To call this past Sunday a struggle for the Jets would be a complete understatement. Losing 30-9 to the Taysom Hill led Saints, almost nothing went right on either side ball for the entire game. Hill and Alvin Kamara ran all over the Jets defense, as both players averaged over four yards-per-carry. Kamara ran for 120 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, while Hill ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Hill’s numbers were bolstered by a 44 yard touchdown run at the end of the game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Zach Wilson struggled mightily throughout the entire game. The rookie quarterback only completed 19 passes on 42 attempts, amounting to only 202 yards. The receivers were also bad in this game, struggling to consistently separate and make plays for their quarterback. Braxton Berrios led the team in receiving with 52 yards and six receptions, and no other player had over 50 yards for the team. In addition, the running game struggled to get going against the stout run defense of the Saints. La’Michal Perine only had 28 rushing yards while Ty Johnson had just 17 yards.
With all of the team’s struggles, it can be easy to be negative on the Jets outlook for the rest of the season. The team has let up over 30 points on defense in four of their last six games, while Zach Wilson has had more downs than ups this season.
Yet at the same time, more nuance is needed in order to get a full picture of the Jets season. The team has been absolutely ravaged by injuries this season; FOX Sports’s B.U.S metric ranked the Jets as the least healthy team in the entire NFL this season. Between Carl Lawson getting hurt in August, Wilson losing three weeks this season, and many more in-between, the Jets have had to overcome an absurd amount of adversity.
That luck is beginning to change though, as the Jets are getting multiple players back from injuries and illness this week. Robert Saleh said that “we’re expecting both” Michael Carters back this weekend. This would be a huge boost to the Jets on both sides of the football. Micheal Carter II has been a revelation as the team’s main slot corner, bolstering a secondary that has been relying on multiple rookies and second-year players. Without Carter II, the Jets rearranged secondary has had more difficulties against opponents’ passing games.
For the offense, the return of Michael Carter is a huge addition that will surely help Wilson’s play. Wilson said, “I think, for me, it’s always been, ‘How can I figure out the most efficient way to think about our plays?’ I’ve never felt like, going back to college, that I was trying to be, knowing exactly what was going on in every single play. I never really thought I was overthinking things. But, in this offense, yeah there is overthinking on certain things…and I think that’s part of it is just understanding what you actually need to know and what you don’t.”
An aspect of Wilson’s struggles can be related to the lack of weapons surrounding him. Specifically at the running back and receiver positions. The returning Carter gives Wilson a true safety valve out of the backfield and a talented runner to help take weight off of his shoulders. On the season, Carter has 430 rushing yards, 308 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. The rookie running back has a skillset that the Jets have been lacking since he went on IR three weeks ago.
Saleh said Carter’s play is “exactly what you would expect out of a young guy” in their first season. “He comes in as a fourth-round pick, he has some ups and downs during training camp… starts out a little bit slow during the season, but just gets better and better and better and every time he touches the ball, then does something with it to the point where it’s like you can’t deny him the ball. It’s exciting for him to get back,” said Saleh. The head coach also said he expects Carter to return to his “significant” role in the offense.
In returning from his injury, Carter said he was able to observe different running backs’ playstyles and learn from them while he was on the sidelines. The rookie mentioned Miles Sanders and Alvin Kamara as two backs he observed, specifically mentioning Kamara’s ability to “be savvy and get open” in the passing game. Carter also mentioned how he learned from Austin Walter’s running style, saying how “sometimes you can just get downhill and run.”
When asked about his goals for the last four games of the season, Carter’s response was, “Win. I just want to win. The yards will come, the touchdowns will come. I just want to win.”
Carter’s attitude is a needed one for an organization who has not made the playoffs in 11 years, the longest current streak in the NFL. With his return to the Jets lineup alongside Wilson, the offense now has a better chance to start building a foundation for next season. If Carter can continue his play from earlier in the season and help Wilson regain his footing, the optimism for this team will begin to return slowly. The rookie running back must become the engine for this Jets offense, and if he can step up to the challenge, he can begin to make good on his goal to win football games for them.