Josh-y and the Jets
Josh McCown has played well for the Jets this season. So far, he's produced the second best quarterback rating of his 15-year, journeyman career and has helped the Jets surpass preseason expectations.
"Josh is playing at a high level, and he's done some good things on the field and off the field," quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said. "He's playing at a high level; he's continuing to get better. At the end of the day, as we all know, quarterbacks are judged by their win-loss record, so we have six games to improve that."
With that said, the the former Panthers quarterback and Marvin Ridge High School coach needs equal production from his offensive line. In the Jets' last time out against the Buccaneers, McCown was hit 15 times. He's been sacked on 32 occasions this season. New York has been one of the worst teams in the league at protecting its quarterback and welcomes the Panthers, who rank fourth in sacks, in Week 12.
"Every time I watch McCown on film, he's more athletic than I ever expected," safety Kurt Coleman said. "That's a compliment to what I've seen. He has a really strong arm, and they have some speed out there and veterans."
The Jets' offense has been up and down, ranking 25th in the NFL. They've experienced some highs – 408 yards against New England and 471 yards against Jacksonville – but also some lows – 214 yards at Buffalo and 212 yards at Cleveland.
"I think we've got a long way to go. I think we've done some good things," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said of the Jets' offense. "It comes down to the consistency. That's where we've kind of got to improve."
For what it's worth, the last four losses for the Jets (4-6) have been by seven points or less.
"If you look at what we did last year, we lost six games by three points," Coleman said. "You could say we were a 6-10 team, which is what our record indicates, or you're a much better team than that and you weren't able to close. I think that's kind of where the Jets are right now."
The Jets have struggled all season with penalties. So far, New York has committed 81 penalties amassing 739 yards – third most in the league – and is on pace to break the franchise mark set in 1995 (121 penalties for 1078 yards).
To help cope with the penalty epidemic, head coach Todd Bowles has put tennis balls in defenders' hands on defensive back drills to keep his players from grabbing receivers' jerseys.
For a team that already struggles to move the ball on its own, penalties have been the Achilles heel.
Growth on defense
For the most part, the Jets' defensive statistics are identical to last season. However, there's one statistic that stands out highlighting the team's growth. This season, the Jets have already totaled 17 takeaways, surpassing their mark for all of last season.
"That's one of the first things we talked about once everybody got here in OTAs — just taking the ball away," Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. "When you study the NFL year in and year out, teams that win are up there in the takeaway margin, so we really, really place a lot of emphasis on it."
No one person has dominated the increase in takeaways, with rookie safety Marcus Maye - who has formed a productive duo with fellow rookie Jamal Adams - leading the team with two interceptions.
"They're a good group and they bring a lot of different things at you," guard Trai Turner said. "They have players on their team that can play some good ball. We just want to continue to prepare, get better and focus on Sunday."
View practice photos from the week leading up to the Panthers' game against the Jets.