Jets getting slugged in 0-3 start, but ‘we’re not bleeding’

NFL

NEW YORK (AP)Zach Wilson and the New York Jets are getting walloped, taking big hits from opponents in embarrassing losses.

Robert Saleh insists no one’s close to throwing in the towel. Not at 0-3.

”It’s Round 1 of a 15-round fight,” the Jets coach said Monday. ”It’s not like our faces are broken or anything. We’ve just got to continue to work and try to find a way to get better.”

Boxing analogies aside, the Jets are wobbling.

Wilson is struggling mightily, the offense isn’t generating anything under first-year coordinator Mike LaFleur and the defense is getting worn out from being on the field so much.

”This league is about precision,” Saleh said.

”When you get to game day and being off that much,” he added, putting his thumb and index finger a few centimeters apart, ”can exacerbate the explosives (plays) and you could look really, really bad.”

And that’s where the Jets are right now.

They’re being criticized roundly by some fans, media and casual observers. After all, this is a team that has lost 12 straight games in the month of September, going back to 2018, including a 26-0 defeat at Denver on Sunday. The Jets also have three straight 0-3 starts for the first time in franchise history.

Wilson hasn’t performed yet as hoped, throwing two touchdown passes and seven interceptions. The No. 2 overall pick has also been sacked 15 times and hit 25 – causing some to wonder if his development and progress are being seriously impeded.

”People who are saying negative things about Zach and the team, we’re not listening to negative (stuff),” defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said, using an expletive.

Clearly frustrated, Williams said it’s on the players to block out the chatter from outside the facility because those making the comments ”don’t play.”

That might be true, but it doesn’t take someone with NFL experience to understand things aren’t going well right now. When asked if the fans don’t have a right to feel frustrated and upset with all the losing – the Jets have missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons – Williams laughed and then bristled before reiterating his comment about outside negativity.

”We’re not listening to it,” he said. ”We want to keep getting better every single day. If you listen to the negative things, you may eventually believe in those negative things. … For me, for the team and for Zach, we’re not listening to the negative (stuff) that’s being said.”

But if the Jets don’t figure out how to win – or at the very least, look respectable – those negative comments will increase.

So will the frustration.

By the fans. And the team.

”We don’t have any cuts yet,” Saleh said, going back to the boxing comparison. ”We’re not bleeding. We got a kidney punch, we got the wind knocked out of us, but we’ll get our wind back.”

WHAT’S WORKING

We’ll try this again next week. After that loss Sunday, there’s nothing to see here.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Wilson’s release time. It has been clear when Wilson holds the ball a split-second too long, it has led to quite a few of the sacks, and it’s something Saleh says needs to improve.

”Once you hitch in this league, from a defensive perspective, we tell our D-line it’s mandatory: When the quarterback hitches, he better smell your breath,” Saleh said. ”If he takes two hitches, he better be on the ground. That’s league-wide talk. So, for the quarterback to understand that two hitches is asking a lot of your protection, he’ll start to learn and he’ll start to figure out that he’s got to be able to access the check-downs a little bit quicker and he’s got to access those outlets a little bit quicker.”

STOCK UP

Williams. The third-year defensive tackle had two mostly quiet games to start the season, acknowledging he had some rust after missing offseason workouts and half of training camp while healing from a broken bone in a foot. Williams was back to his old self against Denver, finishing with 1 1/2 sacks while being disruptive throughout.

STOCK DOWN

LaFleur. While much of the focus is on Wilson, the spotlight can also shine more on the offensive coordinator. The 34-year-old younger brother of Packers coach Matt LaFleur is calling the offensive plays for the first time in the NFL and he’s going through some growing pains along with his young QB. The Jets, averaging a paltry 6.7 points a game, haven’t led at any point through three games. LaFleur needs to make better use of Wilson’s athleticism – and try to open things up a bit while being less predictable.

INJURIES

Rookie WR Elijah Moore is in the league’s concussion protocol after injuring his head Sunday … TE Tyler Kroft is day to day while dealing with a chest injury. … WR Jamison Crowder’s status for Sunday is uncertain as he continues to recover from a groin injury.

KEY NUMBER

6 – That’s how many points the Jets have scored in their past two games combined.

NEXT STEPS

The Jets come back home to take on Tennessee, which is 2-1 and has the NFL’s leading rusher in Derrick Henry. If the run defense can’t bottle him up and Wilson and the offense can’t get some consistent drives together, New York could be looking at a third straight 0-4 start.

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