New York Jets update status of players injured on Thursday

New York Jets

Carl Lawson and Zane Lewis are done for the year, but the New York Jets appeared to have dodged a bullet with two other starters.

The New York Jets announced on Thursday that defensive lineman Carl Lawson and safety Zane Lewis will miss the 2021 season after sustaining injuries during a joint practice with the Green Bay Packers.

Lawson’s departure is particularly devastating to a Jets team that bestowed him $30 million guaranteed to bolster their pass rush. At $45 million total (over three seasons), Lawson was the Jets’ most expensive offseason acquisition. He established himself as one of the league’s most promising pass rushers despite a relatively pedestrian sack total. Last season, he was one of 11 defenders to create at least 10 sacks, according to ESPN’s advanced stats department.

Per Connor Hughes of The Athletic, Lawson (ruptured Achillies) sustained the injury during a pass rush drill in the red zone. Lawson previously tore his ACLs in his sophomore years at Auburn (2014) and the Bengals (2018), missing the whole year in the former.

The Jets declared that Bryce Huff took over Lawson’s reps for the remainder of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Lewis (torn his patella tendon/sprained MCL) was looking to make the team as an undrafted freshman free agent out of Air Force. He was a cornerback with the Falcons but the Jets were planning to use him as a safety.

In addition to Lawson and Lewis, each of whom was carted off the field, the Jets also lost receiver Denzel Mims (hip) and defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins (knee) to ailments. However, the Jets reported that each will be labeled day-to-day.

Thursday marked the latter of two joint practices between the Jets and the Packers in Green Bay. The collaboration will conclude with a preseason contest on Saturday late afternoon at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets down to 85 players after roster moves

New York Jets

The New York Jets made the mandated cutdown to 85 players on Tuesday through three waivings and an IR placement.

The New York Jets announced the waivings of defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour, safety Bennett Jackson, and running back Austin Walter on Tuesday. With offensive lineman Cameron Clark also placed on injured reserve, the Jets made the NFL’s mandated cutdown to 85 players on training camp rosters by 4 p.m. ET.

Dwumfour had a solid showing in the Jets’ preseason victory over the New York Giants on Saturday night. The undrafted rookie out of Rutgers recovered a red zone fumble forced by fellow freshman Hamsah Nasirildeen and later united with another first-year, Jonathan Marshall, for a sack at the end of the first half. However, he was unable to make an impact in the latter stages after leaving the game due to a calf injury.

Jackson played six games with the Jets over the past two seasons, earning two tackles in that span. He entered the league as a sixth-round pick of the Giants in 2014.

Walter spent a good portion of Saturday’s second half in the Jets’ backfield. The former XFL participant and San Francisco practice squad representative lost three yards on four carries (fumbling one that was recovered by Corey Levin) though he jumped on a Mike White fumble and later gained a first down on an eight-yard aerial hookup with James Morgan, one that was granted an extra yard for a new set of downs through head coach Robert Saleh’s first unofficial challenge.

The wait continues for Clark’s NFL debut, as he did not dress in any regular season games after the Jets chose him in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft. Clark suffered a scary injury during August 3’s practice, one that was diagnosed as a spinal cord contusion. Despite his placement on the IR, the Charlotte alum is expected to make a full recovery.

New York (1-0) continues its preseason slate on Saturday night, as they head to Green Bay to battle the Packers in both joint practices and an exhibition contest (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Zach Wilson’s debut was exactly what he and the New York Jets needed

zach wilson, jets

The quiet yet effective preseason debut of Zach Wilson brought a much-needed aura of peace to the New York Jets.

Welcome back to the NFL preseason: where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.

After a year off, the NFL restored nirvana for the hot take artists of social media last week through the resumption of the summer exhibition slate. Last Saturday was particularly blissful for the premature prognosticators, as the four of the five quarterbacks chosen in the first round of last spring’s draft donned their game jerseys for the first time. The outlier, New England’s Mac Jones, was perhaps too busy penning his Hall of Fame speech after social media put him in Canton after his own debut on Thursday against Washington.

Burdened with a history that has made them the butt of many a gridiron joke, the 2021 New York Jets have been dealing with preseason fortune tellers even before the annual MetLife Stadium civil war against the Giants. Any other locale would be bestowed enthusiasm about Wilson being thrust into a situation that brought in offensive reinforcement, bolstered its pass rush on defense, and hired one of the most coveted assistant coaches in football, Robert Saleh, to oversee the whole operation.

Instead, Wilson (among others) has paid the “Jets tax”, where everyday football struggles are instead hysterical comedy fuel. A brief rookie contract holdout felt like a hostage situation before a tough public intrasquad scrimmage (Wilson completed less than half of his attempts and lost two interceptions) at MetLife Stadium was straight-up apocalyptic.

zach wilson, jets

Wilson continues to navigate a situation where not only the simplest mistake, even factors beyond his control, can become the next viral sensation, but also one where he’s playing in a market that doesn’t take the concept of a rebuild too well. Even the gargantuan task of merely appearing in a Super Bowl isn’t enough…how often have you heard Giants fans speak fondly about the 2000-01 season after the Eli Manning pair? With the Jets holding the NFL’s longest active playoff drought (10 years), their long-suffering fans aren’t interested in witnessing another chapter in the endless saga of rebuilding.

