JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2022 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
New York Jets Senior Director Eric Allen on the Jets' matchup with the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Thursday at 8:15 p.m.
Question: The Jets, after a 6-3 start, have lost four of five games. They have lost their last three games, including a 20-17 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday, and are 7-7 with three games remaining. What is the state of the Jets entering Thursday?
Answer: In [cornerback] D.J. Reid's words, Sunday was a "devastating" loss. Head Coach Robert Saleh said after losing yet another one-possession game, "Hey, listen: We have to win out." They know what the landscape is right now. You're talking about a team that three weeks ago was 7-4 but has lost three consecutive one-possession games for different reasons. For the Jets, they're saying, "For us to be in playoff position, we have to win out and take care of our own business." The fans can continue to watch what's happening with the New England Patriots, and what's happening with the Miami Dolphins, and what's happening with the Los Angeles Chargers – but the Jets know if they don't take care of business against Jacksonville the playoffs might be out of reach. The organization is very high on its roster. I think people throughout the league would say this is one of the best young rosters in the National Football League and there are a lot of very good young players here. But right now you have three one-game seasons and they're treating this as a playoff Thursday against Jacksonville.
Q: Quarterback Zach Wilson, after missing the first three games with a knee injury, started the next seven then was inactive for three games before starting against Detroit. Talk about this Jets offense and Wilson entering Thursday.
A: He threw two touchdown passes to [tight end] C.J. Uzomah [Sunday] and the Jets passed for over 300 yards. He did have one interception. Where they flourished offensively Sunday was via explosion plays. They had seven plays of 20-plus yards in the pass game. They did not have a consistent running game against Detroit and Zach had some throws he would like to have back. While he had big plays in the pass game, your completion percentage was still in the low 50s. What was encouraging was Uzomah gets on the board. You saw the connections with Garrett Wilson; he has been a standout receiver [with 67 receptions for 966 yards this season]. At times, for lack of a better phrase, it was a "boom or bust" for the Jets' offense. Either you were getting the big plays or you were sending the punting unit out.
Q: How good is this defense? And is it truly carrying things for this team?
A: I would say it's an outstanding defense. I would consider it a championship-type defense. There are a couple of stats that stand out: No. 3 in yards per play allowed, No. 3 overall in yards allowed. Across the board, they have been consistent defensively. They get after you up front; they come at you in waves. They were outstanding against Detroit for the most part. You're talking about a unit that allowed 10 points Sunday. The Lions scored on a punt return and got a field goal after a Wilson interception that they returned to the Jets 15-yard line. There's 10 points right there. The Jets gave themselves an opportunity to win. They didn't slam the door Sunday, but they played winning football – and that was without [defensive tackle] Quinnen Williams, who has been outstanding this year and who has been one of the best players in the National Football League. You were down a couple of starters, including Williams and safety Lamarcus Joyner, and still limited a Lions offense that was humming. You have one of the deepest defensive lines in the National Football League, and you have C.J. Mosley – who people within the NFL know continues to be one of the finer linebackers. What has changed the entire dynamic of the defense is the cornerbacks. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed are perhaps the best outside duo in the NFL. No receiver has gotten off against the Jets this season. These guys on the on the outside lock people up. That has changed the entire dynamic for the Jets' defense. They allow you to do different things elsewhere because they have so much confidence in these guys.
Q: What's the key for the Jets in the last three weeks of the season?
A: They have to have more offensive production with touchdowns. They went one-of-six in the red zone against Minnesota [in a 27-22 December 4 loss] and scored 22 points. Fast forward to Buffalo: You scored one offensive touchdown [in a 20-12 loss] and were minus-two turnovers. And if you're really poking holes in the defense – and I don't think it's fair – the Jets haven't been turning people over lately. For everything they have been doing defensively across the board, they haven't been turning people over. Detroit did not turn the ball over. The Bills did not turn the ball over. You've been behind the eight ball. You've had some movement offensively, but you're talking about [scoring] four touchdowns over the last three games. For the Jets, when it's looking good, they're running the football. Defensively, it's, "Can you get a takeaway or two?" And you can't give up scores in the return game. The Jets know they're going to be facing three teams down the stretch that have playoff aspirations. They play at home against Jacksonville. Then they go to Seattle and the Seahawks will be fighting for their playoff lives. For the Jets, what you really hope is you pull off a couple of wins and then you go to Miami for the regular-season finale and then maybe you have a win-and-you're-in situation.