A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Rare winning streak? There are crazy stats, and there are really crazy stats. This falls into the latter category.
On Sunday, quarterback Josh McCown will try to win back-to-back starts (in consecutive weeks) for the first time since 2004. Starting for the Arizona Cardinals that year, he beat the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants on Nov. 7 and 14, respectively. And that was the one and only two-game winning streak of his career.
Since then, he's 0-8 the week after victories and 14-37 overall. Granted, McCown hasn't been an every-week starter in his long and circuitous career, but we're still talking about 2004. Heck, that was the year Facebook was launched. McCown's slump is old enough to see PG-13 movies.
Maybe it ends against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
2. Quick on the draw: McCown is playing better than anyone expected, and one of the reasons is because he's getting rid of the ball quickly. From snap to ball release, his average time is 2.25 seconds, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only quarterback with a quicker release is Derek Carr (2.04).
This represents a significant change for McCown, never known for a quick release. From 2014 to 2016, he ranked 28th in the league at 2.60 seconds. He cited three reasons for the improvement, including a conscious effort on his part to quicken his delivery. He also credited quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who has streamlined his mechanics. The last reason is the system, a West Coast scheme predicated on short drops and quick throws.
"It’s where we’re putting guys and getting guys open, and that all ties into preparation -- from walk-throughs to practice to the game," he said. "It's the different looks that the coaches are giving us and the way they keep us prepared, so when we get out there Sunday, when you know where to go with the football, you get it out faster."
3. ShoulderGate: Muhammad Wilkerson violated team protocol this week by revealing the exact nature of his shoulder injury -- a Grade 1 AC joint sprain. That didn't sit well with Todd Bowles, who, like most coaches, is a control freak when it comes to that stuff. Was it an innocent mistake by Wilkerson or was there an ulterior motive? He and the organization weren't on the same page last season as he dealt with the residual effects of his surgically repaired ankle, so perhaps he put it out there thinking it would minimize potential criticism for lackluster play. We'll never know for sure.
The bigger story is that Wilkerson is off to another slow start -- eight tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits, no tackles-for-loss. The odds of returning next season fade with each game he fails to dominate. His cap charge in 2018 is $20 million, third-highest among non-quarterbacks. That includes a $16.75 million salary that becomes guaranteed on the third day of the league year in March. There's no way he will see that money, barring an epic turnaround.
Wilkerson, a Pro Bowl player in 2015, has produced only two sacks in his last 11 games -- and one of them came in garbage time in the Christmas Eve debacle in New England. The organization is troubled by his falloff, especially after giving him a five-year, $86 million contract in 2016. Is the shoulder a factor? The Jets apparently don't think so. On Friday, Bowles said, "It doesn't impact him at all." A Grade 1 sprain is considered very mild.
Wilkerson's new reality is this: If he doesn't start playing better -- a lot better -- he'll join the list of former first-round picks booted out of the building over the last few months.
4. Memo to the pro-tanking crowd: Let the Jaguars serve as a cautionary tale that highly-drafted quarterbacks don't always grow up to be franchise saviors. They picked Blake Bortles third overall in 2014, and he hasn't come close to expectations. He's 12-35 as a starter, with 53 interceptions. Said one NFC scout: "I'm shocked he's still on the team."
5. Two-way Thomas: Defensive end Lawrence Thomas made history last week -- kind of. He became the first player in Jets history wearing a number in the 90s to catch a pass, according to Randy Lange of the team's official website. Sorry, Mark Gastineau fans.
It wasn't Thomas's first offensive rodeo. As a freshman at Michigan State (2012), he played fullback and caught seven passes for 78 yards.
This won't be a regular gig for him, according to Bowles, who said they "may sprinkle him over there" from time to time.
6. Big Ben watch: We're still a month away from the trading deadline, but one player to watch is backup left tackle Ben Ijalana. He's only 28 and has starting experience, which could appeal to a tackle-needy team. He's sitting on the bench even though he's making starter's money ($5.5 million). That's an awfully expensive insurance policy.
7. Bayou backs: The Jets have a thing for running backs with ties to the New Orleans Saints and the state of Louisiana. This week, they signed former Saint Travaris Cadet. Their practice squad includes Marcus Murphy, another ex-Saint. In the past, they've had Chris Ivory and Khiry Robinson, both of whom played in the Big Easy. Let's not forget about Louisiana natives Matt Forte (Tulane) and Elijah McGuire (Louisiana-Lafayette). If you want to go back a few years, they had the late Joe McKnight, a New Orleans high-school legend. What's it all mean? Nothing, really. Just thought it was interesting.
8. From Hit Man to Invisible Man: To me, this is one of the most stunning stats of the young season: Former Jets linebacker David Harris has played only seven defensive snaps for the New England Patriots -- seven! After getting unceremoniously sacked by the Jets, he joined forces with Bill Belichick thinking he'd have a significant job. He's making $2.75 million this year, which indicates they envisioned more than a bench-warmer role for him. Seven snaps? Like I said, stunning.
9. Double-D speaks up: Demario Davis, whom the Jets re-acquired to replace Harris at middle linebacker, has emerged quickly as a leader. In the team meeting on the eve of last week's game, when Bowles and the players discussed their plans for the national anthem, Davis was one of the most vocal players in the room, I'm told. They've long needed a vocal leader on defense.
10. The ring's the thing: At halftime, Kevin Mawae will be 18th player inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor. Who will be No. 19? If you ask me, tackle Marvin Powell (five Pro Bowls) and linebacker Mo Lewis (three) should headline the next group of candidates.