New York Jets: Zach Wilson brushes off tough camp debut

new york jets, zach wilson

Zach Wilson’s New York Jets training camp debut reportedly went awry, but he’s not going to let one bad day disrupt an aura of hope.

You never forget your first day at a new job…though Zach Wilson reportedly might want to.

The second overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft made his New York Jets training camp debut on Friday afternoon. Observers noted that rust accumulated during a brief contract dispute…one that kept Wilson out of the first two summer sessions…was apparent.

Wilson apparently got off to a hot start. According to Connor Hughes of The Athletic, he found fellow rookie Elijah Moore on his first throw as a contracted member of the Jets, but things went downhill from there. Another toss went “directly” into the arms of safety Marcus Maye (per NorthJersey.com’s Andy Vazquez) and DJ Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News hinted that there could’ve been more.

“Zach Wilson’s first day back he has not been good,” Bien-Aime said. “(Errant) throws, a couple almost interceptions, an (actual) pick. (He’s) been hesitant.”

Wilson was obviously the center of attention after practice, as he was immediately questioned about the effect his brief holdout had on his debut. He arrived in New Jersey on Thursday, taking a red-eye flight from his home state of California. Despite missing the first couple of practices, Wilson isn’t going to use the idea of playing catch-up as an excuse.

“I wouldn’t say I’m behind. It’s just my first live bullets again and it’s just getting back into the mix. I know the plays and I know my assignments, I know what’s going on, and I just got to execute,” Wilson said, per notes from the Jets. “That’s what practice is for. Every day is going to have something frustrating, and that’s why I’m out here. 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.”

Friday marked Wilson’s first activities on 1 Jets Drive since June’s minicamp, where his performances earned mostly positive reviews. During the time off, Wilson went somewhat viral amongst Jets fans for mixing business with pleasure during a family vacation, watching film on his iPad and getting in throws on a golf course. He said he kept working with the tablet but that the virtual sessions were no substitute for actual reps.

Fortunately for Wilson, he said his teammates had his back and that there were no ill feelings toward his temporary absence. This early professional hurdle was new territory for Wilson, who mentioned that he based his life around “(playing) ball just to play ball because I love the game”. That part isn’t changing for the BYU alum anytime soon. Despite the $35 million windfall, Wilson clarified that “the fun part of it isn’t the money, it’s definitely playing football.

“There’s a part of you that just wants to get it done. But you want to get it done the right way,” Wilson said of the negotiations. “It’s a rookie contract that you’re going to have to play with for four years, and so, you’ve got to handle the business side of it to where both sides of the party can agree. So, we just had to make sure we got that done.”

In his own availability, head coach Robert Saleh confirmed that there were no hard feelings between he and Wilson. He gleaned a positive from Wilson’s early struggles, noting that the defense “was moving around really well” on day three of installation. Saleh labeled Maye as “impressive” in the early days of training camp, especially after the franchise-tagged safety missed a majority of spring activities while working through negotiations of his own.

As for Wilson, Saleh said that Friday struggles were understandable, maybe even expected, due to facing a defense running on the momentum of three days of chemistry-building on his first day on the job. Moving forward, Saleh wants to see Wilson “find a way to get better every day”.

“I know sometimes we can get focused on results, but there’s a process and he’s got a tremendous one,” Saleh said in further notes from the team. “(You) can’t control certain things that happen play in and play out, but you can control your process and how you approach things day in and day out. We’re already getting a really good feel just going through the draft process and OTAs. He’s going to have the right process, he’s going to get better.”

Wilson will play in front of his first New York crowd on Saturday, as the weekend session is the Jets’ first training camp practice open to the public since the summer of 2019.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets LB Jarrad Davis on scheme, values, and mental health

new york jets, jarrad davis

Davis considered “walking away” from football, but the New York Jets’ call has afforded him a chance to reclaim the narrative on his career.

No matter their genre, fictional characters have embarked on new quests by hiring an expert in the field in question to complete their goals. Peter LaFleur brought in dodgeball legend Patches O’Houlihan to save Average Joe’s Gym. Norman Dale enlisted the services of former Hickory Husker Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch to help capture Indiana high school basketball glory.

In the real world, linebacker Jarrad Davis is in a similar position as he arrives in Florham Park for his first New York Jets training camp. Entering his fifth season out of Florida, Davis is a noted practitioner of 4-3 defense, which is set to make its return to New York under new head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

The 4-3 has played host to Davis’ finest gridiron hours: his work under Geoff Collins and Randy Shannon’s system at the University of Florida made him a first-round pick of Detroit Lions (21st overall) in 2017. He was a strong fit for a similar system overseen by Teryl Austin, earning all-rookie team honors.

