Four skill player final cuts for the New York Jets to consider

New York Jets

The New York Jets continue to tinker with their roster after setting their original 53. Who could they target amongst the recent departees?

The New York Jets’ unveiling of their 53-man roster has been anything but final.

Joe Douglas and Co. have continued to tinker with the Jets roster as their Sept. 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers looms. New York wasted little time in attacking the waiver wire, primarily focusing on defensive replacements in the wake of several medical absences. Tim Ward came over from Kansas City on the line in hopes of replacing some of Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry’s production. Meanwhile linebacker Quincy Williams joins his brother Quinnen after two seasons in Jacksonville and can hold down the interior linebacker spot while Jarrad Davis heals. Reports have also linked the Jets to former Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine, though no official announcement has been made.

The active nature of Jets management suggests the team isn’t done making moves, even as the countdown to Carolina reaches single digits. ESM has compiled a list of final cuts from elsewhere that would improve the Jets’ immediate fortunes in the skill positions for the better. Some have been claimed for practice squads, but are eligible to be added to an active roster.

QB: Garrett Gilbert, Dallas

Gilbert enjoyed a lucrative run as the quarterback for the Orlando Apollos, the class of the short-lived Alliance of American Football. The Buffalo native played his AAF success into backup gigs with Cleveland and Dallas, performing respectably in a single start with the Cowboys while filling in for Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton last season. Dallas opted to go with Cooper Rush and waiver wire addition Will Grier as the backup for Prescott’s return. Gilbert has since been signed to the New England Patriots’ practice squad, where he and Brian Hoyer are the prime candidates to backup Mac Jones.

The Jets’ backup situation has been the subject of much scrutiny: the team opted to go with Mike White (he of a passable preseason but zero NFL regular season pass attempts) as their primary name behind Zach Wilson while keeping the well-traveled Josh Johnson amongst their own practice corps. Obviously, the Jets hope no backup will be necessary this year. Robert Saleh has made it clear that the team wasn’t going to add a veteran backup for the sake of having one on the roster with Wilson. But the Jets should no better than anybody about the importance of a reliable name in the second slot: no green quarterback has started a full season’s worth of games since Ryan Fitzpatrick went all 16 in 2015. Gilbert would a great addition that could fill in in case of a Wilson emergency.

alfred morris, new york giants

RB: Alfred Morris, NY Giants

Frankly, the Jets are very well equipped in their run game and might be better off exploring a trade involving their rushing surplus. Rookie Michael Carter is obviously off-limits but offering Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, or La’Mical Perine to a team in need of rushing (i.e. Jacksonville and/or Baltimore after respectively losing Travis Etienne and J.K. Dobbins to season-ending injuries) is an endeavor worth investigating.

If the Jets were to scour the rushing help from elsewhere, however, Morris (a bit of an early cut, as he was part of the Giants’ initial departures) would a strong candidate to help solve their woes in short-yardage situations. The veteran and three-time 1,000-yard rusher proved to still have some NFL mettle last season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry with the Giants (second-best on the team behind Wayne Gallman). New York has tried to address its short rushing game. One such step includes the continuation of the fullback experiment with tight end Trevon Wesco. If they want to go a more traditional route, Morris would be the best option from abroad.

WR: Keke Coutee, Houston

True to their nature, the football gods have thrown another wrench into the Jets’ best-laid opening day plans: reports from this week indicate that Jamison Crowder has tested positive for COVID-19 in an isolated case. Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent and consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons and has established himself as one of the most reliable slot targets in the league.

On the current roster, this seems like a big opportunity for rookie Elijah Moore to make a name for himself. But if the Jets want to add someone with a little more experience in the short term, Coutee would be the way to go. The experienced slot man was part of Houston’s final cuts but was quickly added to the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad.

A fourth-round selection in 2018, Coutee had a roller-coaster career with the Texans but was capable of athletic plays (including offensive trickery) and making himself open. Coutee’s catch rate of 82.5 percent (33 receptions on 40 targets) was good for ninth in the league amongst qualified receivers.

TE: Richard Rodgers, Philadelphia

The Jets have granted TE1 duties to Tyler Kroft, solidifying the move by trading Chris Herndon to Minnesota. Formerly of Piscataway, Kroft has been a reliable red zone option in Cincinnati and Buffalo but it’s been a while since he held full-time primary tight end duties. Kroft and Wesco were the only tight ends kept amongst the original 53, but the Jets later re-added Daniel Brown and Ryan Griffin.

Speculation has surrounded one tight end from the City of Brotherly Love, as some have implored the Jets to trade for Zach Ertz. Those rumors have been quelled by Ertz himself (who insisted he wishes to retire in Philadelphia) But the Eagles also released a reliable veteran target, one capable of making big plays and is used to an expanded role in the starting lineup.

Rodgers previously worked with another Rodgers…the unrelated Aaron. In fact, Richard (no relation) is the recipient of one of Aaron’s most famous touchdowns (seen above). His career sputtered with consecutive years on injured reserve, but he filled serviceably when both Ertz and Dallas Goedert went down. During a three-game stretch in November (two starts), Rodgers tallied 161 on nine receptions, two of which went for touchdowns (his first since the 2017 season).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets’ surprise departures send an intriguing message

The New York Jets may have nothing to lose in 2021, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to hold their players accountable.

The start of September is a time to confront some uncomfortable truths, many often centered around regrets from the dying summer.

That’s hasn’t been the problem for the New York Jets; they have accomplished a lot over the past three months, as they’ve won the faith of their long-suffering fanbase back through a busy offseason and respectable preseason showings. But a harsh reality lingers: the only reason the Jets will be playing deeper into January is the mere extension of the NFL’s regular season to 17 games.

Gang Green’s dire immediate forecast isn’t an indictment of general manager Joe Douglas’ time at the helm (even if his first draft looks a little iffy with Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan already gone). It’s rather living proof of just how far the last days of Mike Maccagnan’s oversight and Adam Gase’s doomed two-year tenure set the team back in an AFC landscape packed with worthy, established contenders…one of whom resides in their own division and the state represented in the New York Jets moniker.

But that shouldn’t preclude the Jets from embarking on a year of maturation, 18 weeks of de facto field research and development of its current roster. Barring a winless disaster, this season is going to be an improvement over last year’s two-win horror show. There are opportunities to grow and evolve on the football field. If they manage to shock the football world and pick up an upset win or two along the way (i.e. the matchups against the indirectly aforementioned Buffalo Bills), even better.

