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Jets Take Step Backwards in Shutout Loss to Broncos

The New York Jets regressed in their shutout loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, taking steps back rather than growing on this rebuild under general manager Joe Douglas

So many moments over the last two years have felt like rock bottom for the Jets. For most franchises, this would be it. An 0-3 start for the third consecutive season capped by a 26-0 loss in a game where the team exhibited all its weaknesses without showing a glimmer of strength should be rock bottom.

For the Jets, it was just a regular Sunday. And if the pattern keeps up, next week will probably be worse.

“Rebuild” is the word that’s thrown around to excuse the pain inflicted on the fan base. Joe Douglas walked into the building nearly three years ago with a plan to tear everything down and slowly build it back up the right way. It’s a word thrown around to buy time and incite hope while the Jets sit in the cellar of the league.

Early in the offseason, New York placed an emphasis on the fact that this season wouldn’t be quantified in wins and losses. It was a disappointing reality to face for a fan base before the year even began, but the understanding that progress would eventually lead to the desired result was acceptable for now. Looking respectable and playing competitive football would be sufficient.

Competitive football is still nowhere in sight.

The Jets are 2-17 the last two seasons. They are worse at virtually every facet of the game than they were when Douglas took over. They were the biggest underdog on the bet card this weekend, and they still didn’t come close to covering.

The bar was set astronomically low, and the Jets’ organization is failing spectacularly to clear it.

Jets fans weren’t asking to compete for a playoff spot this year. They were asking for their Sundays back, where showing up to the stadium or turning on the television was more fun than it was torturous. The Sunday Night Football game that saw the Packers drive down the field in 37 seconds for a game-winning field goal looked like a different sport entirely.

In those 37 seconds, the Packers managed to do what the Jets didn’t do once all day: score. An offense expected to improve drastically under Mike LaFleur looked eerily similar to the one Adam Gase ran a season ago.

The Jets finished with 162 total yards of offense, never once advancing the ball into the red zone. Zach Wilson completed 19-of-35 passes for 160 yards and two late interceptions. While Week One saw strong play from the rookie and Week Two saw improved protection from the line, Week Three saw neither.

On the few plays where Wilson did see a clean pocket his mechanics went out the window, throwing flat-footed and often bouncing the ball to his receivers. Several throws that got there anyway were dropped by Corey Davis and the running backs. Sometimes, instead of taking sacks, as Greg Van Roten put it while deflecting blame onto his quarterback in the postgame presser, “you’ve got to get the ball out.”

Watching the drops and poor route running from the Jets’ receiving corps, it’s hard to fathom why Denzel Mims continues to be a healthy scratch. Most offenses should be able to incorporate a big receiver with 4.3 speed and great hands. The worst offense in the league definitely could use that guy. The play at receiver can’t be inspiring enough to justify the benching again, no matter how many “great weeks of practice” Saleh says he turns in.

LaFleur doesn’t have the ability or experience to design an offense from scratch and fit guys into slots. He needs to maximize the little talent the Jets have in the best way possible. That’s the mark of a good coach.

To make matters worse, the Jets were called for eight penalties for 89 yards on Sunday. Three of them were personal fouls. A year after committing 14 roughing the passer penalties—six more than any other team in the league—the Jets committed another that led directly to points. At one point in the third quarter, Justin Hardee got called for a taunting penalty, presumably talking trash because he forced a fair catch as a gunner. An already struggling team can’t afford those errors, and it’s Saleh’s job to coach them out. Newfound problems sprouting up each week are the sign of a team moving backwards.

​​“I wouldn’t call it regression,” Saleh said. “We’ve played three really good football teams. Three really good defenses. Carolina is undefeated. Denver is undefeated. All three are top-10 defenses. This has been a rough indoctrination for our quarterback and our offense.”

Strictly speaking, whether Saleh wants to admit it or not, the Jets are regressing. Those teams have top-ranked defenses largely because they had the luxury of playing the Jets. At a certain point, the excuses need to stop and competitive football needs to start.

Gang Green will have a chance to right the ship at home in Week Four against a subpar Tennessee Titans defense. Maybe then, New York can prove on the field why the money was spent where it was on the offensive line and why Wilson can grow under LaFleur’s scheme.

Jets fans shouldn’t hold their breath, though.

Follow Max Schneider on Twitter (@Max_Schneider15). Be sure to bookmark Jets Country and check back daily for news, analysis and more.