Davis returned to the 4-3 on Wednesday when he partook in the opening camp practice on One Jets Drive. He offered a positive review of what Saleh and Ulbrich had to offer in his first post-practice comments.

“The defense is so layered. On the front end, we have to cause havoc, stress quarterbacks out, get them off the spot,” the new front seven member said of the defense, per video from the Jets. “Linebackers, we need to help protect the middle of the field. We got to make sure our reads are sharp, our keys are where they need to be, eyes are where they need to be on our keys. We just got to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can do to take care of our jobs.”

“This defense, as with almost any other defense in the league, it’s about all 11 doing their job. If there’s somebody out of position, then it’s going to make somebody in the backend look bad, someone who may have done everything perfectly, because the timing isn’t there. It’s all about everybody just doing their job, just simply put.”

Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Though Austin was dismissed through the controversial firing of head coach Jim Caldwell, Davis enjoyed a productive sophomore season under Paul Pasqualoni (100 tackles, 10 for a loss, 6 sacks), even earning on-field playcalling duties. But Davis, like many, fell victim to the Matt Patricia cesspool in the Motor City. Injuries ate away at his 2019 season and he spent most of last season in a rotational role, playing a career-low 330 snaps over 14 games. Detroit declined to pick up his fifth-year option as they went back to the drawing board.

Faced with an uncertain football future, Davis entered a period of “soul searching”.  What made his Detroit demotion so painful, he said, was the fact that he was “making the game everything”.

“I was making myself the game. And when I was doing that, it just, it just didn’t feel right,” he said. “This is such a competitive sport at this level. You have to put your everything, you have to put your all into it. But there has to be balance. I had a personal life but it wasn’t as important, I didn’t really care. If my personal life got in the way of football, it couldn’t exist. Living like that, I burnt myself out.”

As a result, Davis admitted that he seriously contemplated “walking away” from football. Instead, he began a new offseason endeavor.

“Living like that, I would burn myself out,” Davis said of his relative all-or-nothing approach. “I had to go do some things to take care of myself personally, mentally, and emotionally and get back right.”

To that end, Davis met with a Super Bowl champion: Denver-based sports psychologist Dr. Rick Perea, Ph.D.

Described as “one of the nation’s most energetic and dynamic practitioners in Performance Psychology“, Dr. Perea was on the Denver Broncos’ staff during their run to Super Bowl 50 in the 2015-16 season. His services have also been employed by the Nuggets and Rockies, as well as several other NFL squads.

Davis previously worked with Dr. Perea during the 2017 draft process. This time around, the linebacker learned how to “revalue” things moving forward.

“Football was top of the top (of my values), nothing could knock it down. Nothing could knock down the foundation that football was standing on,” David recalled. “But we personally just cleared it. We just took it off the radar, like took it off my list. It’s just something I do now. It’s not who I am anymore.”

Don’t let the wording fool you: Davis believes that his revaluing process will make him a better player on the field. For example, a mistake that would haunt him for the rest of practice is forgotten by the next down.

“If I mess up in practice, I mess up in practice. I can bounce back from that and come back and make a better play the next play now,” he said. “Before, I messed up, now I think about that all practice. I can’t even focus on anything else. I can’t even see the fullback taking me to the gap I need to go to anymore because I’m thinking about this play that happened 20 minutes ago.”

The Jets’ call meant more for Davis under a new focus. New York inked him to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million in March, reuniting him with fellow former Gator Marcus Maye. The safety was chosen 18 picks after Davis in the 2017 draft, just three months after they capped off their Gainesville careers with a 30-3 over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

An opportunity to return to a familiar scheme drew Davis to the metropolitan area.

“To get that phone call early in free agency from the Jets, it was a blessing to know that I had such an opportunity as this to come in and really get back to work,” Davis said. “I’m coming back to the scheme, the familiarity. We did stuff similar to this in college and being able to play fast and just be myself out there just excited me.”

Davis is one of many athletes who have shared their struggles with mental health in recent times. His discourse coincided with decorated American gymnast Simone Biles’ highly publicized withdrawal from several events at the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo due to such concerns.

Though Davis admitted he was not up to speed to comment on Biles’ situation, he hopes that his own situation will remove stigmas and inspire his teammates to ask for help if they need it.

“Why do we have to think getting help and not being okay, and saying that you’re not okay is a cool thing to do before you can actually say it?” Davis rhetorically asked. “If you’re not okay, you’re not okay, and it’s okay to ask for help. I guess it’s a very simple question, but it’s a powerful one.”

“People do need to understand that. When we do, we’ll be able to build and grow in life.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A training camp battle at every position (Offense)

As the New York Jets inch closer to training camp, ESM looks at the offensive roster battles to watch at every position.