Frankly, it’s not much different from the Jets’ 2020 outlook. But Douglas and his front office compatriots have set them up in a far more desireable situation. The hire of head Robert Saleh has been unanimously appreciated in both domestic and abroad circles, in contrast to Gase’s arrival cheered only by the hot take artists. In the best-case scenario, Sam Darnold’s eventual final season as the Jets’ franchise quarterback was equipped with first-round washouts (Breshad Perriman), New England antiques (Chris Hogan), and undrafted journeymen with rushing relics of football past behind him (Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore). Douglas’ offseason negotiations have situated Zach Wilson with valuable weaponry that doubled as playoff staples in recent postseasons (Corey Davis, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft). Each team was/is macabrely blessed with a sense of having nothing to lose in the immediate future, but there’s a clear difference between the Jets’ two most preseason auras.

jets, bless austin

But that doesn’t mean that the Jets are going to sit idly by while this season plays out. The team’s most recent departures serve as a warning that just because there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be held accountable for their on-field output…or lack thereof.

This week’s initial reveal of 53-man rosters has been no roadblock for the Jets’ continued insistence on tinkering their lineup as the countdown to Sept. 12’s opener in Carolina (1 p.m. ET, CBS) enters single digits. New York has continued to try and fill the Carl Lawson-sized hole created by the injury bug, signing waiver wire defenders Tim Ward and Quincy Williams (ex-Cleveland safety Sheldrick Redwine doesn’t appear to be far behind). They’re replacing some familiar faces, rare remnants of the Maccagnan era. Those leftovers are vanishing from the Jets’ ledgers faster and in higher volume than Thanos and his army after Tony Stark’s sacrifice.

The most prominent of the departures have been two recent staples at the top of the Jets’ depth chart: tight end Chris Herndon was dealt to Minnesota during the purge down to 53 men while cornerback Bless Austin was outright released. Austin had been penciled in as the Jets’ starting cornerback for months while Herndon was one of the closest things the Jets had to a staple: only two players (Marcus Maye and Thomas Hennessy) had longer green metropolitan tenures than Herndon, who was set to enter his fourth year with the team.

New York Jets, Chris Herndon
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

At first glance, the 2021 Jets provided the perfect environment for Herndon and Austin to work through. A team with nothing to lose could’ve granted the young veterans a chance to gain some football clarity and reclaim the narrative on their professional careers. Each had shown flashes of NFL brilliance before: Herndon is just three years removed from being one of the NFL’s most illustrious rookie receivers (11th overall with 502 yards and leading all freshman tight ends with 39 receptions) and Austin developed a reputation as a strong hitter, fighting his way back from injuries at Rutgers into a starting opportunity in an NFL lineup.

But the Jets have once again made it clear that, in writing their own story of redemption, they don’t have the time or effort to co-author anyone else’s. There are some low-profile exceptions (i.e. late arrival Shaq Lawson) but the team is making it clear that if a player isn’t contributing toward the pavement of the path back to gridiron redemption, they don’t have a place in New York.

Herndon’s previous heroics, overshadowed by injuries, a suspension, and general inconsistency, held no value in the Jets’ current plans. Austin seemed born to succeed as a metropolitan difference-maker as a Queens native and Rutgers alum. Such a cinematic set-up went by the wayside.

It’s also not like the Jets have replacement readily available in Herndon and Austin’s respective roles. Kroft has been a reliable red zone prescience (which the Jets learned the easy way this preseason) but hasn’t TE1 duties since 2017. The Jets’ official cornerback depth chart, as of press time, literally has a blank space where Austin’s name once stood. Draft weekend Saturday arrivals Brandin Echols (6th round) and Isaiah Dunn (undrafted) sit behind it.

Both Douglas and Saleh expressed gratitude toward Herndon and Austin. Per notes from the Jets, Douglas said Minnesota aggressively sought a tight end after losing Irv Smith for the year while each concurred that they wanted some of their younger defenders to take on bigger responsibilities. But these departures offering a lingering sense that no New York veteran is safe. Sure, there might be some exceptions…it’s highly unlikely that they’ll give up on, say, Corey Davis, after a single season. But letting go of two key pieces less than two weeks before kickoff weekend is an interesting, if not necessary, method of starting a new era.

The 2021 New York Jets serve as a football laboratory whose experiments could change the pigskin world. They’re in a classic spot where they don’t have anything, so there’s nothing to lose. But the farewells of Herndon and Austin prove, for the betterment of the team, that that’s only going to apply from an organizational standpoint.

They’ve tried everything else. What’s one more trip to the drawing board?

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Why Shaq Lawson is a low-risk, high-reward addition

Shaq Lawson doesn’t change the New York Jets’ 2021 outlook, but he can be a solid stopgap in a developmental season.

The New York Jets are fulfilling an offseason promise to put Lawson on their defensive line.

Carl Lawson is done for the year but those designing the Jets’ uniforms can still use the surname’s nameplate. The Jets reportedly welcomed in defensive end Shaq Lawson to the fold on Sunday, sending the sixth-round pick they gained from San Francisco in last year’s Jordan Willis deal. Most recently donning a Houston Texans helmet, Lawson is on to his fourth team after entering the league as Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2016 (immediately before the Jets chose Darron Lee).

Shaq Lawson arrives at an interesting landmark on the Jets’ 2021 timeline. It was previously hinted that the Jets would seek help in the pass rush after Carl Lawson, the Jets’ most expensive offseason acquisition, was lost for the year after rupturing his Achillies during a joint practice in Green Bay. Fellow veteran Vinny Curry was likewise lost for the year after dealing with blood clots. The Jets appeared to have fulfilled that quest with Sunday’s transaction.

What exactly can be expected with Lawson poised to don a green uniform? ESM investigates…

Affordable Redemption

The Jets are desperate enough to write a redemption story for the past decade of fruitless football, much less finally pen a sequel to the Super Bowl III epic. To that end, they can’t concern themselves with co-authoring someone else’s, no matter how talented that player can be. That’s removed them from the conversation on several high-profile stars and, frankly, should’ve steered them away from the expensive Le’Veon Bell gambit in 2019.

Shaq Lawson, at first glance, appears to carry the baggage that a developing team like the Jets should avoid. The Clemson alum has shown flashes but has yet to live up to his first-round billing. New York is his fourth team over the past three seasons and he was playing deep into the second half of the Texans’ preseason contests. His lasting legacy, as of this moment, is perhaps his status as the penultimate premier pick of Buffalo’s ill-fated Doug Whaley era.

But Lawson’s redemption story that the Jets can literally afford to play a supporting role in. If/when the trade is confirmed, the Jets are set to inherit only circa $2 million of Lawson’s salary, with the Texans set to take on nearly $7 million in dead cap. If Lawson were to perform well enough that the Jets want more, his contract allows the Jets to retain him at just under $9 million. Even with the pick from the Willis trade gone, they will have a dozen choices to work with come next spring.

