The New York Jets were down to their third quarterback by the second quarter on Thursday night. That doesn't explain their defensive effort.
If you want to give the Jets a pass for their hideous 45-30 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it's fine. They're not very good. They were tied 7-7 when quarterback revelation Mike White had to leave the game due to injury. Not many bad teams are going to function well when their third quarterback has to play in a pinch.
Still, there have been troubling signs in Robert Saleh's first season as head coach. The Jets looked like they weren't ready to play yet again, especially on defense. When the Colts took a 42-10 lead in the third quarter, they had 478 yards, 26 first downs and six touchdowns in less than 40 minutes of football. At that point they had 260 yards on 26 carries for a clean 10 yards per carry. It's not like the Colts are the 1999 Rams on offense.
There have been and will be nice words about Saleh and his ability to turn things around because he is charismatic and had a good deal of success as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator. But Thursday night was a total debacle. It hasn't been the first one this season either.
Jets get blown out again
The Jets' sloppy starts have been a big problem.
They were outscored 44-0 in the first quarter of their first six games, leading into last Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. They were outscored 106-20 in the first halves of those games. Even in Sunday's win they were down 17-7 in the first half before a late touchdown before halftime. They were down 28-10 at halftime Thursday.
That's not entirely a coaching problem, but it doesn't reflect well on the coaches either. Saleh came in with a great reputation and Jets fans had a lot of hope. Saleh could still end up being a great coach. But the Jets' start this season, particularly on defense, is bad. Saleh was supposed to be a great defensive coach but you wouldn't know it this season. Earlier this season the Jets gave up 54 points to the Patriots, who are also not the 1999 Rams. It was the most in a game by a Jets defense since 1978. Carson Wentz was nearly perfect against them Thursday. Jonathan Taylor ran through the Jets like they were lining up 7 yards off the line of scrimmage.
When Danny Pinter, a second-year offensive lineman who had never caught an NFL pass, grabbed a touchdown from Wentz, the Colts were laughing on the sideline. Everyone was laughing at the Jets at that point. And the next time the Colts had the ball, Taylor ran for the easiest 78-yard touchdown run you'll see in the NFL.
This is a long rebuild in progress, and the Jets have already added some exciting pieces that should develop into quality players. You'd like to see more right now though.
Colts cruised to easy win
The Colts never really had a problem on Thursday night. There's no question the Jets' inability to keep drives going after Josh Johnson replaced White played into that. It still was a rough night.
The Jets aren't the 0-8 Detroit Lions or even the completely inept one-win Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans. They've beaten a couple of good teams, the Bengals and Tennessee Titans. If there's something to build on, it's that.
There's not much else to be happy about. Just about anyone who started on New York's defense Thursday night should be worried about losing their job, though the Jets don't exactly have anyone great ready to replace them. The final score Thursday looked way, way better than the Jets deserved after a fourth-quarter rally in garbage time.
It'll be a long year for Saleh and the Jets. They just have to hope to show some positive signs before the end of the season and find the right players to fit their program. Hopefully nights like Thursday will be a distant memory by the offseason. But the early returns are not what New York was hoping for.