Competition has always been a staple at summer camp. But if you’re headed to Florham Park, leave the archery materials at home.

The New York Jets are eight days away from descending upon One Jets Drive for their training camp activities. Once camp commences, they’ll have several positional struggles to solve before Week 1 kicks off in Carolina. ESM takes a look at each spot on the depth chart, sizing up a major battle that should be solved over camp practices and the coming trio of preseason games.

Our primer begins on offense…

 Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Backup QB: James Morgan vs. Mike White

Barring an epic disaster, the Jets will go into Week 1 with second overall pick Zach Wilson as their quarterback. Sitting the star rookie behind a veteran for a year has become a lost art in the modern NFL, even if Kansas City’s Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition kept the concept alive for a few more years.

The Jets, though, are apparently planning to go in the completely opposite direction: no one in their quarterback cabinet has thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game. Immediately thrusting Wilson into the starter’s role is one thing, but backing him up with two veteran questions marks is another entirely. But head coach Robert Saleh apparently doesn’t see an issue.

“If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know anything about your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is,” Saleh told Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated. “There’s a match that has to happen. There’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen.”

That, of course, begs the question why the Jets didn’t go after someone like fellow former 49ers Nick Mullens, but it’s probably redundant at this point. Until further notice, the backup job comes to Morgan and White.

Morgan probably has the inside edge, if only due to his status as a Joe Douglas draft pick. Chosen in the fourth round of 2020’s virtual draft, the Florida International hasn’t even worn a game jersey yet due to the cancellation of last summer’s preseason. White entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 and has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad over the last three years. By going with someone inexperienced, it’s clear the Jets aren’t going with the “mentor” route for their backup quarterback. The winner will be judged on late summer showings and their performance in preseason games could be particularly intriguing.

 Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Spell RB: Ty Johnson vs. La’Mical Perine vs. Josh Adams

The primary rushing duties could become a battle as the season goes on. Veteran newcomer Tevin Coleman will probably at least start as the top option before giving way to rookie arrival Michael Carter. It’s fair to assume that Coleman, who worked with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur in San Francisco, has the early edge though Carter has reportedly impressed New York brass during his first spring sessions.

In training camp, however, there are more immediate, desperate matters to attend to, namely answering the question of who will be the third back.

Behind the Coleman and Carter tandem lies a trio of young projects that could’ve gained more clarity had Adam Gase not become obsessed with a Frank Gore farewell tour. Though injuries and a late placement on the COVID-19 list turned Perine’s rookie season into a wash but Johnson and Adams, spare parts from Detroit and Philadelphia respectively, impressed when called upon, uniting for 411 yards on 83 carries, good for an average of nearly five yards an attempt.

The battle between this trio isn’t a matter of playing time, but will determine roster spots. Even though he’s a Douglas draft pick (also chosen in the fourth round), Perine could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. His north/south style may not fit in  LaFleur’s preferred systems that value agility and athleticism, creating a wrong place at the wrong time situation. Meanwhile, the re-signed Adams has worked with Douglas before, sharing a single season with the Eagles.

Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Top Slot WR: Jamison Crowder vs. Elijah Moore

Over the past two seasons, Jamison Crowder has been far and away the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon. Through that endeavor, he has become one of the NFL’s most reliable slot options. But does the fact he’s been a reliable weapon in woebegone New York say more about Crowder or just how dire the Jets’ situation has become?

Douglas and Co. spent the offseason upgrading their receiving corps and that included the slot depth chart. Drafting Moore with the second pick of the draft’s second day was seen as a steal by many and he seemingly arrived at the perfect time. The Jets were due some sizable cap savings upon Crowder’s release or trade and they could’ve easily had Moore take over. Instead, they restructured the final year of Crowder’s deal to focus on guaranteed money and will keep both of them in tow for Wilson’s first deal.

Crowder faces a bit of an uphill battle to get his snaps back, as he missed almost all spring activities during his contract dispute. There should still be an opportunity for him amongst the Jets’ revamped receiving corps but it’ll be tough to hold off the rise of a touted rookie.

. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Starting TE: Chris Herndon vs. Tyler Kroft 

Entering his fourth year in New York, Herndon is a rare relic in green. Nothing, however, has lived up to the production of his rookie season (502 yards on 39 receptions) as the more recent stages of his career have been beset by a suspension, injuries, and inconsistency.

Though Herndon somewhat began to resemble his rookie self in the latter stages of last season, the Jets sent him a message this offseason. While they avoided the pricier options on the free agent market (i.e. Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry), they added goal line option Tyler Kroft from Buffalo and re-upped with Daniel Brown. During minicamp, Herndon saw his first team reps go to Kroft and Ryan Griffin. Connor Hughes of The Athletic claimed that Herndon “struggled” to adjust to the new offensive playbook, playing a role in his demotion.

