To put it in the simplest way possible, the Jets offense has been abysmal over the first three weeks of the regular season. After a 26-0 drubbing by the Broncos this past Sunday, the Jets have been outscored 46-3 in the first half of games and have only mustered six points over the last eight quarters of play.
Every aspect of the offense has been shaky in the first three games with OC Mike LaFleur and QB Zach Wilson. Wilson currently has a QBR of 21.9, a completion percentage of 55.2%, and seven interceptions through three games. Only Trevor Lawrence has a worse completion percentage at 54.2 and is tied with Wilson for seven interceptions.
LaFleur has curiously ran the sixth most 12 personnel(1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) in the entire league this season, despite having limited talent in the form of Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffen, and Daniel Brown. LaFleur has also made questionable play-calling decisions. The striking example from Sunday was a third down play call where all three of the Jets’ receivers on the field ended up in the same area. The routes were identical and Wilson had no chance, being forced to take a sack on the play. Either LaFleur drew up a ridiculous play or one of the receivers ran the wrong route which leads to another head-scratching line-up decision.
LaFleur has handled certain players in a curious manner. Denzel Mims is consistently inactive for the team, despite being the recipient of the Jets’ best offensive play this season. Mims has the talent to stretch the field and add another dimension to this Jets offense, yet the team hasn’t given him an extended look to this point. Ty Johnson has also been the main passing down back for the team, but according to Pro Football Focus, has allowed pressures on 26% of the snaps he has been in.
But despite Wilson and LaFleur’s struggles, they are not being helped by the other players on the offensive side of the ball. The Jets are second in the NFL with 11 total drops and are first in drops per target. Corey Davis and Micheal Carter are tied for third in the league with two apiece. And according to Connor Hughes of The Athletic, Zach Wilson’s adjusted completion percentage, which takes drops into account, is at 70.2%. This is a full 15.2% higher than his actual completion percentage.
With this in mind, Robert Saleh said that the struggles are “at all three levels” of the offense. “From O-Line, route running, quarterback, rhythm, and play-caller, making sure that it’s everybody. You know we’ve got to look in the mirror and we’ll have to find a way to play way better on Sunday because during the week, if the execution is very high, we’ve got to find a way to bring into Sunday and execute at the high level that we’re practicing it,” said Saleh.
Wilson added to this sentiment, saying that it’s “just a lack of execution” on the offense’s part. “We’re trying to get better every single week,” Wilson said. “It’s maybe hard for people to see that, but we’re learning a lot in those games.”
Davis explained most of the team’s mistakes were “self-inflicted errors.” Davis said, “We just need to put it together. That’s the most frustrating part. We know we have talent and there’s no reason why we should have zero points. We have too much talent for that.”
Even with the team’s massive struggles on the offensive end, there is a need for perspective. The Panthers, Patriots, and Broncos currently have three of the best defenses in the league. Phil Snow, Bill Belichick, and Vic Fangio are also three of the most experienced defensive play callers in the entire NFL. For a first-year play-caller and rookie quarterback, these have been three of the toughest possible matchups they could have had. This has amplified the growing pains Wilson and LaFleur have had to deal with; the offense has had zero margin for error.
Starting this week the Jets have an opportunity to right the ship. The Titans travel to MetLife Stadium, with a defense that has given up 30 or more points in two of their first three games. The Jets then travel to London to take on the Falcons, another team with a below-average defense, before their bye week.
There are many games left in the season, and there will be many opportunities for Wilson, LaFleur and company to showcase what the offense is capable of. But considering the manner in which the Jets have lost this year, the offense needs to flip the script quickly. Otherwise, the call for changes on the offensive end will only get louder.