Can Jets recover from Aaron Rodgers injury? Recent history casts doubt

RC on Chiefs-Jets: 'The most foregone conclusion in the history of sports!' (1:27)

Ryan Clark is livid the Kansas City Chiefs-New York Jets game is being nationally televised on Sunday night. (1:27)

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

1. Odds stacked against them: It happens just about every year: Some unlucky team will lose its starting quarterback for a large chunk of the season. In almost every case, it's a death sentence.

This year, the Jets are that team, losing Aaron Rodgers to a left Achilles tear on the first series of the first game.

The NFL is so quarterback-reliant that even good teams with smart offensive coaches struggle to overcome the loss of their QB1. In the previous five seasons, seven teams lost their starter for at least 10 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Of those seven, only one team finished with a winning record and in the top half of the league in scoring.

The exception was the 2022 San Francisco 49ers, who lost Trey Lance but replaced him with Jimmy Garoppolo and later Brock Purdy. Picked last in the '22 draft, Purdy was a revelation, winning all five of his regular-season starts to help lead the Niners to a 13-4 record. He also won two playoff games before getting injured in the NFC Championship Game. The other six teams averaged only six wins and a ranking of 22nd in scoring.

Look what happened to the Miami Dolphins last season. Coach Mike McDaniel is hailed as an offensive genius, but his team went 1-3 and averaged 16 points per game with a playoff roster when he lost starting QB Tua Tagovailoa and had to play backups Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson. And that win was an ugly 11-6 decision over the offensively challenged Jets and Joe Flacco.

It's a tough deal, losing your quarterback. Fan bases get impatient, head coaches get dumped on and it stresses the locker room, as the Jets are finding out. Week after week, the defense is under immense pressure to carry the team. Asked if there's frustration on defense, cornerback D.J. Reed told ESPN:

"I wouldn't use the word 'frustration,' but we do want to play complementary football. I think that's important, especially to be a dominant defense. We do want to play complementary football, but we look at it as an opportunity whenever we go out there. If we have to go out there 80 plays, then we have to go out there 80 plays.

"It is what it is and we've got to get our job done, but we look at it as an opportunity every time we step on the field. But, yeah, we definitely want to play complementary football, though. I'll be lying to you if I say that's not important to winning football games."

The Jets (1-2) rank 32nd in scoring. What makes their situation unique is that, unlike the aforementioned teams that struggled, they have a highly drafted replacement with starting experience -- Zach Wilson (No. 2 overall in 2021). The other teams had retreads and career backups.

2. Way down: Of the 80 quarterbacks since 2010 with at least 700 pass attempts, Wilson ranks 79th in QBR (34.0), according to ESPN Stats & Info. The only quarterback with a lower QBR is Blaine Gabbert (30.5), the Kansas City Chiefs' backup. Nos. 79 and No. 80 will be in the same building Sunday night -- Chiefs at Jets, MetLife Stadium (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

3. Night terrors: In Week 1, the Jets snapped an eight-game losing streak in prime-time games. Unfortunately, not all the negative trends ended that night. They lost their quarterback, which means: In four of their past five night games, their quarterback didn't finish -- Rodgers (injured), Wilson (benched), Mike White (injured) and Sam Darnold (injured).

4. Ready to cook: Dalvin Cook is in the midst of the least productive three-game stretch of his career. He's 47th out of 48 qualified runners in yards per carry (2.3) and he's 46th in rushing yards over expected (-44), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He hasn't resembled the running back who made four straight Pro Bowls with the Minnesota Vikings, but he's not worried. He feels like he's ready to bust out.

"It's coming, man," he said. "There's a sense of urgency behind everything I'm doing. The time is coming. Why not be Sunday?"

Cook has faced a number of challenges in recent months -- shoulder surgery, no training camp and a new role. No longer a full-time back, he's adjusting to life as a complementary back.

"It's kind of different when you don't start the games," he said. "I was used to going out there first, setting the tempo, getting myself going early. It's kind of different now. I have to be ready to go at any point. It's kind of different."

5. Believe it or not: Dolphins point total last week: 70. Jets point total in their past seven games: 74.

6. Unconventional warmup: Wide receiver Allen Lazard has an unusual warmup routine for practice and games: He dribbles and juggles a soccer ball.

Inspired by former NFL receiver Chad Ochocinco, who dabbled in soccer, Lazard began doing it in 2020 as a way to break up the monotony of warmups. He's always had a passion for soccer, though he never played competitively.

"I think it helps me with my hips, just the kicking motion," he said. "And I like to juggle because I always say if I can catch the ball with my foot, I can catch the ball with my hands."

Lazard owns two soccer balls -- one for practice, one for games. If it's an away game, he will throw the ball in his travel bag, along with his helmet and shoulder pads.

"In the grand scheme of things," he said, "it's just a lighthearted way to get ready."

7. Head-scratcher: Wide receiver Mecole Hardman is making $3.6 million guaranteed, but he can barely get on the field. He's had only 12 offensive snaps. The Jets billed him as a replacement for Braxton Berrios, who is averaging 32 snaps per game for the Dolphins, but they haven't utilized his speed in the running or passing game.

Hardman, who averaged 38 catches a season with the Chiefs, can play the slot. The current slot receiver is Randall Cobb, who is averaging 0.48 yards per route, 96th out of 97 qualified wide receivers.

8. Disruptive duo: Quinnen Williams considers Chiefs star Chris Jones more than just an offseason workout partner; he's a close friend and inspiration. Said Williams: "He gave me wisdom and knowledge for on the field and off the field. I took it all in and put it inside my game." They're two of the best defensive tackles in the league.

9. Trade? Not so easy: If the Jets want to trade their 2024 first-round pick for a quarterback before the Oct. 31 trading deadline -- which seems unlikely at this point -- they would have to include a contingency in any trade because they don't have full control of the pick, according to the NFL.

The reason is because the Jets' 2024 second-round pick was traded conditionally to the Green Bay Packers for Rodgers. It improves to a first-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% of the snaps in 2023. That's not going to happen because of his Achilles injury, but the league doesn't allow teams to trade picks they don't fully control.

That's where the contingency comes into play. Example: To trade the pick, they'd have to agree to alternative compensation -- i.e., their 2025 first-rounder or a combination of other picks until their 2024 first-rounder becomes free in the offseason. Or they could try to get the Packers to rework the trade language now that Rodgers is finished for the season.

10. The last word: "We're three games into the season. There's no reason to freak out or panic right now. I think we're close." -- Zach Wilson on his own play and the offense