Moral victories aside, Robert Saleh’s Jets have lots to do to ‘close the gap’ in AFC East

Robert Saleh Jets
Jets head coach Robert Saleh
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets are trending in the right direction — especially when you look at the shape the other tenants of MetLife Stadium are in. 

A season labeled with another disappointing record at 4-13 featured progress in the latter weeks.

From Weeks 15-17, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson posted an 86.8 quarterback rating, 506 yards passing, four total touchdowns, and just a single turnover. He didn’t throw an interception in his final five outings of the season after throwing 11 in his first eight.

During that span, the Jets beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and lost by one possession to a Miami Dolphins team who won eight of its last nine and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But Week 18 in Buffalo provided a reminder that the uphill climb to get the Jets back to relevancy is still a steep one. In a 27-10 loss that saw Gang Green trailing by just three entering the fourth quarter, the Jets offense was held to a franchise-worst 53 total yards of offense while the Bills clinched the AFC East for a second-straight year. 

[ALSO READ: Zach Wilson, Jets completely shut down in valiant loss to AFC East champion Bills]

“Clearly, we have a long way to go if we want to close the gap with Buffalo,” head coach Robert Saleh said after wrapping up his first season with the team. “And New England and Miami, for that matter.”

Wilson completed just 7-of-20 attempts for 87 yards and a touchdown while getting sacked eight times. It was another instance of growing pains at the pro level for the 22-year-old with a clear indication that the Jets need to beef up their offensive line — which was shorthanded down the stretch this season — with one of their two top-10 picks at the 2022 NFL Draft.

Still, there was plenty for Saleh to be proud of this season despite it being a sixth-straight losing season for the Jets.

“There were some close games. We beat two division winners [the Titans and Bengals],” Saleh said. “We had the Super Bowl champs on the ropes. We were a one-score game here with Buffalo.

“The amount of adversity that this group has faced, for the continued fight and continued development. I feel like we got so much better as the year went on. I’m really proud of our group.

That was where the moral victories ended.

“At the same time… we’ve got to close this gap. It’s going to take everybody in the locker room. It’s going to take all of the coaches,” Saleh said. “It’s going to take every decision that we make from now until the start of next season, whether it’s a scheme, player – doesn’t matter. It’s about closing this gap in the division and getting to a place where we are competitive every single game.”

“It’s about winning, period. Winning four games in this league is not good enough. We all knew that this was going to be a roller coaster of a season with the youth movement that we’ve had. We all knew that there would be some ups and downs.”

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