The Jets are laying a foundation for years to come, and those efforts were never more clear than in Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. There is no hiding from the reality of the 24-17 loss, the Jets' third in a row, or the team's 2-8 record (0-4) in the AFC East.
The Green & White, one of the youngest teams in the NFL this season, has seen talented young players maturing with each game, with each snap. The needle is pointing up and head coach Robert Saleh believes in his players and their ability to make an impact.
"I'm just going to speak about this draft class," Saleh said after Sunday's game. "We still have a lot of faith. We still think our quarterback [Zach Wilson] is going to be special. AVT [Alijah Vera-Tucker] has been getting better every single week. Elijah Moore, his play speaks for itself. Michael Carter, his play speaks for itself. The nickel, Michael Carter, his play speaks for itself.
"[Brandin] Echols had been doing a nice job before he got injured. Then, you look at the last class. Bryce Huff, we're really excited to get him back. Bryce Hall has been doing a nice job at corner. [Javelin] Guidry has been stepping in and doing a really nice job. Ashtyn Davis got an interception today, so there are a lot of first- and second-year players doing a lot of good things. Are there frustrating moments? Sure. There are. But, at the same time, these are all scars that they are getting.
"They're learning. I've said it up here a million times, you have to learn not to lose first. Then, once you learn how not to lose, you figure out how to win. Then, once you learn how to win, you have to learn how to close games. Today was clearly one of those learning moments of how not to lose."
Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore, after being highly touted through OTAs and training camp, had a slow start to his NFL career. He's now sent a message that he is a threat every time he touches the ball. Against Miami, the second-round draft pick from Ole Miss had 8 catches for a career-high 141 yards and a scintillating 62-yard catch-and-run from QB Joe Flacco for a TD that tied the game, 14-14. According to research by our Randy Lange, Moore's total yards are the most in a single game by a rookie since Rob Moore (now the Titans' wide receivers coach) had 175 yards against New England in 1990.
Running back Michael Carter, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, has emerged as the team's No. 1 running back. Last week he said that he doesn't feel like a rookie and he hasn't been playing like a rookie. Before leaving Sunday's game with an ankle injury, he had 9 carries for 63 yards. In addition to being a balanced and hard to bring down RB, Carter has shown he's more than capable catching the ball (32 receptions for 308 yards). Carter has rushed for 430 yards and 4 TDs on 111 carries.
"You want to play youth when you know that youth is going to be special," Saleh said. "It's a good test. It's a good litmus test to be able to play all of these guys and get a good evaluation and see which ones have a chance and which ones don't and all that stuff. I don't know if justified is the word, but going in the right direction? Yeah, I believe that in my heart."
AVT has emerged as an iron man at left guard, playing 100% of the snaps on offense in each of the Jets' 10 games this season. The defensive backfield has been challenged, but the experience will be invaluable for Davis, who had his first interception of the season; Michael Carter II; Echols; Isaiah Dunn; Guidry; and others.
"I think a big thing is not making repeat mistakes," Davis said. "If other people make a mistake or you make a mistake, you've got to learn from it. And not continue to go through those growing pains of making the same mistake."
Moore added: "The more games I get, the more comfortable I feel like I'm getting. I don't feel like a rookie. It's coming down to a time where we just have to execute. It's not too much to think about. All we've got to do is play."