Jets' locker room receives message after James Robinson trade: 'Time to win'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Big-boy trade: James Robinson was dozing off in his Jacksonville apartment Monday evening when he was phoned with the news about his trade to the Jets. Talk about a wake-up call. The reverberations were felt 900 miles to the north in the Jets' locker room. For the players, it was a win-now call.

"It doesn't feel like a rebuild anymore," center Connor McGovern told ESPN. "It feels like a time to win."

General manager Joe Douglas has made 17 player trades in his three-year tenure, but this one felt different from the others because of the aggressiveness. Twenty-four hours after losing star rookie Breece Hall to a season-ending knee injury, Douglas traded a conditional 2023 sixth-round pick for a starting-caliber running back.

A blockbuster deal? Not exactly, but it sent a message: At 5-2, with a chance to compete for a playoff spot, Douglas stepped out of "build for the future" mode and told his locker room there's no time like the present. The trade, McGovern said, is "a telltale sign" that the organization is focused on winning. In past years, some players grumbled when the front office traded players for draft picks with in-season trades.

This year, it's a different vibe.

"It's a team that is meant to win and [the front office] has incredibly high expectations for us to do so," McGovern said.

Robinson, 24, will be a restricted free agent after the season. The lowest tender for 2023 is projected at $2.6 million, according to overthecap.com -- pricey for a backup running back. Maybe they can negotiate a cheaper contract. Or maybe he turns out to be just a 10-game rental. Either way, the trade was important for a coming-of-age team that appreciated the validation from its GM.

2. The need for speed: Robinson is no Hall -- there's no comparison in terms of speed -- but he's a solid inside runner who relies more on quickness and power than pure speed. He's averaging a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, but only 9.9% of his rushes have gone for 10-plus yards, down from 12.4% in 2020 and 2021, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Perhaps it's a sign that his explosiveness still isn't all the way back due to Achilles surgery last December.

The smart move would be to put Ty Johnson in the rotation. He's the fastest back on the team and, without Hall, they need someone to threaten the edges. The running game would be too predictable without perimeter speed.

3. Broadway Zach? In an indirect way, Hall's injury will put more pressure on quarterback Zach Wilson. Without Hall's playmaking ability, the offense may have to lean more on the passing game, which has disappeared in recent weeks.

The Jets have gone three straight games without a touchdown pass -- all wins. Previously, the last team to win three straight without a scoring pass was the 2016 Houston Texans, who captured the AFC South. Four straight? This will shock you: You have to go all the way back to the 1968 Jets to find the last team to compile four straight victories without a touchdown pass, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

That year, Joe Namath, coming off the first 4,000-yard season in history, learned to appreciate his running game -- and the result was a Super Bowl championship. Football has changed. It's a passing league, and Wilson needs to be more efficient and decisive. His average time to throw is a league-high 3.16 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats -- not what you want in a timing-based passing attack.

The coaches are quick to note the past two opponents, Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos, rank first and second in pass defense, respectively. Next up are the New England Patriots (12th), who intercepted Wilson four times in the first meeting last season.

Two words: Litmus test.

Watch live on Oct. 30: Broncos vs. Jaguars in London, only on ESPN+

4. Did you know? Hall averaged 6.8 scrimmage yards per touch, just behind league leader Travis Etienne Jr. (7.0) of the Jaguars. You can't replace a player like that.

5. Musical linemen: The Jets are hoping right tackle George Fant (knee), still on injured reserve even though he was eligible to return this week, will return in Week 11, following the bye. He spent time away from the facility, receiving therapy on his previously repaired knee, which he re-injured in Week 3. Rookie right tackle Max Mitchell (knee) is eligible to return next week. For now, they will start Cedric Ogbuehi, who has only five starts in the past four-plus years. (Their fingers are crossed.)

A trade can't be ruled out, but teams aren't in the habit of dealing away starting-caliber linemen. The trading deadline is Tuesday.

6. Wanted: Iron Men: The Hall injury, the Robinson trade and the Elijah Moore drama have overshadowed Alijah Vera-Tucker's season-ending triceps injury. It's a crushing loss because he's such a valuable chess piece, able to move to different spots on the offensive line. He became the second former first-round lineman to go down for the season. In training camp, Mekhi Becton underwent knee surgery.

Durability is so important in the NFL, and the Jets will celebrate one of the most durable players in their history on Sunday. Former tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who didn't miss a game, practice or snap due to injury in his 10-year career, will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime.

7. Moore or less: Moore, made inactive last week after requesting a trade, is expected to play Sunday. But will he return to a full-time role? Where will he play? There's some talk around the team that Moore, the starting split end (X position), will get more time in the slot, the position he played in college. That would be a smart move. It also would mean more outside work for rookie Garrett Wilson, who has played a little more than 50% of his snaps in the slot.

8. When Williams speaks ... : Quinnen Williams' sideline outburst in the Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals is starting to look like a turning point in the season -- from a defensive standpoint, anyway.

Remember that heated exchange? After the Jets allowed a touchdown on an all-blitz, Williams got into it with defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton. The root of his anger: He wanted the coaches to lean on the four-man line for the pass rush, not extra blitzers.

The coaches listened, shifting their philosophy in dramatic fashion.

"Since that point, things have changed," former Jets defensive lineman-turned-analyst Leger Douzable said on ESPN's "Flight Deck" podcast.

In Weeks 1-3, including the Cincinnati game, the Jets sent more than four rushers on 20% of the passing downs, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. In Weeks 4-7, it dropped to only 9.7% (lowest in the league).

Not only have they generated more pressure with a four-man rush, but the pass coverage has improved significantly. Takeaways are up, while completions and scoring are way down. The difference between seven players in coverage, as opposed to five or six, is big.

Call it The Q Factor.

Williams downplayed his impact, insisting his blowup had nothing to do with the turnaround. He was being modest; the numbers don't lie.

9. Goodbye, basement: Robinson called his trade to the Jets a "very exciting" opportunity. Can you blame him for being excited?

In two-plus seasons with the Jaguars, Robinson went 6-34. So, yeah, it's refreshing to be on a team three games above .500 in late October. In Jacksonville, he was over .500 only twice -- 1-0 in 2020, 2-1 this season.

10. The last word: "Everybody has their personal thoughts. I have my personal thoughts, and I can't wait to show my thoughts on Sunday instead of talking about it now. So I can't wait to show how I felt about that game." -- special teams captain Justin Hardee on whether the team is seeking revenge after last season's 54-13 loss to New England