3 Takeaways from Jets' Week 1 Loss
It's the start of a new era for the New York Jets. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and new head coach Robert Saleh gave the Jets faithful glimpses of promise during their 2021 season opener Sunday. Unfortunately, the Jets fell short against former quarterback Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers.
Unlike far too many losses in recent years, though, Sunday's came with the promise of a brighter future. NFL teams never want to take moral victories over the real thing, but New York should feel relatively good despite its defeat.
A loss is a loss, but the Jets saw enough from both Wilson and the new regime to suggest that the wins will come sooner rather than later. Here's what we learned from New York's 19-14 defeat on Sunday.
Wilson Is Ready
Statistically, Wilson was just OK in his NFL debut. The BYU product and 2021 second overall pick finished 20-of-37 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
What's important, though, is the fact that Wilson never seemed overwhelmed against an opponent striving to rattle him.
"Just make his first game hell," Panthers pass-rusher Brian Burns said of Carolina's strategy against Wilson, per The Athletic's Joe Person.
Wilson didn't do enough to win Sunday, but he flashed his physical potential throughout the contest. He kept New York within striking distance and, more importantly, didn't make the game-killing mistakes that rookies often do.
The Jets were willing to move on from Darnold even before they drafted Wilson, likely because of their belief in the quarterback they knew would be available at No. 2. While Wilson was far from perfect, he did nothing Sunday to suggest that New York made the wrong call.
The Ground Game Needs to Improve
If the Jets are going to properly support Wilson, they need to do a much better job of running the football. The ground game was virtually nonexistent against Carolina, as Tevin Coleman led the team with just 24 rushing yards.
Rookie Michael Carter, who has starting-back potential, carried just four times for a mere six yards.
The Panthers are not exactly a defensive powerhouse, either. Last season, they ranked 20th against the run and 18th in total defense.
Saleh and Co. must be willing to commit more to the run and coax better production out of New York's ball-carriers for the Jets to be successful. Otherwise, it's going to be a one-man show with Wilson carrying the offense.
That's never a winning recipe for a rookie quarterback in the NFL.
Corey Davis Can Be Special
While the ground game was lackluster and Wilson had his ups and downs, the Jets got a long look at their new No. 1 receiver in Corey Davis.
Davis, who signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal in free agency, was brought in to be New York's top receiving option. Against the Panthers, he did not disappoint.
The former Tennessee Titan finished with five receptions, 97 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Davis has never quite lived up to the expectations of being the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft. However, he showed Sunday that he can be Wilson's go-to target moving forward.