Fans know that the phrase “trust the process” has become such a tired trope. The Philadelphia 76ers’ coining of such a phrase (which has yet to yield a result better than seven games in the conference semifinals) was a gift to front offices everywhere: losing streaks and supposed attempts at tanking could be excused as being part of a greater plan to make things right. But when it came to the state of the modern Jets, it’d be hard to deny that some kind of process…and a massive amount of patience…will be necessary moving forward. The Jets are coming off one of the most, if not the most, cursed seasons in franchise history, sinking to depths that even Rich Kotite’s doomed bunch managed to avoid.

Wilson knew what he was dealing with upon entering camp in late July.

“I’m just trying to learn every single day, how I can improve and just knowing my plays better, and just the different looks our defense is throwing at us. It’s going to be a process,” Wilson said, per notes from the Jets. “I would say there’s no pressure behind it, it’s just that the game is fast and you just have to be able to get used to it and catch up to it, and how quickly can I process through things.”

Wilson made his professional debut on Saturday in the Garden State’s late summer tradition informally referred to as the Snoopy Bowl. For some, it’s a mock Super Bowl, an excuse for metropolitan football fans to get together for one last summer hurrah. Others…remember Victor Cruz?…take the opportunity to leave not-so-subtle warnings to the rest of the league. Other times, the game leaves fans feeling wary about the future, presumably leading to the cancellation of some Super Bowl travel packages.

Somehow, someway, Wilson took on the best of both worlds: he left a calming aura amongst Jets while acknowledging that the battle back toward relevancy isn’t going to be an overnight conquest.

Wilson ended the day with a 6-of-9 mark for 63 yards, good for an 86.8 rating. He wasn’t sacked despite decent pressure from the Giants’ reserves. The Jets got into Giants territory on each of his two possessions, including one that began inside their own 10. They might’ve gotten further if not for an offensive pass interference penalty that wiped out a third-down conversion strike to Jamison Crowder. Wilson did convert two other third downs, including a 16-yard strike to Keelan Cole on third-and-nine while the Jets were still trapped at their own 20.

Despite a decent box score, there was room for improvement. He tried to force a third connection with Corey Davis on a third-down in the red zone. The first toss to Davis picked up eight yards on a mini-rollout, but Wilson looked somewhat stagnant in the pocket, often keeping to the safety of inside the hashes.

But no major mistakes, nothing that will appear on SportsCenter‘s Not Top 10, no fodder for the cackling hyenas of Twitter to pounce on, all on a major metropolitan stage against a notorious opponent and moving the ball effectively…what more could the Jets ask for?

Instead of debating Wilson’s Canton case or dooming him to the unholy brotherhood of busts, the Jets can further cherish some of the positive storylines that emerged from Saturday’s proceedings, like an improved pass rush that took down Giants quarterbacks five times and Denzel Mims reclaiming the narrative on his summer.

Obviously, anyone wearing even the slightest shade of green would’ve loved to see Wilson create multiple touchdowns as Justin Fields did in Chicago. They would’ve love to see him thread the needle on a deep ball, Trevor Lawrence-style. But even a perfect performance wouldn’t have solved anything for the Jets. Now, they know what they need to work on moving toward the next Saturday preseason contest in Green Bay (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

“I thought it was good, still things to clean up, but it was a great experience,” Wilson said in a report from D.J. Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News. In that same report, head coach Robert Saleh was more cautious but equally excited.

“There’s still a lot of things that he’s going to learn from. There’s a lot of opportunities for him to grow,” Saleh said. “Even here in this game, despite the fact that he looked comfortable, there’s still going to be things he can learn from.”

Things have rarely panned out for the Jets since a certain Sunday in South Beach in January 1969. Perhaps it’s a cruel reality that the best-case summer scenario, at least in the opening week of exhibitions, is a sub-100-yard performance and only three points. But part one of the Wilson era produces clarity and groundedness…something that’s ironically been missing from a franchise named the Jets, one that’s so desperate to stick the landing…the Jets will happily get on board.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: LB C.J. Mosley feeling confident after return to MetLife

Donning a New York Jets jersey for the first time since October 2019, C.J. Mosley couldn’t hide his confidence.

It had been over 500 days since New York Jets fans got to see their team play a sanctioned football game at MetLife Stadium in person. Perhaps only an on-field attendee, Jets linebacker  C.J. Mosley, had to wait longer.

Mosley put on his New York uniform on Saturday night to partake in the Jets’ 12-7 preseason victory over the New York Giants. It was the first time his game day equipment had been worn since a Monday night game against New England in October 2019. Mosley helped the Jets’ strong defensive effort, one that held the Giants to 163 yards on the night, get off to a strong start.

