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Jets OTAs Notes: Running game taking shape, Aaron Rodgers doing his thing, and a crowded receivers room

FLORHAM PARK -- The Jets held their third media-open OTA on Tuesday.

Here are a few takeaways from the afternoon...

Attendance isn't mandatory

The Jets had impressive attendance in the first two media-open OTAs. That wasn’t the case as much for the third round. It looked like they were without the starting defensive line – Jermaine Johnson, Quinnen Williams, Javon Kinlaw, Haason Reddick. Will McDonald also wasn’t there. Morgan Moses wasn’t visible to the media, but he could have been rehabbing inside.

Left tackle Tyron Smith was in attendance, but wasn’t practicing. He worked on a bike. The same goes for notable players like wideouts Mike Williams and Jason Brownlee, running back Breece Hall and fullback Nick Bawden.

The absence of Reddick is notable. Saleh addressed it during his pre-practice news conference and seemed more annoyed than usual. He also said he hasn’t had any contact with Reddick this offseason – also notable. He had a much different tone when talking about Kinlaw, who’s also skipped OTAs. Saleh said he was around earlier, but not the last couple of weeks.

Among the reasons the Eagles traded Reddick was because he wanted a new contract – near $30 million annually. Philadelphia wasn’t willing to do that, so they signed Bryce Huff for far less ($17 million annually) and dealt Reddick to the Jets. There’s been no indication to this point the Jets are willing to give Reddick an extension. Saleh wouldn’t say if his absence from the offseason program (he has a $250,000 bonus tied to attending these) is contract-related, alluding to that being a question for GM Joe Douglas.

Saleh expects Reddick to attend next week’s mandatory minicamp, but that might have been more hope than confirmation of his plans. We’ll see.

He’s still very good at football

Aaron Rodgers had quite the day. He completed 13-of-17 passes with two touchdowns. He was 6-for-7 with a touchdown in 7-on-7 drills and 7-of-10 with the other score in the 11-on-11 periods. The two touchdowns were things of beauty. The first was a no-look to Garrett Wilson from 40-plus out. Not only was Rodgers looking left, but his entire body positioned that way. He then pivoted and launched one down the seam and right to Wilson. It was an absurd throw.

The second came on the first play of a drive-the-field drill. Rodgers took the snap, rolled right on his repaired Achilles, then launched a 50-yard pass to Xavier Gipson, who made the catch then trotted the final nine yards into the end zone. Not bad at all.

It can’t be understated what a healthy Rodgers will do for this Jets offense. He makes everyone better from the line, to the playmakers, to the coaches in his ears. The two who will benefit the most: Wilson and Tyler Conklin. The two’s chemistry with Rodgers keeps getting better, specifically Wilson.

Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson spoke on Tuesday and said there is no ceiling on how good Wilson can be. His hands and electric speed were on display the moment the Jets drafted him, but now he’s becoming a much more fine-tuned route runner. Conklin, meanwhile, is a safety valve for Rodgers.

A 1-2 punch in the backfield

Hall is among the best players on this Jets roster and will be the team’s starting running back and a focal point on offense. With Hall not practicing in OTAs as he deals with “lower body stuff," per Saleh, others have had a chance to step up. The Jets give the bulk of the opportunities to rookies Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis, both of whom have stepped up, specifically Allen.

The book on Allen coming out of Wisconsin was his physical run style – a perfect complement to Hall. He’s 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds. His hands are what’s separating him in camp, though. He’s been a reliable option out of the backfield all summer, and Tuesday made one of the highlights of the workouts when he jumped up high to make a tremendous grab deep down the left sideline.

Allen, Davis and the recently-signed Tarik Cohen receiving the bulk of the reps with the first-team offense isn’t a great sign for last year’s fifth-round pick Izzy Abanikanda. It will be interesting to see if this rotation holds come training camp.

A changed man

Offensive line coach Keith Carter received a significant amount of criticism for his style this offseason. It’s among the reasons the Titans moved on from him after the 2022 season and he didn’t resonate particularly well with a number of Jets players. Saleh didn’t seem overly concerned with it at the NFL Owners’ meeting, chalking it up to no player enjoying tough love, but admitted Carter is working on changing his messaging and tone.

