The biggest mystery around the Jets gained a little bit more clarity Monday.
After receiver Denzel Mims was inactive in the loss to the Patriots on Sunday, Robert Saleh indicated the specialties within the further-down-the-depth-chart receivers determine who plays and who gets scratched.
The fifth wide receiver on the roster, he said, needs to be a special-teams weapon, which Jeff Smith is as a gunner — although, as it turned out, the Jets only punted once. The Jets did the same at linebacker and cornerback, with the last man on the active depth chart playing special teams.
The fourth receiver needs to be able to contribute on offense and special teams, a spot that went to Keelan Cole, who was on the field for one kickoff and did not catch a pass.
It added up to a 2020 second-round pick with big-play ability — as he showed in Week 1, when he caught a pass for 40 yards — watching from the sidelines in a lopsided loss.
Saleh has said Mims, who was buried on the depth chart during training camp, needs to outwork his competition and know each receiver role. He specifically pointed to Smith’s effort in locking down a gunner spot.
“Jeff put in extra work before practice, after practice, during practice, and you’re expecting him to get about four or five punts,” the head coach said, with Zach Wilson’s interceptions minimizing the Jets’ special teams moments.
Without Mims, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios were the top three receivers.
Tevin Coleman, who received the most carries in the opening loss to the Panthers, got just five rushes (for 24 yards) against the Patriots. Michael Carter (11 attempts for 59 yards) and Ty Johnson (12 for 50) leapfrogged Coleman.
Saleh said the Jets will go to whoever is rushing best and allow the game to decide who gets the chances.
“It’s a big credit to Michael Carter, [who] was running his tail off yesterday,” Saleh said. “Ty Johnson ran his butt off, too. This system has always been about giving it to the hot hand.”
Speaking of which, the run game was greatly improved and Wilson, whose mistakes occurred more from his own doing than protection breakdowns, was mostly kept upright against New England.
After Wilson was sacked six times against the Panthers, the Patriots sacked him four times.
“I think we definitely played better,” tackle George Fant said. “Obviously things to clean up, just striving for perfection.”
The Jets signed safety Adrian Colbert to the active roster and released OL Isaiah Williams.
The Jets had elevated Colbert, a fifth-year player who appeared in six games with the Giants last year, to the active roster for the first two games. The 27-year-old started against the Patriotsand had five tackles on 56 snaps.
Colbert had overlapped with Saleh in San Francisco, where the safety played in 2017-18.