New York Jets can address TE void at trading deadline

Tyler Kroft is tied for the most receptions among Jets tight ends with six on the season. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Holiday shopping: Sunday is National Tight Ends Day on the NFL calendar. Yes, it's kind of a thing. As usual, the Jets have no reason to celebrate it.

Continuing one of the Jetsiest traditions, the front office failed in the offseason to supply the offense with a reliable, pass-catching tight end. The lack of a middle-field threat is hurting quarterback Zach Wilson, but there might be a way to rectify the problem.

A handful of tight ends could become available as the Nov. 2 trading deadline approaches -- most notably, Evan Engram (New York Giants), O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Hayden Hurst (Atlanta Falcons) and Drew Sample (Cincinnati Bengals).

Engram, Howard and Hurst are intriguing because they're former first-round picks, all under the age of 29. The downside: They're in contract years, so you're talking about a two-month rental. Sample, a 2019 second-round pick, is signed through 2022.

At 1-4, the Jets figure to be sellers, not buyers, at the deadline, but they shouldn't be so quick to dismiss a potential add at tight end. If the price is right, they could pair one with Wilson to see if there's chemistry. If it clicks, they can always explore a contract extension before free agency. Call it a test drive.

If not now, it has to be on general manager Joe Douglas’ to-do list in the offseason.

For a decade, the tight-end play has been a joke. Their last legitimate receiving threat was Dustin Keller (2011). From 2012 until now, their tight ends have produced a league-low 4,747 yards -- nearly 1,000 yards less than the next-worst team (Arizona Cardinals, 5,714). It’s almost like the Jets are playing with 10 men every week.

They took a Band-Aid approach last offseason. After showing interest in free agent Jonnu Smith, who wound up signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the New England Patriots, the Jets added the injury-prone Tyler Kroft on a cheap deal (one year, $2 million).

Guess what? Kroft is injured. Returning starter Chris Herndon was so bad in training camp that he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings. It’s no wonder the Jets’ tight ends have only 95 yards, next-to-last in the league.

The Jets have 10 draft picks in 2022. It’s not Douglas’ style to trade a future asset for a quick fix, but it could work if he swaps a player on an expiring contract, perhaps safety Marcus Maye or wide receiver Jamison Crowder. It's worth exploring.

2. Corey story: Corey Davis considers himself a No. 1 receiver. At $12.5 million per year, he's certainly being paid like one. To truly validate that status, he needs to catch the ball more consistently.

He already has five dropped passes, more than any wide receiver in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Davis isn't known as a bad-hands guy -- five ties a career high -- so you have to believe it's just a slump. He's probably pressing, trying too hard to boost the sagging offense.

"Obviously, I don't want to drop passes, but it happens," said Davis, adding that he's doing extra work in practice.

Davis isn't alone. The Jets have a total of 12 drops, tied for the second-most. That's not a good way to help your rookie quarterback.

3. Answer man: Problem-solving is a big part of every coach's job. Robert Saleh's problem-solving skills will be in the spotlight on Sunday against the Patriots.

The biggest issue, of course, is the late-starting offense. The Jets have zero points and only 79 total yards in the first quarter of games. On defense, they have to figure out a way to offset the game plan introduced by the Falcons in the last game -- a lot of quick throws to neutralize their pass rush. Saleh described it as a complete departure by the Falcons. Other teams will go to school on that.

Saleh, who studied the problems over the bye week, is confident he and the staff came up with solutions. We'll find out soon enough. Unfortunately for him, he's facing a coach -- Bill Belichick -- who will create new problems for him.

4. Belichick who? Former Jets coaches Todd Bowles and Eric Mangini beat Bill Belichick on their second try. Rex Ryan and Herm Edwards did it in their first attempt. Adam Gase never beat him, but he didn't beat too many coaches, period. Now Saleh gets his second crack at the Hoodie.

Saleh struck a noticeably different tone during the run-up to Sunday's rematch, compared to the previous meeting. In Week 2, he gushed about Belichick, saying it was "an honor to share the same field as him." This time, Saleh was more businesslike.

"No disrespect to Bill, who's one of the greatest ever, but he's an external motivation that doesn't matter," said Saleh, explaining that his motivation comes from within.

It's a far cry from Ryan's famous bravado, but it conveys a stronger message than the Week 2 gush-fest.

5. Empty pick pocket: The Jets will intercept a pass one of these days, right?

They're the sixth team since 2000 to start a season with at least five straight games without intercepting a pass. The Houston Texans did it last year, the Arizona Cardinals in 2019. The Las Vegas Raiders' 10-game streak (2017) is the longest in NFL history to start a season, and it also happens to be tied with the 1976-1977 San Francisco 49ers for the longest streak, period.

Because they failed to record a pick in the final two games last season, the Jets' active streak actually is seven. Four more games without an interception and they will make the wrong kind of history.

Which happens first, an interception or a first-quarter score?

6. Did you know? Defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd leads the team with five penalties, an absurd amount when you consider his position and lack of playing time -- only 127 defensive snaps. Do the math: that's one penalty every 25 snaps, a ratio that screams, "Bench me!" Players with marginal talent shouldn't be allowed to hurt the team that many times.

7. Vanishing running back: The Denzel Mims saga has overshadowed another former draft pick who can't get on the field -- running back La'Mical Perine, a 2020 fourth-round choice. He was a healthy scratch in the first five games. Drafted for a different system, he got lost in transition. Maybe he will see the field Sunday because Tevin Coleman is questionable after injuring a hamstring Friday in practice.

8. Less of Moore: When the Jets drafted wide receiver Elijah Moore in the second round, they described him as a "gadget guy" who could fill a Deebo Samuel-like role -- an explosive wide receiver who could be used in the running game. That hasn't materialized.

Noting the size difference between Moore (5-foot-10, 178 pounds) and the San Francisco 49ers' receiver (6-foot, 215), offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said to use Moore "in the backfield and have him play between the tackles isn't necessarily the greatest thing in the world."

He's right, but he should be able to cook up creative ways to get Moore the ball. The offense needs the spark.

9. One of these days: The Jets haven't defeated the Patriots in 2,129 days -- not since Dec. 27, 2015. The slump is basically old enough to have served a complete term in the U.S. Senate.

10. The last word: "I looked at myself hard to figure out how we can get this offense jump-started. ... Over the bye week, I gave it to my wife and said, 'You pick the opening script, and we'll go from there.'" -- LaFleur, joking about the 24-play script he uses for every game.