It’s been a while since Kroft was the primary option at tight end, last doing so in Cincinnati during the 2017 campaign. The Rutgers alum re-established himself as a reliable short-yardage and red zone target last season in Buffalo. Time will tell if the Jets turn over the full-time tight end reins to Kroft, or even give Griffin, Brown, or undrafted rookie Kenny Yeboah (11 touchdowns over the last two seasons at Temple and Ole Miss). But If Kroft’s signing even merely lights a fire under Herndon, it will have been well worth it.

 Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Line: RG Greg Van Roten vs. Newcomers

A Long Island native (Rockville Centre, to be precise), Van Roten was destined to make a difference in New York. While he endured a bit of an up-and-down season in terms of production, he partook in literally every snap over the Jets’ first 11 games and emerged as a leader and voice of reason when the team’s 2020 affairs became particularly dire.

With the Jets’ left side fortified with Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the focus turns to the right. Morgan Moses is a reliable one-year solution on the outside, while Van Roten appears to have a good grip on the interior. But the Jets brought in some interesting depth options, including the New York Islanders’ most celebrated new fan, Dan Feeney. Incumbent top left guard Alex Lewis is also set to move over to the right side, while one also can’t forget Cameron Clark, a 2020 fourth-rounder who spent last season preparing to make the transition from tackle to guard.

But Van Roten, who has shockingly tallied only a single accepted penalty in his NFL career, believes that the arrival of Saleh and LaFleur should help provide stability.

“They hire Saleh and it just feels like a weight has been lifted and hope has come back into the building,” Van Roten said, per team reporter Jack Bell. “All we ask for is a fresh start in this league and no one is happier than the Jets. Now we’re on page one, so let’s write this year’s chapter.”

Which offensive training camp battles will you keep an eye on? Follow @GeoffJMags on Twitter and continue the conversation.

New York Jets to host joint practices vs. Philadelphia

New York Jets

The New York Jets will now face the Eagles three times this year, as they’ll host a pair of joint practices prior to their summer clash.

Another chapter has added to the northeastern battle of green football.

The New York Jets announced on Tuesday that One Jets Drive will host joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park. These practices land on August 24 and 25, days before the teams face off in their respective preseason finales on August 27 at MetLife Stadium.

New York and Philadelphia have mostly kept their gridiron interactions limited to the final weeks of the summer due to their differing conferences, but are now set to meet three times throughout the course of the 2021 season. A regular season matchup looms on December 5 at East Rutherford, serving as the extra game in the newly-minted 17-contest schedule. The Jets have met the Eagles in an annual preseason contest since the turn of the century, their two-decade standing date broken only by the cancellation of the 2020 preseason amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. New York is winless against Philadelphia in 11 regular season meetings, the last showdown coming two seasons ago at Lincoln Financial Field.

In addition to the joint summer sessions with the Eagles, the Jets are also slated to visit Green Bay’s camp prior to their exhibition at Lambeau Field on August 21.

The announcement of Philadelphia’s invasion of Florham Park accompanied the reveal of Jets training camp practices that will be open to the public. Both of the Eagles’ visits are on the list, as is the Green and White scrimmage at MetLife Stadium, which will be the stadium’s first football hosted in nearly 18 months, dating back to an XFL contest between the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats.

Fans will also be welcome at the training camp practices in Florham Park on July 31st and August 2nd, 4th, 9th, and 11th. Autographs from players and staff will not be permitted, face coverings and proof of vaccination will not be required.

To download tickets to Jets training camp, click here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants Release First Unofficial Depth Chart For 2020 Season

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants have released their first unofficial depth chart for the 2020 NFL season. With the Giants’ first regular season game taking place in just a week from today, the team has set its starting lineup, unofficially. This lineup could change, depending on the next week of practice. But, for now, this is the depth chart:

The Depth Chart:

Offense:

QB: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy

RB: Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman

FB: Eli Penny

WR: Darius Slayton, CJ Board

WR: Golden Tate, Damion Ratley

WR: Sterling Shepard, Damion Ratley

TE: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson

LT: Andrew Thomas, Jackson Barton

LG: Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux

C: Nick Gates, Spencer Pulley

RG: Kevin Zeitler, Shane Lemieux

RT: Cam Fleming, Matt Peart

Defense:

