clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chargers vs. Jets: 5 Questions: Is there hope for Zach Wilson? And who are New York’s unsung heroes?

We talked to the New York Jets experts at Gang Green Nation to break down what’s really going on at Florham Park — is Zach Wilson turning a corner? And how does that defense do it?

Syndication: The Record
Zach Wilson, during an ugly win against a hobbled New York Giants.
Kevin R. Wexler - The Record / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Los Angeles Chargers have not had many opportunities to play the New York Jets, last taking them on in 2020 (a 34-28 win) and before that 2017 (a 14-7 win). The last time the Jets beat the Chargers, it was an Antonio Cromartie revenge game.

That history, of course, doesn’t mean anything. As weird as it is, the Jets hold a winning record — meaning that they currently have a higher “seed” for the playoffs as the first team out of the Wild Card.

But the season is far from over, and there’s a reason that DraftKings Sportsbook has the Chargers as the favorite by just a tic over a field goal at -3.5 with a total at 40. That’s a pretty low total, suggesting that the Jets weak offense may not do much against the Chargers’ porous defense while the Chargers’ passing game will run into trouble against a stellar Jets defense.

To preview the Jets game on Monday night, we talked to MacGregor Wells of Gang Green Nation.

1. If anyone can sympathize with offensive line injuries, it’s Chargers fans. The Jets offensive line situation is seemingly about as dire from an injury perspective as you can get — even worse than last year. Is it really that catastrophic? If so, who should Chargers fans expect to see line up for the Jets along the OL and what challenges will that mean? What are the concerns dealing with Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Tuli Tuipulotu?

MW: The Jets will be missing starting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, starting center Connor McGovern and 3rd string center Wes Schweitzer. In addition, starting guard Laken Tomlinson, 2nd string center Joe Tippman, and starting offensive tackle Duane Brown are all questionable for the game. It isn’t a pretty picture for the Jets’ offensive line.

If the three questionable guys all take the field on Monday night the Jets should be OK on the offensive line. If none of them take the field the Jets will be in dire straits. Even if the three questionable guys all take the field, the Jets offensive line isn’t exactly top of the heap, and the Chargers’ pass rush will likely give them all they can handle.

I expect Jets quarterback Zach Wilson to be under pressure quite a bit Monday night. How he deals with that pressure will have a major impact on the Jets’ chances to win the game. Wilson has not been effective under pressure in the past, so the Jets may have to rely on their defense and running game to keep them in this game.

2. When the Jets signed Aaron Rodgers, there was some background hope that Zach Wilson would learn from him and become a better player over time. Unfortunately, that was tested earlier than anybody anticipated, but we did see some flashes of improved play. For the most part, though, he looks lost. Do the flashes of good play mean anything to Jets fans or are they ready to just be done with him?

MW: I can’t speak for Jets fans in general. Some still have hope, others are ready to move on. Speaking only for myself, I’m in the ready-to-move-on camp. Wilson at his best has just been adequate. Mostly he’s been bad. Often he’s been worse than bad. Yes, there have been some signs of progress this year.

Wilson has gotten better at getting the ball out on time. He’s done better at stepping up in the pocket rather than retreating and eventually getting sacked. He appears to understand the offense better and he’s making better reads. He has shown better pocket awareness. He has cleaned up his footwork, leading to better accuracy. However, all those improvements are coming from a baseline of abysmal play the prior two years. And even with the improvements Wilson still is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. In year three, that’s not good enough.

Look, barring injury or a miraculous comeback this year by Aaron Rodgers, Zach Wilson will be the Jets’ starting quarterback the rest of this year. He has another 10 games to show he can be a long-term answer at quarterback. So there’s nothing to be gained by not keeping an open mind at this point.

Like him or not, he’s it for 10 more games. Based on what we’ve seen thus far I don’t expect Wilson to ever pan out, but it’s certainly not impossible. Some guys take longer to develop than others. But for me, unless Wilson improves substantially over the next 10 games, it’s time to move on. I would hope the Jets strongly consider other options for next year and beyond, whether via trade or the draft.

3. The Jets are known for their excellent defense but it feels like — outside of Sauce Gardner and Quinnen Williams — that the individual players on the team don’t receive much in the way of accolades. Who deserves to be spotlighted? Quincy Williams? John Franklin-Myers? Bryce Huff? D.J. Reed? Someone, ironically, that I didn’t mention?

MW: Quincy Williams has been a revelation this year. In prior years he was a liability in coverage, and often played out of control, missing tackles while seeking the monster hit. This year he’s been excellent in coverage, more disciplined in his approach, and seems to understand his assignments better.

Bryce Huff creates pressure off the edge at a rate as good as almost anyone in the NFL. He’s been underrated in a nine-man defensive line rotation in the past, but lately he has earned more playing time and he’s delivering. He’s a handful in pass-rushing situations.

