Going into this season, the Jets knew they had to just find a way to survive their brutal, six-game opening stretch to keep their hopes of a playoff berth alive.
They didn't. They're 1-5.
And the reasons behind their hideous, 28-3 loss in Arizona Monday night are familiar, since they've been a relatively constant theme throughout their four-game losing streak. All that and more is covered in my 10 takeaways from the latest Jets' debacle:
1. The Jets committed seven penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game (including two that were declined). That's either the sign of an undisciplined team or one that just wasn't prepared to play. Either way, considering they came in 1-4 with their season on (or perhaps already over) the brink, that's just terrible.
2. The ease with which Arizona RB David Johnson got through the Jets' defensive line on his three touchdown runs - the 58-yarder early and 2-yarders in the second and third quarters - was frightening. The best thing about the Jets' defensive line this season has been that they've been strong against the run. This performance, though, was alarming.
3. The Jets hinted all week that their defense was going to be more aggressive and they certainly were. There were a lot more blitzes and some decent pressure from those blitzes on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. But that pressure just isn't coming from the line, and that's where it's all supposed to be coming from. Forget everything else, this is the story of this season. Well, OK, maybe the decline of Ryan Fitzpatrick is the story, but this is Story No. 1A. That line was supposed to be dominant. It was supposed to make up for a lot of other deficiencies. Now the best that can be said is that their defensive coordinator still thinks it's playing better than any position group on the team. Of course, it's now a 1-5 team, so he's probably right.
4. Late in the first half, Jets S Calvin Pryor blitzed straight up the middle and forced Palmer to throw a quick dump off to Johnson … who was being covered by Sheldon Richardson? I seriously can't think of any scenario where it's OK for Richardson to be in coverage like that, unless 10 other players have fallen down. Johnson went for 10 yards, not surprisingly. Seriously, the Jets have to figure out a way to have their defensive linemen play … you know, defensive line.
5. Fitzpatrick's magic seems totally gone and it's clear he's reverted back to his journeyman, up-and-down form of his pre-2015 career. He looked completely off target for much of the first half. When he was on target he was telegraphing his throws. And some of them were downright dangerous (like the one that nearly got Charone Peake killed in the third quarter). Overall, Fitz was 16 of 31 for 174 yards and an interception before he was mercifully pulled for Geno Smith. The big picture of this disaster, though: Fitzpatrick has no touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the second halves of the Jets' six games this season. With a number like that, it's hard to justify Todd Bowles' decision to stick with Fitzpatrick heading into their game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday
6. And yet, I will. … Even though I advocated a quarterback change at halftime … and again after his third-quarter end zone interception -- now is not the time for the Jets to make a quarterback switch for the rest of the season, even though it's clear Fitzpatrick won't be the Jets' quarterback in 2017. Why? Because they can't do that until they're absolutely eliminated from the playoff chase. And sure, at 1-5 they're basically done. But their next four games are against the Baltimore Ravens (3-3), at Cleveland (0-6), at Miami (2-4), and home against the L.A. Rams (3-3). It's certainly not ridiculous to think they'll emerge from that 5-5. OK, maybe they'd still be a longshot to make the playoffs. But at 5-5, the Jets would take that shot and they would want their No. 1 quarterback leading them at that point. Yes, that scenario is a fantasy and ignores the fact that they still have two games against the Patriots left and that they probably need to go 9-1 the rest of the season to make the playoffs anyway. But I guarantee you the Jets don't think they're out of it. It may sound ridiculous but they're not thinking about 2017. They're thinking "If we can just get to 5-5 …"
7. The offensive line didn't do Fitzpatrick any favors. He was under constant pressure. And what I thought was particularly problematic is the Jets attempted several screens where it sure appeared that the running back got to the outside but his blockers didn't go with him. And no, it didn't help that RT Brent Qvale and left guard James Carpenter got hurt during the game and center Nick Mangold was battling a knee injury all week. Still, the line was a trainwreck - and that's why Bowles basically blamed them for Fitzpatrick's disaster after the game.
8. The Jets did a better job than they had been doing at spreading the ball around to their receivers. Not successfully, of course, but they tried. They threw 30 of their 37 passes to receivers, and only six of those went in the direction of Brandon Marshall. Rookie Charone Peake had 10 thrown towards him (and caught five for 43 yards). Rookie Robby Anderson had a nice game (4 catches, 24 yards) - and he also laid a heck of a block on a Cardinals defensive back on the sidelines at the tail end of a Marshall catch. It was dangerously close to a late hit, but definitely legal. And hard. Anyway, the bigger problem was the rookies - Peake, Anderson and Jalin Marshall. They combined for 10 catches and 78 yards. That's a really pathetic 7.8 yards per catch. And it illustrates the problem the Jets have without Eric Decker. Brandon Marshall is the only game-breaker on the team.
9. I actually thought Quincy Enunwa could have emerged as a bit of a game-breaker, but so far that hasn't happened. His first catch came in the third quarter and that was on only the second ball thrown his direction. He ended up with three catches for 42 yards, but he is now the second best receiver on the team and the Jets really have to use him that way. Find ways to get him open and give him a chance. And while we're on that subject, normally here I'd advocate for throwing more to the running backs, too - and that's valid considering only seven passes were tossed to Bilal Powell and Matt Forte. But as I mentioned above, the blocking - particularly on screens - was basically nonexistent. Powell and Forte combined for four catches for 15 yards - not even four yards per catch.
10. This is somewhat premature, but since I've heard it in a few places since the end of the game on Monday night, I'll mention it: The idea that Todd Bowles' job should be in jeopardy if this season ends without a playoff berth is crazy. Yes, it would be disappointing. It would also be a sign that he basically worked a miracle with the team last year to get them close. Regardless, that's not how good franchises operate. They made a decision to hire Bowles, now they've got to give him a chance - and a chance isn't two years. It's especially not two years without a quarterback. They got lucky with Fitzpatrick last year. They're unlucky with him this year. The Jets need to find Bowles a quarterback for 2017. Then judge him.