By: Joseph Laudati
Unless you’re from the 716, being a football fan in N.Y. over the last several years has been nothing but painful. In 2021, this theme remains constant as the Jets are off to a 1-5 start while the Giants aren’t too much better standing at 2-5.
Believe it or not, each of these teams have shown some encouraging things, giving fans reasons for optimism heading into the future.
The 2021 season saw a departure from head coach Adam Gase for the New York Jets. Out with Gase meant in with former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. After a successful and energetic tenure with the 49ers, Saleh was expected to change the culture in East Rutherford.
Although the big picture does not seem to be much better for the Jets, Saleh has come in and done a very solid job with this Jets defense. Despite the lack of talent and multiple preseason injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Jets ranked 17th in expected points added (EPA) allowed through their first six weeks. A massive leap forward from their 27th rank in 2020 under Gase.
Saleh has been getting the most out of his players on the defensive side of the ball despite some injuries to key players, something we saw him do last year in San Francisco. With key players like Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry set to return in 2022 and plenty of cap space and draft capital, Jets fans can expect even more growth in the near future with Robert Saleh’s defense.
Experience between Saleh and rookie QB Zach Wilson will also be vital during the Jets rebuild. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Jets team won’t be either, but for the time being Saleh has shown many reasons to feel encouraged if you’re a Jets fan.
Giants fans have their reasons to feel frustrated in 2021, as this was supposed to be the year we saw massive improvements from Joe Judge and his squad. We have not seen the jump anticipated for Big Blue to say the very least, but what we have seen is the emergence of former number six overall pick Daniel Jones.
Since his disastrous rookie season, Jones has steadily improved within each year and 2021 is the year we are seeing Jones really begin to establish himself as the future of the Giants. Jones ranks 25th in EPA compared to 2020 where he ranked 35th behind several backup quarterbacks.
Jones has had his fair share of poor play in 2021 but has also enjoyed some fantastic play like we saw in week two against division rival Washington Football Team, where he did almost all the heavy lifting for the Giants both in the air and with his legs as they fell just short in a Thursday night thriller.
Jones has fared very well against pressure in 2021, while also holding his own from a clean pocket. The Giants have not done much to help Jones, as he has been handicapped by very poor offensive line play in all three years of his career. With that being said, Jones has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks when facing pressure generating just under a 0.00 under pressure efficiency rate, up there with the likes of Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes.
This is not a very sustainable number since play under pressure is so hard to predict, but nonetheless is very encouraging to see as a Giants fan, since Jones has struggled with pocket awareness in his career. An improved offensive line will certainly help Jones to sustain this type of success.
As the cast around him begins to get healthy and hopefully improve in the coming seasons, Giants fans can look forward to even better play from their young signal caller.
If you’re cheering for either team in East Rutherford, you have certainly been told to be patient one too many times. But in 2021 with big changes already in motion for each team, it is easier to be optimistic if you support either Gang Green or Big Blue. Better days are certainly ahead for New York football fans.