There’s a flag on the play.
That sentence has become part of the soundtrack of the 2023 Jets. In Sunday’s 16-12 loss to the Raiders, it seemed like every time the Jets had a big play, that little yellow graphic popped up to indicate the Jets had committed a penalty.
The Jets had eight penalties in the loss in Las Vegas, seven on offense. That comes two weeks after the Jets had some critical penalties against the Giants that were covered up by the win.
Many Jets fans I have heard from are questioning the coaching, calling the Jets undisciplined and wondering what is going on.
So I took a deeper look at the Jets penalty issues to see whether I could draw some conclusions.
I used the terrific website nflpenalties.com to look at some of the totals the Jets have.
Here are the answers to some penalty questions:
Are the Jets one of the most penalized teams in the NFL?
The Jets are in the middle of the league when it comes to the total number of penalties. They are tied for 16th-fewest penalties with 60. They are tied for 20th in penalties per game. They are 8th in penalty yardage with 443. They are tied for 20th in pre-snap penalties with 23.
The Jets definitely have had an uptick in penalties in recent weeks. They had 17 penalties in their first four games with seven against the Chiefs being the highest total.
They have 43 in their past five games. They had nine each against the Broncos, Eagles and Giants and eight each against the Chargers and Raiders.
If you look for a reason why the Jets’ penalties have gone up, it may be due to the injuries they have suffered on the offensive line and how they have tried to change the offense to help Zach Wilson. Both of those issues cropped up more in October than in September.
The offense has had slightly more penalties than the defense (31-25) with special teams committing four. The offense has 12 of those 31 in the past two games.
Is there one penalty the Jets commit more than others?
False starts and holdings have been a major issue for the offense.
They have 14 false-start penalties, the most of any category. They are tied for the seventh-most false start calls in the NFL. Mekhi Becton has been the worst offender for the Jets with four false starts.
The Jets have nine offensive holding penalties. No player has more than two holding penalties.
The other penalties that have been called at least three times against the Jets are: unnecessary roughness (6), roughing the passer (5) and illegal contact (3).
Who is the biggest culprit?
Becton leads the team with five accepted penalties, including the four false starts mentioned above. Allen Lazard is next with four penalties — two of those came against the Chargers. Quincy Williams, Jermaine Johnson and Laken Tomlinson each have three penalties.
Why does it feel like the Jets commit more penalties?
I’ll be honest: These numbers are not as bad as what I expected when I decided to dive into this. The problem for the Jets has not been the number of penalties but when the penalties have come. They have committed some really costly penalties. They have 23 penalties on third down, and opponents have 19 first downs from Jets penalties.
With this in mind, I took a look at the play-by-play from each Jets game to identify how many critical penalties were committed. There are a lot of penalties that made a Jets drives go backward. I tried to identify the ones I thought really came in critical situations.
Week 2 at Cowboys
They played a pretty clean game against the Bills to start the season. The penalty issue then popped up in Dallas. John Franklin-Myers was penalized for roughing the passer on a third-and-7 at the Jets 11 as the defense was about to get off the field. It was a bad call, but it still counts and it gave the Cowboys a first down. Three plays later, the Jets appeared to get off the field again on a third-and-13 stop at the 13, but Brandin Echols was called for pass interference to give the Cowboys another first down and a crack at the end zone. On the next play, the Cowboys scored and Micheal Clemons was called for roughing the passer to complete this terrible sequence. The Clemons penalty gave the Cowboys an easy two-point conversion.
The touchdown gave the Cowboys an 18-7 lead, and what could have been a tie game at halftime after the Jets kicked a field goal was instead a Dallas lead.
Week 3 vs. Patriots
There was only one costly penalty in this game. On third-and-10 from their own 10, the Jets appeared to have a first down when Wilson ran for 11 yards. But rookie Joe Tippmann was called for holding, canceling the play and moving the ball back to the 5. On the next play, Wilson was sacked by Matthew Judon in the end zone for a safety.
Week 4 vs. Chiefs
This game had the most significant penalty of the season. Sauce Gardner was called for defensive holding on a play where Michael Carter II intercepted a Patrick Mahomes pass with 4:29 left in the game. The Chiefs kept the ball and ran out the clock. Again, this call can be disputed.
Earlier in the game, Connor McGovern was called for being downfield on what would have been a 15-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah. Instead of having the ball on the Kansas City 27, they had first-and-15 on the 47 and ended up punting.
