It’s officially the halfway point in the 2023 season.
For the Jets, their story thus far has been written by injuries with Aaron Rodgers going down and others.
Gang Green sits 11th in the AFC through eight games with a 4-4 record. Even after losing their star quarterback four snaps into the season, the team has high expectations with their stellar defense.
While their offense has been mediocre, the Jets’ defense has continued doing much of the heavy lifting this year. This is very similar to a year ago when the Jets had a top-four defensive unit but missed the playoffs with a 7-10 record.
The Jets have to hope this season doesn’t spiral out of control like when they lost six straight games to end the 2022 season.
Here is where the Jets stand as they enter the second half of their season.
It’s clear what’s working for the Jets this season and that’s their defense and special teams unit. While Gang Green’s offense has been putrid, its defense ranks ninth in yards (312.0) and eighth in points allowed (19.5).
Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams’ sack totals are down (0.5), but a few of his teammates have picked up the slack. Edge rushers Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Huff have been superb. Johnson and Huff have combined for 9.5 sacks.
Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson has also gotten into the action. He has 4.5 sacks and 21 tackles.
Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed remain two of the best cornerbacks in the league despite neither registering an interception. C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams are also making a case for All-Pro selections this season.
As good as their defense has been, special teams have also played a significant role in the Jets success this year. Punter Thomas Morstead has consistently pinned opposing teams deep inside the 10-yard line. He has averaged 48.3 yards per punt and is fourth in the NFL in punts inside the 20-yard line (18).
Placekicker Greg Zuerlein has been equally as good. He has converted 18 of 19 field goals and is third in the NFL in field goal percentage (94.7%).
Even wide receiver Xavier Gipson has helped the Jets in the return game. His 65-yard punt return touchdown in Week 1 helped the Jets stun the Bills 22-16 in overtime.
WHAT’S NOT WORKING?
Clearly, not much is going right with the Jets offensive right now. Gang Green ranks 31st in yards (272.9) and 30th in points per game (16.5).
The moment the Jets lost Rodgers, they lost the conductor of offense and their identity. Gang Green isn’t doing anything particularly well, and its offensive line has been in shambles with all the injuries.
Not to mention, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s system doesn’t work the same without Rodgers under center. The Jets have been predictable regarding playcalling and opposing teams appear to be catching on.
During his sophomore campaign, Garrett Wilson has also been a difference-maker on the Jets offense. He has 46 receptions for 549 yards and two touchdowns.
On the flip side, wide receiver Allen Lazard has been a disappointment this season. He has just 19 catches for 273 yards and one touchdown.
QUESTION’S FOR THE SECOND HALF
The question on everyone’s mind is whether Rodgers will return before the end of this season. It seems unlikely, but the former four-time MVP has progressed well through his Achilles rehab. Before home games this season, Rodgers has been seen throwing football around, giving Jets fans hope that a return is possible.
But for that to happen, many things would need to occur, including Rodgers getting cleared by doctors. None of this matters if the Jets can’t handle business without him.
Right now, the Jets sit outside of the postseason race. If they’re going to make a run at the playoff and snap their 12-season playoff drought, the Jets offense must improve.
Many have placed blame at Zach Wilson’s feet, but it is not all his fault. But it’s easier to change the quarterback than to change an offensive play caller or an entire offensive line during the season.
If the offense remains stagnate, would Saleh bench Wilson for Tim Boyle or Trevor Siemian, who the Jets signed to the practice squad in late September? The sands in the hourglass is beginning to run out on the Jets season. Especially after the 27-6 loss to the Chargers on Nov. 6.
With games against the Bills and Dolphins on the horizon, the time is now for the Jets to get it together as a team or spend another season watching the playoffs on the couch once again.