From a football standpoint, Lawson isn’t being called upon to turn the tide in New York. Even with Carl Lawson in tow, this wasn’t going to be a playoff team in 2021. He can work things in relatively peaceful surroundings with the Jets, where defensive storylines will likely linger on Quinnen Williams’ development and what’s going on in the Jets’ secondary. One could argue he had a similar blank slate in Houston, but the Jets seem much more secure in their future (particularly when it comes to comparing the quarterback situations). What Joe Douglas has done this offseason won’t make the Jets a playoff team immediately but he has built a situation that allows the team to take a risk or two in the name of veteran help.

AFC Beast

Lawson potentially enters the Jets in a bit of a prickly situation: the Jets’ preseason slate wrapped on Friday night, giving him just two weeks to cram the Jets’ playbook before they open against Carolina on Sept. 12. But despite Lawson’s lack of a true NFL impact so far, he appears to be on a bit of an upswing.

Whereas the departed Carl Lawson’s hype was partly built on advanced pressure numbers, the incoming Shaq has tried to make a name for himself through more conventional means, traditional numbers that have been sorely lacking in New York in recent times. Lawson has earned 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons, including 6.5 during his final year in Buffalo in 2019. In comparison, only one player (Jordan Jenkins) has reached double-figures in sacks, falling just short of Lawson’s mark with 10. He won’t fully replace the pressure that the unrelated Carl brought in Cincinnati but he is a well-traveled pressure artist in his own right, earning 77 pressures over the last two seasons with the Bills and Miami Dolphins.

Lawson is coming off a solid, if not uneventful, season with the Dolphins after his career-best campaign in Buffalo in 2019. He’s a better option than free agent question marks like Everson Griffen (who went back to Minnesota after the Lawson injury) and Olivier Vernon and was likely far less expensive than potential trade candidates like Dante Fowler or Chandler Jones. The Jets needed pressure and Lawson, despite his flaws, has been reliable in that regard. As to the potential problems when it comes to a speed course in the New York defense, Lawson got a taste of 4-3 action during his brief time in Houston under defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.

“With this defense, you can just attack,” Lawson said of the 4-3 scheme, per Anthony Wood of SI.com. “You don’t (have) to think about no blocks or anything you’ve got to worry about. I mean, that’s the great part about being in a 4-3 defense.”

Houston head coach David Culley got to witness some of Lawson’s developmental antics as a Buffalo assistant. Asked about his potential to fit with the Texans’ front seven, Culley reminisced about pass-rushing endeavors that have been sorely lacking in green metropolitan circles in recent seasons.

“Shaq was a pass rusher up there,” Culley said, per notes from the Texans. “He’s quick. He has great movement. He’s got a great first step…He plays with good leverage, and he’s got good hands, and basically, what we teach all those guys to do, he has that.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Ty Johnson has fought his way into a case for RB1 duties

Ty Johnson was a forgotten man of sorts in the New York Jets’ rushing competition, but he has been anything but silent this preseason.

The New York Jets’ 2020 season went so awry, that one could argue that the team failed to even lose the proper fashion.

There was never any use in whining about the Jets’ late victories over playoff squads from Los Angeles and Cleveland. Tanking is a tired exercise where those that do the deed never get to enjoy the rewards created by fans’ insistence they throw games. Besides, if Zach Wilson is the supposed consolation prize for missing out on Trevor Lawrence, early returns suggest that Jets fans are more than happy with that trade-off.

Once it became clear that Jets football had been swallowed up by the cesspool that was the year 2020 A.D…and, let’s face it, that happened pretty early on in the campaign…Gang Green had a macabre gift in the form of consequence-free football contests that would allow them to empty their bench and bestow game day reps to raw talent looking to prove their NFL mettle. Jobs could’ve won and a team with more question marks than an episode of Jeopardy! could’ve gained some clarity.

Alas, the Jets opted to spend their time working with relics of Sundays past in desperate attempts to avoid the immortality of imperfection. Gregg Williams probably should’ve been dismissed long before that ill-fated blitz gave Las Vegas a win. Sam Darnold spent his final year in green throwing to first-round washouts (i.e. Breshad Perriman) and antiques from championship squads (i.e. Chris Hogan). Of course, nothing more needs to be written about the bizarre Frank Gore farewell tour that accomplished nothing other than having Gore reach the 16,000-yard plateau in a Jets helmet (the football equivalent of Wade Boggs getting his 3,000th hit in the colorful duds of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays).

But in the midst of the carnage that was 2020, some Jets began to establish themselves, giving the franchise at least some breadcrumbs. Running back Ty Johnson might’ve been one of them if the Jets ever gave him a true opportunity.

Johnson’s New York arrival was met with little fanfare, unlike his predecessor. He joined the Jets on Oct. 2 on waivers. He came hours after the equally woebegone Detroit Lions bid him farewell after a year-plus and 11 days before the team unofficially waved the white flag on 2020 through the release of Le’Veon Bell. The Jets, to their credit, did try to give La’Mical Perine a chance but went back to Gore after the fourth-round choice was dealt nearly after kind of 2020 football calamity (including a training camp injury and placement on the COVID-19 list). Johnson wound up having only eight carries over his first six games as a Jet.

That was before history happened.

In the aforementioned heartbreaker against the Raiders, Johnson broke the Jets’ 38-game moratorium on triple-digit yardage games, tallying 104 on 22 carries. The accomplishment got lost in the chaos of Williams’ blunder but hinted at better days for the New York offense.

Alas, Johnson never received another extended opportunity to prove he could be a sustainable (and, more importantly after the Bell debacle, affordable) long-term option behind the Jets’ new quarterback. He received only 23 carries over the rest of the season. While that tally didn’t include some strong aerial performances (i.e. 6 receptions, 39 yards, and a score in the Jets’ first win over the Rams) it didn’t stop the Jets from addressing their rushing issues. Two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman was added on a one-year deal while another fourth-round selection, North Carolina’s Michael Carter, is viewed as a long-term asset).

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With such accomplished resumes ahead of him on the depth chart, it’s easy, almost understandable that Johnson would get lost in the fold. Despite being one of the rare Jets who filled his job adequately in 2020 (team-best 4.7 average on 54 carries), Johnson has found himself fighting for his NFL livelihood once again. His time in Detroit, who chose him in the sixth round of the 2019 draft, ended in part because of Adrian Peterson’s arrival, as there was no place for him next to Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift.

But, in other words, camp has been business as usual for Johnson who has never viewed himself as an essential roster lock in any stop of his football journey.

“I’m always practicing like I’ve got to make the team,” Johnson, a Maryland alum, told Kyle Bennett of the Cumberland Times-News in July. “At the end of the day, I don’t care what articles come out, I don’t care what articles say I’m gonna start, I don’t care about articles saying I’m going to get cut. My whole mentality is like, ‘I’m trying to make the team. I’m trying to put food on my plate, trying to put food on my family’s plate.’ And that’s just the mentality. So yeah, just making that team and securing my spot is definitely the goal, of course.”