Week 5 at Broncos
The Jets had nine penalties in Denver, but only one was really costly. The Jets got the ball back after punting on their first drive when the Broncos returner muffed the catch. On third-and-goal from the 7, Lazard had a false start that pushed it back to third-and-goal at the 12, and the Jets ended up settling for a field goal.
Week 6 vs. Eagles
A Michael Carter false start made a third-and-8 at the 20 into a third-and-13 from the 25, and they had to kick a field goal.
Just before halftime, a Wes Schweitzer holding call moved the ball from the Philly 12 to the 22 on first down, and they had to kick a field goal.
Garrett Wilson had a 25-yard catch that would have gotten the Jets to the Eagles’ 9-yard line, but Lazard committed an illegal blindside block that moved the ball back to the 49. The Jets ended up punting.
Week 8 at Giants
The Jets gave the Giants five first downs from penalties. On the Giants’ lone touchdown drive, Quincy Williams and Jermaine Johnson each committed personal fouls that helped the Giants move the ball down the field for Tommy DeVito’s touchdown run.
In the fourth quarter, Clemons jumped into the neutral zone on a punt, extending a drive for the Giants to run additional clock.
Week 9 vs. Chargers
Down 20-6 in the fourth quarter, the Jets got a 20-yard gain on a pass to Hall, but Garrett Wilson was flagged for an illegal block above the waist that moved the ball from the Chargers 43 to the Jets 29.
Week 10 at Raiders
This one is fresh in your mind, so I won’t go into the details. But the intentional grounding call on the first drive got things started.
Uzomah was flagged for holding after an 11-yard gain on the second drive. Another 11-yard gain by Hall was wiped out by a Tomlinson hold. Uzomah held on what would have been a touchdown by Hall, and the Jets settled for a field goal.
A Bryce Huff roughing-the-passer penalty helped the Raiders get into field-goal position before halftime.
Finally, a Carter chop block on a 12-yard third-down completion to Xavier Gipson killed that drive.
Is this a coaching problem?
The kneejerk reaction is to blame the coaches and say this is a discipline issue. I don’t think it is.
These are a wide variety of penalties from a wide variety of players.
If you go back and look at Saleh’s first two years, the numbers are pretty good. In 2022, the Jets were tied for 10th in fewest total penalties. In 2021, they were tied for 12th fewest despite playing a lot of rookies that year.
The Jets are going through a bad stretch of offensive football right now, and penalties are a part of that. There are some backups playing, and the Jets are trying to alter things on the fly with Wilson at quarterback. All of that is contributing to the flags.
On defense, the Jets play a fast, violent style that is going to cause some unnecessary roughness and roughing-the-passer penalties. That is the cost of doing business.
So, the penalties have been a problem. But the bigger problem is the Jets’ inability to overcome anything that goes wrong.
The margin for error is so small right now. If the Jets offense starts scoring touchdowns, the penalties won’t look so bad.
The release of Michael Carter on Tuesday afternoon was a surprise.
I suspected the Jets were going to reduce his role, along with a few other players’ roles, as they search for answers on offense. I just did not think that meant they were going to cut him.
I’m puzzled at what happened with Carter. He had a really promising rookie season in 2021, but the Jets never seemed to trust him after that. They drafted Breece Hall in the second round before Carter’s second season. It made sense as a 1-2 punch, but it quickly became clear Hall was going to be the workhorse back.
Then, when Hall was injured, the Jets traded for James Robinson instead of allowing Carter to carry the load. When Robinson stunk, they turned to Zonovan Knight.
This summer, they signed Dalvin Cook. It felt as if the Jets did not believe in Carter. It may have been warranted, but this is a disappointing end after what was such a promising rookie season.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen has had some bad games against the Jets since Robert Saleh took over in 2021. The Jets have to be hoping for another one Sunday.
Here is a look at his stats in their previous five meetings:
Nov. 14, 2021: 21-28, 366 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (Bills 45, Jets 17)
Jan. 9, 2022: 21-45, 239 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs (Bills 27, Jets 10)
Nov. 6, 2022: 18-34, 205 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs (Jets 20, Bills 17)
Dec. 11, 2022: 16-27, 147 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs (Bills 20, Jets 12)
Sept. 11, 2023: 29-41, 236 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs (Jets 22, Bills 16)