The Jets postseason hopes ended weeks ago and, if you are being realistic, months ago.
This season has been about development and showing progress, and the Jets are doing that in the final month of the season. Here are five areas where the Jets look better now than they did six to eight weeks ago:
Zach Wilson played his best game of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers. He looked comfortable and decisive in the pocket and made some really nice throws into tight windows. Wilson has not filled up the box score with gaudy statistics, but his improvement is obvious when you watch the games.
“The quarterback has made a significant jump in terms of just his control and command of the offense,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday.
In his six games since returning from a knee injury, Wilson has completed 102 of 182 passes (56 percent) for 1,079 yards with four touchdown passes and two interceptions. He also has run 19 times for 139 yards and four touchdowns. In his first six games, he completed 104 of 181 passes (57 percent) for 1,168 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions. He ran the ball just eight times for 22 yards.
Wilson has protected the ball much better and trusted his legs to scramble, two major signs of progress in the rookie quarterback.
Run to daylight
The Jets have found a running game in the last month. They have rushed for more than 100 yards in their last three games — 102 against the Dolphins, 273 versus the Jaguars and 150 against the Buccaneers. They topped 100 rushing yards only three times in the first 11 games.
The offensive line has played more consistently, and running backs Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and Austin Walter have all broken off big runs. Carter looks like he can’t be tackled at times and should be a fixture in the Jets backfield for the next several years.
“I feel like our run game has really taken off,” Saleh said. “We’re generating a lot of explosives in the run game. … It’s a great testament to John Benton, our O-line coach and the offensive line. They’re playing their butts off and the scheme is really a lot of pre-snap movement, a lot of deception and a lot of moving the line of scrimmage. It’s been awesome to watch.”
Getting started early
One of the stories of the early season was the Jets’ inability to score in the first quarter. They were shut out in the first quarter of the first six games. They have gotten off to better starts recently. After not leading at halftime for the first 13 weeks, they have held halftime leads in each of the past three games. They are averaging 13.7 points in the first half in the last six weeks.
“We talked about it earlier in the season, right, we’re a young team,” tackle Morgan Moses said. “Well, this young team is developing into an older team because the younger guys are stepping up and becoming veteran players and the veteran guys are taking that on as well.”
Keeping it close
The Jets had a stretch of ugly games in the middle of the season in which they were noncompetitive. They lost 54-13 to the Patriots, 45-30 to the Colts and 45-17 to the Bills. The games were over by halftime. The Jets have flipped that around in recent weeks. The Jets led the Buccaneers until the final 15 seconds on Sunday. That came after a win over the Jaguars. They were tied with the Dolphins in the fourth quarter three weeks ago and even played the Saints close until the fourth quarter the week before.
The next step is for the Jets to turn those close losses into wins, but playing watchable games is a step forward.
Take it away
The defense has struggled to get takeaways this season. The unit did not have any interceptions in its first six games. It has had three in the last three games. Overall, the Jets had five takeaways in the last three games, equaling the number they had in the seven games prior to that stretch. Rookie cornerback Brandin Echols has two interceptions in the last three weeks and returned one for a touchdown.
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