“The goal is just to win,” he continued. “If I can contribute in any way, if that means me blocking on third down, if it means me, you know, cutting the leg on a D-end or something like that, or take on a three tech because the guard has to go down and block with the nose, then, by all means, that’s what I’m gonna do. The main goal overall is just to win as a team, really.”

Johnson has certainly been doing his part in that last regard, playing a big role in the Jets’ semi-perfect preseason (2-0-1). He’s currently third on the Jets’ rushing depth chart behind Coleman and Perine but has earned a majority of the summer carries, totaling 108 yards on 28 attempts behind an offensive that has been missing of its vital cogs (i.e. Alijah Vera-Tucker). Johnson went somewhat viral in Friday’s finale against Philadelphia. Not only did he provide a touchdown in the Jets’ comeback effort toward a 31-31 tie, but he also made the internet go crazy when he barreled over an Eagles defender en route to a first down on a Jets scoring drive. Johnson had 56 yards on 13 carries in the finale, giving him 108 on 28 tries in the trio.

“He converted a third-and-short, was moving piles, lowering his shoulder and getting tough, aggressive yards. That was a great plus for him,” head coach Robert Saleh said in video provided by the Jets after the game. “The thing about it is he still has so much more in the tank. That was a great step forward for him. He did a really nice job.”

There’s no arguing that Johnson may face an uphill battle in terms of making an impact with the 2021 Jets. Heck, one could argue that the best way he can immediately the Jets is trade to a rushing-hungry team like Jacksonville, who just lost rookie sensation Travis Etienne for the whole season.

But never mind the idea of RB1: for the time being, no other rusher on the Jets’ roster is defining the idea and intent of Saleh’s already-famous “All Gas, No Brake” mantra better than Johnson.

“(The Jets) been really challenging me to do all the things that (Saleh) has mentioned. That’s all I was really harping on over the summer,” Johnson said after Friday, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday. “Tight turns when I catch the ball. Violent cuts. It doesn’t have to be finding the right crease.”

“Be patient but violent. When I’m going downhill, be violent going downhill.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: 3 stars from Friday’s win/loss vs. Philadelphia

New York Jets

Delayed a half-hour by lightning storms, the New York Jets’ preseason finale in East Rutherford was dominated by reserves.

Thunder and lightning on and off the MetLife Stadium turf defined the New York Jets’ 2021 preseason finale.

East Rutherford rains pushed back the opening kickoff of the Jets’ resumed summer series against the Philadelphia Eagles, as the team met annually in their respective final exhibition game since 2001 before the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the proceedings last year. Two late hook-ups between James Morgan and Kenny Yeboah allowed the Jets to erase a late deficit and force a 31-31 tie on Friday night.

New York (2-0-1) and Philadelphia (0-2-1) mostly played their reserves after heavy precipitation delayed kickoff by a half-hour. Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was among the many held out.

ESM has three game balls from Friday’s unusual showdown…

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Josh Adams: 12 carries, 62 yards, 3 receptions, 17 yards
  • QB James Morgan: 13-of-23, 158 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • WR Jeff Smith: 3 carries, 44 yards, 2 receptions, 16 yards
  • WR Lawrence Cager: 3 receptions, 21 yards, 1 touchdown
  • WR Vyncint Smith: 2 receptions, 32 yards
  • S J.T. Hassell: 4 tackles, 1 sack
  • P Braden Mann: 3 punts, 51.3 average

3rd Star: TE Kenny Yeboah

4 receptions, 100 yards, 2 TD

With Tyler Kroft sitting out (perhaps solidifying his status as the Jets’ top tight end) and the Chris Herndon/Daniel Brown tandem struggling, Yeboah capitalized on an opportunity by becoming an eternal legend of New York summer lore. He got open over the middle for a score in the third quarter to reduce the Jets’ deficit to one before hauling in the Morgan miracle. With major questions surrounding the Jets’ veteran tight ends beyond Kroft, it’ll be interesting to see if Friday’s standout performance was enough for Yeboah to carve out a year-long role on the team through either an active roster or practice squad spot.

2nd Star: QB Josh Johnson

7-of-8, 73 yards, 1 TD

Jets fans who braved the rain to see the only sanctioned home game of the preseason were probably disappointed that they didn’t get to see new franchise man Zach Wilson. Johnson did what he could to make up for the loss of aerial antics and gave the Jets a quarterback quandary over the next few weeks. The Jets scored on two of Johnson’s three possessions, the first capped off by a short scoring hookup on fourth down with Lawrence Cager. Friday’s snaps were Johnson’s first of the preseason, as Mike White has taken a majority of the post-Wilson throws. White didn’t play on Friday night; it was vague as to whether was part of the Jets’ roster locks or the aftermath from taking several hits against Green Bay last weekend. Johnson certainly gave the Jets something to think about as Week 1 looms.

1st Star: RB Ty Johnson

13 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD

Thanks to Marvel, pondering the question of “What If…?” has become a national pastime of sorts. One such quandary from Jets fans could center around the hypotheticals of Ty Johnson getting the lion’s share of the rushing attempts instead of giving Frank Gore a farewell tour in green. It probably wouldn’t have shifted the Jets’ standing in…well, the standings…but run game clarity could’ve been gained. All signs currently point to veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman being the top back. Coleman has taken minimal snaps during the preseason but is still listed at the top of the Jets’ current depth chart. Many expect freshman Michael Carter (7 carries, 12 yards) to over at some point this season. But Johnson (108 yards on 28 carries behind an offensive line that was never at full strength) is making his case to be a premier back, once again taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to him like he did last season. The Jets also can’t forget Josh Adams, who wound up leading the team in rushing on Friday night as a major contributor to the Jets’ comeback effort.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Attainable goals for Friday’s game vs. Philadelphia

zach wilson, jets

ESM’s New York Jets experts believe Gang Green should spend the preseason finale accounting for their defensive absences.

Never mind Labor Day. For New York Jets fans, the unofficial end of summer arrives when the Philadelphia Eagles show up on the preseason ledger.

The Jets’ late-summer showcase with the Eagles resumes on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). New York (2-0) has faced Philadelphia (0-2) in every preseason finale since 2001. The streak was interrupted only by the cancellation of last year’s preseason proceedings but resumes on Friday night in what goes down as the Jets’ only official home game of their 2021 exhibition showings (they were the designated road team in the opener against the Giants).

ESM’s Jets experts conjure up an attainable goal for Gang Green to fulfill as the preseason comes to a close…

new york jets, zach wilson

Geoff Magliocchetti: Keep the Offensive Momentum Rolling

Losing Carl Lawson for the year (and Jarrad Davis for at least the first five weeks) shouldn’t awaken the Jets from their dreams of development this season, but the first showing sans the former Bengal wasn’t pretty. Missing Lawson wasn’t the biggest issue against Green Bay last weekend…missing tackles and lost coverage battles were far more troubling…but the top unit still looked out of sorts against a Packers offense resting most of its starters (including top throwers Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love).

