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Palladino: Jets May Not Have Stars, But They’re One Tight Bunch

By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The Jets showed the past two weekends that, together, they can do weird and wonderful things.

Only the most ardent of Gang Green supporters could have imagined a 2-2 record after the first quarter of the season. True, they haven’t exactly beaten the 1972 Dolphins or the 2007 Patriots. But in downing the Dolphins and Jaguars in consecutive weeks, they automatically vaulted Todd Bowles’ merry band light years ahead of the chronically hapless Browns, whose expected beneficence Sunday could put the Jets over .500 for the first time since 2015.

It just goes to show how a little togetherness and opportunism can make up for a shortage of star power.

Jets quarterback Josh McCown, left, reacts as running back Elijah McGuire completes a 69-yard touchdown run during the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

As one might recall, Mike Maccagnan got rid of a number of those luminaries during the offseason. Two of them, Brandon Marshall and Geno Smith, wound up wearing Giants uniforms. As luck would have it, neither has done much to change their new team’s fortunes. Smith has yet to get off the bench, and may never as Eli Manning’s backup. At least no one has used his face as a speed bag.

Marshall, who was supposed to become the No. 2 receiving option in an Odell Beckham, Jr.-Marshall-Sterling Shepard triumvirate, can’t get open consistently. On the rare occasions he has beaten a defensive back, he has dropped as many passes as he’s caught.

Can you spell non-factor?

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Maccagnan also got rid of Sheldon Richardson. The massive defensive lineman warred with Marshall in the locker room last year and mindlessly continued the attacks against the since-departed receiver long-distance during training camp. The trade with Seattle put even more miles between the parties, neither of which is the Jets’ problem now.

What remained on paper was a roster from hunger. But the last two weeks proved it’s actually a hungry roster.

The Jets believe.

In what is anybody’s guess. Even they have to know it could all come crashing down next week when the Patriots come to town. But even that matchup gets better looking the more Bill Belichick’s and Matt Patricia’s defensive IQ sinks.

Josh McCown hasn’t lit it up by any means, but he hasn’t killed his team, either. He’s thrown just one pick the last two games, and even that might not have happened had Bilal Powell not slipped. He has hit on 70.1 passes so far the season. McCown is not a touchdown machine by any means, but he has shown cool and leadership to a squad that only one short month ago looked rudderless.

The Jets have taken advantage of opponents.

When Powell, whose late turn on McCown’s backward pass resulted in a key lost fumble against the Jags on Sunday, leapt over a defender and rose, untouched, to race 75 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, that was smart.

When someone named Kony Ealy knocked a Blake Bortles throw in the air, came down with it, and ran to the Jags’ 1 to set up a field goal, that was opportunistic.

When Chandler Catanzaro hit the winning 41-yard field goal in overtime after missing one in the second quarter following a successful fake punt, that was resilient.

Two straight wins after getting blown out by the Raiders showed that any white-flag display will have to wait until much later in the season.

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It can all disintegrate eventually. Even McCown’s first consecutive wins since — well, 1946, it seems — won’t suffice to ensure Bowles’ job security. A dozen games of ups and downs, likely more downs than ups, remain.

For now, though, the Jets are free from the internal drama of the recent past and grateful for a couple of victories.

They are united and doing weird and wonderful things.

That’s something no one would have expected a few weeks ago.

Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino

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