The Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) and New York Jets (0-3) are set to play at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon. In order to preview this Week 5 matchup, I reached out to our associates over at Gang Green Nation. The magnificent MacGregor Wells kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let’s take a look at his answers! (Also, don’t forget to check out my side of the Q&A exchange over at GGN.)
1 - So what’s up with Sam Darnold? Do you think he plays this week? What’s your confidence level in the Jets if he IS back? And if he’s not, what do you expect to see from Luke Falk?
I doubt Darnold plays this week. At least I hope he doesn’t play. Enlarged spleens due to mono are no joke. He has, hopefully, a long career ahead of him. No need to take risks with his health just to get back one game earlier. However, the doctors and coaches may feel differently. As far as my confidence level goes, I’m not sure Sam Darnold’s return, whenever that happens, is going to cure all the Jets ills. Certainly Darnold is an improvement over Luke Falk. But there are problems with this team that go well beyond the quarterback position. To expect Sam Darnold to right this ship is probably unrealistic. Will the Jets be improved when Darnold returns? Surely. How much improved from the current train wreck remains to be seen.
If Luke Falk is again the starting quarterback for the Jets on Sunday, I would expect more of the same for the Jets offense; that is, complete ineptitude. If Falk starts I will be shocked if the Jets manage more than two scoring drives on offense.
2 - Besides the QB situation, what’s gone wrong for the Jets thus far? What else has contributed to the 0-3 start?
The offensive line is a mess. They can’t run block, but they compensate by pass blocking even worse. Free runners off the edge are a commonplace thing for defenses facing the Jets offensive line. The blocking schemes are incomprehensible and have been totally ineffective. The receivers are rarely open and when they are the quarterback doesn’t have the time to throw the ball. The Jets have no competent tight ends until Chris Herndon returns from suspension in Week 6. The game plans are ineffective and uncreative, with a dollop of what the heck are they trying to do here? The defense struggles getting pressure on the quarterback and the cornerbacks can’t cover. Even star safety Jamal Adams has struggled so far this year. About the only things the Jets haven’t been incompetent at so far this year are defending the run and generating turnovers on defense. It is kind of shocking that the Jets have not lost the turnover battle all year, have outdone their opponents 7 to 3 in turnovers generated, and still have yet to win a game this season. That in a nutshell captures just how awful the Jets have been at everything other than turnovers this season. When the turnovers inevitably start to go the other way, if the Jets don’t right the ship in almost every other aspect of the game, things will turn from ugly to farce.
3 - What are the positives from the Jets’ 0-3 start? What, if anything, inspires hope?
Positives … hmmmm … well, the Jets had a bye week last week, so at least they’re not 0-4 yet. Seriously, there have been very few positives. Le’Veon Bell has looked good, despite his pedestrian numbers. He just has been getting hit behind the line of scrimmage on almost every run. If the Jets offensive line was half decent Bell would be having an All Pro type year. The defense has been good at getting turnovers and scoring points. So far this year the Jets defense has outscored the Jets offense. But for the most part the reasons for optimism are Sam Darnold’s eventual return and hopefully his development into one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, and the possibility that the Jets problems on offense stem largely from early year adjustments on the offensive line. The Jets offensive line did not play a single down together in the pre-season, so perhaps it just needs time to gel. In addition the Jets coaching staff is all new, so perhaps the team is just experiencing growing pains learning a new offense. I don’t know, I’m grasping at straws here. Right now this looks like one of the two or three worst teams in the NFL.
4 - If you were building a game plan for the Jets, how would you attack them on offense? On defense?
On offense I would throw and throw and throw. Go four and five wide and attack the Jets cornerbacks aggressively. The Jets have a very weak group of corners. When you run the ball, take it outside as much as possible. The Jets are stout up the middle on defense but can be beat with speed on the edge.
On defense I would blitz the Jets relentlessly and run stunts on the line. The Jets have shown no ability to adjust to stunts and pick up blitzes; your defensive line should have a field day. If Luke Falk is the quarterback I would go all in at stopping Le’Veon Bell and force Falk to beat you through the air. I don’t think Falk is capable of beating anyone through the air consistently. He has a very weak arm; I would stack defenders in the box and flood the middle of the field. Take away Jamison Crowder and force Falk to try to beat you deep. He is incapable of doing so. If Darnold is the quarterback the plan is much the same, except you then have to respect the deep threat connection of Darnold to Robby Anderson.
5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Jets season?
At this point it’s difficult to imagine the Jets beating a quality team like the Eagles. I suppose the Eagles might get caught looking past the Jets and come out flat, but barring that, this game seems to heavily favor the Eagles. The Jets don’t have the offensive line necessary to attack a vulnerable Eagles pass defense, and the Jets don’t have the cornerbacks nor the pass rush to defend against Carson Wentz and the Eagles passing attack. Predicted score: Eagles 31, Jets 10.
The rest of the season for the Jets is tricky. We don’t know yet when Sam Darnold will be back and we don’t know how his development will go when he gets back. If the Jets offensive line doesn’t improve dramatically then Darnold won’t have the support he needs to make a difference. The next three games are difficult for the Jets, but then the schedule becomes the easiest, on paper, in the NFL. I would think the Jets will be able to take advantage of that schedule in the second half of the year and pick up some wins. Maybe they end up with 4 or 5 wins. It’s tough to see how they will be better than that. Right now it looks like yet another bottom feeding year for the Jets.