The ultimate insult came when the Packer reserves ate up ten minutes of second quarter game time and embarked on a 19-play, 81-yard drive. Six of those plays were conversions on third or fourth down, including the touchdown that capped things off. Since that drive came with a good portion of the Jets starters on the field, the team faces some major questions.

The best defense could be…a good offense.

Even if their conquests have come against defensive reserves, it’s hard not to be enthused about the progress of the Jets offense, especially with Zach Wilson leading the charge. The team has drifted so far behind the times in this NFL dominated by offense: this is a unit that failed to reach a mere 300 yards in all but five of their games last season. Wilson has embarked on six drives this season: the Jets have scored on four of them and all but one has ended in opposing territory. The outlier produced a conservative punt on a one-yard fourth down at the Jets’ 49-yard-line.

Wilson has made the most of his summer opportunities. He has built chemistry with his receivers, namely Corey Davis (6 receptions, 88 yards) and Tyler Kroft (49 yards on a trio of receptions, including two touchdowns in Green Bay). He has responded well to adversity, erasing two deficits at Lambeau through responsive scoring drives.

Time will tell how the Jets, and their 31 NFL compatriots, approach the third preseason game under the adjusted, shortened summer format. Under the previous quartet, the third game was often treated like a dress rehearsal, with starters playing most, if not all, of the first half. Head coach Robert Saleh was vague on his starters’ playing time during joint practices with the Eagles this week but stressed his desire to see a lot of Wilson. It won’t be “more than a half”, per team reporter Ethan Greenberg, but Saleh believes that there’s a prime opportunity for the newcomers on offense to make of the most of the final tune-up of what’s been a successful preseason.

“I want to play (Wilson),” Saleh said in Greenberg’s report. “I do, so we’re talking about it. But right now, I’m leaning towards playing at least the starting offensive line, quarterback, and a majority of the defensive payers…We got a ridiculously young team and they are growing and learning and all of these experiences are so important to them. I feel like they’ve gotten so much better from the first day of camp until now and to pull off now, I think we’d be doing them an injustice.”

If the Jets emerge from this preseason feeling good about themselves, the offense is providing a majority of those good vibes. Keeping up the offensive is more important than ever with so many question marks filling up slots on the defensive depth chart.

Friday also presents a big opportunity for some players to secure premier roles on the team. Who will be the top rusher? Veteran and two-time Super Bowl participant Tevin Coleman is currently slotted in the top rushing role on the official depth chart but Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and La’Mical Perine have each looked strong at different points of the summer. The backup quarterback debate has yet to be resolved as well. Mike White has been quiet if not consistent but sustained a rib injury in Green Bay last weekend. James Morgan has struggled and veteran Josh Johnson has yet to see the field.

Brendan Carpenter: Fill the Hole Jarrad Davis Leaves Behind

Well, it’s here. The final 2021 preseason game and, believe it or not, there is still one important question that needs answering: what’s going to happen at linebacker behind C.J. Mosley?

The linebacking situation seemed set. It was going to be Mosley and Jarrad Davis manning the main two inside spots. However, with Davis going down for about two months, there’s a hole. The news wasn’t wanted by anyone, but with the injury comes new opportunities for other players. These opportunities could be exciting too, as rookies Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen will have prime chances to impress.

Sherwood, Nasirildeen, and the veteran depth at linebacker (i.e. Blake Cashman, Noah Dawkins) need to help create some post-Davis clarity on Friday night. If the Jets linebackers can show some ability to make impactful plays and stand tall with the added adversity, it’ll end the preseason on a relatively high note. Well, as high as it could be now.

Expect the linebackers to rotate in and out frequently and to get a glimpse of everything they have to offer. Hopefully, they will be able to achieve the goal of clarity somewhat quickly.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

It’s time for Robert Saleh to prove why he got the New York Jets job

new york jets, robert saleh

Ending the New York Jets lengthy postseason drought is still a tall task, but early injuries have raised the pressure on the new boss.

For New York Jets fans, hiring Robert Saleh was like getting that one Christmas gift your parents insist they’re not getting you.

Saleh was one of the most sought-after coordinators during the NFL’s search for head coaches in 2021. He was an anomaly in the lens of modern American football in that his prior duties have centered around defense, a new arrival in the brotherhood of NFL head coaches at a time when stats like 30 points or 400 yards appear on more losing box scores than ever. Of the seven new hires, Saleh was the only one with a background primarily in defense.

He nonetheless earned interviews with all but two of the teams looking to fill headset vacancies. His eventual hire by the Jets earned positive reviews both domestically and abroad. A football fan landscape that uses any simple Jets mistake as a guaranteed punchline almost didn’t know what to do with itself.

Jets supporters would’ve taken any average football mind after the harrowing two years under Adam Gase’s watch…something along the lines of the mediocrity on display with say, Eric Magini would’ve been downright euphoric. Getting Saleh, the coveted coordinator from San Francisco, could’ve been classified as the closest feeling the Jets have had to a postseason triumph since their visit to the AFC title game at the start of the prior decade. Saleh’s mantra of “All Gas, No Brake” has been more quoted than lines from the scripts of The Sopranos…no easy tasks in Northern New Jersey.

Despite the praises hoisted upon Saleh (and a strong refurbishing of the team’s depth chart), the Jets’ issues didn’t instantly vanish. No one was booking trips to Inglewood for Super Bowl LVI. MetLife Stadium probably won’t have to reschedule any events in January. The feeling of being a savior, a prophet amongst metropolitan football fans, has to feel good. But it’s going to take a lot of work to keep that trust.

Jets fans were understandably patient: Gase’s antics over the last two seasons left the franchise in shambles. “Trusting the process” has become a parody of itself…especially since such a strategy has produced nothing greater than heartbreak in the conference semifinals for the concept’s originators in Philadelphia…but Gang Green’s worshippers had no choice. Merely improving from last year’s disaster would be viewed as a genuine step in the right direction. The veteran additions they made this offseason were strong markers in that path back to respectability.

The trigger fingers of NFL decision-makers are quicker than ever: Gase’s two-year tenure was the shortest in Jets history to end via firing since Rich Kotite’s cursed 32 games in 1995-96 (Al Groh resigned after a single season in 2000). But, perhaps a completely winless campaign notwithstanding, Saleh isn’t getting fired if/when the Jets miss the playoffs this year.

 Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

But Saleh probably thought he’d at least get to enjoy the spectacle of opening kickoff before dealing with his first true test.

