DENVER — A look at what’s going on around the New York Jets:
1. Trader Joe: The trade deadline is in nine days, which means GM Joe Douglas is working on the phones.
In three years on the job, Douglas hasn’t let a trade deadline pass without making a deal. Circumstances are different this year because, with a 4-2 record, the Jets are well positioned to be flexible.
Naturally, the focus will be on disgruntled wide receiver Elijah Moore, who has requested a trade. The Jets say trading him is not an option. Even if they bought it, it would be difficult to get the same value because its production has not yet reached its potential. The best course of action is to try to work out their differences with Moore, a 2021 second-round pick who is supposed to be one of their pivotal players.
The Jets are willing to listen to offers for wide receiver Denzel Mims and cornerback Bryce Hall, both former 2020 draft picks who haven’t been able to get on the field. Mims was a healthy scratch in the first six games but will be active Sunday against the Denver Broncos. He will replace Moore, who stayed in New Jersey to clear his head. Hall has played in one game, but only had five snaps on defense. He has early experience, so he might attract some interest.
Both players are signed through 2023, so there’s no urgency in sending them packing for what would be a small return — we’re talking about a late-round draft pick, possibly even in 2024. At the end of preseason, the Jets they were seeking a fourth-round pick for Mims after he requested a trade, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. They won’t get that much, not even close.
On Thursday, Mims told ESPN that his trade request is “still on the table,” but a trade seems more unlikely than ever given the uncertainty surrounding Moore. Mims could be valuable insurance.
Could the Jets trade by a player? There are no glaring holes in the roster, but Douglas, unlike in years past, is more likely to be aggressive because of the team’s position in the standings. He could use some depth at safety and linebacker.
Douglas loves negotiating on the deadline. Seeking draft capital, he traded Leonard Williams in 2019, followed by Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson and Jordan Willis in 2020. In 2021, he imported Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, who wound up starting.
2. Moore and less: Moore has been targeted on 13% of his routes driven this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That ranks him 78th out of 81 qualified wide receivers. With Zach Wilson at quarterback, he has been attacked even less (11%). Moore’s frustration is understandable, but he needs to understand that this is a team game, and the team is winning for a change. In other words, his time sucks.
3. Repair the relationship: Moore’s trade request doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a long-term future with the Jets. Things change quickly in the NFL. Coach Robert Saleh saw it happen with his previous team, the San Francisco 49ers, who escaped a sticky situation with wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
Instead of honoring Samuel’s offseason trade request, the 49ers kept their patience and mended the relationship. Saleh hopes to do the same with Moore. One difference: The 49ers appeased Samuel with a three-year, $72 million extension. Moore isn’t eligible for a new deal until 2024, so Saleh will have to do it the old-fashioned way: small pep talk, with a little ego.
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4. Team Guy: Moore and running back Michael Carter find themselves in similar situations: second-year players who have missed opportunities because of the emergence of a rookie. In Carter’s case, it’s Breece Hall, who started for the first time last week. For Moore, it’s Garrett Wilson. Moore chose to express his apparent frustration on social media, a precursor to his trade request. Carter has remained silent, refusing to make waves.
“I think it would be unsafe for me to feel anything about it,” said Carter, the team’s running back in 2021. “The main thing is that I know I can [play] — I’m not stupid — but I’m glad he gets his chances, just because he deserves it and works hard. I love watching my teammates play.”
That’s why Carter is one of the team’s most respected leaders — the “heartbeat” of the offense, as offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur calls it.
5. Sauce Lover: Saleh was sitting on the team bus outside Lambeau Field last Sunday when he got a text from one of his former players, cornerback Richard Sherman. He sent a video clip of Sauce Gardner breaking up a pass to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs, who tried to rock the rookie with a double move on a return route, and missed. The 6-foot-3 Gardner showed extraordinary agility, changing directions like a corner five inches shorter.
“I thought, ‘Damn, that was a really impressive play,'” Saleh said.
Sherman gave Gardner a shout out on Twitter, acknowledging another pass breakup of the game. Gardner appreciates the love of the former star.
“It feels great because he’s a guy that a lot of people compare me to,” Gardner said. “I always saw him when he was with the Legion of Boom and when he was with the 49ers. It’s great to hear that kind of stuff from him.”
Gardner is off to a sensational start. He is one of only two players since 2000 to have a pass breakup in each of his first six career games. (The other is Desmond Trufant, 2013).
6. Take cheese, it will travel: In case you’re wondering about the foam cheese head Gardner made famous in Green Bay, well, it made the trip back to New Jersey. It was a carry-on for him on the team flight and it’s at his house. He said that he plans to show it.
7. Rookie Growing Pains: Not all members of the Jets’ draft class are thriving.
Tight end Jeremy Ruckert (third round) has been a healthy scratch in two of six games. He was replaced last week at TE3 by Kenny Yeboah, who was promoted from the practice squad. It was a special team-based decision, as the Jets don’t normally have three tight ends in the offensive game plan. Ruckert missed the offseason with a foot injury, but has had plenty of time to catch up.
As it turned out, Yeboah played a team-high 26 snaps on special teams. It was his run that helped set up Micheal Clemons’ blocked punt.
8. Go Fourth: Continuing the trend from the preseason, when they put together three wins from behind, the Jets are crushing the fourth quarter. Their point difference is plus-48, the second-best fourth-quarter difference of any team in six games in the last decade, trailing only the 2016 Broncos (plus-57).
The last quarter says a lot about a team, from the point of view of talent, coach and intangibles. That’s a far cry from last season, when they were minus-44 in the fourth (28).
“We just have more firepower, more than anything,” Carter said.
9. Carbohydrate Loading: To prepare for the altitude in Denver, the Jets’ athletic performance department created a nutrition plan so players could prepare for the change. He emphasized heavy hydration and lots of carbs. Defensive end John Franklin-Myers, who said the Broncos have “the only real home field advantage in the NFL,” said he ate a lot of pretzels and drank a lot of electrolytes.
10. The last word: “It’s crazy how that happens, man. Everyone was talking like crazy about us, saying, ‘Same old Jets’ or whatever. Now they say we have to stay humble, and we will.” — wide receiver Corey Davis on how the win has changed perceptions of the team