It was a scorching morning on the practice field Tuesday in Florham Park, but it felt “kind of like Christmas,” according to Jets coach Robert Saleh.
Two prized rookies — wide receiver Elijah Moore and offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker — were back in pads participating with their teammates in a joint practice with the Eagles after missing time in training camp and the first two preseason games with injuries.
“It was good to get those guys back in the fold…We’re getting some healthy bodies back,” Saleh said. “We want to ramp them back up into playing shape, so I think they were limited to about 10 to 12 reps all the way through the practice. [Wednesday] the same thing. And we’ll try to build them up to be ready for Week 1 (on Sept. 12 at Carolina).”
Moore, the impressive receiver the Jets selected in the second round of the draft out of Ole Miss, suffered a quad injury in practice on Aug. 12, forcing him out of the Jets’ first two preseason games against the Giants and the Packers.
According to Moore, he’s never dealt with a quad injury before and it was “really probably just a couple of days ago I started feeling back to myself.”
The rookie also replied “that’s the plan” when asked if he expects to dress for the preseason finale Friday against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium.
Saleh called the potential game availability of Moore and Vera-Tucker — the 14th overall pick in the draft who has been sidelined by a pectoral issue — “something to evaluate, but I’m not ready to answer that yet.”
Moore, who accompanied the team to Green Bay last week, didn’t see much action in his return to practice Tuesday, although he did connect with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson on a pretty 30-yard grab along the sideline after turning around a Philadelphia defender with an inside move.
“I’m not worried. It just takes reps,” Moore said. “I love the fact of how I got back out there. The whole time basically, being inside, and taking mental reps, it was like I was really out there.
“I really didn’t feel like I was gone. Mental reps were just as important as being out there. Even out in Green Bay, I was learning so much. I look at everything as a positive. And it definitely was.”
The 21-year-old Moore spoke to reporters while wearing a t-shirt that read “Humble over hype,” saying humility is something he has discussed often with former Ole Miss teammate and Titans receiver A.J. Brown.
“When you tell somebody to be humble, I feel you tell them not to be confident in themselves. But I feel like I have a lot of humility, because I have no problem knowing that I have a lot to work on,” Moore said.
Brown, who has totaled over 2,100 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns during his first two NFL seasons, predicted last week on Twitter that Moore is “going to go crazy with the Jets,” adding he will “put [his] money on [Moore] for Offensive Rookie of the Year, without a doubt, over anybody.”
“I got all the confidence in him, like he has all the confidence in me,” Moore said about Brown’s prediction. “It’s a blessing for him to speak on that.”
Before he competes for any league-wide awards, Moore must make up for lost time in developing chemistry with Wilson within the Jets’ offense.
Asked what he saw from the sidelines in Wilson’s two-touchdown performance (9-for-11, 128 yards) in the Jets’ 23-14 win Saturday in Green Bay, Moore replied, “Excited. I see him feeling comfortable. I see him making his throws. It only builds confidence in myself. I’ve seen the pretty balls in the air and I’m like ‘OK,’ visualizing myself making those plays, too. So it’s just a blessing. I want that with him.”