Monday, November 28, 2022

Robert Saleh, Jets have a mess on their hands: ‘Definitely a regression’

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Welcome to Heavy In The Trenches, a weekly Wednesday column from Heavys NFL insider Matt Lombardo, bringing you insight into the latest storylines and gossip surrounding the league. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattLombardoNFL.

Robert Saleh and the New York Jets have a mess.

Sunday felt like the nadir of Zach Wilson’s career as the Jets’ starting quarterback and his status as one of the team’s leaders.

Against the New England Patriots, Wilson completed just 9 passes for 77 yards and led a Jets offense that managed just 6 first downs and 103 yards total offense all game, in a disastrous 10-3 divisional loss.

New York averaged a pathetic 2.1 yards per offensive game against the Patriots, including 2.7 customs service per game on 27 offensive snaps in the second half, according to CBS sports.


After 20 games in his career, Wilson bears no resemblance to a quarterback worthy of a #2 pick in the NFL draft like he was in 2021. And Wilson’s lack of development is resolutely holding back a young and talented squad that should be competitive today.

“His decision-making,” an NFL offensive coordinator whose team recently played the Jets told Heavy, is what’s holding Wilson back. “He forces way, way too many plays. The problem is he plays everything like it’s backyard football and he can’t read defense.

Wilson’s terrible performance in New England prompted Saleh to leave the door open for Mike White or Joe Flacco to start Sunday’s Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears. Having spent the last two seasons focusing the entire Florham Park, NJ football operations wing on Wilson’s development, the decision to consider a move feels like one that could and should be irreversible.

Despite a roster that includes playmakers like first-round rookie receiver Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, running back Michael Carter and stable tight end CJ Uzomah, Wilson only gets 35.5% of his passes from 15 or more air yards, according to Football Outsiders graduated, only Carson Wentz and Kenny Pickett have graduated less.

If the Jets count on Wilson to extend drives, he’s the smallest. On the third down and 7+ yards, Football Outsiders points out that Wilson is only 14 of 30 for 171 yards with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions and has been sacked five times.

Potentially worse than Wilson, who is finishing as Pro Football Focus’s No. 39 quarterback in the NFL, is the 23-year-old’s refusal to take responsibility after Sunday’s game, when he replied “no” after being asked whether his performance let the defense down He has a chance to ruin his reputation in this dressing room.

“I think Zach is unprepared and lost mentally,” said heavy contributor and 2020 NFL executive of the year Randy Mueller. “He looks, but he doesn’t look out of the pocket. His physical flaws were bad on Sunday but mental things bother me the most.

“His strengths in college were instinct, foresight and accuracy, so there’s definitely been a step backwards.”

There’s a feeling within the league that Wilson shouldn’t take all the blame for the Jets’ failure.

“It comes down to the coaching,” an NFC human resources executive told Heavy.

As a second coach points out, the Jets don’t have a coach with experience developing a young quarterback.

Mueller believes there are many to blame for Wilson’s struggles, including the coach’s concerns about the Jets’ coaching staff.

Saleh is a former defensive coordinator, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur had Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, and Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese’s most extensive work with a young quarterback came with Drew Lock while he was with the Denver Broncos.

In the interests of the Jets’ future, Saleh and the organization must recognize that at 6-4 there is a significant chance of reaching the postseason for meaningful experience for a young roster, but that Wilson appears utterly inept, New York to lead there.

It’s never easy to admit that a No. 2 quarterback is missing from the draft, but the sooner the Jets admit that Wilson isn’t the type and course correct, the healthier the organization will be going forward.

Matt Lombardo Column

1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-2)

2. Philly Eagles (9-1)

3. Buffalo Beaks (7-3)

4. Miami Dolphins (7-3)

5. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)

6. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

7. Tennessee Titans (7-3)

8. Minnesota Vikings (8-2)

9. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)

10. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

“It comes down to the coaching,” an NFC human resources executive told Heavy.

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