and Robert Saleh is more or less out of answers on offense.

“Today was not good, obviously. Every time we had momentum, just a self-inflicted wound. Was it (Zach’s) best game? Obviously not. Was it his worst game? No. I’m not going to say it was even close to his worst game.”

It’s pretty incredible when a quarterback throws FORTY NINE TIMES for 263 yards and no scores, but it’s impossible to call it his “worst game” because there have been so many horrific starts before it. Zach Wilson is atrocious, and he’s not getting any better — but it’s still not enough to consider a QB change for Saleh.

On some level you can almost understand it. The trade deadline has come and gone, the team remains hopeful that somehow Rodgers can return before the season ends, so you might as well roll with what you’ve got, however putrid it is.

Make no mistake: This offense is atrocious.

The Jets currently rank last in the NFL in passing yards. They’re tied last for passing touchdowns, as well as first downs through the air. Only the Browns and Raiders have worse quarterback passer ratings on the year.

In fact, the passing game is so bad for the Jets that it’s destroying their running game too. Defenses have no reason to respect Wilson’s ability, so they stack the box to shut down the run game — and it’s working. Despite having one of the best young running backs in the NFL in Breece Hall, the team ranks 19th in rushing yards, but more notably second-last in rushing attempts.

The team knows that if anyone scores on their incredible defense the only path back is to keep throwing and hope something might happen. Hope isn’t a plan, and the team is suffering.

The bright side for Jets fans? All other phases of the game are really, really good. If we look at their DVOA the dramatic difference in the phases is truly awe-inspiring.

  • Defense: -10.4% (6th in the NFL)
  • Special teams: 4.5% (1st in the NFL)
  • Offense: -23.3% (30th in the NFL)

The practical application of being this good on defense and special teams, but so bad on offense is remarkable. The Jaguars are 3rd in defense and 2nd on special team, but 17th in offense — and they’re leading the AFC South at 7-2. All it would take is a middling offense in New York to make this one of the best teams in the NFL, but instead the Jets are 4-4 and out of contention in their division.

Unless you really hate the Jets (and I know some people do), it hurts to see any team getting let down this much by one phase of the game. An argument could easily be made that the Jets would be one of the best teams in the AFC, perhaps even the best, if they had Rodgers under center right now instead of Zach Wilson.

There is a silver lining here, and it’s that the Jets have the potential to rebound in a profound way. It’s unclear how that will involve Aaron Rodgers in the future, but this defense is so talented, and the pieces are all there on offense that a better quarterback will propel them into relevancy. This isn’t a case of needing a top-tier passer either, just someone moderately decent who teams have to respect so it opens up the run game.

For now, the Jets are the greatest “what if?” in the NFL. This truly could have been a team we discussed in the same breath as the Chiefs — instead they’re just horrible to watch, and that’s a damn shame.

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