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Where The New York Jets And Zach Wilson Stand Midway Through NFL Preseason

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 18, 2021

Zach Wilson and his progress will be the biggest story of the 2021 New York Jets until further notice, and his journey continues this week as the New York Jets head to Green Bay to face the Packers in two joint practices Wednesday and Thursday followed by a game Saturday afternoon. 

But Wilson, who looked sharp with a mostly vanilla gameplan against the New York Giants’ second-string defense in the Jets’ preseason opener, will need plenty of help if New York is to improve this season. Here is a look at where Wilson and his teammates stand as they begin practicing in Wisconsin. 

Wilson, who went 6-for-9 for 63 yards in just over one quarter, did what he had to. Wilson wasn’t asked to do much in his first game action. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur called no deep shots, keeping everything in the passing game within about 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. Nonetheless, Wilson executed it with aplomb for the most part, and most importantly, handled the basics correctly. He got the calls communicated quickly to his teammates, went through his reads and didn’t force anything. 

Two of his two most impressive plays came on third downs. On third-and-4 in the red zone in the first quarter, nobody was open, and Wilson’s pass was wide of his target, not risking an interception so that the Jets could settle for a field goal. On a later third-and-14, he stepped up smartly in the pocket to avoid pressure even though he knew he would take a hit, and connected with tight end Tyler Kroft for a 13-yard gain, giving the Jets a chance at a fourth-and-1. That was a strength of Wilson’s at BYU, stepping up rather than heading toward the sideline, thus giving him a better view of the whole field. 

“I thought it was good. Of course, (there are) still things to clean up but it was a great experience,” Wilson said.

“This young man’s potential is through the roof,” coach Robert Saleh said.

One problem is that the presumptive starting offense might not get a chance to play together until the regular season. Wide receiver Elijah Moore (quadriceps) and left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker (pectoral) are both still out, although Vera-Tucker could play next week, Saleh indicated Tuesday. Moore is listed as second on the depth chart currently, but figures to get a lot of snaps if healthy.

Williams returns. Budding star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was activated Monday off the Physically Unable to Perform list. He won’t play against Green Bay because, as Saleh said, he has a lot of “catching up” to do, and it is unclear if he will see action in the preseason finale against Philadelphia on Aug. 27. Still, getting him back up to speed for the regular season is paramount for everyone. 

Saleh envisions him as a key cog in the Jets’ defensive scheme—he said, “The amount of knock-back that we feel like he’ll be able to generate in this scheme and the amount of disruptions that we feel like he’ll be able to generate, it’s going to be awesome”—and for Williams, it is a crucial season for him. Coming off a promising sophomore campaign, another big season would make it almost imperative for the Jets to pick up the fifth-year option on the 2019 first-round selection by next May. 

“I’m excited and ready to roll,” Williams said. “It’s an amazing scheme. … I want to dominate every single play.

“We’ve got a great (defensive-line) room.”

Corners grade incomplete. As for the Jets’ young starting cornerbacks, they didn’t get much of a test with starting quarterback Daniel Jones and the Giants first-string wideouts skipping the game. Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to play for the Packers on Saturday, but at least they will get to face him and his starting receivers, including Davante Adams, in practice.

“It’s a great challenge,” Saleh told reporters in Green Bay prior to practice Wednesday, “because this group is pretty darned good. It’s an experienced group. Aaron is obviously a Hall of Fame quarterback, Davante is an All-Pro wide receiver. … We think our receiver group is pretty good, too, but to get to go against different receivers, different releases, different schemes, is a great challenge for them.”

It appears the Jets’ corners won’t get fully tested under game conditions perhaps until the preseason finale versus the Eagles. 

Mims on a mission. Other than Wilson, the biggest story on offense during training camp has been second-year wide receiver Denzel Mims, who has been relegated to backup duty in both practice and Saturday’s game despite being a second-round pick in 2020. Mims missed much of spring practice because of a case of food poisoning contracted from salmon at the facility, causing him to lose 20 pounds.

He didn’t play at all with Wilson in the game, yet embraced his role as a gunner on special teams. He made an impact with a 20-yard catch from Mike White in the third quarter, bulling his way through most of the Giants’ back seven to fight for a first down. 

“I knew that it was coming to me, based off the coverage,” Mims said. “I saw them dropping back and so all I was thinking was, ‘I just have to get the first down no matter what,’ so I tried to do that.” 

Saleh said, “(I) thought he had a really nice day. He had great intent. Now he just has to stack it up.”

Kicker still not settled. Undrafted free agent Chris Naggar was waived Monday after going 1-for-2 on field-goal attempts Saturday, connecting from 30 yards and missing badly, wide left, from 53 later.

Saleh said Tuesday that Naggar was waived to help the Jets get down to the mandated 85-player cutdown of 85 (necessary by 4 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday) plus the “ “opportunity to let (Matt) Ammendola see if he can get a stranglehold on this thing. Obviously, there’s roster moves that need to be made and Chris’s story has not ended. I still think he has a chance to circle back.”

But now Ammendola, also an undrafted free agent, will get the chance to state his case this week. Still, don’t pencil him into the Sept. 12 opener just yet. Much like the cornerback situation, somebody on someone else’s roster could factor in here. 

Mosley was solid. C.J. Mosley finally got back on the field for the first time since Oct. 21, 2019. He wasn’t spectacular, but had a pass breakup and showed more than enough in brief action to make the Jets believe he can recapture his old Pro Bowl form. 

“It was exciting for me and once we got onto the field, that first play, it was like I was back at home,” Mosley said.

Clark placed on IR. The Jets placed second-year guard Cameron Clark on injured reserve, two weeks after he bruised his spinal cord during practice. It is still unclear when Clark will play again.

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