SLB: Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Carter Coughlin

DE: Dexter Lawrence, RJ McIntosh

MLB: Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder

NT: Dalvin Tomlinson, Austin Johnson

WIL: DeVante Downs, TJ Brunson

DT: Leonard Williams, BJ Hill

OLB: Oshane Ximines, Kyler Fackrell, Cam Brown

LCB: James Bradberry, Darnay Holmes, Brandon Williams

SS: Jabrill Peppers, Nate Ebner

FS: Julian Love, Logan Ryan, Adrian Colbert

RCB: Corey Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom

Specialists:

LS: Casey Kreiter

H: Riley Dixon

P: Riley Dixon

PR: Golden Tate, Jabrill Peppers, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton

KOR: Darnay Holmes, Darius Slayton, Corey Ballentine, CJ Board, Dion Lewis

K: Graham Gano

Notable Positions:

The biggest weakness for the Giants heading into the 2020 offseason was at center. New York’s centers, Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley, struggled immensely in 2019. The Giants did not acquire a new center this offseason. Instead, they moved Nick Gates in to compete for the position. Now, Nick Gates is listed as the starting center, indicating that he has won the positional battle with Spencer Pulley.

Newly-signed defensive back Logan Ryan is technically not listed as a starter. Ryan is listed as the backup free safety behind Julian Love. Many expected to see Logan Ryan start at RCB, but that position is currently held by Corey Ballentine.

Darnay Holmes did not earn a starting role on defense, but he did earn a starting role on special teams as the kick-off returner. An additional thing to note is that slot cornerback is technically not a starting defensive position. This depth chart is about the base defense, 3-4 formation. Nickel is not the base defense, but the starting nickel cornerback very well could be Darnay Holmes or Logan Ryan. So, while they are not listed as starters in the base defense, they will likely both see plenty of playing time in the nickel and dime formations.

After the surprising cut of Ryan Connelly this week, Devenate Downs has been given the unofficial starting WIL job. He will start opposite of Blake Martinez at MLB.

Kyler Fackrell, signed this offseason after a 10.5 sack 2018 campaign with the Packers, is not a starter in this first depth chart. Fackrell is the second-string OLB, behind Oshane Ximines. Markus Golden is also not listed as a starter after earning 10 sacks in 2019 with the Giants. Lorenzo Carter is ahead of Golden as the team’s first-string SLB.

This first unofficial depth chart gives a good idea as to which Giants players will be seen on the field most often in 2020. But much of this lineup is subject to change, as there is still another week of practice to get through. On top of that, the Giants are not likely to sit in their base defense all game. There will be plenty of nickel looks and other creative defensive formations schemed up by Patrick Graham. The Giants also have two key players, David Mayo and Xavier McKinney, on injured reserve. They will enter the lineup, likely both as starters, later on this season.

New York Giants Cut Wide Receiver Corey Coleman

New York Giants, Corey Coleman

The New York Giants officially set their fifty-three man roster yesterday. There were some surprise cuts, like second-year linebacker Ryan Connelly, but for the most part, the cuts were expected. Today, though, the Giants made another surprising roster move, cutting wide receiver Corey Coleman.

Today was the waiver-wire day in the NFL. The Giants claimed three players off of the waiver wire and had one player (Connelly) of their own claimed. The Giants needed to make some cuts to their roster to make room for today’s claims, and they chose to sacrifice Corey Coleman.

Corey Coleman looked primed to man the Giants’ fourth wide receiver position this season. He had been impressive all throughout training camp after fighting back to full health from a torn ACL that he suffered last year. This roster move comes as a huge surprise to most Giants fans, but there could be more to the story than what meets the eye.

What Are The Giants’ Plans At WR4?

Corey Coleman was set to be the Giants’ WR4 in 2020. But the team waived him today, raising the question as to who might man that position now. The Giants now have the following wide receivers on their roster: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, CJ Board, and Damion Ratley.

Damion Ratley is one of the players the Giants claimed on the waiver wire today. He could potentially fill Coleman’s role as a vertical threat. CJ Board is another player that was impressive in training camp this summer. He earned himself a spot on the final roster.

The Giants have another four wide receivers on their practice squad, too. Training camp standouts Alex Bachman and Austin Mack were both signed to the team’s practice squad, along with Derrick Dillon and Johnny Holton.

There is a chance that Corey Coleman’s time in New York is not over yet. Yes, he was cut from the roster today, but he could actually be re-signed by the end of the day. As reporter Art Stapleton pointed out on Twitter, Corey Coleman is not subject to the waiver wire, since he is a veteran. This means that, after 4 p.m. today, Coleman is free to sign with whichever team he pleases, including the Giants.

The New York Giants have two players to place on injured reserve today: Xavier McKinney and David Mayo. Placing these two players on IR would free up two more roster spots, one of which could potentially be used to re-sign Corey Coleman. This is a hypothetical, though, as it is very possible that Coleman’s time in East Rutherford is finished.

