FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Why are the New York Jets off to a disappointing 1-3 start?
There are a couple of obvious reasons -- too many turnovers and a tough schedule -- and some not-so-obvious reasons. Let's take a closer look:
1. They're playing from behind too much: The Jets are at their best when they're dictating the terms of the game. When they're not, it puts too much pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick, who doesn't play well when he's out of that comfort zone. Nine of his 10 interceptions have come when the Jets are trailing, including all three Sunday. The numbers over his 20 Jets starts are dramatic. When they're tied or leading, Fitzpatrick has 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions over the last two seasons. When he's trailing, it's 15 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. We're talking about two different quarterbacks, depending on the scoreboard.
2. The running game doesn't scare anyone: Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are solid, versatile running backs, but they don't force defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage. Statistically, the Jets have a middle-of-the-pack rushing attack and they can be defended with standard or light boxes because there's no breakaway threat. Their longest run is only 16 yards. As a result, they've faced an eight-man box on only five rushing attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This has a domino effect, as it allows teams to pay more attention to the wide receivers.
3. The receivers aren't winning their one-on-one matchups: Not every incomplete pass can be blamed on an inaccurate throw. It's up to the receivers to get open, and the Jets' wideouts aren't doing it on a consistent basis. How do we know? Here's a good indicator: Opponents have recorded a staggering 34 pass break-ups against the Jets, which suggests the receivers aren't gaining enough separation on their routes.
4. They can't cover short passes: Opposing quarterbacks are having a field day against the Jets, shooting holes in the underneath coverage. On passes of 10 air yards or less, the Jets have allowed a league-high 7.91 yards-per-attempt. Why is this happening? It's a combination of factors. The linebackers aren't great in pass coverage. The defense doesn't react fast enough to new formations and quick screens. The corners give too much cushion at times, which tells me the coaches don't have enough confidence in them to play tight, press-man coverage. The shame of it is, the Jets' formidable defensive line -- the strength of the team -- can be effectively neutralized by opponents that dink and dunk.
5. They can't cover long passes, either: This stat might blow your mind. On passes of 20 air yards or more, the Jets have allowed a league-worst 61.1 percent completion rate. The longer the throw, the lower the percentage -- that's how it's supposed to work. But not against the Jets, who have a tendency to leave receivers uncovered. Todd Bowles, who made his bones as a secondary coach, said there have been too many busted coverages, meaning one player who fails to carry out his assignment. There are few things more demoralizing in football -- for players and fans -- than giving up a big pass play to a wide-open receiver.
6. A lack of aggressiveness/speed on defense: The Jets simply aren't making enough plays on the ball. They have only three takeaways (all interceptions), which means the offense is facing a long field on almost every possession. They don't force many fumbles (only two) and don't get their hands on many balls. Consider: They have recorded a league-low three passes defensed out of 154 attempts, which is almost unfathomable. In other words, they can't get in the same area code to make a play. Some of that falls on the coaches. Their job is to put the players in position to make plays, and that isn't happening.