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NY Post
New York Post
21 Oct 2023

NextImg:Jets’ push for meaningful late-season football remains intact at bye week

The Jets are still alive as they enjoy their bye week.

It did not look good a few weeks ago for the Jets, but they have managed to stabilize things. They won their last two games and went into the bye week to get to 3-3, a record that they would have signed up for at the start of the season.

It has been a rocky first six weeks of the season, with plenty of ups and downs. The first night of the season had the biggest swing of emotions imaginable from the excitement of pregame warmups on “Monday Night Football,” to the agony of Aaron Rodgers sitting on the field and grabbing his injured Achilles, to the ecstasy of Xavier Gipson’s punt return touchdown for the win over the Bills.

Since then, the Jets endured a slow start to life after Rodgers with losses to the Cowboys and Patriots, but rebounded to play better in the past three weeks, culminating with their stunning win over the Eagles last Sunday.

Being at .500 right now means everything is still in front of them. The Jets have a good number of winnable games after the bye week and they have a shot at ending their 12-year playoff drought. There also is the question of whether Rodgers can return before the season is over. If Rodgers is able to defy the odds and make a December return, things will get very exciting around the Jets.

Aaron Rodgers has been recovering from a torn Achilles that he sustained on the fourth offensive snap of the season.
Charles Wenzelberg

Things looked like they could be over for this team in September, but now it seems as if they will have meaningful games in November and December as they push toward a playoff appearance.

Breece Hall has reminded everyone of how big a loss it was for the 2022 Jets when he tore the ACL in his left knee in Week 7 last year. Hall has been huge since his return from the injury. He has looked like his old self and the Jets’ offense is now built around him getting touches.

Hall has 426 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 66 carries. He also has 113 receiving yards on 13 receptions. Hall carried the Jets to a win over the Broncos with 177 yards rushing, including a 72-yard touchdown.

Hall’s success may open things up for others in the offense as defenses begin to focus on stopping him.

Breece Hall has compiled 426 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Jets this season.
Charles Wenzelberg

The Jets signed Randall Cobb as part of the Aaron Rodgers package this offseason. Cobb was a player Rodgers obviously liked playing with and the Jets brought him in to help the quarterback’s transition. Instead, Rodgers is not playing and Cobb has been a drag on the offense.

Cobb has just three catches for 20 yards on 12 targets, with two drops. Cobb is getting plenty of playing time as the primary slot receiver, but that feels like it will change soon. It’s hard to imagine the Jets will keep rolling Cobb out there when they are getting such little production. It would not be a surprise to see Xavier Gipson take over as the primary slot receiver after the bye week.

Wide receiver Randall Cobb hasn’t contributed much since signing with the Jets this offseason.
Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

When the Jets first picked Quincy Williams up off of waivers in 2021, he was known mostly as “Quinnen’s brother.” But Quincy has emerged from his brother’s shadow and been one of the best players on the field for the Jets this season.

Williams is filling out the boxscore. The linebacker leads the team with 60 tackles, is tied for third with two sacks, is second with five passes defensed and has forced a fumble and recovered a fumble.

Against the Broncos, Williams made one of the biggest plays of the season when his strip-sack of Russell Wilson sealed the victory.

    “I would challenge everyone here and elsewhere that there’s not a better ’backer in the NFL right now,” defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said this month. “He is playing at an elite level in my opinion, and it’s just so exciting to see for the young man, because he’s a guy who just works so hard at it, it’s so important to him. I know when he came here, it’s always hard when you get cut, especially by the team that drafted you. You had such promise, this and that, and you can start questioning yourself. That’s just human nature.

    “For him to come here and really just grind and put his nose down and work and proved every single day with the humility, and then to get paid what he got paid and maybe go even further with his preparation and dedication to this game, it’s really cool. All the accolades, as well as he’s playing, it’s not by accident. The kid is working his ass off.”

    Nothing can really compare to what happened four plays into the season. Watching Rodgers collapse without even completing a pass was stunning. Rodgers had torn his left Achilles tendon and everything the Jets had built this offseason was thrown into flux.

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    This team was centered around Rodgers from the moment a trade for him became possible. That was evident all spring based on players the team added, and then all summer from what everyone could see on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” All of the Jets’ hopes were centered around finally having a franchise quarterback who could carry them to the playoffs and possibly a Super Bowl.

    That culminated with Rodgers running out of the tunnel on Sept. 11 carrying an American flag in front of a raucous home crowd. Then, it was over after four plays.

    The Jets somehow did not let the air go out of them and found a way to beat the Bills that night. Now, there is hope that Rodgers can make a miraculous return before the end of the season to help the Jets make the playoffs and win in the playoffs. A Rodgers return might be the highlight of the season. His injury is the lowlight.

    You don’t have to look too far into the past. The 20-14 win over the defending NFC champion Eagles last week was the highlight of the season so far. The Jets’ defense was outstanding against Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia offense, forcing four turnovers. The biggest came with just under two minutes left in the game when safety Tony Adams intercepted Hurts and returned the ball to the 8-yard line to set up the game-winning score.

    The Jets now have to hope that big victory before the bye week will carry more momentum with it than last year, when they beat the Bills before the bye, but then only won one more game all season.

    The Rodgers injury could fit here, but we’ll go with a bigger team moment. The 15-10 loss to the Patriots on Sept. 24 made it feel like the sky was falling for this team and, in the end, could be a loss that haunts them. The Jets were unable to do anything on offense in that game and lost to an inferior Patriots team, the only victory for New England so far this season. If the Jets fall one game short of making the playoffs, that will be the one they wish they could have back.

    The Jets suffered a disappointing loss to the Patriots in Week 3.
    Charles Wenzelberg

    The Jets signed Mecole Hardman in the offseason to a one-year, $4 million contract. They spoke excitedly about all the ways they could use the speedster in their offense and as a returner. But the results were … not that inspiring.

    The Jets traded Hardman to the Chiefs on Wednesday, ending his weird stint here.

    Hardman was a complete non-factor on the Jets. He was inactive for a game and only played 10 percent of the offensive snaps in the first six games. He had one catch for 6 yards on three targets and was not used as a returner.

    Jets wideout Mecole Hardman was traded to the Chiefs after a role didn’t materialize.
    Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

    It was clear the Jets did not trust or like Hardman as a player. He was passed on the depth chart by Cobb in training camp and then more recently by Gipson at receiver. Gipson won the returner job in training camp.

    It felt inevitable the team would move on from him, and they did on Wednesday.

    Veteran offensive tackle Duane Brown is eligible to return from injured reserve this week and he said last week that he expects to return. That will create a fascinating decision for the Jets, who are playing without Alijah Vera-Tucker after he tore his Achilles in Denver two weeks ago.

    Adding Brown back to the offensive line would strengthen the unit, but which side do you put him on? If he goes to his usual left tackle spot, the Jets then must move Mekhi Becton back to right tackle, and he has played well on the left side in Brown’s absence. If they want to put Brown on the right side, they would be asking him to play a position he never has in his 17-year career.