NEW YORK — The New York Jets’ defense was brutal again. All the positive feelings after a solid effort last week slipped away, like a missed tackle.
And the Jets had plenty of those Sunday.
Now what? Well, that’s a season-long work in progress.
But so has been the development of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. And that’s where the glimmer of hope was found in New York’s 33-18 loss to Philadelphia.
Wilson had arguably his best game in the NFL, especially the first half — a period during which he has struggled mightily. He was 23 of 38 for 226 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and a TD run. But it wasn’t so much the numbers as it was the decision making and playmaking that were markedly better.
“Yeah, there were definitely improvements,” Wilson said after the game. “I thought I had some good plays as far as just putting my team in the best decision that I can make every single time and just processing as far as getting through guys.
“Now, the next step comes from finding that balance from how I can now go out and use my playmaking ability and also stay within the offense 99% of the time.”
That’s what this final stretch of five games is all about for the Jets. They need to get their quarterback in a groove to where they know the No. 2 overall draft pick has taken significant steps — physically and mentally — heading into the offseason.
“His footwork was awesome,” coach Robert Saleh said. “His eyes, his tempo, playing within the scheme and not trying to overanalyze. Not trying to make defenses pay just because you might know what they’re in. I thought this was, by far, his best game in terms of just working progression and playing within the scheme.”
Wilson was 12 of 14 for 108 yards and his two TD passes and scoring run in the first half, when the Jets trailed 24-18 after two quarters. He went scoring drive for scoring drive with the Eagles and Gardner Minshew — each getting TDs on their first three offensive possessions.
The run ended on the Jets’ fourth possession when they went three-and-out. The defense couldn’t tackle, with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich saying New York had 15 misses. And the Eagles held the ball for all but 70 seconds in the third quarter, keeping Wilson and the Jets’ offense on the sideline for what seemed an eternity.
“I wish we could have kept him in rhythm in the second half,” Saleh said, “because I thought he was getting ready to have an explosive game overall.”
Wilson needs to improve a lot more, but there was enough there Sunday to provide an optimistic sliver even as the Jets fell to 3-9.
Wilson’s progress. It was only one game, but that’s what the Jets want to see. There were a lot of questions — and rust — after he missed four games with a sprained knee ligament. The rookie answered a few Sunday.
What needs help
The defense. It was back to the drawing board after giving up 418 yards to the Eagles. Cornerback Bryce Hall said the Jets prepared all week for Jalen Hurts, who missed the game with an ankle injury. But several others said they game planned for the Eagles’ offense, which Ulbrich said didn’t change much schematically with Minshew at quarterback. Still, the Jets couldn’t keep Philly out of the end zone in the first half and New York’s D couldn’t get off the field in the third quarter.
“It hurts,” Ulbrich said of the performance. “I’m a prideful person and I put a lot into it, and the players put everything they’ve got into it as well. We don’t work our (butts) off like we do to have the results we’ve been having.”
Braxton Berrios. The speedy wide receiver is making a mark as a returner. He ranks first in the NFL among players with 15 or more kickoff returns with a 28.9 average, helped by his 79-yard return on the opening kickoff Sunday. Berrios is also among the league leaders with a 13.6 average on punt runbacks.
Alex Kessman. The rookie kicker won the open competition last week against Matt Ammendola, was signed to the active roster Saturday — but missed his only two kicks and was gone Monday. The Jets waived him to make room for Eddy Pineiro, who’ll be the ninth player to kick in a regular-season game for New York since the start of the 2017 season.
WR Corey Davis is having core muscle surgery Tuesday and is out the rest of the season after reinjuring his groin Sunday. … CB Michael Carter II is in the concussion protocol. … RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is day to day with an ankle injury.
70 — number of seconds the Jets had possession in the third quarter. It prompted Joe Namath to tweet after hearing it on the TV broadcast: “Did he say the Jets have only had the ball for 70 seconds in the entire 3rd quarter?” Yep, we guarantee that’s true, Joe.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley made headlines after the game when he said the Jets need to change the narrative because teams don’t respect them. Well, that comes with winning. And their next shot comes at home against New Orleans, which like Philadelphia, is banged up at quarterback.