Working next to newcomers Jarrad Davis and Hamsah Nasirildeen on the premier unit, Mosley rejected a Mike Glennon pass intended for Darius Slayton. Two plays later, Bryce Huff earned a seven-yard sack to force the Giants into a three-and-out after just 61 seconds of game time. The Jets (1-0) would get the ball at their own 36 after a punt and tallied a 30-yard field goal to go up 3-0 after the opening drives.

Mosley also appeared on the Giants’ second offensive possession, where he picked up two tackles, though one was erased by a Jets penalty. The Giants picked up two first downs, but the Jets limited the damage to 32 yards on seven plays, the last of which was a punt.

Despite relatively minimal work, it was hard for Mosley to hide his enthusiasm in the aftermath. The linebacker issued a foreboding warning to future visitors of East Rutherford that underestimate the Jets’ defense.

“If people come with that same mentality, they’re going to get their (butts) blown out,” Mosley said of those who expect the idea of “Same Old Jets” to continue this year, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “That’s 100 percent, whether we’re at MetLife or anywhere else. If they think there’s anything old about this Jets team, it’s not going to end well for them.”

Mosley will be working alongside several touted newcomers this season. The Jets made their pass rush a priority despite several young breakouts headlined by Quinnen Williams. Pressure artist Carl Lawson comes in from Cincinnati while Sheldon Rankins arrives from New Orleans. The revamped unit was on full display against the Giants, as the Jets took down Glennon and Clayton Thorson five times. Their last takedown becoming a safety when another sixth-rounder (Jonathan Marshall) took down Thorson in the end zone. Huff had two sacks on the night while undrafted rookies Hamilcar Rashed and Michael Dwuomfour also got involved in the tally.

Mosley is a bit of a stranger to New York himself. Signed to a five-year, $85 million deal during the 2019 offseason, Mosley was the last big ticket arrival of the Mike Maccagnan era. He has partaken in only two games since then, besieged by medical calamities of both a football and non-gridiron variety. The former Baltimore Raven and four-time Pro Bowler has appeared in only two Jets games over the last two seasons. Groin issues limited him to two games in 2019 while he opted out of last season’s proceedings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thrown into action in the preseason opener, Mosley was going to take full advantage of any game snaps, even if they came in an exhibition contest. Mundane gameday tasks like getting to East Rutherford and even hooking up with the team during the pregame took on a whole new meaning after nearly two full years away from the field.

“You can never take this game for granted. Any time you step on the field you want to try and give it your all and take advantage of every opportunity you get,” Mosley said, according to team reporter Jack Bell. “Driving to the team hotel, that’s something I haven’t done in a long time. Going to the meetings at night, waking up in the morning and getting back to my routine. There was even a little traffic to getting to the stadium. I’m embracing everything.”

Time will tell if Mosley is a fit in what head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich are trying to build through their reintroduction of the 4-3 set. Fate has given him every reason to believe that his New York tenure is cursed, but he’s defying the conventional metropolitan pessimism.

“(We have) an explosive D-line that’s going to get after it, especially when we get teams in second-and-long and third-and-long,” Mosley said, per Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “Even third-and-short, we’re going to get our defensive line trying to get after the opponent’s quarterback. I think we’re going to be a defense that’s going to make you try to throw over the top and we’re going to make you try to run the ball on us because if you don’t, it’s going to be a long day for your quarterbacks.”

“We’ve just got to make sure that we hold each other accountable every day when we go to practice, make sure we try to stay as healthy as possible…have the same mindset, same goal to win every game.”

Mosley and the Jets will return to preseason action on Saturday night, when they battle the Green Bay Packers on Saturday late afternoon at Lambeau Field (4:25 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Fans’ return to MetLife Stadium sets up a special NFL preseason game

It’s all too appropriate that fans return to MetLife Stadium coincides with the resumption of the game dubbed the “Snoopy Bowl”.

Those who venture out to MetLife Stadium on Saturday night will probably forget the final score of the game they paid to see once they get back on Route 3 or the New Jersey Turnpike. But the important part is…they’ll have ventured out to MetLife Stadium.

It’s been 532 days since Giants Stadium’s successor hosted a full-fledged professional football game in front of paying customers. That streak, begun shortly after an XFL contest between the New York Guardians and the Los Angeles Wildcats, finally snaps on Saturday, as the New York Jets and Giants resume their preseason series after a year off (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC).

The Jets and Giants have staged an annual late summer showdown since 1969, when the former began its Super Bowl defense with a 37-14 triumph at the Yale Bowl. Since the teams began sharing the swamps of the Meadowlands (when the Jets moved in from Shea Stadium in 1984), the game has become a North Jersey tradition, a different kind of fireworks as days slowly get shorter. It’s a night of playful bragging rights, a union of metropolitan football. Upon the naming rights takeover of MetLife, known for featuring the Charlie Brown gang in its advertising, the contest became known as the “Snoopy Bowl”, complete with a beagle-branded winner’s trophy. Fans have kept the name alive in an unofficial capacity despite MetLife severing its ties with the Peanuts franchise.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

For a few precious hours, it’s a metropolitan Super Bowl decided by those more likely destined for the practice squad than for The Big Game itself.

