First-year head coach. Rookie quarterback. More than 20 new players. An 0-3 start to the 2021 NFL season.
That's the reality for the Jets. But for head coach Robert Saleh the fight has only begun.
"We're three games in, it's Round 1 of a 15-round fight," Saleh said on Monday. "We don't have any cuts. We're not bleeding. We got kidney punched, got the wind knocked out of us, but we'll get our wind back."
He was, of course, referring to Sunday's 26-0 loss to the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium. Little on offense worked for the Jets as quarterback Zach Wilson hit on 19-of-35 passes for 160 yards and 2 interceptions; the run game that was so impressive against New England in Week 2 sputtered and contributed 43 yards on 13 carriers; and the team's No. 1 WR Corey Davis was limited to 5 catches for 41 yards.
"It's the same thing in this league ... it's about precision," Saleh said. "When you get to gameday being off that much [he held up his index finger and thumb about an inch apart] and you can look really, really bad. You have to trust everything from the week of preparation, take what you put into it and just let it loose. We're a young group and we just have to find a way to let loose and trust our preparation."
These young Jets are eager to grow, individually and as a group, but the crucible that is the NFL is unforgiving and waits for no rookie to get his sealegs. Foremost among them is Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft and the player with much on his young shoulders. In the past two games, Wilson has had six passes intercepted as the Jets failed to score a touchdown against either New England or Denver.
"On 'Sunday Night Football' they flashed a graphic of [the Packers'] Aaron Rodgers when he gets rid of the ball in fewer than 2.5 seconds," Saleh said. "He's 11 of 11 for 180 yards. It's all part of his timing and rhythm, trusting teammates to get into space and make plays. He's [Wilson] getting better at it, but obviously there are some good plays he can take from the game, but also a lot of teachable moments."
Saleh said that improvement needs to come in Wilson's progressions among his receivers, that waiting for the home-run pass can get the rookie from BYU in trouble.
"Once you hitch in this league ... we tell the D-line that when the quarterback hitches once, you better smell his breath. If he hitches twice, he better be on the ground," the coach said. "That's league wide. The quarterback has to understand that with two hitches you're asking a lot of your protection. He has to access his checkdowns quicker. He just has to do it at a higher level."
The Jets totaled just 162 yards against the Broncos as Wilson was sacked five times, hit on nine occasions and intercepted twice.
"Yesterday was disappointing," Saleh said. "Sometimes you just get punched in the mouth."
That tends to happen in every round of a fight. Now for Saleh and the Jets, it's back to their corner to "prepare for next week ... that's all that matters."
Mosley, Veteran LB, Takes the Long View
C.J. Mosley led the Jets on Sunday with 10 total tackles, several of them bruising and emphatic. On Monday he acknowledged that the Green & White are a work in progress.
"Everybody in the league knows that things are not what you think," he said. "When you start the season, everyone wants to win the first game, the first home game. But that's not the reality of football, or the reality of life. When you play a team sport it has to be every single person. We all need to do our jobs, help out the next man when you need to. Just saying we are a young team with young players ... at the end of the day no one else cares."
He added: "No matter what the situation is you have to have the mindset to be focused, do our job and do the little things right because in this league the little things get you beat."
See All of the Top Images from the Jets' Road Trip to Denver During Week 3
Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore sustained a concussion against the Broncos and is in the concussion protocol, putting his participation in doubt for Sunday's game against Tennessee at MetLife Stadium. Tight end Tyler Kroft, who took a heavy blow to the chest, is day to day, according to HC Robert Saleh. ... With Moore on the bubble for Sunday's game, it could mean the return of Denzel Mims. Mims, a second-round pick in 2020, had a 40-yard catch in the season-opening loss at Carolina while veteran Jamison Crowder (groin) has yet to see action. "They're up in the air, for sure," Saleh said. "We want to get Denzel on the field and see if he can produce." ... D-lineman Sheldon Rankinson QB Zach Wilson: "I think to know him is to know he's pretty unflappable. He's having some growing pains along with the entire team. He's the No. 2 pick in a big media market and sometimes he's a bigger story than the entire team. But he's one of 11 on offense. But he'll be Prime Time."