New York Jets optimistic as training camp ends, training camp looms

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Cautious optimism emerged from the final day of New York Jets training camp, as a tense weekend of cuts awaits.

Stage one of a most unusual NFL season has come and gone. One of its most painful mainstays, however, is already underway.

The New York Jets’ training camp proceedings ended on Friday afternoon, just a little more than 24 hours before the mandated downsizing of NFL active rosters to 53 players. New York’s personal purging has already bid farewell to veterans James Burgess (who led the Jets with 80 tackles last season) and Jonotthan Harrison (19 starts over the last three seasons). The process will only continue as Saturday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline approaches, though several departees could find new opportunities with practice squads extended from 10 to 16 players.

Head coach Adam Gase anticipates Saturday’s organized chaos, especially in such a tenuous season that could require substitutions rising to the occasion on short notice.

“It’ll be interesting when we kind of get to those because I’m sure that it’s going to end up being we’ll have about five really tough decisions to make,” Gase said of the roster trim, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “Those active roster (decisions), but on the practice squad and then kind of holding your breath to see if anybody gets claimed it’ll be interesting heading towards the end of this week.”

The calm before Saturday’s storm of transactions allowed the Jets’ a brief opportunity to focus on a roller-coaster training camp session. Set in the backdrop of the ongoing health crisis, some would say it’s enough of a win that the team emerged without major catastrophe.

Still, Gase was pleased with what the team was able to accomplish in their college campus-like settings. He hopes the awareness and precautions taken during the process carries over into the regular season.

“I think the players did a great job staying focused. I know it was an unusual training camp, a lot of walkthroughs, rep wise,” he said. “No preseason games, but I thought the guys did a good job of using the time he had his effectively as possible. It was nice that, you know, we were able to kind of have the setup we had with having the hotels as close as we had them, kind of almost making that like a dormitory, buying out the whole hotel, which that was big for us, just kind of had smooth transition on all that stuff.”

“We’ll kind of see as we get into the season, where now guys can live on their own and we’ll maneuver that and now we’ll be able to just kind of start doing meetings live in person, which is that’s going to be something that we’re, we’re going to be excited about.”

Walkthroughs weren’t able to fully simulate the type of action the Jets lost through the cancellation of the annual preseason quartet. But Gase was pleased with what the effort put forth and the work accomplished.

“The walkthroughs were awesome,” the head coach remarked. “It’s like having a meeting on the field and I do think the way that our guys engaged in the virtual meetings was, I felt like we got a ton of guys asking more questions than sometimes when you’re live, where it’s easier to nod your head and say you got it and you might not have it, where on the virtual stuff, I just felt like there was a better back and forth for whatever reason.”

With training camp in the books and no exhibitions looming, the first opportunity to battle a football player clad in a color other than gree and white comes in the Week 1 opener against the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Jets will likely enter that game packed with youth and inexperience and without some crucial would-be contributors stepping out due to medical concerns and training camp injuries. There’s no telling just how much progress was made before the Jets battle a good number of experts have pegged to swipe New England’s AFC East throne.

But from what the players and coaching staff have gathered, they believe they’re ready to face a season laden with questions.

The spring selection of Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton will loom large for both the Jets’ immediate and long-term future. If he fails to rise to expectations, it could set the Jets back years and have them wondering about the wide receiver prospects left behind. But his success could change the narrative about the Jets’ offense and perhaps become the spark the Sam Darnold/Le’Veon Bell era truly needs to ignite.

It would’ve been Becton’s showings that garnered the most observers if summer showcases were allowed to proceed. The Jets sound pleased with what they were able to get in the meantime.

“He looks comfortable to me. And he’s not making mistakes,” Gase said of Becton, per Olivia Landis of the official team site. “I’ve been extremely impressed by how he’s operating as far as his knowledge of football, how he’s retaining things, acquiring the information, recalling it, and then at the same time executing, playing fast. He’s doing a really good job.”

Becton’s first NFL training camp has certainly been one for the books. He was denied a handshake from the commissioner and hearing his name called in Las Vegas with the league opting for virtual draft settings last April. Presumably starting, he’ll be thrown into an immediate fire against Buffalo, owners of one of the NFL’s scariest pass rushes. He’s one of many Jets that could’ve used four consequence-free opportunities in August to adjust to the professional game.

But the experiences at One Jets Drive in Florham Park may have given Becton the best preseason/tune-up opponents of all: Gregg Williams’ defense.

Becton admitted that virtual meetings at the onset of camp that virtual meetings took a bit of adjusting to, but that he found his first NFL training camp to be a fulfilling experience, one that helped him learn where his true NFL strengths lie and where he might need to improve moving forward.

