The Jets’ preseason ended on Friday night with a 31-31 tie against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Now, the Jets have two weeks to prepare for the Sept. 12 opener with the Panthers.
“It’s coming quick,” coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s exciting that it’s happening. We have to get on Carolina. We’ll start prepping and get going.”
Before that, though, it’s a good time to look at what we learned this summer through 19 practices, four of which were joint practices, and three preseason games. Here are some takeaways from the Jets’ 2021 training camp and what they could mean going forward:
1. Let’s start with the headline. Zach Wilson looks ready to play. The rookie is going to have some bad moments this season, of course, but the game does not look too big for him. After some early struggles, he settled in nicely and looked really comfortable in the two preseason games he played.
Wilson’s talent is obvious. He makes throws few human beings can make. But more than that, what stood out was his decision-making, field vision and poise. Wilson rarely looked rushed like most rookies do. Against the Packers, you could see him controlling the safety with his eyes and going through his progressions.
There are many variables when it comes to a quarterback being successful in the NFL. He is going to need help from his coaches and supporting cast, but Wilson showed nothing this summer that should make anyone question the Jets’ decision to hand him the reins on Day 1.
2. Saleh is known for his defensive acumen, and they might need all of that this season. Coming out of camp, I would say the No. 1 worry for the Jets should be their defense. They are young all over the place and lost their top offseason acquisition to a season-ending injury when defensive end Carl Lawson ruptured his left Achilles’ tendon. They also will be missing linebacker Jarrad Davis for at least the first five games due to an ankle injury.
The Jets have question marks at edge rusher, linebacker and cornerback. The only place on defense you really feel good about is interior defensive line, with Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins leading the way.
If you go back to January and think about how many holes there were on the roster, you knew it would be impossible for GM Joe Douglas to address them all. Cornerback is the spot where he chose not to invest prime resources. He did use three Day 3 draft picks on corners, but none of those players should be expected to be solid starters immediately.
Douglas did invest in Lawson to help the pass rush and Davis to play next to C.J. Mosley, and now injuries have ruined those plans.
It will be up to Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to scheme up some things to overcome personnel deficiencies, but there could be some long days for the defense.
3. There has been some panic about the offensive line in recent weeks that I think is probably overblown. The line struggled in pass protection during joint practices with the Packers and Eagles, but those are two elite defensive lines. I also think Wilson held the ball at times against the Packers, which led to some breakdowns. The line has looked good during camp in run blocking, and I think it will hold up against most defensive lines but struggle against the top ones.
4. We have been talking about backup quarterback for months, and nothing in training camp eased those fears. Mike White is expected to be Wilson’s backup. White looked OK in camp, but I’m not sure the Jets can count on him to keep them competitive if Wilson is out. Veteran Josh Johnson had a nice preseason finale, but he has barely gotten reps in practice and does not seem to be in the team’s plans. I would expect James Morgan to land on the practice squad.
I think the Nick Foles ship has sailed. The Bears are not willing to eat some of his contract and are asking for more than the Jets are willing to give in a trade. Foles also would have to learn the offense. Douglas could take a flyer on Nick Mullens, who was cut by the Eagles on Saturday. He knows the offense from San Francisco, and the Jets’ staff got to see him up close in joint practices this week.