The last two weeks have been difficult for Mike White as he had to sit and watch the Jets’ playoff hopes almost go up in smoke.
But Gang Green received new life after seeing a few teams lose last weekend. White also has a chance to be the knight in shining armor and help the team reach the postseason.
During the Christmas holiday, the Fort Lauderdale native, like many Americans, watched football and saw the Dolphins lose to the Packers.
“Everything that needed to happen happened for us,” White said. “I just felt like it was kind of like a sign or like a second chance almost. Maybe a little extra life breathing into the locker room.”
Earlier this week, White was cleared by Jets doctors after he fractured his ribs against the Bills on Dec. 11. After around 10 different doctors failed to clear him for contact, White missed the following games against the Lions and the Jaguars.
White first became the Jets starting quarterback after the team benched former starter Zach Wilson following the team’s 10-3 loss to the Patriots last month. In his three starts this season, White threw for 952 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 62% of his passes. That was an improvement from Wilson’s play as he has thrown 1,688 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Following White’s injury, Wilson became the Jets starter once again, but the Jets lost both games to the Lions and the Jaguars. In those two games, Wilson threw for 409 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions as he completed 50.9% of his passes. In last Thursday’s loss to the Jaguars, Wilson was benched during the second half for Chris Streveler, who was elevated from the Jets’ practice squad.
During the last two weeks, the Jets’ passing attack suffered and they haven’t run the ball effectively because opposing teams have put seven or eight players close to the line of scrimmage instead of playing the pass. This was because the Lions and the Jaguars knew that Wilson couldn’t hurt them consistently with deep, accurate passes down the field.
The Jets averaged 58 rushing yards per contest in their last two games. That is a stark contrast from their previous two wins against the Bills and the Bears when the Jets averaged 166 yards on the ground.
“Teams are stacking the box and daring us to throw it,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “That usually comes with the weather, it is a lot harder to throw the football this time of the year than it is earlier in the year.
“You gotta earn the right to back them off. Does Mike help that, we will find out. At the end of the day, we are in playoff-type football, crappy weather, you gotta be able to run the football.”
White is returning to a Jets team that still has an opportunity to make the playoffs. Before his rib injury, the Jets were in the driver’s seat to get one of the three Wild Card spots as they were 7-6 and seventh in the AFC. Now, with a 7-8 record, losing four games in a row, they find themselves ninth in the conference in a must-win game against the Seahawks on Sunday.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Gang Green has a 15% chance of making the playoffs. If the Jets beat the Seahawks, they will still have an opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010 if the Patriots, who are eighth in the AFC, lose one of their final two games. A loss and the Jets will be eliminated and miss the playoffs for the 12 consecutive year.
“Every single person in this locker room is a competitor,” White said. “When you feel as if your backs are against the wall, every competitor is going to welcome that. That’s what you grow up wanting.
“Every kid is always in the backyard, bases loaded, 3-2 count, or in football, it is the two-minute drive or playing soccer with penalty kicks. It’s stuff like that when the stakes are the highest.
“I feel like it is similar to this situation, but in football, it is a team sport as you never feel like you have to do it by yourself. You got guys out there with you with our whole point is to help each other, so it makes it a little bit easier.”
Not only could White help the Jets make the playoffs, but he could also set himself up to be the team’s future starting quarterback and get a pay raise. With the Jets benching Wilson, they could decide to part ways with him at the end of the season. That could pave the way for White to be the Jets full-time starter in 2023.
White will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, but Saleh said he is taking it one day at a time regarding White and his possible future with the team. White is not trying to think about anything beyond this week’s game against the Seahawks.
“I remember when we first talked and this whole ride started week-to-week, day-to-day and I gotta fall back on that,” White said. “That’s the only way to play this game and in this league.
“It is just a week-to-week basis because things change so fast. So you just have to be in the moment, be in the now and focus on that.”
JOYNER AND MIMS RETURN
Safety Lamarcus Joyner (hip), who has missed the last two games because of a hip injury, returned to practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Denzel Mims is in the final stage of the concussion protocol. Mims suffered a concussion against the Lions and could not clear protocols in time to play against the Jaguars on a short week. The final stage of the protocol is to practice with the team, which Mims did on Wednesday.
Jets wide receiver Jeff Smith did not practice Wednesday as he is still dealing with a knee injury he suffered against the Lions in Week 15. He missed the Jets’ game against the Jaguars. Cornerback Brandin Echols also didn’t practice (quad). The defensive back has missed the last two games.