Every week, we get an opportunity to talk with one of our fellow SB Nation sites to gather a bit of intel on the Minnesota Vikings’ upcoming opponent. This week, that leads us to the folks at Gang Green Nation, SB Nation’s home for everything relating to the New York Jets. The Jets are the last of the four AFC East teams that the Vikings will face this year, and we’re hoping for the same result the purple saw against all three of those teams. . .a victory.
I had the opportunity to exchange some questions with MacGregor Wells, the Deputy Manager over at Gang Green Nation, to learn more about the J-E-T-S. Once he posts the answers I sent him to his questions, I will put them up here. For now, here are the questions that I sent him and his responses.
1) The Jets benched former #2 overall pick Zach Wilson in favor of Mike White, and the offense responded in a big way in the 31-10 victory over Chicago. Why does the offense appear to function so much better with White in charge than with Wilson?
Because Wilson was not operating at the level of a competent NFL quarterback. His mechanics were a mess, he took way too long to process what was in front of him, he too often passed on the easy gains to try for difficult long passes that just weren’t there, his accuracy was terrible, he did not read defenses well, he did not have good pocket presence. Essentially, other than having a strong arm and a quick release, Wilson was doing nothing at an acceptable NFL level. Sure, there were brief stretches, sometimes a quarter of a game, where Wilson looked good, but for the most part he was anywhere from mediocre to embarrassingly bad. It remains to be seen what Mike White can develop into, but for now he is at least able to throw the ball with accuracy, get the ball out quickly, and make the right decisions most of the time. That lets the Jets' offense function the way it’s designed most of the time. For now nobody’s talking about Mike White being a top NFL quarterback, but at this point competent will suffice.
2) A lot of people, myself included, are very much looking forward to the Justin Jefferson/Sauce Gardner matchup this week. Do you think the star rookie will follow Jefferson around on Sunday or will the Jets attempt to employ a different strategy to try to slow him down?
My guess is Sauce Gardner will not follow Jefferson around the field. The Jets don’t play a ton of man coverage. In addition, the Jets generally keep D.J. Reed on the right side of the field and Sauce Gardner on the left side of the field. It’s always possible the Jets will change things up; that’s sometimes necessary when you’re faced with a superstar. However, the Jets have already faced Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill without having Sauce Gardner follow them around, so I expect them to do the same against Jefferson. It’s worth noting that Reed is perhaps underrated by many. In my opinion the Jets lose very little by having Reed in coverage vs Gardner. So whether or not Gardner shadows Jefferson may not make a lot of difference. That should not in any way be construed as saying the Jets will contain Jefferson regardless. In my opinion Jefferson is the best receiver in the NFL and fully capable of embarrassing any defensive back. All I’m trying to convey is whatever level of success, or lack thereof, the Jets have against Jefferson may not depend much on which Jet cornerback is primarily covering him.
3) Like the Vikings, the Jets have been one of the bigger surprises in the NFL this year. What changed from last season to this season that has enabled the Jets to make a bit of a leap?
The simple answer is talent. The Jets are a much more talented team this year. On defense, the Jets completely revamped their secondary in the offseason, drafting Sauce Gardner and signing D.J. Reed in free agency, giving the Jets arguably the best outside cornerback tandem in the NFL this year after having one of the worst last year. LaMarcus Joyner came back after missing the entire season last year at free safety, and the Jets brought in Jordan Whitehead at strong safety in free agency. The Jets' secondary instantly went from bottom five to top five in the NFL.
In addition, Carl Lawson at edge rusher missed all of last season with an injury, but he is back and playing at a high level this season. Finally Quinnen Williams is having a career year at defensive tackle, making the jump from good to All-Pro level this year. From draft picks to free agents to guys returning from devastating injuries to a guy finally realizing his full potential, it’s all about the talent. Last year the Jets’ defense was bereft of talent. This year it’s quite talented, particularly on the line and in the secondary.
On offense the Jets drafted rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson, currently their #1 wide receiver. They also added two tight ends, C.J. Uzomah and former Viking Tyler Conklin, both of whom are big upgrades from last year’s worst in the NFL Jets tight ends group. The Jets also drafted Breece Hall, who suffered a season-ending knee injury, but before he was injured Hall had quickly established himself as a budding star and the best running back on the team. In addition wide receiver Corey Davis was injured half of last season but has played most of the games this season, and wide receiver Elijah Moore also was injured a lot last season but has not been hurt this year. It’s just been a total revamp of the skill positions on offense, as well as an enormous upgrade of the defensive talent for the Jets. Last year the Jets were a talentless team. This year the Jets are a talented team. That’s why they have been winning, despite the poor quarterback play.
4) Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Jets that you think will play a big role in the outcome of Sunday’s game.
On offense running back Zonovan Knight emerged last week as the Jets lead back out of nowhere. He hadn’t been activated all season, then last week he had a really nice game. I’m not sold that Knight is any kind of difference maker, but he is definitely under the radar and probably will have a substantial role in this week’s game.
On defense I would say D.J. Reed might be the most important Jet on Sunday. I think he may get the lion’s share of the assignments against Justin Jefferson. How that matchup goes may well determine the outcome of the game. If D.J. Reed isn’t enough under the radar for you, then Bryce Huff fits the bill. I don’t think many people other than Jets fans are too familiar with Huff, but he could have a major effect on the game on Sunday. Huff is lightning around the edge. Not much of a run defender, really mostly just a situational pass rusher, but Huff puts a ton of pressure on the quarterback when he’s in there. He could potentially be a difference maker Sunday.
5) Our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook initially set the over/under for this week’s game at 42 but it has since risen to 44.5. If you were a betting man, which side of that wager would you be putting your money on?
Well, let’s see. The Vikings have been held to 23 points or less four times this season, by the Eagles, the Packers, the Cowboys and the Commanders. Those are good defenses, but I think the Jets defense measures up to any of them. So I think the Jets could well hold the Vikings’ offense somewhat in check. Then the question is, can the Jets score on the Vikings? I’m not sure. I just don’t know what to expect from Mike White. Since I’m not a big believer in White yet, for now I’ll say the Jets will have trouble putting up a lot of points against the Vikings. So let’s call this a tight, low-scoring affair. I’ll take the under at 44.5.
Once again, a big thank you to MacGregor Wells for taking the opportunity to answer our Jets questions for this week.