The New York Jets tied the Philadelphia Eagles 31 – 31 in a wild conclusion to the 2021 Jets preseason. James Morgan threw a Hail Mary pass 60 yards in the air into the end zone to Kenny Yeboah, with Eagles draped all over Yeboah, as time expired. Josh Adams just snuck into the end zone on the ensuing two point conversion, and an action packed preseason finale ended in a tie. The tie kept the Jets undefeated for the preseason, the first time a Jets team went through a preseason undefeated since 2002. Yes, that is as meaningless as it sounds. But given the choice between undefeated, and defeated, I’ll choose undefeated every time, even if the games don’t count and the scores don’t matter.
With the usual provisos that preseason games are something shy of meaningful, and performances that amount to a handful of snaps with and against backups are usually not worth analyzing, let’s talk about what was good and not so good in the Jets tie against the Eagles.
Josh Johnson. Johnson wasn’t spectacular. He didn’t light up the scoreboard. He isn’t a top end quarterback, even for a backup. But he was light years better than anything James Morgan and Mike White have produced this preseason. Johnson looked calm, accurate, decisive and in command of the offense. He led an impressive 12 play, 71 yard drive to open the game for the Jets offense. Johnson isn’t a great option at backup quarterback, but of the options currently on the team, he looked to be by far the most attractive.
Kenny Yeboah. Four receptions on five targets, 100 yards and two touchdowns, including a TD grab on a Hail Mary pass as time expired. Guys on the field on the last play of the last preseason game are usually guys who have a tenuous hold on a roster spot. Yeboah may not make the final 53, but what he did last night certainly did not hurt his chances.
Josh Adams. 12 carries for 62 yards and the game tying two point conversion was a nice way to end the preseason. Like Yboah, the fact that he was on the field as time expired does not bode well for his chances to make the team, but he did all he could to enhance those chances last night.
Ty Johnson. Johnson has looked like the Jets’ best back most of this preseason. He put in another nice performance last night. 13 carries for 53 yards and the Jets’ only rushing touchdown. Johnson looks like he has wrapped up a significant role in the Jets backfield to start the season.
Jeff Smith. If the Jets carry seven wide receivers the last spot will come down to Vyncint or Jeff Smith. Jeff was the more impressive Smith last night. Five touches for 60 yards will tend to get you noticed.
Jets Run Blocking. The offensive line had some hiccups in pass protection, but they did a nice job opening holes in the ground game as the Jets rushed for an impressive 175 yards.
Braden Mann. The Jets punter has looked like a changed Mann out there, booming punts left and right. Three punts for a 51.3 yard average on the night.
Jamien Sherwood. The Eagles scored quickly on a five play 75 yard drive to open the game. Virtually all the yards were gained on two plays featuring blown tackles by Sherwood. Not the way you want to begin your first NFL start.
Isaiah Dunn. Despite rave reviews out of camp, all Dunn has done is get burned by scrub receivers since the preseason started. Dunn was cooked for a long touchdown pass last night, and compounded his mistake by failing to make a tackle which would have ended the first half.
Daniel Brown. When fighting for a roster spot, fumbling the ball for an opponent’s touchdown as time was running out is not the best route to making the team.
Trevon Wesco. Wesco’s role on the team is mostly to function as a lead blocker in the running game. Whiffing in close quarters at the goal line is probably not what the Jets have in mind.
Chris Herndon. Another game, another nothing burger. Where the heck has the dynamic tight end of his rookie year gone?
James Morgan. Yes, I know he was the dude who completed the Hail Mary to tie the game. I know he led the offense to 21 second half points. But outside of the Hail Mary, Morgan was mostly a nightmare. He was wildly erratic with his accuracy. He had one pass intercepted, a two point conversion intercepted, and two more passes that could easily have been intercepted. His scoring drives consisted mostly of him handing the ball off to Jets running backs. This was as poor of a performance in a 21 point half of football as I can remember a quarterback having.
Brandin Echols exited the game with a shoulder injury. Other than that, the Jets appeared to emerge from this game mostly unscathed
THE BOTTOM LINE
This was a game the Jets just had to get through without more major injuries. Pending word on the Echols injury, it appears the Jets managed to do that. Nothing of substance can really be taken from the final preseason game contested mostly between back of the roster guys for both teams. In all likelihood, some of the stars of this game will not make the roster, as being on the field deep into the final preseason contest is often an indication you aren’t making the team.
For the preseason as a whole, three things stand out to me.
- Robert Saleh and his staff look remarkably competent. We haven’t seen the telltale signs of a poorly coached team or coaches not yet comfortable in their new positions. No difficulties lining up, no clock issues, no what were they thinking moments, no games with penalty after penalty. The coaching staff looked like five year veterans, not the bunch of rookies that they are. This may change when the action gets real, but for now the coaching staff has looked impressive.
- The offense has playmakers and some creative play-calling, for the first time in what seems like forever. How things fare in the regular season hinges on an offensive line that has yet to gel and has rarely played together as a complete unit. It also depends on Zach Wilson carrying over his impressive performances against backups to the regular season against top NFL defenses. Those are far from givens. Nonetheless, while the offense will no doubt struggle at times this season, the long term prognosis seems brighter than it has since the Jets were playing in AFC Championship games.
- The defense looks extremely shaky. They can’t stop the run and they can’t stop the pass. That has been true against backups. Quarterbacks and receivers who may not even make a 53 man roster have routinely torched the Jets’ defense this preseason. I shudder to think what actual starting quarterbacks and receivers will do. Getting Quinnen Williams back in action will help, but I fear that there are too many weak links at every level of the defense for this unit to thrive. I hope they surprise me, but it looks at this point like the Jets will need the offense to put up big numbers to have a shot at winning many games this year.