“Since the game doesn’t count, the parking lot always had kind of a party atmosphere,” Kenny Watkins III of Woodland Park, NJ and a season-ticket holder at Giants Stadium said of the game. “People in blue and green are tailgating, having fun, playing music, usually there’s a band set up somewhere. It’s more like a concert atmosphere than a football game.”

By now, no one needs to elaborate as to why the series was interrupted. The COVID-19 health crisis shut down many summer traditions across the tri-state area and the nation as a whole, including the NFL preseason and the plethora of regional matchups that come with it. Few mourned the loss of the exhibition slate…preseason football is often seen as a chore in even the best of times…but regular season games played in empty stadiums took on an eerie feeling, even if they were done in the interest of public health. The Jets and Giants were a couple of the 14 teams that played their entire 2020 home slate in an empty stadium.

But welcome normalcy has finally started to emerge from the pandemic, primarily thanks to vaccination efforts. Caution is still in place due to COVID’s Delta variant but football fans have eagerly made their way back into stadiums as the first official week of preseason action continues. 

In some ways, the true value of Saturday’s game is found not on the field, but rather the stands, which is set to host a de facto family reunition of thousands.

“Saturday is going to be special even though it’s just a preseason game,” Peter Schwartz of Long Island told ESM. “It’s appropriate that both sets of fans get to be at the first game with fans because this area has been through so much over the last 18 months.”

“It’s been awesome to have fans back,” Arizona defender J.J. Watt said during an in-game interview with KPNX during the Cardinals’ preseason opener against Dallas on Friday night. “It’s been awesome to have fans back in the building. After last season, everybody playing in empty stadiums, it’s an incredible feeling to have these fans back, to have the energy, to have the excitement.”

A few necessary adjustments might still have to be made. To reduce touchpoints, for example, MetLife Stadium has transitioned to cash-free transactions at all concession and retail outlets. But it’s well worth it to get back in the New York football groove.

“I think you should just be courteous to those around you, making sure that you’re not doing anything too obnoxious or breaking any of the COVID precautions in place,” Joe Gucciardo of Howard Beach said of the precautions. “I think having the Snoopy Bowl be the first game back is somewhat bittersweet. It’s fun, you can go with a buddy who likes the other tri-State team and jaw at each other all night.”

Both teams have offered sneak previews of their respective returns to fan-filled stadiums as their respective training camp proceedings continued. The Jets first hosted the Green & White Scrimmage last Saturday night while the Giants capped off their Fan Fest with a public practice on Wednesday night.

(Photo by Alan Schaefer/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Intrasquad scrimmages, however, don’t replace the feeling of showcasing your gridiron stuff against another opponent, especially one you’re forced to share the country’s largest media market with. Staten Island native and Jets fan John Maleka is looking forward to seeing his team showcase their young talent in a MetLife Stadium adorned in blue, as Saturday’s tilt is a designated Giants home game. Fellow attendee and Montville resident Dave Strum anticipates a “sea of green and blue”, which he labels a welcome change from his last East Rutherford excursion.

Strum, after all, was at the Jets’ last contest held in front of fans, a 16-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in December 2019. Alas, many attendees went home unhappy: black and yellow outranked green on that temperate afternoon, which was completely understandable with the Steelers’ playoff implications and the nine-loss Jets’ lack thereof entering what was each

Jets head coach Robert Saleh isn’t so much interested in New York bragging rights, but can’t wait to see his group go up against another…it just so happens it’ll come against Joe Judge’s gang.

“I think every NFL team is ready to see somebody else,” Saleh said this week, per notes from the Jets. “We’re sick of each other, we’re sick of seeing the same defense, we’re sick of seeing the same offense. They’re ready to see a different color and they’re ready to go against different schemes and be challenged in different ways. It’s going to be fun, I’m excited for the group.”

Lately, bragging rights amongst each other in a meaningless summer exhibition have the only thing Jets and Giants fans have had to celebrate. Neither team has made a playoff appearance since the end of the 2016 season. The 10th anniversary celebration of the Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI triumph comes with the bittersweet reminder that the upset win over New England is the metropolitan area’s most recent NFL postseason win.

But the redemptive naivety of the NFL preseason is that everyone goes in undefeated and undeterred. Win the game, and happy times are ahead. Losses can be blamed and excused on the idea that it’s “only preseason”.

While the Giants are holding most of their premier talents out of Saturday’s game, the Jets are set to put on a youthful showcase. Even the most stubborn Gang Green hater can admit that there is legitimate potential behind this team, headlined by the arrival of new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson.

The Jets spent this offseason doing what they could to make sure his NFL transition was as seamless as possible, bringing in receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, who will likely see some time on Saturday. Draft choices Alijah Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore aren’t expected to partake, but have nonetheless offered optimism. The hire of Saleh has also received universal acclaim.

“There’s a whole new vibe to this team from the front office to the new quarterback and the new ‘toys’ sprinkled throughout the offense and defense,” Meleka said. “It feels like the Jets fans have more to look forward to in this game, especially since Wilson is slated for the first quarter while (Giants quarterback Daniel Jones) is out. More specifically, the new coaching staff and the new schemes on both sides of the ball finally give these Jets players an opportunity to make a name for themselves and begin their journey to solidifying a spot on the 53-man roster.”

