Sputtering Jets stumble into bye with dismal 3-7 record

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The cornerstones are crumbling, the faces of the franchise largely contributing to the New York Jets' downfall this season.

There's plenty of blame to go around, and many fans and media have been busy pointing fingers.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Darrelle Revis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Brandon Marshall were all supposed to be leading the Jets on another run to playoff contention. Instead, Todd Bowles' bumbling bunch is looking likely to land a top-5 pick in the NFL draft.

''We're 3-7,'' Bowles said. ''We're not even thinking playoffs. We're trying to get to four wins.''

In what is shaping up as a dismal season, high expectations have quickly given way to modest goals.

''We have a lot to play for: each other, pride,'' Wilkerson said. ''We just have to make sure we stay confident. We can't get down on ourselves here.''

The Jets are taking their bye-week break, and the sputtering squad can certainly use it. General manager Mike Maccagnan said this week that ''we all need to do better at our jobs'' in order to get things turned in a positive direction.

That includes Bowles, who has been increasingly criticized for his in-game decisions and the growing perception things are going awry behind closed doors at the Jets' facility. The fact he had to bench Wilkerson and Richardson for a quarter for being late to a team meeting has only increased the spotlight on the coach.

''I think Todd is going to be a very good head coach in this league,'' Maccagnan said, ''and I think he's doing a good job now.''

But the defense, Bowles' bread and butter, is hardly dominant, with the line not performing up to lofty expectations and the secondary having trouble shutting down anyone's passing game.

Wilkerson got a five-year, $86 million contract in the offseason, but has just 2 1/2 sacks. The missed walkthrough practice and late arrivals for meetings aren't a good look for a player expected to be a leader.

The same goes for Richardson, who was the subject of trade rumors at the deadline. He has 1 1/2 sacks.

Then, there's Revis, once the gold standard for shutdown cornerbacks. But now, Revis Island is no more , with age and injuries turning him from great to just OK - a stunningly quick decline for one of the top players in franchise history.

''There are glitches in his play, but he has played very well at times this year,'' Maccagnan said. ''We have six games to go. We'll see how the season progresses, and we'll evaluate it at the end of the season.''

The brunt of the blame, however, falls on the shoulders of Fitzpatrick.

The veteran QB was re-signed on the eve of training camp to a one-year, $12 million deal that ended a long contract stalemate. After throwing for a franchise-record 31 touchdowns last season, Fitzpatrick appeared the perfect fit for New York as the would-be catalyst for a team coming off a 10-6 season, missing the postseason by one win.

Instead, Fitzpatrick leads the NFL with 13 interceptions and has already been benched once. A sprained knee opened the door for Bryce Petty , and now Bowles is left with trying to determine which of the two will give the Jets a better chance to win.

That seems inconceivable when less than four months ago, the organization was breathing a sigh of relief because of Fitzpatrick's return . Now, it's possible he has thrown his last pass with the Jets - if they decide to give Petty a six-game audition for the job and look to the future.

''That's not why any of us are here in the locker room,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''We're not here to think about anything other than winning football games. We're here to win.''

Marshall's production has fallen off in a big way as a result of Fitzpatrick's struggles. He has also been affected by the loss of fellow wide receiver Eric Decker , who's out for the season after having shoulder and hip surgeries.

Marshall set team records with 109 catches and 1,502 yards receiving while also tying the mark with 14 touchdown grabs. This season, he has 43 catches for 601 yards and two TDs, and hasn't gotten into the end zone since Oct. 9 against Pittsburgh.

Frustration and failure have marked New York's first 10 games. The last six? Well, the Jets insist they won't crawl to the finish line.

''I think when you look at it, we're not like, `Oh, gosh, the season is over,''' Maccagnan said. ''We have six games left. So, we have a little over a third of the season left to go. And we're focused on trying to be as competitive as we can be and win as many games as we can. That's the business we're in.''


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