The Robert Saleh-Zach Wilson era got off to a rocky start as Sam Darnold, once fearful of ghosts, became a vengeful shade himself and haunted his former team as the Panthers took down the Jets 19-14.
The first half was…bad. Like really bad. Zach Wilson was erratic…probably not as bad as the stats showed but still threw a brutal pick that lead to Carolina’s first points of the game. The offensive line displayed remarkable consistency by playing just as badly as they did in 2020 and 2020, generating zero push in the run game and at one point allowing 10 pressures during Wilson’s first 16 drop backs. Carolina jumped out to 16-0 lead on a Darnold bomb to Robby Anderson; perhaps the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. The Jets got their butts handed to them in the trenches. This was a team that was supposed to be built from the inside out, but their prize unit (the defensive line) only notched one sack whilst the supposedly improved offensive line looked little better than it was last year. They didn’t show much life at all on the offensive side of the ball, and they weren’t able to do anything to make the historically beleaguered Sam Darnold uncomfortable.
In a shocking twist, the coaching staff was able to…adjust at halftime (!!!) and actually gave Carolina somewhat of a fight in the final two quarters. Wilson bounced back and fired some impressive looking darts to Corey Davis to bring the Jets to within one score. Ultimately, the Jets much improved second half defense wasn’t enough to stop star RB Christian McCaffrey from running out the clock.
Okay, so, let’s talk about the good stuff. The young corners, long believed to be the biggest flaw on this team, held up reasonably well against Carolina’s lauded skill players. Corey Davis looks poised to absolutely explode in this offense. Most encouraging of all was Zach Wilson’s bounce-back second half, ending with 7 YPA and an 82 passer rating. If he can keep that pace up, he’ll surprisingly (depressingly) end up having the best rookie season in Jets history.
If you want to feel positive about this game, I think that’s fine. There were definitely some things to feel good about, and I’m not going to begrudge anyone feeling positive about their team early on in the season. But this can’t be it. This can’t the defining archetype of the 2021 season…if every game looks like this one did, this season can’t be considered anything but a failure. They were playing a team coming off a losing season, with a patchwork offensive line, and a starting QB who ranked among the worst in the league last season. They weren’t able to take advantage of any of it. Worst of all: Mekhi Becton suffered an MCL sprain that’ll likely sideline him for a good while.
But it’s Week 1! The tendency right now is to overreact, but the fact of the matter is that the Jets are now in their first year of a rebuild with a new coach and rookie QB and are coming off a two win season. Anyone who expected them to be a finished product this year was probably inhaling the noxious fumes of off-season optimism. The Jets have committed to a rebuilding year. Let’s see if they can actually build something before the season is through.