EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson and the New York Jets' passing game are having a tough time being effective this season.
The Los Angeles Chargers' defense is struggling to keep teams from beating them through the air.
So, something's got to give Monday night when the two square off at MetLife Stadium, right?
“I know I keep saying it’s close,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said, “but I’m like you and everybody else, hopefully that ‘close’ triggers sooner rather than later.”
The Jets rank 31st — or second-to-last — in the NFL in passing while averaging 164.3 yards per game. Wilson had 240 yards passing in the 13-10 overtime win over the Giants last Sunday and has thrown for at least 186 yards in each of his last four games. But he also has just two touchdown passes in that span as New York has been unable to consistently move the football.
“Close is never good," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. "For me, everything is just continually grinding and trying to figure out what you can do better. It starts with me. ... We never want to be close. I don’t want to be close, I want to be there. ... We have to get better, and fast.”
Perhaps the biggest culprit is the Jets' inability to get the job done on third down. They rank last in the NFL with a 23% conversion rate and have too many third-and-long situations hijacking drives.
“Yeah, not great,” Wilson said. “We need to be better there. ... To be a great offense, you have to be great on third down.”
Meanwhile, the Chargers rank last in the league in passing defense, allowing an average of 297.4 yards per game.
That number is a bit bloated by huge games by Miami's Tua Tagovailoa (466 yards, Week 1) and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes (424, Week 7), but Los Angeles has not allowed less than 230 yards passing in any game this season — and that includes Tyson Bagent throwing for 232 last Sunday night in the Chargers' 30-13 win over the Bears.
Bagent had a 41-yard completion on the game's first play, then Los Angeles mostly held him in check while also limiting Chicago to just 73 yards rushing.
“We had the one play, the first play of the game and then after that, we kept the football in front of us,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. "We need to build off of it. I think the story for us this season is that when we stop the run like that, it helps our whole defense out.”
Los Angeles' run defense has been stout, ranking sixth overall. And it will have its hands full Monday night with Breece Hall.
The second-year running back leads the NFL with 5.7 yards per carry and has two of the league's three longest runs this season — an impressive return from a torn ACL that cut short his rookie season after just seven games.
Los Angeles comes in ranked seventh in total offense but hasn't looked like a top-10 offense during the second half in the past four games.
The Chargers scored just one touchdown and three field goals in 21 possessions after halftime in their October games. They also went three-and-out a league-high seven times.
One reason for the struggles has been penalties. They were flagged nine times on offense in those games.
“We have to clean that up," Staley said. “We’re trying to shrink the game, but at the same time, activate play calls that are going to keep us going because our goal isn’t just to shrink the clock, it is to score the football — possess the ball, and then end with points.”
The Jets will use their fifth combination on the offensive line in eight games after losing center Connor McGovern to a knee injury last week.
New York's O-line has been hit hard by injuries, with left guard Laken Tomlinson the only player who'll still be at the position at which he opened the season. McGovern, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Wes Schweitzer and Duane Brown are all on IR. Brown returned to practice this week and practiced fully but was not activated to play Sunday.
The Jets' offensive line — whomever lines up — will have a tough task ahead.
Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa have 11 of the Chargers’ 23 sacks this season. Staley added a new wrinkle to his defense last week against Chicago when he lined up Mack and Bosa on the same side for four pass rushers. It did result in a third-down sack by Bosa on the game’s opening series.
The Chargers come in tied for ninth in sacks, including 13 on third down. Wilson has been sacked 23 times, sixth-most in the league, and pressured on 47.3% of his dropbacks, the league’s second-highest rate.
Bosa, who was dealing with hamstring and toe injuries for most of the early part of the season, is finally healthy again.
“He was battling through a bunch those first three, four weeks," Staley said. “Now, he’s been able to put three consecutive weeks of practice together, where he feels like he has his legs and his gas tank full.”
AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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