FLORHAM PARK, NJ — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Piled QB: Zach Wilson focused on the team and himself and won the off-season.
When he failed to throw to his receivers on his “Zach Across America Tour,” the sophomore quarterback was working on his body. Wilson, who weighs in at 2,214 pounds, will never be confused with Josh Allen (6-foot-5) or Justin Herbert (6-foot-6), which is why his goal was to add weight – shock absorber for the weekly stomp.
“He looks meaty in a good way,” said coach Robert Saleh.
Wilson said he wanted to do it the “right way,” with an emphasis on a healthy diet. Those close to him say that he has become careful about what he eats. He tried to gain weight in the past, as much as 218, but was not comfortable athletically. This time he took it slow and steady to maintain his speed and loose throwing motion. He has not disclosed his current weight, but the change is obvious to everyone around him.
“Looks like he’s put on some weight,” linebacker CJ Mosley said with a smile. “He’s been in the weight room. Maybe he went to Miami and the… [players who train there] got him right. I don’t know if they lifted such weights at BYU. But that’s the difference between year 1 and year 2. Your body starts to change, you get older and you figure out what is and isn’t allowed. That’s part of being a professional and growing up.”
Wilson shows he wants to improve after a disappointing rookie season. He does and says the right things and is praised for his mature approach, but that doesn’t get a player that far. It is a production company and it has to produce much better than last year.
An improved supporting cast will help, but ultimately it falls on Wilson. He can start with the little things — literally. On pass attempts between 1 and 10 yards, he completed a league low 62% – 10% below the NFL average, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. If he can get the average, which equates to about two extra completions per game, the offense will be in a better place.
2. Quirky Scheme: The schedule of the Jets is, in a word, bizarre. Four AFC North opponents to start the season? That’s a lot of Rust Belt.
Their Week 1 opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, faces the same deal with the AFC East. The Jets and Ravens are the first teams to start a season with four consecutive games against the same division since 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau release.
Other interesting facts:
The Jets have eight rest days less than their opponents, tied for the fourth worst rest difference.
The Jets have to travel 7,500 miles more than their opponents, the second worst differential.
They have the fourth easiest finish (December-January), based on their opponents’ win rate in 2021 (0.407).
3. Man of Intrigue: Every design class has a mystery man. For the Jets, it’s the defensive end of round four Michael Clemons (Texas A&M), a tantalizing mix of promise and concern.
He produced on the field (13th out of 470 qualified pass-rushers in pressure percentage at the FBS level), but he’s coming with age (24), injuries and off-the-field questions. He was arrested last August on charges of illegally carrying a weapon, resulting in a one-match suspension. He has also been cited with several traffic violations from 2018 to 2021, according to Texas court records.
On the field, you could say it’s wired a little differently than most. General manager Joe Douglas called Clemons “one of the dirtiest” players in the draft,” and Saleh added, “When he puts on a helmet, he goes to a very dark place.” If that place happens to be the opponent’s backfield , the Jets will be happy.
4. Pricey D: If the defense stinks again this year, it won’t be because the front office refused to invest money on that side of the ball. The Jets have spent $111.6 million cap dollars on the defense, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers ($130.8 million), according to Over the Cap. You could say they pay for potential because only one player (linebacker CJ Mosley) has finished a Pro Bowl resume†
5. Great Care: The Jets were 29th against the run, and they did not replace the run-up defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi (Jacksonville Jaguars). I bring this up for two reasons:
They open the season against the Ravens, who boast dangerous quarterback Lamar Jackson and one of the league’s most prolific rush attacks. That could be a problem. That’s why the Jets are showing an interest in the defensive tackle of free agent Larry Ogunjobi, who could immediately step into the lineup alongside Quinnen Williams.
6. Dead End, No More: No position has experienced more commotion than a tight end, which is quite astounding when you consider the team’s recent history. For ten years, the Jets didn’t care about position, as evidenced by the shameful production – a class-low 561 catches from 2011 to 2021.
They replaced Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft with CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, adding a sweetener to the draft — third round pick Jeremy Ruckert. They still have Trevon Wesco on the roster.
“Now, our cramped room… scary,” Uzomah said.
7. Special tome: Do you remember Mike Westhoff? Of course you do. He was coach of the Jets special teams from 2001 to 2012, a jack of all trades who never hesitated to speak his mind. Now that he’s retired, he hasn’t lost his candor, as you’ll soon learn by reading his autobiography, “Find it out: My thirty-two-year journey as I revolutionize professional football’s special teams.” He was assisted by Associated Press NFL reporter Barry Wilner.
As a cancer survivor, Westhoff has quite a story to tell. His chapters on his time with the Jets, including six playoff seasons and some embarrassing lows, are particularly intriguing. He covers everyone from Tim Tebow (“not an NFL quarterback”) to Mark Sanchez (“a manageable quarterback at best”), as well as the two general managers and three coaches he worked under.
Westhoff has nice things to say about each of his former bosses, although he manages to unleash a few hooligans with former coaches Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini. He saves his harshest words for former GM Terry Bradway, who “wasn’t my favorite. I thought he was barely mediocre in many ways.” He blames former GM Mike Tannenbaum for barring him from the pre-draft process in 2012, adding, “We had gone from a championship-level team to bull operation, and this was another example.”
He also reveals how his friendship with Bill Parcells, whom he considered a mentor, was ruined when Parcells accused Westhoff of violating league rules in a 2008 letter to the NFL office. While under contract with the Jets, Westhoff, who had “retired” for health reasons, attended a Miami Dolphins training camp as a guest of Parcells. A few days later, Westhoff rejoined the Jets, who were preparing to open against Miami. That didn’t sit well with Parcells, who thought Westhoff had illegally scouted the dolphins.
“With a miserable, chicken— letter,” Westhoff writes, “he broke what I believed was a great relationship.”
Westhoff’s fascinating football life is a good summer to read.