Carter met the media on Tuesday and acknowledged that. He confirmed he’s trying to evolve as a coach – much like he asks his players. He’s turned to mentors (like Tom Cable) and his wife to help him get better.

The Jets had relatively young lines the last two years. Those players are generally less likely to speak out if they don’t like something. Instead, they’ll take to social media (as many did) to voice their displeasure. This year, though, the Jets have a much more veteran group led by Smith, Moses and John Simpson.

I’m curious how that will work with Carter if he keeps with his hard-nosed style. It’s one thing to annoy young guys. More problems arise when you tick off someone who’s accomplished what Smith has in this league. Pups tend to follow alphas – not so much the coach.

It’s imperative that Carter gets those guys to follow his message so it resonates throughout his room.

He needs to get better

Wideout Allen Lazard had another drop on third down. Sauce Gardner had good coverage, but Lazard needed to attack the ball better. It’s very frustrating watching Lazard play. The dude is huge (6-foot-5, 227 pounds), but doesn’t play to his size. It’s like he waits for it to get there. Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson did speak highly of Lazard when he met the media. He said he doesn’t know of anything that went wrong last year, so speaking only on this one, he’s been a great coach in the meeting rooms.

Lazard isn’t getting cut and the Jets aren’t trading him (no one wants him). They’re stuck with him for one more year. It’s hard to foresee a path to him getting on the field much, barring injury. He’s strictly an outside receiver and doesn’t play special teams.

The Jets' three-receiver set figures to be Wilson, Gipson (slot) and Williams. Rookie Malachi Corley will work as a slot/gadget/returner. Brownlee brings more as a receiver (he took reps from Lazard toward the end of last year) and plays special teams.

That’s five receivers there. It’s unlikely the Jets keep six wideouts active on game days. That leaves Lazard as a healthy scratch. Not great for a guy who signed a contract worth $11 million annually last year.

New York Jets wide receiver Allen Lazard (10) gains yards after catch during the second half Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium.

Highlights, lowlights and other quick hits

- Tight end Jeremy Ruckert continues to make plays. He had a very impressive leaping catch toward the left sideline on a high pass. Year 3 was the one the Jets targeted for Ruckert to really take a jump and take over as the Jets starter.

- Tyrod Taylor connected on a really pretty deep ball up the right sideline with Lance McCutcheon. There are a lot of people ahead of McCutcheon on the depth chart, but maybe he can carve out a spot on the practice squad.

- The line (absent Alijah Vera-Tucker, Moses and Smith) wasn’t particularly sharp, as expected. They allowed three obvious sacks by my count. The Jets didn’t blow the plays dead, so we’ll count them, but it was obvious they got to Rodgers. A group got Rodgers on the first one, then Eric Watts, then C.J. Mosley (blitz).

- Isaiah Davis had his first (obvious) rookie mistake in team drills. The Jets repped third down situations and Davis jumped. While it’s not easy to stay still during a Rodgers hard count, the Jets kicked Davis off the field after that one. He’ll learn. He and Allen are two players I’m excited to see when the pads come on.

- Jets legend Nick Mangold attended practice. It was a hot one. That didn’t stop Mangold from rocking his jeans and hoodie. He spent some time working with center Joe Tippmann. The Jets haven’t had a legitimate center anchoring their offensive line since Mangold retired after the 2016 season. They’re hoping Tippmann can be that guy.

- This is only half related to the Jets, but the Eagles are playing old friend Mekhi Becton at left guard. He’s come a long way from insisting he is a left tackle, and only a left tackle. I’m curious how Becton will do there. That’s a huge dude to have inside. He is wildly athletic.

- Conklin said the goal for him this offseason is improving his yards after the catch. He wants to turn those five-yard receptions into 10- and 12-yard gains. Conklin’s been a really reliable player for the Jets the last two seasons, catching 119 passes for 1,173 yards and three touchdowns, including a career-high 621 last year. No, those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they’re pretty damn good considering how bad the quarterbacking situation has been. A healthy Rodgers might finally unlock Conklin’s true potential.