The Jets put together an impressive first half performance on Saturday afternoon despite resting every defensive starter and some offensive stars. Behind an efficient passing performance from Zach Wilson and a drastically improved running game, the Jets outgained the Panthers by over 150 yards to lead 13-0 at the half.
Wilson completed 14-of-20 passes for 123 yards in the first half, capping his performance with a late two-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Kenny Yeboah. The Jets also rushed for 81 yards in the first half and recorded three sacks.
Third string quarterback Tim Boyle’s short touchdown passes to rookie tight ends EJ Jenkins and Zack Kuntz in the fourth quarter provided the final margin. Boyle completed 9-of-10 passes in the second half, although he also threw a bad interception.
Here are the takeaways…
– Wilson started off looking sharp, then struggled a little in the middle part of the first half, before getting back into a nice rhythm on his final drive. At times, he appeared to be as decisive and confident as he’s ever been with the Jets, although he did have a few series where his ball placement on short passes and pocket awareness let him down. On balance, Wilson still seems to be showing progress from where he was at the end of last season.
– It was a dominant first half performance by the Jets’ defense as they gave up just 32 yards, with 13 of those coming on the meaningless last play before halftime. Prior to that play they had given up just one first down. This highlights the Jets’ defensive depth because every starter was rested with players like Jimmy Moreland, Zaire Barnes and Trey Dean in the starting lineup.
– Nowhere is the team’s depth more impressive than on the defensive line. Rookie Will McDonald registered his first sack, newcomer Quinton Jefferson also added one and Jermaine Johnson combined with Bryce Huff for a third. Huff once again played deep into the second half.
– The Jets did use some starters on offense though, albeit only for a few series early on. This is presumably because the coaches felt the offense needed more work after this week’s joint practices were cut short. Players like Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman saw their first action with the Jets but did not make an impact.
– The offensive line was more effective than last week even though they faced some starters. There was one lapse when a miscommunication between Mekhi Becton and Trystan Colon allowed Amaré Barno to split them for a sack, but they had good success in the running game, racking up 141 rushing yards in total.
– At running back, Michael Carter made his return this week and had a nice performance with 53 yards on six touches, but it was once again rookie Israel Abanikanda who stood out with a spectacular 26-yard run down to the goal line to set up the first touchdown. Abanikanda ended up with 87 yards from scrimmage.
– A couple of the defensive players who made a case for themselves in the second half included Bruce Hector, who had a strip sack, and Nick Vigil, who blew up a fourth down pass for a loss with a big hit. Both players have only been with the team for about a week.
– Despite their success moving the football, the Jets didn’t manage to get the ball to their wide receivers much in Saturday’s game. In fact, no Jets wideout managed to surpass 10 yards until Alex Erickson’s second catch with under four minutes remaining.
The Jets welcome the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m. for their first home game of the preseason.