Jets focus on improving on their glaring struggles on third down and in the red zone

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Nathaniel Hackett studied what his New York Jets offense did in the team's first six games — and was blunt with his assessment.

“We (stunk) in the red zone,” the offensive coordinator said Thursday. “And we (stunk) on third down.”

Talk about not sugarcoating things.

His criticism is valid: The Jets rank last in the NFL in scoring touchdowns in the red zone at 29.4%, going 5 for 17 inside their opponents' 20. New York is also last in third down conversion rate at 25%.

The Jets' ineptitude in both situations has contributed to the offense being ranked 30th overall — unable to consistently score points through the early portion of the season.

“I think the biggest one has been the self-inflicted wounds,” Hackett said. "And it’s not just one person. It’s everybody kind of (taking) turns. And for us, we've got to settle down. Everybody’s got to do their job. And I think that was kind of the biggest one.

“It starts with me doing my job and then having all those guys be able to do those little things. And then those things will slowly come. There have been a lot of opportunities there for us and we've just got to capitalize on them.”

The “self-inflicted wounds” Hackett mentioned are the result of penalties, poorly executed plays or blown assignments that put the Jets in second- and third-and-long — scenarios they have faced often through six games. And they have also occurred in the red zone — or the “gold zone,” as Hackett calls it — pushing New York outside the 20 or having promising drives stall and the Jets having to settle for field goals.

That's not what the Jets were expecting entering the season, not with Aaron Rodgers under center. But since Zach Wilson took over when Rodgers went down four snaps into his debut, New York's offense has been far from dynamic in the red zone and on third down.

“I think it's just everyone just doing their job and going back and learning from those past third downs and red zone opportunities,” said Wilson, whose 48% completion rate inside the 20 is among the league's worst.

"It's how could we have been just a little bit better? How could I have been a little bit better? Which ones did I miss out on?

“That's all it comes down to, just progressively trying to get better all the way around.”

New York averages 8.4 yards to go on second down — the third-worst mark in the NFL. Its 8.37 yards to go on third down rank second worst.

The Jets have converted only 10% of their opportunities on second-and-8 or more, with Green Bay (9.1%) the only team worse. New York's 9.1% conversion rate on third-and-8 or more is 31st in the league, with only Jacksonville (6.7%) worse.

“It’s not cool,” Hackett said of those situations. “It doesn’t feel great when those things happen, but it’s like in basketball. Basketball season just started — pretty jacked up about that — but you just have to keep shooting.

"For us, we have a plan for all those situations, and we just have to keep calm and we all have to do our job.”

The Jets have actually found more success in the red zone in their three losses, scoring three touchdowns in five situations. In their three wins, they're 2 for 12 — meaning they got inside the 20 more frequently, but failed to convert 10 times.

Moving forward, they know they've got to get seven points more regularly rather than have Greg Zuerlein bail out the offense with just three points on field goals. And the Jets need to cut down on penalties and negative plays along the way.

“We've been doing that way too much this year,” wide receiver Allen Lazard said. “Obviously, if we clean those up, we're going to be able to put up a lot more points up every single week.”

NOTES: CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed remain in the concussion protocol, but practiced fully for the second straight day. They're on track to play Sunday. ... Rookie OL Joe Tippmann (quadriceps) remains sidelined. ... WR Randall Cobb (shoulder) was limited after sitting out Wednesday.


AP Pro Football Writer Josh Dubow contributed.