D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II are the other parts of the Jets’ three-headed monster at cornerback. Both are arguably playing at a Pro Bowl level. Combined with Sauce Gardner, Reed and Carter make up what may be the best cornerback trio in the NFL.

4. Some of the highest-profile moves from Joe Douglas have seemingly not worked out — Zach Wilson, Elijah Moore, almost every offensive lineman, etc. But the team is playing beyond what anybody would have expected after Rodgers went down. What are the feelings Jets fans have about the Douglas era?

Again, I’m not sure I can speak for all Jets fans. Some love what Joe Douglas has done, others are ready to move on. For my part, I think Douglas has been a mixed bag. His first two drafts were subpar, but the 2022 draft, featuring Sauce Gardner (defensive rookie of the year), Garrett Wilson (offensive rookie of the year), Breece Hall, Jermaine Johnson (on pace for a 10-sack season), Micheal Clemons (a solid interior defensive lineman) and Jeremy Ruckert (a backup tight end who should take over the starting role next year), was one for the ages.

In free agency Douglas has mostly struck out, with the notable exception of D.J. Reed, who has been excellent. In trades Douglas has been excellent, often getting much more than Jets fans anticipated in exchange for spare parts. In sum, there’s been some good, some bad.

I think those who like what Douglas has done point to how much better the roster is compared to when he took over the team. But that overlooks the fact that he would have been hard-pressed to make the team worse. The roster when Douglas took over was probably the worst in the NFL, due to the utter incompetence of Douglas’ predecessor, Mike Maccagnan.

Those who don’t like what Douglas has done point to the team’s overall record since he took over. The Jets have never had a winning season under Douglas. But that overlooks some bad luck with injuries.

Zach Wilson and the offensive line are the real sticking points. Wilson has been terrible. But a single pick being terrible may just be a random thing. Plenty of good GMs make bad picks, especially at quarterback. Every year highly touted quarterbacks flame out. So making one bad pick at quarterback probably shouldn’t be enough to condemn the job Douglas has done.

The offensive line is another matter. There’s no disputing that Joe Douglas has thrown a ton of resources at fixing the offensive line, with little to show for it. Douglas has drafted six offensive linemen, all in the first four rounds. He also has signed a bunch in free agency. Yet the line remains a problem. Part of this is bad luck with injuries. 1st round pick Mekhi Becton was out for two years with a knee injury. 1st-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker has struggled to stay on the field with various injuries. 4th round pick Cameron Clark suffered a career-ending injury. 2nd-round pick Joe Tippman is injured this year. 4th round pick Max Mitchell suffered a season ending blood issue last year. The bad luck has been rampant. But bottom line, one way or another Douglas has not done the job with an offensive line that is still a mess four-plus years after Douglas took over.

That’s a very long answer. It’s a complicated issue. Bottom line, there’s things to like and things to not like with Douglas. If he can find a quarterback and fix the offensive line in the next year or two, the Jets will be in great shape. If not, Douglas will probably be fired at some point.

5. A number of the offseason acquisitions the Jets made — including offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — revolved around Aaron Rodgers in one way or another. Without Rodgers as the centerpiece of the offense anymore, how have people like Hackett, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, etc. worked without Rodgers there? Are any of them worth hammering the over in DraftKings?

MW: Jets fans joke about Rodgers being the real Jets GM. It certainly seems like the Jets went all out to bring in Rodgers’ guys in order to entice him to come to the Jets. And it worked. Rodgers is a Jet. But the Rodgers’ guys … well, they have been, shall we say, a bit underwhelming? Ahhh, let’s call it like it is. They’ve been terrible. Randall Cobb has literally been the worst receiver in the NFL. He was once a nice slot receiver, but at this point it’s time for him to go. He’s not an NFL level talent anymore.

Allen Lazard – I’m not sure why anyone expected him to be anything other than mediocre. He’s been mediocre his entire career, even with an all-world Aaron Rodgers throwing to him. With Zach Wilson doing the quarterbacking, Lazard’s been just north of useless. A “big” receiver with little speed, with suspect hands, who isn’t a great route runner, who doesn’t play big – what’s not to like?

Nathaniel Hackett is Rodgers’ hand-picked offensive coordinator. Who knows, maybe the two of them would have cooked up something great on offense. But it hasn’t worked with Zach Wilson. Maybe that’s Wilson’s fault. Maybe it’s the fault of a bad offensive line. But to my eyes it sure looks like Hackett’s schemes are part of the problem.

All in all, maybe signing all these guys would have been more than worth it to get Aaron Rodgers under center. But with Wilson under center, they sure look like bad signings to me.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.