Saleh’s first games as an NFL head coach are going to held without the services of two of his top defenders after a costly business trip to Green Bay. Carl Lawson is done for the year after rupturing his Achilles while linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) is out for at least the first five games after leaving the exhibition showcase that concluded the trip. The football gods continued to show no mercy as the Jets prepare for their final preseason contest on Friday against Philadelphia (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS); former Eagles Vinny Curry will miss the reunion with his former team and all 17 regular season games after that after he was diagnosed with blood clots.

Saleh has also been left to finish cleaning up the mess the prior regime left behind. The incompetence of the last two seasons created so many holes that it was a near guarantee that some area on the roster was going to be neglected. New York’s secondary appears to be the odd group out: inexperienced raw talent reigns at the top of the cornerback depth chart (Bless Austin and Bryce Hall). The new, experienced arrivals upfront could’ve helped the Jets get by, especially in the early going. Now, Saleh is dealt his first major crisis before the calendar flips to September, to the point where the team is planning to seek out more help in the pass rush before the season starts…an endeavor that would ignore holes like backup quarterback and the aforementioned secondary. He’ll have to work through his first games with a relatively thin group on the defensive front.

In other words…the showcase that got Saleh hired continues.

If one’s criteria for hiring a new head coach stopped at a quick glance at the standings, Saleh’s status as a former 49ers assistant likely would’ve eliminated him. San Francisco followed up an NFC title with a 6-10 showing that sank them to the bottom of the NFC West. But the standings often rarely tell a team’s full story.

Since Gase, among others, was doing a fine job of upending the Jets’ fortunes on his own, the football gods might’ve left the Jets alone during the 2020 season. They instead turned their focus to the Bay Area, where several key ingredients were forcibly removed from the 49ers’ Super Bowl recipe. Saleh’s unit was no exception: the defensive injury list resembled a Pro Bowl ballot. Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, and Richard Sherman missed significant time, while Emmanuel Moseley, Jimmie Ward, and K’Waun Williams were also medical departures. San Francisco was extensively also affected by the COVID-19 issues that invaded the NFL last season; local restrictions forced them to relocate to Arizona for the last portions of their season.

Saleh responded to the challenges head-on. Whereas some new hires (i.e. Arthur Smith, Tennessee offensive coordinator-turned-Atlanta head coach) earned their promotions through on-field results, Saleh earned his job through adaptation.

Despite the front seven losing a good part of its bite, San Francisco’s defense managed to keep its pressure at a consistent rate, forcing hurries on 11.2 percent of opposing quarterback dropouts (fifth-best in the league). In more conventional stats, Saleh’s ragtag group of defenders allowed 350 yards or less in six of their final games. One such effort allowed the Washington Football Team’s offense to put up 193 yards…in a game the 49ers lost 23-15. Washington’s points were primarily earned through a Chase Young fumble return touchdown and Kamren Curl pick-six and two other drives totaling 42 yards that led to Dustin Hopkins field goals. Their longest drive of the day, a 72-yard trek to open the second half, also produced a Hopkins triple.

Under Saleh’s watch, depth man Kerry Hyder got back to numbers (49 tackles, 18 quarterback knockdowns, 8.5 sacks) not reached since his sophomore season in Detroit, which was followed by a torn Achilles that cost him his whole 2017 campaign. He was rewarded with a three-year deal from Seattle.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw said that Saleh’s composure helped the 49ers keep their composure in a time of distress.

“(He made) sure that every guy is doing their job 100 percent of the time, as good as they can, hard as they can,” Greenlaw said per Shayna Rubin of The Mercury News. “Saleh said if we bring that every week to the game, we’re going to be one of the most dominant teams. Having the mentality he has, the mindset he has, it carries to us on defense. I don’t know where he’s going to go from here, but I know that mentality will stick with us.”

Now, Saleh has to deal with that adversity right from the get-go. He’s not looking for sympathy…he’s looking for players to step up.

“The NFL train stops for nobody,” Saleh said after last weekend’s 23-14 preseason win over Green Bay per Randy Lange of the team website. It was Saleh’s first public comments after the dire Lawson diagnosis. “When someone falls off the train…it’s another opportunity for someone to jump on the train. A lot of men at that defensive end spot are chomping at the bit for the opportunity, and they got it. We’ll work our tails off to get them ready, and I know they’ll work their tails off to reciprocate.”

The New York Jets have been a franchise that has had to deal with adversity, a team that has been forced to adapt to landscapes changed through both self-inflicted calamities and issues bestowed from parties from abroad. Fortunately, they’ve found a head coach that earned his biggest opportunity to date through overcoming such issues.

This time, however, it’s time to do it in green gear.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Zach Wilson passed his first test as a New York Jets QB

new york jets, zach wilson

Parts of the New York Jets’ visit to Wisconsin were downright nightmares. But Zach Wilson’s showing has the team buzzing.

For all intents and purposes, the New York Jets’ business trip to Green Bay resembled Michael Scott’s visit to Winnipeg (ironically, the local of another squad branded with aerial endeavors). Sure they got an important job done: Michael made a sale to an international client while the Jets emerged with a 23-14 preseason victory at Lambeau Field on Saturday.

Yet, each trip left the protagonists a bit hollow and empty inside. Michael’s awkward encounter with the hotel’s concierge left him longing for his lost lover Holly Flax. The Jets, meanwhile, come home without several crucial names on defense: marquee offseason arrival Carl Lawson was carted off the field during a joint practice with the Packers, as was undrafted secondary rookie Zane Lewis. Neither will see the field in a 2021 regular season contest In the exhibition showcase itself, fellow newcomer Jarrad Davis likewise needed the cart to leave the field after sustaining an ankle injury in the second quarter. The former Detroit Lion is projected to miss the Jets’ first five regular season games.

Michael’s conundrum was solved through the magic of television: he and Holly married upon his departure from the series two seasons later. The Jets, on the other hand, are engaged in a playoff drought that has outlived The Office‘s nine-year run. That streak has festered in part due to a lack of a franchise quarterback and poor defensive efforts.

Another poor defensive effort awaited on Saturday, the only segment of the Jets’ Wisconsin visit where stats were officially recorded. The Jets faced a Green Bay team that rested most of their offensive starters. Few expected to see Aaron Rodgers in action but even his indirectly controversial successor Jordan Love was likewise absent, leaving perennial camp body Kurt Benkert to primarily oversee the operation. New York’s defensive starters played deep into the second frame, but a Green Bay unit that more resembled the (Michigan) Panthers than the Packers still earned two touchdown-scoring drives. The latter trek was the ultimate insult: the Packers embarked on a 19-play, 81-yard drive that ate over 10 minutes of clock.

So why are the Jets bursting with momentum after the trip to Titletown? Zach Wilson.

zach wilson, jets

Wilson, the Jets’ lastest savior under center, was coming off a perfect showing against the New York Giants. It was perfection earned not through a statistical sense (6-of-9, 63 yards on two drives that ended in Giants territory) but rather an emotional sense that quelled concerns about his highly publicized struggles in camp and intrasquad scrimmages.

