With Saleh, Douglas, and Rodgers back, focus turns to next season for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The focus now is on the future for the New York Jets.
And it will include both Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas — and Aaron Rodgers — at least for one more year.
Owner Woody Johnson's endorsement of his coach and general manager to return for a do-over settled the Jets' biggest question entering the final stretch of this season and the offseason. Johnson told the New York Post before the Jets’ 30-28 win over the Washington Commanders on Sunday he already decided to keep both Saleh and Douglas moving forward.
Johnson highlighted “some very positive moves” along with an improved culture and a strong defense, but also acknowledged "the offense needs a few pieces.”
Rodgers' return from a torn Achilles tendon is a major piece of that, of course. But this season has certainly been a painful reminder that one player can't be the sole focus of a franchise.
Saleh acknowledged Monday the Jets built this season's roster around Rodgers' strengths — something he said every team does for “a Hall of Fame quarterback.” He called their strategy “sound,” but also said there were things he and his staff could have done better while handling “our worst-case scenario” — losing Rodgers four snaps into his debut with the team.
The Jets need a few more playmakers to complement wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall. They also need to revamp their offensive line — again — to help protect Rodgers and open up things up for Nathaniel Hackett's offense.
Those will be Douglas' primary tasks during this crucial offseason for the Jets, who have the longest playoff drought among teams in major North American sports leagues at 13 straight seasons.
Rodgers and the Jets had Super Bowl dreams up until the moment the quarterback's Achilles tendon tore. The 40-year-old quarterback insists the team needs to “reload” and not “rebuild.” It'll be on Saleh and Douglas to prove Rodgers right — or the conversation will be a lot different at this time next year.
“I think we built a championship roster,” Saleh said. "There’s a lot of things that we’ve learned through adversity over the last three months since Aaron’s injury that will help us, not only as coaches, myself from our process and how we do things, to players and areas where we can improve, and areas where players that come out of nowhere to show that they belong.
“So there’s a lot of growth that I feel has happened over the last few months and it’s going to be our job to make sure that we attack it in every facet, not just on the field product, but off the field with regards to messaging, the way we schedule things, the way we practice, all of it. There’s going to be tweaks all the way across the board.”
Pass defense. The Jets have been downright stingy through the air on defense, not allowing 300 yards passing in 33 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Penalty issues. New York was called for 14 penalties resulting in 150 yards for Washington. The mental mistakes were particularly glaring in the second half, when the Jets had nine of them for 100 yards to help the Commanders stage their stunning comeback.
Hall. This was more like the explosive playmaker the Jets and their fans have been used to. The second-year running back entered the game Sunday having not rushed for more than 50 yards in nine straight games since having a career-high 177 in Week 5 at Denver. Against Washington, Hall ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 96 yards to give him 191 yards from scrimmage.
He's the first player in the Super Bowl era with 190 or more yards from scrimmage, 12 receptions and two TD runs in a single game.
LT Mekhi Becton. The 2020 first-round pick was mostly solid early in his return from knee injuries that kept him sidelined for all but one game the past two seasons. But Becton has struggled mightily lately. He had a rough time last week against Miami's Bradley Chubb, who had three sacks and forced two fumbles, and then had three penalties — two accepted — against Washington.
QB Zach Wilson was ruled out for the game Thursday night in Cleveland because he remained in the concussion protocol. Trevor Siemian will get his second straight start in his place. ... TE Jeremy Ruckert is out with a concussion.
17 — That's how many points the Jets scored in the first quarter, their most in the opening 15 minutes since 2014.
Despite being out of the playoff hunt, the Jets — knowing their football leadership will return next year — have a chance to end things on a positive note with road games to finish this season at Cleveland and New England.
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