MIAMI GARDENS, Florida. — Garrett Wilson leaned against a locker, clenched his fist, then shook it, again and again. He grabbed her left hand and went finger by finger, squeezing each one, popping the veins. Wilson’s frustration has been ebbing for weeks. He now he is boiling.
It took Wilson three quarters to receive his first target on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
“I’m aware,” Wilson said, cutting off a question before it finished.
Across the locker room, New York Jets players lamented the team’s poor effort in a 30-0 loss. Wide receiver Allen Lazard went even further.
“I think they just played a better game,” Lazard said. “They surpassed us in plans and efforts.”
Wilson did not disagree with the assessment.
“Yes,” Wilson said. “If Allen said it, it’s probably true.”
Last week, the Jets snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating the Houston Texans in a surprising 30-6 victory, with all the points coming in an explosive second half for an offense that had otherwise struggled throughout. year. Zach Wilson had the best game ever. There was a feeling that the performance could have saved some jobs, secured for 2024, when Aaron Rodgers will return to save the day.
The best plans are ruined by explosions. Jets cornerback DJ Reed called Sunday’s effort a “good beatdown.”
Did Reed feel the Jets showed enough fight? Not precisely.
“Honestly, I would say until the middle of the third quarter they did,” Reed said. “You could see the energy… and the excitement on the guys’ faces was a little low throughout the entire game. “I wouldn’t say I’m very happy about it.”
The Jets are 5-9. Sunday’s loss, along with a few other results around the league, eliminated them from playoff contention for the 13th straight year, the longest playoff drought in any of the four major professional sports leagues. If Robert Saleh felt confident after last week, he should be worried now. There are the lost games and then there is the loss of the locker room, and Saleh is getting dangerously close to the latter. It may already be happening.
The Jets were outplayed by the Dolphins, and it’s not the first time Saleh has been outplayed as a coach this season.
“You make the best possible plan; sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not,” Saleh said. “But overall, from training to execution, the whole offensive side wasn’t good enough today.”
Losing Rodgers four snaps into the season to an Achilles injury was a difficult situation. Most teams struggle to survive without their starting quarterback, and much of the offensive line has also been decimated by injuries. But that is no excuse for this level of misery. The Jets started their 11th new offensive line in 14 games against the Dolphins, and it was a disaster from the start. Zach Wilson was bruised and banged up all day, and was stripped and sacked on the first possession. He was sacked four times in total, hit seven times and retreated to the locker room before halftime.
Wilson initially left the game due to “dehydration,” according to the CBS broadcast. After halftime, Wilson was ruled out with a head injury but, according to ESPN, he was not yet being evaluated for a concussion. Later in the game, Wilson was ruled out with a concussion. At the end of the fourth quarter, The Athletic He saw Wilson enter the X-ray room. Saleh said after the game that Wilson was in concussion protocol. His status for next week is unclear.
—Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) December 17, 2023
When Wilson was initially reluctant to return to the starting lineup a couple of weeks ago, one of the reasons was fear of getting hurt behind the offensive line. His fears clearly came true. The Jets’ offensive line might have been the most obvious problem the team had on Sunday, something Saleh repeatedly pointed out in his postgame press conference.
“Yeah, when you get hit in the front, yeah, it’s not… it doesn’t feel good,” he said in response to a question about whether Sunday’s performance was “embarrassing.”
But the problems go deeper than that. The Jets aren’t the only NFL team ravaged by offensive line injuries, or whose starting quarterback suffered a season-ending injury. The Bengals are 3-1 under Jake Browning since he was chosen to replace Joe Burrow. The Browns are 2-1 under Joe Flacco and 9-5 overall despite losing their two starting tackles and their best backup tackle. Their center (Ethan Pocic) missed Sunday’s game and one of their starting point guards (Joel Bitonio) left early with an injury.
The best coaches make the most of what they have and put their players in positions to succeed even when they are outmanned. The Jets aren’t doing that, and that’s with one of the NFL’s best defenses, an elite wide receiver (Wilson) and an explosive running back (Breece Hall).
This team has largely wasted a stellar season with that defense, although even the defense struggled against Miami. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle burned Reed for a 60-yard touchdown and finished with 142 yards. Running back Raheem Mostert scored two touchdowns and the Dolphins scored 30 points even without Tyreek Hill playing.
And then there’s Wilson, one of the NFL’s most talented wide receivers, wasting away. He watched from the sideline as Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel planned to start Waddle, something Nathaniel Hackett has failed to do for the Jets all season.
“I think they have a lot of pieces going for them that make it easier to plan,” Wilson said. “Tyreek goes down, they put Waddle in there and he goes 150 (yards). And that’s the ball I loved growing up. But it won’t be like that. I have to figure out how to be better, ride better routes, be better in meeting rooms, figure out how I can engage early and often. And how we can win games.”
Wilson is finding it harder to hide his frustration, especially on Sunday, when he was attacked just four times and cameras caught him on the sidelines getting animated with his irritation.
Garrett Wilson and Aaron Rodgers having a cutting session on the sidelines pic.twitter.com/hgXZEMbn0f
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) December 17, 2023
“I mean, to be honest, it seems like we’re not being intentional,” Wilson said. “That’s my way of thinking. It’s simple. I feel like that doesn’t have to be the case. But it was. I guess I have to fix it. I need to figure out how I can get involved in the first trimester. Maybe it’s starting to practice quickly. I don’t know. I have to show something, I have to do something. They have a good plan for us. They did a good job chasing us and that all made it difficult. That’s how things were and I have to be able to adapt. I don’t know. I have to figure it out.”
It’s not Wilson’s job to figure it out. That’s about Saleh and Hackett.
There are now three games left in this season and the players are starting to say the quiet part out loud. The truth: The Jets were not prepared for Sunday’s game.
Against the Texans last week, the Jets’ offense was productive. Otherwise, this has been one of the worst offenses in franchise history by most metrics, and the worst third down offense in recorded NFL history. At halftime, the Jets had accumulated just 4 net offensive yards and negative 10 net passing yards. By the end of the game, the Jets had gained 103 total yards and Zach Wilson and Trevor Siemian combined for 80 passing yards.
Consider this: Saleh has refused (and will continue to refuse) to make a change to his offensive play structure, where Hackett remains untouchable not only because of his relationship with Rodgers, but because Saleh doesn’t believe Hackett is to blame for the problems. of the Jets on offense. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles are 10-3 and just benched defensive coordinator Sean Desai in place of Matt Patricia.
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Those 103 yards by the Jets tied for the fourth-fewest in franchise history, and three of the five lowest yardage totals have occurred under Saleh. Once Zach Wilson was stripped and sacked on the first possession, he sensed it was going to be a long afternoon, and it was. On the next drive, the Jets attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-4, a snap straight to safety Ashtyn Davis, which predictably failed. When Wilson left the game, the Jets trailed 17-0. It was 24-0 at halftime and 27-0 after the third quarter.
“They out-executed us,” cornerback Sauce Gardner said. “I don’t know what to say. “They executed us.”
It’s fair to wonder if Saleh’s job will be on the line next week. If the Jets lose to a 4-10 Washington Commanders team at home, it really could be the end of the road. It would be difficult for owner Woody Johnson to justify him working with this coaching staff.
“It’s disappointing,” Saleh said. “From the first series of the year until now, it has been a constant battle. I really appreciate our guys. We still have three games left to finish strong. No matter how bad we feel now, we must remember that we also felt pretty good last week. We have a good Washington team that is going to rock its heels, so we have to go take care of business and get ready to play that one.”
When the Los Angeles Chargers lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, coach Brandon Staley said his team would be “run out of the stadium” if his messages had stopped reaching the players, if he had lost the locker room. A few weeks later, the Chargers lost 63-21 to the Las Vegas Raiders and Staley was fired the next day.
So, has Saleh lost the locker room?
Check back next week.
(Photo: Megan Briggs/Getty Images)