Yet, there was a little something missing in the most recent Snoopy Bowl, a Jets tradition that has taken up residency no matter where the team lingers: adversity.

With the Giants likewise sitting their starters and the Jets’ defense at full strength, last weekend lacked a sense of danger. No one wants to be on the wrong end of the scoreboard in any NFL contest, even one whose box scores are likely eradicated on the flight home. The Jets perfectly took care of that problem against the Giants. They never trailed at any point and allowed Wilson to work. Holes in the system looked like a good fixer-upper instead.

But the Jets faced some good old-fashioned adversity against Green Bay, primarily through a lackluster defensive showing. After Wilson’s first drive yielded a Matt Ammendola field goal, it took Green Bay’s reserve only eight plays to waltz 75 yards into the end zone. The Packers faced only one third down on the drive…the one-yard attempt that led to Kylin Hill’s rushing touchdown.

Wilson obviously wasn’t brought into play defense so there isn’t much he can do to help the unit. All he can do is take care of his own business and take advantage of whatever opportunities are afforded to him. He didn’t let a single one go to waste on Saturday.

When the defense earned a quick stop after a Braden Mann punt pinned the Packers inside their 15, Wilson had a prime opportunity to move the ball and potentially earn his first scoring drive. They were poised to start at their own 45, but a holding penalty shifted them back 10 yards.

That was of little concern to Wilson, who handled the setback with the maximum preseason swagger. Wilson spent his third drive of the day further fostering the connection between he and Corey Davis, particularly through two strong throws at the end of the first quarter. Two hook-ups totaling 41 yards set the Jets up in the red zone, allowing Wilson to remove “first unofficial NFL touchdown” from his offseason checklist.

The union between Wilson and Davis is a collaboration between two players that are looking to prove different things at the NFL level. Wilson is trying to erase the stigma of not only being a high-profile draft pick from a mid-major program but that of being the New York Jets’ franchise quarterback. Davis, meanwhile, is another mid-major pick from the top five that’s eager to prove he can be a long-term difference-maker in the league. Every time the former Tennessee Titan has been ready to take a vital step in that journey, a situation beyond his control surfaces. A hamstring injury took out a sizable part of his rookie season while a brief stint on the COVID-19 list prevented him from reaching his first four-digit yardage season.

Davis believes the early chemistry he has created with Wilson will help each of them accomplish their goals through a collaborative effort.

“We were setting a tone, but still have some work to do,” Davis said of the Jets’ offense, per team reporter Jack Bell. On his relationship with Wilson, Davis remarked that a lot of “huge strides” have been made.

“I think Zach is a lot more comfortable in the pocket, he’s been more accurate,” the receiver said. “I’ve been getting open and creating space to try and make it easier for him.”

Yet another obstacle awaited Wilson as he tried to lead the Jets into the red zone: a penalty for an ineligible man downfield on a completed pass to Jamison Crowder forced the unit to deal with a dozen-yard second down. When a similar situation arose against the Giants last week, Wilson was able to at least afford the Jets the opportunity to fail on fourth down. He took things a step further on Saturday, finding Tyler Kroft for an 18-yard score, his first in the NFL.

This being the Jets, there was little time to relish the good feelings. The march of the Green Bay reserves featured five third down conversions and an additional new set of downs was earned through a successful fourth down try. It would’ve been understandable for them to hold Wilson out for the rest of the afternoon, let him “live” to fight another day. But when Corey Ballentine’s strong return placed the Jets 30 yards away from another touchdown, another opportunity lingered and Wilson took full advantage.

All it took for the Jets to capitalize was two six-yard runs by Ty Johnson and Wilson’s second scoring toss to Kroft, this one from 18 yards out. A lamentable first half of football for reasons both beyond and within their control ended with the Jets leading the Packers 17-14 before backups on both sides dominated the remainder of the game.

Thanks to Wilson and a little help from his friends, the Jets’ defensive woes are a mere subplot rather than the main attraction. While the showing against the Giants was perfect in a symbolic sense, his outing against the Packers was literally flawless…well, almost. His Saturday passer rating of 154.7 was just short of a so-called perfect 158.3…but the Jets were perfectly fine with that.

Head coach Robert Saleh, for example, was pleased with the way Wilson handled his first true taste of NFL adversity, an intangible perhaps unmeasurable by any part of the passer rating equation.

“I thought he had good command,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said, per Andy Vazquez of USA Today. “I thought he was under control. I thought he handled pressure well. He was good in and out of the huddle. He’s progressing. And just like his bad days, this was a good day, and it’s just another day. And he’s got to continue to stack up and take the good with the bad and find ways to get better.”

Of course, the road doesn’t end with the second preseason game, even the Jets did somewhat use Saturday as the dress rehearsal often reserved for the third preseason game under the old four-exhibition format. Untold challenges lie ahead, but Wilson’s performance and ability to make the best of stressful situations is exactly what a franchise in desperate need of stability needed.

Wilson has passed his first NFL test. The longer it keeps the Jets out of the watchful stare of tweeters and analysts looking to pounce on Gang Green to earn a few clicks, the better.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets: 3 stars from Saturday’s preseason win at Green Bay

new york jets

Offense took center stage on Saturday, as Zach Wilson found Tyler Kroft for two scores in a New York Jets victory.

Zach Wilson earned his first two unofficial touchdown passes as a New York Jet on Saturday, each going to Tyler Kroft, while Corey Davis established a connection with the young quarterback through a 70-yard showing on four catches. The Jets’ rookie quarterback completed 9-of-11 passes overall for 128 yards, playing four drives in a 23-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Despite a tough showing from the defense in their first post-Carl Lawson injury showing…the ultimate insult being a 19-play, 81-yard scoring drive from the Packers’ offensive reserves…the Jets are likely enthused over their Saturday showings on offensive and special teams. Matt Ammendola converted three field goals, while Corey Ballentine set up the latter touchdown drive with a 73-yard kickoff return. Young men in the secondary managed to provide late defensive redemption, as Brandin Echols and Lamar Jackson each stole a pass from Kurt Benkert and Jake Dolegala respectively.

ESM bestows three game balls from the summer triumph…

Honorable Mentions

  • RB Michael Carter: 10 carries, 52 yards
  • S J.T. Hassell: 5 tackles, 1 sack
  • CB Brandin Echols: 3 tackles, 1 interception
  • KR Corey Ballentine: 1 return, 73 yards
  • K Matt Ammendola: 3-for-3 field goals

3rd Star: WR Corey Davis

4 receptions, 70 yards

After he was granted one series in the Snoopy Bowl last weekend, Davis was granted some extended time to work with Wilson in Green Bay. The two further strengthened their connection to the tune of a game-high 70 yards, including two big ones at the end of the first quarter that set up the Jets’ first touchdown.