“I would definitely say I got better as a player, person and teammate,” Becton said in Landis’ postcamp report. “I definitely learned how to take care of my body, technique, plays, everything. I’ve gotten better over this time period.;”

“I fixed my hand placement and made sure that I keep my feet moving and don’t just stop once I make contact. Those are the things I worked on the most and needed to harp on the most. I also needed to work on my backside cutoff as well.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Giants take a flier on physical receiver Hakeem Butler?

Could the New York Giants go after Hakeem Butler in the 2019 NFL draft?

The official deadline to set a 53-man roster in the NFL is tomorrow at 4 p.m. With this deadline rapidly approaching, NFL teams have begun cutting players to shrink their roster sizes. The New York Giants have yet to make their round of cuts, but they will soon.

Other teams around the league have already started chopping away at their roster. The Arizona Cardinals made a surprising move today, cutting Hakeem Butler, a second-year wide receiver that they drafted in the fourth round last year. Butler was a solid prospect coming out of college. Could the Giants look to take a flier on Butler before the start of the regular season?

Why Butler Might Make Sense For New York

Wide receiver depth is crucial. The position is one that faces plenty of injuries every year, as the Giants know all too well. Darius Slayton, Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard, and Golden Tate were all injured at one point or another last season. New York had to start backups on multiple occasions at the wide receiver position.

In 2020, there is a chance that the Giants find themselves in a similar situation. It is important to be prepared for the worst, and the Giants can prepare by acquiring as much wide receiver talent as possible. Hakeem Butler is the latest talented wide receiver to be made available for acquisition.

In college, Hakeem Butler was an excellent player. But after being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Butler never got to see the field in the regular season. Hakeem broke his hand in the preseason and missed the entirety of the 2019 season. Now, healthy, he was unable to earn a spot on the Giants’ roster.

Admittedly, the Cardinals have an abundance of wide receiver talent. From DeAndre Hopkins to Andy Isabella, the Cardinals might have liked Hakeem Butler but just not had the room to house him.

Butler was a workout warrior at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. He stands tall and strong at 6 feet 5 inches, 227 pounds, while also having the speed to run a 4.48 forty-yard dash. Butler was a legitimate deep threat in college, racking up 1,318 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns on only 60 receptions in 2018. Butler could be a solid addition as an outside receiver for the New York Giants.

Why The Giants Might Not Be A Landing Spot For Butler

The Giants already have a pretty crowded room of wide receivers. Sure, Hakeem Butler is very talented. After all, he was drafted in the fourth round last year, and many of the Giants’ backup receivers went undrafted. But these undrafted receivers have been impressive during training camp with the Giants. They have worked hard to earn their potential roster spots. Additionally, the Giants have been able to evaluate these receivers first-hand in camp. Any evaluations they might have of Hakeem Butler will be based on his college game tape.

The Giants and Butler’s mutual unfamiliarity with each other will likely prevent the team from using a roster spot on Butler. He was an exciting prospect in 2019, so he will find a home somewhere. But with the Giants’ crowded group of receivers on the current roster, it is unlikely he will find that home in the Big Blue side of New Jersey.

New York Jets: Le’Veon Bell and Adam Gase “actually like each other”

New York Jets, Leveon Bell

As Week 1 looms, New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell did his part to end rumors of tension between him and his head coach.

New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell may represent the offense, but took on the role of a shutdown corner in defusing tension between he and head coach Adam Gase.

On Thursday, the rusher spoke for the first time since an intrasquad scrimmage bore friction between the two. Gase mentioned that he had pulled Bell from the proceedings due to a tight hamstring, but Bell took to social media afterward to proclaim his clean bill of health. Speaking in person after the late week practice, Bell considered the scrimmage matter behind him and publicly called for those covering the Jets to stop pitting he and Gase against each other.

“I don’t understand why everybody is trying to put me and Gase against each other,” Bell said Thursday, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “We’re not against each other. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to believe, but we actually like each other.”

Bell and Gase’s relationship has been under a microscope ever since the former Pittsburgh Steeler inked a four-year, $52.5 million contract last offseason. Rumors emerged last season that Gase lobbied against then-general manager Mike Maccagnan adding Bell after he sat out the entire 2018 season due to a contract dispute. Bell’s name appeared in several trade rumors at the league-deadline last season and Gase was accused by analysts of not using Bell properly in his offense. Bell had a full-season career-low 789 yards last season.

But Bell doubled down on his peace treaty with Gase, insisting that the pair have never had problems.

“Ever since I got here and he got here, there’s kind of been this little thing of me and him butting heads all the time, which I don’t know where it comes from,” Bell said in Cimini’s report. “We had a long conversation because basically people (blew last week) out of proportion because I did make the tweet.”