“So far, the atmosphere around the Jets has been nothing but excitement for the future of the franchise with Coach Saleh and all their young studs: Moore, Wilson, and (linebacker Hamsah) Nasirildeen,” Strum added. “Jets Nation will definitely be fired up for some preseason action against the local rival team.”

Time will tell if more restrictions lay on the road ahead as the Delta variant remains stubborn. But for the time being, provided that fans remain vigilant and use their best judgment, it’s fine to view Saturday’s game at its surface: a welcome back to a frivolous, if not cherished, Garden State tradition, a landmark in the battle against the hated pandemic.

“It is definitely fitting that football returns to New Jersey in Jets vs. Giants fashion. Although a meaningless game to some, this game, gives me a little bit of hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight and will be a milestone for how far we have come from the beginning of the pandemic until now.” Strum said. “Although I’m a little nervous with the new Delta variant going around, I am definitely excited to feel the atmosphere of thousands of screaming fans cheering on their team, the smell of food cooking on the grill before the game, some J-E-T-S chants with fellow Jets fans in the parking lot.”

True to football form, however, he’s not letting a joint celebration get in the way of a little good, old-fashion metropolitan smack talk.

“I might have to thank some of them for letting Elijah Moore fall to us in the second round.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Three attainable goals for Saturday’s preseason opener

ESM’s New York Jets experts know Gang Green won’t solve every issue on Saturday, but there are honorable landmarks within their grasp.

You made it, Gang Green Nation.

It’s been 223 days since the New York Jets have put on their pads for an officially sanctioned NFL contest against another opponent…and 601 days since they’ve played in front of a crowd at MetLife Stadium.

Both dubious streaks will end on Saturday night, as the Jets resume their annual preseason battle against the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC). It will be the Jets’ first preseason contests since the summer of 2019 and the first MetLife Stadium football game to be held in front of fans since February 2020.

“Every day is an unbelievable blessing. But it’s always about the players. It’s a great opportunity for them to showcase who they are,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said of Saturday’s proceedings, per notes from the team. “You can take (the preseason) for granted from a team standpoint because it doesn’t matter in the win/loss record but your style of play and what you want to represent and what you want the entire league to know about you starts Saturday. That’s why I think there’s tremendous value to these preseason games.”

With kickoff looming, ESM’s Jets experts each have an attainable goal for the Jets to reach…

New York Jets, Bless Austin
New York Jets, Bless Austin

Geoff Magliocchetti: Corner the Cornerbacks 

No one was going to quarrel with why it was wiped out, but the cancelation of last year’s preseason put the Jets in a tough spot. Exhibition games return in 2021, albeit with only three on the slate rather than the customary four. Preseason football, scorned as the concept may be in modern times, was made for teams like the modern Jets. With nearly half of their starting lineup from last year’s opener in Buffalo exchanged, the developing Jets need to take advantage of every consequence-free game situation.

Centering Saturday’s MetLife Stadium civil war around Zach Wilson’s emergence is tantalizing, yet naive. Sure, there would be no better way to silence the critics who are using a poor intrasquad scrimmage to label Wilson a bust already…amateur and professional alike…than having Wilson tear apart the Jets’ quasi-rivals in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd that waited a year-plus to get in. But hinging all preseason success on the quarterback is a nominally fickle way to approach the summer slate.

The current state of the Jets’ cornerback situation showcases why preseason football still has a place in modern society: the Jets are going into a new era, a new base set under new leadership with a hodgepodge of inexperienced day three draft picks and undrafted journeymen. The safety spots are relatively secure with Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner (even if Ashtyn Davis will miss all three games), but the Jets need to have someone separate themselves in the cornerback room.

With the Giants set to hold out several regulars including quarterback Daniel Jones, a perfect opportunity lies ahead for penciled starters like Bless Austin, Bryce Hall, and Javelin Guidry to build some momentum as they assume larger duties. Austin and Hall are slated to be the Jets’ top two cornerback options, each of them looking for something to prove.

Born in Queens and emerging from Rutgers, there’d be no more appropriate hero in the return of the Snoopy Bowl than Austin, who has developed a professional reputation as a strong hitter who must show major improvement in his coverage. Austin issued a dire warning to those disregarding the Jets’ secondary solely because of the inexperience between him and the sophomore Hall.

“A lot of people forget me and Bryce were highly rated dudes coming out of college. We just fell short to injury,” Austin said this week, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring a veteran cornerback in here. Not to knock any out there, but they see something in us.”

Saturday should also be a tremendous showcase for the Jets’ defensive potpourri brought in during the most recent draft weekend Saturday. Expect extensive time for Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock, and Brandin Echols (a big opportunity lingers for the undrafted Isaiah Dunn as well), as well as safeties-turned-linebackers Hamsah Nasirildeen and Jamien Sherwood.

“There’s a lot of competition going on, there’s competition at the nickel, corner spots, so those are gonna be fun to watch,” Saleh told Steve Serby of the New York Post in a July Q&A. “It’s a very young group. Someone’s going to come to fruition. Bryce Hall had a really nice OTA, Bless was having a nice OTA, then he had a minor setback with an injury that kept him out. He’s good to go. Some of the rookies had a chance to showcase their skills. We’ve got a really good young nucleus of guys that are gonna compete, and we’ll see how it goes.”

new york jets, zach wilson

Brendan Carpenter: Attack With Zach

It’s a big day. Jets football is back. With all of the excitement, however, some uncertainty lingers. The future of Jets football is currently resting somewhat uncomfortably on the shoulders of Zach Wilson. That uncertainty will either be expanded or diminished when he finally steps on the field on Saturday.

Some of the goals and expectations for Wilson have been anywhere from realistic to wildly unrealistic, from fans and analysts alike. When it comes to his preseason debut, there is one goal that could both ease and excite those watching him closely: have Wilson and the primary offense put together multiple drives that get into enemy territory.

This isn’t exactly a headline-setting goal, but it’s perhaps the most crucial one. Back when the Green & White Scrimmage was the talk of the town, everyone seemed to be focusing solely on Wilson’s struggles, as expected. Through the scrimmage, he went just 11-for-24 for 112 yards and two interceptions. Additionally, his seven drives just totaled only three points. If Wilson can show that he can lead the offense into opponent territory multiple times, it’ll be a decent win regardless of the final score.

It will be a learning process for the rookie out of BYU and some sustained drives could help ease both his nerves and the unrivaled scrutiny directed his way even before he’s taken a snap.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Price: Bring the Boom to Big Blue

The battle of MetLife won’t give us the battle between Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson that we all hoped for, but the battle still promises to be a good one.

The Gang Green faithful needs to take everything with a grain of salt, as the new era is still establishing comfort and familiarity. However, I expect the Jets pass rush to steal the show.

I foresee John Franklin-Myers, Bryce Huff, and Carl Lawson putting on a clinic and headlining a real impressive outing. Franklin-Myers will likely open things up for everyone else and make a few plays. Lawson will likely command the most attention given his notoriety and standing as the Jets’ lead pass rusher. Still, look for Lawson to catch eyes in the first quarter of the game with a few big hits or even maybe a sack.

I’d expect Huff to likely put on the flashiest performance, as he’s had a spectacular camp. Overall though, look for the entire pass rush rotation to excel. All and all, I truly expect to come out of Saturday thoroughly impressed with the direction of the defense, specifically the pass rush.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

ESM’s New York Jets experts name a top breakout candidate for 2021

carl lawson, new york jets

As the preseason opener looms, ESM’s New York Jets experts name a veteran breakout candidate for the 2021 campaign.

The story of the 2021 New York Jets is one that could well be defined by the term “breakout”.

As ESM’s Gang Green experts discussed last week, asking the Jets to end their decade-long playoff drought is a little too much to ask for in an AFC packed with established contenders. However, with little to lose and minimal national expectations thrust upon them, several veteran players have big opportunities to enjoy breakout campaigns, ones that can prove they belong to stay for the potential good times ahead.

ESM’s Jets experts return to name their biggest emerging star from the Jets’ roster in 2021…

New York Giants, Corey Davis
 Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Magliocchetti: WR Corey Davis

The curious case of Corey Davis describes the Jets’ current landscape in a nutshell: he’s shown fleeting flashes of brilliance, but the football gods have loved to toy with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft.

A hamstring injury weighed down his rookie season. Despite relative consistency, Tennessee declined to pick up his fifth-year option. Even in the midst of a career-best season, divine intervention played a cruel trick: Davis spent two games on the COVID-19 list, denying him a chance to obtain his first 1,000-yard season (stopped at 984).

Davis comes in with the perfect ingredient for a breakout candidate: he has something to prove. Despite playing a sizable role in the Titans’ ongoing mini-football renaissance (only Kansas City, New England, and New Orleans have played more playoff games than the six Tennessee has seen since Davis’ entry in 2017), Davis’ work was buried under the electrifying on-field antics of Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown.

Brought into New York as one of the Jets’ more expensive arrivals ($37.5 million over three years, including $27 million guaranteed), Davis is a rare metropolitan rep who has had a taste of the NFL promised land. The Jets are also desperate for a big-play receiver to rise up. That becomes even more of a necessity with a new franchise thrower in tow. No one’s reached four digits in yardage since the Brandon Marshall/Eric Decker tandem in 2015.

Davis made his goals and endeavors clear when he signed with the Jets in March: he wants to prove to the league that he has lasting power as a primary target.

I do consider myself a No. 1 wide receiver,” Davis said upon signing in March, per D.J. Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News. “My ability to get open, my speed, separation, releases, I feel like I could do it all. I’m a thousand-yard receiver. It’s just up to me to put in the work. Make sure that I’m healthy and can play a full season.”

ashtyn davis, new york giants

Brendan Carpenter: S Ashtyn Davis

The Jets have an abundance of players who could be poised for a breakout season. One player, though, stands out above the rest in my eyes: his name is Ashtyn Davis.