“We’re definitely getting (chemistry),” Davis said of his connection with Wilson, per Jack Bell of NewYorkJets.com. “We’ve made a lot of huge strides the last week and a half, two weeks. I think Zach is a lot more comfortable in the pocket, he’s been more accurate. I’ve been getting open and creating space to try and make it easier for him.”

2nd Star: TE Tyler Kroft

2 receptions, 36 yards, 2 touchdowns

It’s been a while since the Jets have had a consistent red zone threat at tight end, perhaps dating back to the days of Mickey Shuler (although there have been brief flashes of brilliance, like Dustin Keller and Anthony Becht). Kroft could turn out to be a valuable diamond in the rough signing if he keeps this up and appears well on-pace to usurp the starting tight end role from Chris Herndon.

1st Star: QB Zach Wilson

9-of-11, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns

Wilson’s success undoubtedly comes with the caveats that he’s doing this against reserve defenses in the preseason, but it’s hard not to feel excited about what he’s been able to accomplish this summer (especially when his shortcomings in camp practices and scrimmages made national headlines).

The most inspiring portion of Wilson’s Saturday showing was perhaps his ability to respond to adversity and pressure. With the Jets’ defense going through a tough outing and his pockets collapsing, Wilson held his own and didn’t fall victim to any sacks. His first touchdown pass to Kroft came shortly after a Jets penalty bestowed the offense a dozen-yard second down. Such command of the offense impressed Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

“I thought Zach had good command, he was under control, he handled the pressure well, he was good in and out of the huddle,” Saleh said, per team reporter Randy Lange. “He’s been going through his progressions and he’s been pretty good at that.”

The Jets will round out their preseason slate against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET, WCBS). 

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Attainable goals for Saturday’s game at Green Bay

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

How can the New York Jets end a (literally) painful visit to Wisconsin on the right note? ESM’s Jets experts investigate…

Following a devastating injury on the football field, the New York Jets will look to pick up the pieces and seek redemption in a familiar place: the football field, namely the not-so-famous thawed, green tundra of Lambeau Field.

The Jets will seek to end a business trip to Wisconsin on the right note on Saturday late afternoon, as they’ll battle the Green Bay Packers in an exhibition contest (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network). New York and Green Bay have done battle this week through a pair of joint practices within a stone’s throw of the football cathedral.

The latter portion was a scene plucked from Jets’ fans’ most garish nightmares: defensive end Carl Lawson was carted off the field during a team drill. Their newly acquired pressure artist was later revealed to have torn his Achilles tendon, an injury that will keep force him to miss the entire 2021 season. Undrafted secondary defender Zane Lewis was likewise lost for the year in a separate medical incident.

So how can the Jets leave Titletown with a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small? ESM’s Jets experts investigate with an attainable goal for the Jets to aspire to.

Geoff Magliocchetti: Find Clarity, Confident, and Depth in the Offensive Trenches

Jets fans have every right to be sad and upset over losing Lawson. But, as we discussed earlier this week, his prescience alone didn’t launch the Jets into the playoff conversation and the front seven’s pass rush potential is deep enough to weather the coming storm in 2021. This was always going to be a year centered on development and Lawson’s injury shouldn’t change that.

This season is about finding long-term solutions that can sustain the Jets during the potential good time ahead. One area that was full of fostered potential is the offensive line made to protect the new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson. The blockers mostly did their job last weekend against the Giants’ reserve defenders…they allowed only one sack on the night and their rushers had a little bit of real estate to work with. But this week featured some developments, perhaps masked by the mourning over Lawson, that could have the Jets questioning their depth on the offensive wall.

One of their blocking staples from the last two seasons, guard Alex Lewis, retired this week. Another interior blocking project, 2020 fourth-rounder Cameron Clark, was also placed on injured reserve. Alijah Vera-Tucker, drafted to take over interior duties on Wilson’s blindside, has dealt with a pectoral muscle injury all camp and likely won’t play on Saturday.

Furthermore, reports from Green Bay state that the Jets’ line struggled in front of a legitimate opponent, as Green Bay’s starters took center stage during this week’s get-togethers. Brian Costello of the New York Post estimated that Wilson would’ve been sacked seven times during Wednesday’s practice had his red non-contact jersey saved him. Last season’s most cherished silver lining, tackle Mekhi Becton, has reportedly struggled against opponents, both domestically (Lawson) and abroad (Preston Smith).

Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur mentioned that Becton was “going through some things right now”, per notes from the Jets. LaFleur nonetheless remained confident that Becton would regain his freshman swagger before opening weekend in Charlotte.

“He’ll keep on going. We’re only one preseason game in, we still have over three and a half weeks until we go out and play Carolina. Every day, there are still slight improvements that he’s making and we’re just trying to take it one day at a time right now,” LaFleur said. “Mekhi, he didn’t have a training camp last year. He didn’t have an OTAs last May and June so, he’s still working through some things. I got all the confidence in the world in Mekhi because one, I know how talented he is and two, he’s a good dude and he’s going to work through all this stuff. We got a long way to go across that whole front, across this whole offense and myself included.”

The Jets thus need to use Saturday’s proceedings as a way to build back confidence. Green Bay will likewise be resting many of its starters on Saturday, but a big opportunity lingers to regain the good vibes felt after last week’s win over the Giants. Some names to watch include Dan Feeney, who should continue to get premier interior reps with the first team, and David Moore, an undrafted first-year out of Grambling who drew interest from several teams on the rookie free agency market.

Brendan Carpenter: Go Beyond Lawson

The Jets have had a rough week. Leading up to their Saturday afternoon game against the Packers, joint practices took place in Green Bay. As we know by now, these practices were not injury-free.

.There were a few bumps and bruises, but no injury was bigger than that of Carl Lawson. He is going to miss the season with a torn Achilles. This gut-wrenching news, however, does bring about a new goal for the second preseason game: to see the rest of the depth at defensive end produce.

Outside of Lawson, the Jets have John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff, Ronald Blair, Jabari Zuniga, and Vinny Curry, (who should return to the field around Week 2). Lawson was clearly the number-one edge rush option, but the team has nice depth and should still be able to apply pressure. The Jets will most likely have an even more noticeable rotation at end during Saturday’s game, and that’s fine.

The season isn’t over. The loss of Lawson hurts, but it creates an opportunity for other players to show their worth on the field. It won’t be easy to replace the impact the Jets’ most expensive offseason addition would’ve had on the field, but they’ll find a way to compensate. The opportunity starts against Green Bay, and they should be up to the task.

Don’t necessarily look for a substantial amount of sacks against the Packers, but the line should be able to make noticeable noise in the backfield on drop-backs. That alone would be enough to reach this new goal on short notice.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags