It was a night for debuts. The New York Jets brand spanking new coaching staff made its debut. So did brand new offensive and defensive schemes. A revamped pass rush made its debut, to thundering applause. A slew of draft picks and free agent signings made their debuts. But of course, all anybody wanted to talk about was rookie Jets quarterback Zach Wilson making his debut on the NFL stage. And Zach did not disappoint. He slew the Giants (kinda). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take it from the beginning.
In the beginning, the Jets were without form, and void of any talent, and darkness was upon the face of the franchise. And Joe Douglas said “Let there be Saleh.” And there was Saleh. And Jets fans saw that Saleh was good, and they divided the Gase from the Saleh, the one darkness, the other light. They divided the darkness from the light, and the light shone upon them and a new day dawned on a new Jets era.
Last night Robert Saleh ushered in a new Jets era, and for a night at least, we saw that it was good. The Jets for the most part looked well coached. Of the two teams out there, the longer tenured Giants staff was the one making the blunders, and it was nice to see. With the usual provisos that preseason games are something shy of meaningful, and performances that amount to a handful of snaps with and against backups are usually not worth analyzing, let’s talk about what was good and not so good in the Jets win over the Giants.
Robert Saleh. With the exception of an ugly two minute drill at the end of the first half, the Jets looked as crisp and well coached as one can expect in a debut performance with mostly a bunch of backups getting the lion’s share of the playing time. There weren’t many hiccups of note in terms of ugly penalties, difficulty with clock management, difficulties lining up, or difficulties getting the proper personnel on the field. The Jets looked like a well run professional franchise for a change. In addition, the head coach was true to his word in devising a game plan that had the Jets lifting Zach Wilson up and not vice versa. The Jets for the most part put Wilson in favorable situations and did not ask him to play hero ball, and it worked. Oh, the Jets offense was far from dominant, but Wilson got off the field with a positive debut to build on. This was a very positive opening performance by the young Jets coaching staff.
The Pass Rush. From the opening drive right through the game clinching safety, the Jets defensive front set the tone all night, constantly harassing Giants passers and racking up five sacks. It’s just a preseason game with mostly backups playing, but man these guys looked good for a change.
The Starting Offensive Line. These guys didn’t get much playing time, but for the time they were in there they were opening holes for the running game and giving the quarterback time to throw in the passing game. Nice job by the big guys upfront.
Denzel Mims. Mims looked like a man amongst boys last night. He led all Jets receivers in receptions and yards, and threw in a beastly third down conversion on a catch and run that featured Mims bulldozing his way through half the Giants defense.
Zach Wilson. It was a crisp, efficient debut for Zach the Giant Slayer. Throwing mostly short and intermediate passes, Wilson moved the ball effectively on the two possessions he was in there. He looked poised and decisive, getting the ball out quickly and with anticipation. There were no highlight reel throws, but there were also no turnovers, and the offense moved the ball when Wilson was in there. An encouraging start to Wilson’s career.
Vincynt Smith. Smith had three receptions for 39 yards and tacked on a spectacular punt coverage play, keeping the ball out of the end zone, leading to the Jets downing the ball on the 1 yard line. This is how a back of the roster receiver makes a football team.
Braden Mann. The Jets punter had a somewhat disappointing rookie year, rarely exhibiting the booming leg he was purported to have coming out of college. Last night was different. Aside from one poor punt Mann hit on a line drive, the Jets punter was booming punts all night, leading to three downed inside the 20 yard line and the aforementioned one punt downed at the 1. This was the Mann we expected to see when the Jets drafted him.
Johnathan Marshall. The Jets sixth round draft pick was putting on the pressure last night, wracking up 1.5 sacks and a safety to seal the victory. A lot of people speculated Marshall would be relegated to the practice squad because of the Jets depth along the defensive line. If he keeps playing like he did last night, the Jets may lose him if they try to sneak him onto the practice squad.
Bryce Huff. Two sacks and a whole lot of pressure for the young Jets pass rush specialist.
Lamar Jackson. The Jets second year cornerback was repeatedly targeted and repeatedly burned while he was out there. If Jackson was on the roster bubble, last night didn’t help him
The Tight Ends. They all got their targets in the Jets new offense, and they all did a whole lot of nothing with them. Rookie UDFA Kenny Yboah had a particularly rough night, fumbling the ball in a play that led to the Giants’ only score of the night. If the Jets intend to feature the tight end position much in the passing game, they may need to overhaul this unit.
Keelan Cole. After being talked up all offseason by the Jets, Cole was largely invisible last night, catching one pass and making no returns on three punts fielded.
The Backup Quarterbacks. Mike White led one of the ugliest two minute drills I’ve ever seen to close out the first half. Three short passes, none of which got out of bounds. No timeouts until it was too late, and no downing the ball to stop the clock. White looked like he had never run a two minute drill before in his life, which is less than ideal coming from a 4th year quarterback. James Morgan also did not impress, with shoddy accuracy, poor anticipation, and little to show for his possessions. Neither of these guys look like they can run an NFL offense if Wilson were to go down.
Michael Dwumfour was having himself a game before he came up lame with a calf injury. Already a longshot to make the team due to a stacked Jets defensive front, this injury unfortunately may have sealed the UDFA’s fate.
Jabari Zuniga also came up lame with a knee injury. He was lame well before the injury as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It was an auspicious debut to kick off the new Jets era. The coaching looked good. Zach Wilson was sharp and decisive and looked NFL ready. The pass rush lived up to its billing. Denzel Mims reminded people what he can do. The starters at least emerged unscathed by injury. The Jets dominated their crosstown rivals, despite the close score, and Jets fans went home happy for the most part. What more can you ask from a meaningless game of mostly backups?