First, before we get into the specifics, it’s important to point out that this selection is dependent on his health, obviously. Davis was placed on the PUP list due to a foot injury and is not expected to play Week 1. However, once he’s cleared, he should command the starting strong safety role.

The former third-round pick is a do-it-all safety who can tackle, trace some receivers, and move into the box when needed. He can also make an impact on special teams, as he was named the unit’s MVP twice at Cal-Berkeley. As a rookie last year, he played in just ten games, starting six. In those contests, he totaled 36 tackles (one for loss), one pass breakup, and one fumble recovery. If he stays healthy, he should surpass those numbers easily.

Davis can impact the game in so many areas. It’s hard to not be excited for what he’ll bring to the field this year. Barring any extensive time missed, Davis should be a major part of the Jets’ defense this season and is a prime candidate for a major breakout.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Price: DE Carl Lawson

The Jets added an impact player in Carl Lawson this past offseason. Although he’s the natural pick to be breakout player of the year, it’s truly the easiest pick to make.

Lawson consistently ranked in the top of the league in pressures and win rate. Now, he goes to a defense that will give him the opportunity to thrive and produce big numbers.

I’m not kidding when I say eight or nine sacks feels like the floor for Lawson right now.

Nobody can stop him in camp, and this weekend (as well as the trip to Green Bay) will be the best indicator of the level of dominance Lawson could assert on the league in this upcoming season. Expectations are high in Florham Park and East Rutherford but look for Lawson to break out as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets starters will get “a quarter, couple of series” on Saturday

new york jets, zach wilson

New York Jets fans shouldn’t be late to MetLife Stadium on Saturday if they wish to see Zach Wilson’s unofficial debut.

While it appears that the New York Giants will hold their young franchise thrower out of this weekend’s metropolitan showdown, their MetLife Stadium roommates are taking a different approach.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh announced on Thursday that Zach Wilson and the primary offensive unit will play at least the first two series during Saturday’s preseason opener (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC). It will mark the first unofficial action in a Jets game uniform for Zach Wilson and several others, including receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole.

“We’re thinking about a quarter, couple of series for all those guys,” Saleh said precisely when it came to Wilson’s time, per notes from the Jets. “(We) just kind of (want to) get him his first action.”

Speaking after a practice session on One Jets Drive, Saleh noted that between the incoming rookie class and last season’s young group, over 30 players will be partaking in their first NFL preseason game on Saturday. Last year’s exhibition slate was completely wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are a very, very young football team and they’ve got to be able to go through the process of pregame and prepping themselves mentally and getting in their own space and getting ready to play a football game and then going out there and playing a couple of drives,” Saleh said. “To me, this is a big deal. These moments are priceless, especially for this team.”

Though Jets fans will who venture out to MetLife Stadium for a sanctioned NFL contest for the first time since December 2019 will get to witness Wilson’s first game action, several other debuts could be delayed.

Saleh announced that receiver and second-round pick Elijah Moore would “probably” require an MRI after leaving practice with what he described as a quad issue. Fellow rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker will miss Saturday with a quad issue, but Saleh was optimistic that he would be ready to prepare for the following weekend’s tilt in Green Bay, labeling him “day-to-day”. Dan Feeney currently sits in the second slot behind last spring’s 14th overall pick in the left guard slot on the Jets’ opening depth chart.

Injured veterans like defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (foot) and receiver Braxton Berrios (groin) are set to join Vera-Tucker in the Packers prep, per Saleh.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Jets Zach Wilson addresses camp struggles, preseason opener

Nearly a week removed from a tough showing at MetLife Stadium, the New York Jets’ developing franchise QB addressed his publicized struggles.

Observers of both the professional amateur status alike are abuzz about Zach Wilson’s unofficial MetLife Stadium debut. Alas, many disregard the fact it comes this Saturday against the New York Giants (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC), but instead turn to the prior weekend.

Unofficial accounts from East Rutherford had him earning an 11-of-24 completion rate for 112 yards and two interceptions last weekend. For example, it was enough for Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, famous for asking for Jets AFC title game tickets when Adam Gase was hired, to liken him to Johnny Manziel.

Mind you, this wasn’t a reaction to Wilson’s Week 1 showing or even the upcoming Snoopy Bowl…this came in the aftermath of the Jets’ Green & White Scrimmage.

Wilson’s struggles in both East Rutherford and the Jets’ camp proceedings in Florham Park have been a national talking point over the last few weeks, causing some observers to prematurely prophesize him as a bust. With game day approaching, Wilson himself addressed his struggles after Wednesday’s practice on One Jets Drive.

In a statement perhaps best characterized by its uncanny pairing of bluntness and hope, Wilson declared that he would refuse to back down from a dangerous, if not lucrative, throw in practice if the only thing holding him back was the fear of making a mistake. It’s part of a process, a search for a philosophy that Wilson calls “aggressively smart”.

