The good, the bad and the unsettled from Jets preseason

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Zach Wilson up close throwing 8/21
Zach Wilson up close throwing 8/21

There are still more than two weeks before the Robert Saleh/Zach Wilson Era begins, which feels like a lot of time now that the preseason is over. But it isn’t.

“It’s coming quick,” Saleh said on Friday night.

Yes it is -- whether the Jets are ready or not.

And while this may seem like a harsh assessment, the truth is Saleh’s Jets probably aren’t ready -- and they likely had no chance to be, given how much they had to do to clean up last year’s 2-14 mess. They’ve got a rookie coach, a rookie quarterback, and probably 15 new starters from what they had a year ago. They could’ve used another month of preseason games, and even that likely wouldn’t have been enough.

Still, they have made progress in some important spots -- like with 22-year-old Zach Wilson, who has looked better and better as the summer has rolled along. They’ve also shown off an arsenal of offensive weapons that is far better than it was a year ago. But they also suffered some devastating blows, like the loss of defensive ends Carl Lawson and Vinny Curry for the season and linebacker Jarrad Davis for at least the first five games. And they just haven’t had enough time to fully patch those holes.

In other words, the Jets are very much still a work in progress, which is both expected and problematic with their opener in Carolina just 15 days away. They are headed for a season that will be a lot like their summer: Some good, some bad, some promising, some disappointing.

So here’s a look at the positive and the negative from their month-long training camp and three preseason games, and a peak at what they might become.

The good

The franchise QB looks like a future star: With a tinge of “Stop me if you’ve heard this before,” it sure does look like the Jets made a good choice in picking Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick. We’ll see if he turns out to be better than Sam Darnold right away, but he’s impressed everyone this summer. His talent is clear. He’s got a strong arm, an ability to throw from all angles, and he can move. He seems to be a quick learner and earned the trust of his coaches and teammates. It likely won’t be a smooth season, but it seems likely there’ll be plenty of flashes of greatness along the way.

They sure do believe in their coach: Robert Saleh is quite a presence, and just like at his last stop in San Francisco, his players in New York love him. Sure, they wouldn’t say it publicly if they didn’t, but they really rave about him. They love his teaching style, the way he treats them, and the confidence he instills. The last time a group of Jets seemed to believe this strongly in their first-year coach was when Rex Ryan was in town. Saleh has convinced them he knows what he’s doing and he has a plan to lead them to a championship someday. It may not happen right away, but the one-year turnaround in attitude and confidence in this franchise has been remarkable.

They’ve got plenty of weapons: Last year the Jets had WR Jamison Crowder and ... and ... well, that was really it as far as players who were dangerous with the ball in their hands. This year they’ve got a real No. 1 receiver in Corey Davis, Crowder, and an exciting (though injured) rookie in receiver Eiljah Moore. They also have high expectations for WR Keelan Cole, though he’s had a quiet summer. And then there is their deep and versatile running back rotation, with Tevin Coleman, the surprising Ty Johnson and rookie Michael Carter. Maybe even La’Mical Perine, too. They’ve got a lot of players who can be a threat, and an offensive coordinator in Mike LaFleur who plans to use them all.

LB C.J. Mosley looks healthy and fast: Just as he promised with a 20-pound weight loss, Mosley has looked like a speedier version of his old self this summer. The old Jets regime gave him $43 million guaranteed in 2019 to be a leader and a playmaker on defense. This regime may finally see the fruits of that deal.

Jul 28, 2021; Florham Park, NJ, United States; New York Jets inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) stretches during training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
Jul 28, 2021; Florham Park, NJ, United States; New York Jets inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) stretches during training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.

The bad

The O-line still hasn’t come together: There seems to be plenty of talent there and at times they’ve looked powerful, but there hasn't been enough of those times. They were dominated by their own defense through most of camp, then by the Packers defense in joint practices. Left tackle Mekhi Becton got off to a slow start after a foot injury and now is out with a concussion. Rookie guard Alijah Vera-Tucker has missed a lot of time with a pectoral muscle injury. Morgan Moses and George Fant have been rotating in a battle for the RT spot. A good O-line requires chemistry. This group doesn’t seem to have it yet.

Injuries devastated their defense (and pass rush): The best story of camp was the emergence of Lawson, who was remarkably disruptive and looked like the pass-rushing demon the Jets have been seeking for decades. Then he tore his Achilles, ending his season. On top of that, Curry was lost for the season due to a rare blood disorder. And Davis (ankle) is out until the bye week. What they’ve left behind is no proven pass rusher and a very, very, very young defense at every level. Those kids need to grow up quick.

The young secondary needs a little more time: The Jets' refusal to pursue a veteran free agent cornerback was spun as a sign of their faith in their secondary. And they do believe in that unit, but it might be a while before they’re proven right. They have shown good flashes at times, but that group of cornerbacks – with Bryce Hall and Bless Austin, and rookies like Isaiah Dunn, Brandin Echols and Michael Carter – really struggled against the Eagles. They might be able to get away with secondary issues if they had strong pass rush. But they don’t. That’s something opponents will exploit.

The unsettled

The tight end position is uninspiring: It’s hard to forget how important TE George Kittle was to the Kyle Shanahan offense in San Francisco, which begs the question: Who is the George Kittle in that same offense with the Jets? There is no current answer. Except for rookie Kenny Yeboah’s second-half heroics on Friday night (4 catches, 100 yards, two touchdowns), this group did basically nothing all summer. Tyler Kroft is probably the No. 1, which he showed in his two-catch, 36-yard, two-TD game against the Packers, but he seems like a pretty mediocre option. Trevon Wesco (2-24) is more of a fullback in this offense. Maybe the one with the most skills -- Chris Herndon -- hardly got an opportunity in the preseason (2-14). If anyone emerges as a genuine threat, it’ll be a genuine shock.

Who’s their kicker? Matt Ammendola “won” the job this summer and connected on all four of his field goals in the preseason, including a 54-yarder against the Packers. But are the Jets really going to trust their kicking game to a player with no NFL experience? Maybe. Since they’re unlikely to be in the playoff hunt, this would be the time to give a young kicker a shot. But it’s still a risk. And it’s a good bet GM Joe Douglas will be checking the waiver wire for veteran options next week, just in case.