Will the Jets Solve Their Issues to End Playoff Drought in 2023

Get insight “Will the Jets Solve Their Issues to End Playoff Drought in 2023” The New York Jets had the classic season of two halves in the 2022 NFL campaign. Robert Saleh’s men transformed from the 4-13 side of the 2021 season with a brilliant run in their opening nine games to start the term 6-3, including a victory over the Buffalo Bills at home.

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However, quarterback Zach Wilson’s play was patchy to say the least, and he and his team unraveled in the second half of the season. The former second-overall pick from the 2021 Draft was benched as the Jets lost seven out of their last eight games, finishing with a 7-10 record. It was an incremental improvement on last season and two further wins would have seen Saleh’s men secure their first post-season berth since the 20211 campaign, but the future of the franchise still seems unclear. They will still be chasing the Bills in the 2023 season, who will start the campaign as the favorites in the odds to win the AFC East.

Wilson is certainly not the answer at quarterback, and although Mike White stepped in admirably and performed to a decent level in relief, it is clear that the Jets need to once and for all resolve their longstanding issues at signal-caller. General manager Joe Douglas has hit with a lot of his selections in the draft process, but the most important position of all remains elusive for the Jets. He will get another opportunity to attempt to find an answer to the franchise’s woes, but Douglas knows he can ill-afford another losing season.

Where It All Went Wrong

The Jets seemingly broke in two defeats to the New England Patriots. The Patriots failed to reach the playoffs too and were not the team of the Brady era that routinely swept all teams aside with relative ease. Saleh’s team failed in the margins against Bill Belichick’s average unit. An egregious roughing the passer call against John Franklin-Myers may have turned the season on its head. He was flagged for hitting Mac Jones late, nullifying a pick-six from Michael Carter II and a 16-3 lead for the Jets.

New England were able to squeeze out a 22-17 win amid a second-half meltdown from Wilson, but the story could have been so different. New England also broke the Jets’ hearts in the return game in Foxborough as Marcus Jones walk-off punt return with no time left on the clock secured a 10-3 victory. It was the 14th time in a row that the Jets had lost to the Patriots.

After the contest it was evident that Wilson had lost the confidence of his teammates, resulting in a dire end to the season. Those two performances more than any other highlighted Wilson’s issues at both playing the quarterback position and his leadership skills. The 23-year-old has the raw tools to make all the throws required of an NFL quarterback, but not the fundamentals. Time and again, he made poor mental mistakes or lacked the footwork to throw his receivers open downfield.

In his press conference after the second defeat to New England, Wilson offered no accountability and was subsequently benched. White came into the side against the Chicago Bears and led his team to a resounding victory. However, he could not sustain his performance and health. Wilson returned and struggled again, this time against the Detroit Lions in another winnable game that the Jets failed to clinch.

If the Jets had won even one of those games they would have had a chance to enter the playoffs in the final week of the season. But, their failure to grind out victories extended their playoff drought to 11 seasons.

Hope For The Future

The Jets will walk away from the 2022 season with hope over a number of players. Breece Hall was selected in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft and was extremely impressive on the field before he was ruled out for the season after tearing his ACL in week seven.

Despite playing only seven games, Hall ended the term as the Jets’ leading rusher with 463 yards and four touchdowns. Losing him exposed Wilson and a lackluster passing game, with Hall restored to full health along with offensive lineman Mekhi Becton and Elijah Vera-Tucker, the Jets could have a ground game to be feared in the 2023 season.

Fellow rookie Garrett Wilson was also exceptional. With all the issues his team endured a quarterback, Wilson still mustered a 1,000-yard season and four touchdowns. He has the potential to become a star wideout, especially with a competent quarterback. 

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Defensively, the Jets can look to future stars in all three levels of the unit. Sauce Gardner was selected with the third overall pick in 2022 Draft and the cornerback produced an outstanding rookie season. He has the potential to be a lockdown corner in the mold of Darrelle Revis. Defensive end Jermaine Johnson II also showed a lot of promise, complementing the already stout defensive line.

Saleh certainly has a lot of talent to work with and the head coach brought a new-found toughness to New York’s defense. The Jets finished third in total defense in the NFL and fourth in points allowed. It was a testament to their defense that they were in the hunt for the playoffs until the closing weeks of the season. The unit will remain together in 2023, so there is a foundation for Saleh and his coaching staff to build on.

Can the Jets Improve?

The Jets’ hopes all hinge on the quarterback position. There could be a lot of intriguing players available including Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Jackson is likely to be franchise-tagged by the Baltimore Ravens, while Brady’s past with New England should automatically rule him out. However, one of Brady’s former backups Garoppolo would make a lot of sense.

He played at the San Francisco 49ers when Saleh was defensive coordinator in their run to Super Bowl LIV, where they were beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs. Garoppolo does have his health concerns, but he has been a safe pair of hands when he has remained on the field. Garoppolo will not win you games with the talent of his arm, but in a structured program he can lead a team into the post-season. If they want to pursue a veteran, the Jets could do a lot worse than Garoppolo to end their playoff drought.

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