Bell has returned to training camp eager to rectify and atone for the mistakes of 2019 and has been a burst of light in the Jets’ proceedings. He’s ready to take on a larger role in the New York offense when the Jets open against Buffalo on September 13 (1 p.m. ET, CBS) and it appears Gase is ready to take Bell up on that challenge.

“I feel like we can find better ways to get him the ball to help him create more explosive plays,” Gase said in Cimini’s discourse. “We can get him in space better than we did last year.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: The case for a Bilal Powell reunion

Bilal Powell’s long tenure with the New York Jets came to an end this offseason. It’s late in the game, but here’s why that has to change.

One can argue how much of an honor the label “longest-tenured New York Jet” really is. It’s great to have continuity and familiar faces in an offense, but the merits must be questionable when a nine-year veteran has played witness to only 57 wins (better only than Jacksonville and the artists formerly known as the Oakland Raiders in the AFC).

At the end of the day, though, running back Bilal Powell saw no negatives in bearing such a torch.

““or me, I just like to sit put,” Powell said in a late January interview with Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts, WFAN’s midday pair. “I had a couple of opportunities to leave around the times that I was a free agent in previous years, but I wanted to stick around and see this thing unfold.”

If the New York Jets need something to get through 2020, it’s veteran leadership. Sure, this is a team that’s plenty ingredients short of a championship recipe, but the return of a guy who knows his way around an NFL field could make this process a little easier to bear.

Hence, it’s time to start talking about bringing Powell back into the fold.

The Jets enter 2020 with a lack of experience on the field. There’s something to be said about the team’s dedication to youth. But without a sense of direction, the development could be for naught. The team took a step in the right direction in that regard by bringing Frank Gore, a 16-year veteran whose best NFL days may be behind him but has the experience and leadership that can motivate a young team and teach them the professional ropes.

“Frank brings something that is really hard to teach,” Jets head coach Adam Gase said of the Gore signing, per Ethan Greenberg of the Jets’ official site. “He’s a natural leader. He’s the kind of guy that guys respect around the NFL. He’s done a great job as far as helping younger players that are in the room. I think he’s a good teammate especially the last three or four years in that backup role and the supporting role of whoever that starter is.”

Powell may not have the impressive resume that Gore has earned over his tenure…few running backs do…but, in several ways, Powell represents the quintessential NFL success story. A day three pick back in 2011 (126th overall), Powell made himself a reliable part of the offense, a rare silver lining as the offense remained relatively stagnant. He was a reliable spell option and injury fill-in that became a multi-threat. Since Powell entered the league in 2011, he is one of 30 running backs to tally over 3,500 yards of total offense.

Perhaps the greatest lesson Powell can teach is one resiliency, which will be vital for players looking to get through what could be a difficult year. In 2018, Powell suffered a neck injury during an October loss to Minnesota, one that threatened to end his career. When it was possible that Powell’s NFL could well be over, the Jets knew what they could be losing.

“Bilal is one of the hardest workers on this team,” then-head coach Todd Bowles said at the time, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “It’s a big blow from that standpoint, but you worry more about the person, healing, than the football player.”

“It’s one of the toughest things,” defensive lineman Steve McLendon said in the same report. “It almost makes me emotional because I know how hard he worked. This is how a lot of guys feed their family, and you never want to see someone lose that ability.”

Powell instead worked his way back, inked a one-year return deal last June, and partook in the Jets’ 2019 proceedings. Like the rest of the Jets’ rushers, things didn’t really go his way, as he put up a career-low 229 yards over 15 games (the best a 74-yard showing in his lone start of the season in a win over Miami).

With so many receivers going down and the offensive line revamped, the Jets could leaning on their run game a little harder at the onset of the 2020 season. As last season proved, Le’Veon Bell can’t do it alone. Gore will be able to assist, but the Jets did lose Lamical Perine during a scrimmage at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. While there’s some belief that Perine avoided true disaster, the Jets may look to fill the void and bide a little time while Perine’s ankle heals. A trade for former Gase pupil Kalen Ballage was also voided when the Miami running back failed a physical.

A suitable replacement and locker room prescience in Powell could appear on the horizon in Powell, who knows the Jets’ offense and has earned himself an NFL decade through strength and resiliency. Powell himself is even open to the opportunity, if SNY’s Jets pregame and postgame show host Jonas Schwartz is to be believed:

“I just stay in my lane. I sit back and let things happen and unfold,” Powell told Beningo and Roberts. “I want to retire a Jet, that’s the biggest thing for me.”

Fulfilling that dream could well become beneficial for all sides.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags