5 things to watch for Jets in second half of 2022 NFL season

Sauce Gardner jumps to celebrate INT with Jordan Whitehead, C.J. Mosley
Sauce Gardner jumps to celebrate INT with Jordan Whitehead, C.J. Mosley

While confidence was high that the Jets were headed in the right direction, few expected them to be in the playoff mix at the bye. However, they currently hold a 6-3 record and stand just half a game out of first place in the AFC East.

It’s a competitive division though, and while the Jets have proven to be a resilient team that can find a way to win, they still have a lot of areas where they could stand to improve.

Here are five things to watch after the Jets' bye week.

Can the Jets find a way to get off to better starts?

The Jets have been the NFL’s best fourth quarter team in the first half of the season, with late wins over the Browns, Steelers and Bills to show for it. However, they perhaps wouldn’t find themselves in so many tough situations if they played better in the early stages of games.

While they’ve made a good start to the season, the Jets have rarely got off to fast starts in games – especially on offense. In fact, they’ve punted at the end of their first drive in every game, going three-and-out in all but one of these games. Mike LaFleur has to try and find a way to get Zach Wilson and the offense into a rhythm earlier in games.

If the Jets can finish the season as impressively as they’ve been finishing games, they could be a serious contender down the stretch.

What will the offensive line look like after the bye?

The Jets have done an impressive job of overcoming injuries to Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, George Fant and Max Mitchell in the first half of the season. Guard Nate Herbig and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi have been manning the right side in recent weeks, which certainly wasn’t the plan when the season began.

Brown’s return a few weeks ago has brought some much-needed stability to the left side and both Fant and Mitchell could be activated from injured reserve in the second half.

Robert Saleh has always said the Jets will seek to get their best five guys out there, but with so much chopping and changing on the line this season, it’s difficult to know who that might be once everyone is available. You would expect Fant or Mitchell to provide an upgrade over Ogbuehi so the team won’t have to scheme around the fact they’re overmatched as much but the rest of the line could stay intact for continuity purposes.

Elijah Moore (8) of the New York Jets sprints downfield during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on October 2, 2022. Pittsburgh Steelers Vs New York Jets Week 4
Elijah Moore (8) of the New York Jets sprints downfield during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on October 2, 2022. Pittsburgh Steelers Vs New York Jets Week 4

Will Elijah Moore have a role in the second half?

Elijah Moore was one of the most exciting young players on the roster entering the season and got off to a reasonably good start with 15 catches for over 200 yards in the first four games of the season. Since then, he’s been a complete non-factor with just one catch as he has only been thrown to once since week five.

Moore’s frustration boiled over last month as he went public with a trade demand that the team apparently refused to honor. He’s back in practice and the team is talking about using him more in the slot after the bye week, following the emergence of Garrett Wilson in the first half.

The Jets love Moore’s talent and potential, but his situation has cast a bit of a cloud over an otherwise successful first half. With the trade deadline out of the way, the Jets and Moore will realize that getting the 22-year-old back on track is the best thing for everyone, but it could be easier said than done.

Who will win individual honors?

Jamal Adams is the only Jets player to earn pro bowl recognition since 2018, but that figures to change in 2022 as the Jets have several viable candidates this year. In fact, Quinnen Williams – who is aiming to be a pro bowler for the first time – already has a defensive player of the month award to his name. If he keeps up his dominant play, could he even make a run at defensive player of the year honors?

The Jets’ rookie class has been a revelation this year, despite the injuries to Mitchell, Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Hall. As things stand, Sauce Gardner is the favorite for the defensive rookie of the year award and Garrett Wilson is also in the mix for the offensive award.

Gardner is also a candidate for pro bowl recognition if he has a strong second half, along with other defensive stalwarts like DJ Reed, CJ Mosley and John Franklin-Myers.

Can the Jets cope with the pressure of meaningful games down the stretch?

Not since 2015 have the Jets been realistically in the mix for a postseason berth and none of their current players or coaches were around then. Could this turn out to be a positive though? While long-suffering fans may be pessimistic and expect everything to come crashing down at any time, the innocence of youth could work in their favor here.

During the offseason, the Jets smartly added players like CJ Uzomah, Laken Tomlinson and Jordan Whitehead who were key members of teams that have gone on deep playoff runs in recent years. It will be invaluable to have these players who know what it takes to win games in January in the Jets’ locker room.