Robert Saleh is doing what he set out to do when the New York Jets hired him to be their head coach: change the culture and fix the defense.
After the Jets’ 20-17 upset against the Buffalo Bills, Saleh’s vision on what this defense is supposed to be is coming to fruition. It's fast, aggressive and New York just shut down arguably the best offense in the NFL. For the second time this season, the Bills were held under 20 points and Josh Allen was held without a passing touchdown for the first time this year.
These are the types of performances out of their defense that the Jets are going to need to stack wins as Zach Wilson continues to get experience under his feet. It can be tough to win games with a young quarterback going through growing pains, but the Jets have the formula to get that done. They can get home with four defensive linemen with Quinnen Williams breaking through the line, the run defense is tough and rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner has been an immediate superstar on the backend. Put all that together, shake it up and you have the recipe for a defense that can stifle even the most explosive quarterbacks the game has ever seen.
Allen put his own day into frank terms after the game.
“It’s tough to win when your quarterback plays like s***,” Allen said.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) November 6, 2022
That’s true, but Allen’s bad day was not solely of his own shortcomings (although both of his interceptions definitely were 100% his fault). The Jets now have a defense that can force quarterbacks into bad days, not just hope they screw up on their own.
In order for Saleh’s version of the Jets to see itself all the way through, and for the Jets to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders, attaining a defense of this caliber was the first step.
The Bills' star quarterback finished Sunday 18-of-34 for a season-low 205 passing yards. He was also sacked five times, the most he has gone down since 2020 against Seattle. His legs kept Buffalo in the game, as Allen rushed for a season-high 86 yards on nine carries and scored two TDs.
Allen isn’t the only quarterback to struggle against this Jets defense. Wilson’s poor day stole the headlines last week against the New England Patriots, but Mac Jones didn’t light it up either. This defense has slowed down Allen, Jones, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers this season. Gang Green has a defense that’s giving the offenses the blues.
With a win over the Bills, their in-season goal has shifted. Instead of just trying to make the playoffs, the Jets can legitimately win the division. They’re 2-1 in the AFC East including their blowout victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. This is a massive step forward for a team that just held the fourth overall pick in the 2022 draft. What the Jets have done this year can’t be considered a fluke anymore. This is one of the best defenses in the league and it has the talent and capacity to carry the Jets to the playoffs for the first time since Rex Ryan was the coach in the early 2010s.
That’s big — and an exciting, welcome change for the Jets and their fans.