FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. "Fun" bunch: At the midseason(ish) point, the Jets' leading rusher, leading receiver and leading on-ball defender have at least one thing in common: They're all rookies -- early validation for the team's widely acclaimed draft class.
The Jets rank only eighth in number of rookie snaps (1,870), per ESPN Stats & Information research, but they're getting quality snaps from cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson. Running back Breece Hall was on his way to becoming the valedictorian of the class, but a torn ACL in his left knee ended his season. Without a doubt, the Jets have three building blocks for the future.
Wilson and Hall have combined for 39% of the offense, based on yards from scrimmage. Gardner has teamed with D.J. Reed to give the Jets their best cornerback tandem since Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, circa 2010.
"It’s been fun to watch them come in since April -- how they’ve grown, how their confidence has grown," general manager Joe Douglas said of the rookie class. "Some guys came in with unbelievable confidence, with real authentic, genuine confidence. So it’s been fun to watch them grow, grow as professionals, perform each day on the practice field, perform on Sundays and have fun doing it."
A closer look:
Gardner (first round): A leading candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Gardner is tied for the league lead in passes defensed (12). He's got the nickname and the game to be a star. The only thing missing is a couple of more interceptions. (He has one.)
Wilson (first): The only rookie with more receptions and yards than Wilson (34 for 429) is former college teammate Chris Olave of the New Orleans Saints (37 for 547). Wilson is the first Jets rookie with two 100-yard receiving games since Al Toon (1985). The only negative is the number of dropped passes, a team-high four.
Jermaine Johnson (first): The backup defensive end is expected to return Sunday after missing three games with a sprained ankle. Buried in a nine-man rotation, Johnson hasn't flashed the dynamic edge-rushing ability that dazzled scouts, but his run defense is better than advertised. It's a small sample, but his run-stuff percentage (7.7) leads the Jets' defensive linemen.
Hall (second): For seven games, he was "Breeced Lightning." He ranks sixth in the league in rushing yards over expected per carry (1.5), per NFL Next Gen Stats, which tells you everything about what he can do with the ball in his hands.
As for the other picks, tight end Jeremy Ruckert (third) probably will be a healthy scratch for the fourth time. He has no role on offense, behind vets Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah, and hasn't been able to establish traction on special teams. Tackle Max Mitchell (fourth) was a pleasant surprise as a fill-in starter for four games before a knee injury. He could return in Week 11, but there's no guarantee he will get the job back. Micheal Clemons (fourth), a rotational player on the defensive line, is showing his unusual skill set on the kickoff-coverage team. Not often do you see a 263-pound defensive end covering kicks.
2. Fitz throws a red flag: Former NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, now an analyst for Prime Video, was asked this week on a conference call what he'd tell the Jets if he were advising them about Zach Wilson's future. Fitzpatrick dusted off a story from one year ago, saying it was "a giant red flag" when the team hired Wilson's personal quarterback coach, John Beck, and put him on staff for the remainder of the season.
"I don't know Zach Wilson, but that scares me a little bit," said Fitzpatrick, who played for the Jets in 2015-2016. "I know they were trying to help him and do whatever they could to get his mentals right and to match everything with his physicals. But that one, that one scared me a little bit to have to fly somebody in to make sure that he was OK and coddle him a little bit."
Wilson actually showed marginal improvement with Beck around, but the optics certainly raised questions.
3. Joshing: Still bothered by Wilson's three-interception performance last week in the loss to the New England Patriots? Know this: Bills star Josh Allen had a three-pick game against the Patriots -- the Jets play the Bills on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) -- in the fourth game of his second year. It was a rock-bottom moment in Allen's career. Their interceptions were eerily similar -- careless throws under pressure.
Allen rebounded quickly, later calling it a turning point for him. Unfortunately for Wilson, his attempted rebound starts with the Bills' defense, ranked No. 1 in points allowed.
4. Head games: It was amateur psychologist week, with everybody trying to get a feel for where Wilson's head is after last week's disaster (20-of-41, 355 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs). Naturally, coaches and players said he's in a good place, but my understanding is that his performance was shaky at best in Wednesday's practice -- the most important of the week.
5. Four's a crowd: The Jets didn't trade either of their disgruntled wide receivers before Tuesday's deadline, but things could change in the offseason. They have four starting-caliber receivers, and it might make sense to move one.
Which one goes? Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore already have expressed a desire to play elsewhere. Mims and Corey Davis will be in the final year of their contracts, and Davis' $10.5 million salary (non-guaranteed) might be tempting to unload for cap purposes. Garrett Wilson isn't going anywhere, of course.
Douglas said Moore "has a bright future as a New York Jet," which is what you'd expect him to say. A lot can happen over the next nine games, but it will be a storyline to monitor in the offseason.
6. Moore or less: After only 10 snaps last week, Moore's playing time bears watching. He went from a "huge explosive machine" last season, according to offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, to virtually invisible (16 catches for 203 yards, 0 TDs). Does that make any sense? Know this about the Jets' coaches: They place a premium on practice performance. If a player is sulking and not practicing hard, he won't have a major role in the game.
Not only did Moore lose playing time last week, but he might have lost his job, too. He was replaced at his position (X-split end) by Wilson, who responded with arguably his best game (six catches for 115 yards). It wouldn't be smart to mess with that. Previously, Wilson was used primarily in the slot. With Davis (knee) out, Mims is expected to start again on the opposite side (Z-flanker). Moore figures to get time in the slot -- if he gets any significant time.
Coach Robert Saleh said the Jets will try to give him more opportunities. Stay tuned.
7. Did you know? You can criticize Moore for dropping the ball with his poorly timed trade request, but you can't rip him for literally dropping the ball. Of the seven players on the team with a minimum of 15 pass targets, he's the only one with no drops.
8. Diggs almost a Jet? Speaking of wide receivers, the Bills' Stefon Diggs suggested recently on teammate Von Miller's podcast ("The Voncast") that he almost got traded to the Jets in 2020. That statement certainly raised some eyebrows, but it's not accurate, according to a source familiar with the situation. That was Douglas' first offseason, when he was in draft pick-acquisition/cap-cleanup mode. The Jets knew Diggs wanted out of the Minnesota Vikings, but the timing wasn't right for the Jets.
9. Problems at home: The Jets never will be a legit threat in the AFC until they become a strong home team. They're 1-3 and a league-worst 18-35 since 2016. Sunday is a great opportunity to pull off a massive upset and change the mojo.
10. The last word: "I think once he figures out his swing, it's going to be really cool." -- Saleh on Zach Wilson