Saleh: Jets’ struggles a ‘crappy part’ of path to improving

Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)The New York Jets’ record is lousy. Their play on the field most of the season has been, too.

Robert Saleh understands the fans’ frustration. But he also believes things will be different, and someday soon.

Still, it’s a tough sell after the team was outplayed in a 30-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, dropping the Jets to 3-10 and eliminating them from the postseason picture for the 11th straight year.

”Does it suck right now? Sure,” Saleh said. ”I feel ya. Nobody in this locker room wants to lose football games. But at the same time – and I’ve said it before – the path is crystal clear on where this organization needs to go and the things we need to address as coaches, players, all the way top down.

”It’s very, very clear.”

Being consistently competitive would be a good start.

The Jets’ playoff drought ties the franchise record set by the 1970-80 squads. It is also the longest active skid in the NFL.

”It’s going to flip,” Saleh insisted. ”This crappy part is part of the process, but at the same time it’s not discouraging by any sense of the imagination because we’ve got a lot of young guys getting a lot of good playing time. And I promise you they’re learning from all this.”

Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is at the center of all that, with his development the primary focus moving forward.

He appeared to take a nice step forward with perhaps his best performance of his young NFL career last week against Philadelphia. But he struggled against the Saints, whose defense stifled him and the Jets’ short-handed offense.

”I thought as far as seeing the field, decision making, I thought I was seeing well,” Wilson said. ”Of course, there are some I want back, but I’ve got to throw the ball better, give the guys better chances to run after the catch. Just right from the beginning, I’ve got to be more accurate.”

Wilson finished 19 of 42 for 202 yards, and missed receivers short at times and overthrew them at others. There were also several drops, including three in the first half by running back Ty Johnson.

”Yeah, it wasn’t his cleanest game, obviously,” Saleh said. ”He was hindered with some drops early. I don’t know if that threw him off or not, but obviously, he has played better in the past. And he’ll get better from it.”

The offense was missing several of its key playmakers with wide receivers Corey Davis (groin) and Elijah Moore (quadriceps) and running backs Michael Carter (high ankle sprain) and Tevin Coleman (concussion) all sidelined.

And it showed. The Jets went just 3 of 14 on third down and had only 256 yards of total offense. Still, Wilson said those players’ absences didn’t factor into his own play.

”Absolutely not,” he said. ”I mean, those guys are great players, don’t get me wrong, and they’re part of this team and we want them back, but the guys we had step up were ready for this opportunity. I had full trust in those guys to do everything today and of course they’re going to want some back, but I’ve got to throw the ball better for those guys.

”I’ve got to give them a better chance to run after the catch and that’s something that I’m going to work on.”

New York’s defense has been much-maligned this season. Against the Saints, it was a little better while allowing 344 yards. That’s the second-lowest total in the past six games. But the Jets still gave up 120 yards rushing to Alvin Kamara and 73 to quarterback Taysom Hill, whose total was bloated by a late 44-yard TD run.

And the defense knows it needs to be better – while Wilson and the offense develop.

”There’s been times when the offense is rolling and we’ve been getting breaks on the sideline, but there’s going to be times when they struggle,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. ”Zach is still growing in this league. He’s going to have times where he struggles a bit, but at the end of the day we’ve got to be pick him up.

”We’ve got to be able to get those stops and get him the ball again so he can continue to create his rhythm, continue to get more comfortable with everything out there. So, it’s just on us.”

Actually, it’s on everyone in the organization, as Saleh said.

This year was never going to be about total victories. But the Jets need to make sure this season isn’t a total loss.

”It’s always a challenge whenever you’re going into a building where you’ve had what you had over the last 10 years and you’ve got a lot of guys trying to figure out how not to lose football games and how to win games,” Saleh said. ”We have been getting better. It’s just a matter of sticking to our guns and philosophy and what we’re trying to get done.

”And trust that we’ve got these four games coming up, and we’ve got a lot of things to look forward to.”

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