“I can’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially in practice. This isn’t a game; this is where I’m learning what I can get away with and what I can’t,” Wilson said on Wednesday, speaking about a pass nearly intercepted by C.J. Mosley, per quotes from the Jets. “As we get closer to game, you have to start teaching yourself, in that situation C.J. got his hand on it, he made the play and so it’s like next time in that situation and that same look, I’m going to check the ball down. That’s what we practice for is to play situations out like that.”

Unlike his critics, Wilson believes that practice performances can’t be judged by conventional box score stats. These sessions, particularly the preparation in training camp, are a time for everyone to experiment, including the defenses he’ll be facing.

He prefers to view the matters on a play-by-play basis.

“You can’t really grade stats or how many touchdowns or how many yards because every play is really what we’re grading,” Wilson remarked. “We’re grading how did we do on that one play. I think I’ve said this before, you don’t look at the whole practice and say, ‘How was practice today?’ It’s like, ‘How did I do on some of these plays and what plays can I get better at?’”

new york jets, zach wilson
 Mandatory Credit: New York Jets/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Even if Wilson wishes to dispose of the box score mindset when it comes to practice, he had a strong showing by conventional standards on Wednesday. Per Connor Hughes of The Athletic, Wilson was 10-of-18 with four touchdowns during team sessions.

Wilson knew right from the get-go that his status as a New York quarterback, especially one for the star-crossed Jets, was going to cast him in a permanent spotlight. The second overall choice in last spring’s draft believes his time elevating the mid-tier BYU program to the national spotlight helped prepare him for the challenges ahead.

It was reportedly nothing the Cougars’ program, storied as it may be, had to offer, but rather the typical history, burdens, and expectations forever associated with the quarterback spot.

“I think I really learned it at BYU just because the ups and downs of the journey that come with playing quarterback. I understand it’s part of the position and I think there are a lot more pros than there is cons.”

“It doesn’t really tell the story when other people are watching, they don’t understand how detailed and what my reads are, what I’m thinking, what a receiver is doing,” he continued, “They don’t understand any of that stuff and that’s why we keep our circle within us, and we do what we’re supposed to do as far as just learning what we’re supposed to be learning. (I’m) just ignoring the outside noise and listening to what my coaches say.”

One way to get the early critics off his his back, even if they’ll undoubtedly come no matter the result of Saturday’s game, would be a strong showing against the Jets’ MetLife Stadium roommates.

The annual metropolitan civil war and preseason has previously served as a stage for breakouts on both sides. Victor Cruz memorably broke out for three touchdowns in the 2010 edition (the unofficial first contest at East Rutherford’s new facility) while Wilson’s predecessor Sam Darnold temporarily showed the Giants what they were potentially missing with a strong showing eight seasons later.

As expected, Wilson is the first quarterback on the Jets’ depth chart entering Saturday’s action. Metropolitan bragging rights aren’t the utmost importance, especially in an exhibition game, and both the scrimmage and open training camps allowed him to get the culture shock of New York football with fans out of the way early.

Wilson instead views the game as an extended, higher octane practice sessions…only this time, he’s excited to see what a non-green defense throws at him.

“Right now, we don’t know what they’re going to give us because it’s a preseason game. So, it’s like how can we keep getting better ourselves?” Wilson said. “I’m excited, it’s going to be good to prepare, just to get back into a season. It’s crazy how fast it flies by from college to now, preparing with these guys. I feel like we’re learning a lot and we still got a lot of time to just keep learning. We’re learning now, we got a lot of learning this week and when we see these different opponents, it’s going to be great for us.”

Following the Giants’ “visit”, the Jets will go to Green Bay before wrapping the exhibition slate back at home against Philadelphia.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

NFL set to remove two games from the preseason schedule (Report)

As the NFL continues to prepare for an uncertain 2020, the already-maligned preseason slate has seen two weeks erased from its ledger.

Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the National Football League is ready to do away with half of its preseason slate as it prepares to potentially navigate a season through the COVID-19 pandemic. The PFT report says that the first and final weeks of summer’s exhibition summer quartet are on the chopping block.

The league is set to make a formal announcement regarding the decision on Thursday, one week after the cancellation of the preseason-opening Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between Dallas and Pittsburgh in Canton, Ohio.

Trimming the preseason has long been discussed and appeared to be a certainty when the new collective bargaining agreement left open the possibility of a 17-game regular-season slate in 2021. The league’s squads have played four preseason games ever since 1978

If Weeks 1 and 4 are eliminated from the preseason picture, the annual meeting between the local New York Jets and New York Giants would be eliminated, having been scheduled for the opening week for the second consecutive season. Starters rarely play past the first quarter in the opener, and often sit out the finale entirely. The Jets and Giants have respectively played interconference rivals from Philadelphia and New England in the final week of summer games since the turn of the century. It’s possible these games could be rescheduled to cut down on travel. If the cancellations are kept, the Jets would have a visit to Detroit and an East Rutherford tilt with Pittsburgh (the former being nationally televised on ESPN). The Giants have a road game against Tennessee and a visit from Green Bay left on their docket.

Many teams are planning to open training camp on July 28 with the first games scheduled for the week of August 20-24.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags