It’s the quiet period in the NFL where players are off until training camp, but that doesn’t mean they don’t talk about the upcoming season. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Jets, so sports reporters are hunting down players and coaches to find out what they think. It’s a scramble for NFL news this time of year so any info on the team is ingested by fans like a Thanksgiving feast. Here are a few notes on the Jets. If you have read or knew of these before I am here to inform those who haven’t been so lucky.
The process of receivers working with Aaron Rodgers is more difficult that most fans think. Rodgers has nearly two decades of knowledge. During that time he has developed the ability to pick apart defenses once he gets under center. Through the years he has designed a number of hand signals to take advantage of defensive alignments. Those signals have expanded over the years to become a bevy of gestures that take time to digest for a new receiver working with Rodgers.
Receivers have to get into position quickly (they may end up going in motion), then read the defense in front of them. If they stay on the line they may face press coverage or a number of zone or bracket coverages. They then have to look back to Rodgers. If he gives them a certain signal they then have to adjust their routes to be in the area of the field that Rodgers will be looking for them to be. It’s a lot to figure out in a matter of seconds.
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett had this to say on Rodgers hand signals:
“He does it quite a bit. It’s something he takes a lot of pride in and it’s something that we love to see because he takes advantage of certain areas on the field. It definitely puts a little pressure on the wide receivers because they can’t ever just lock in on something that they are going to be doing. If the QB sees an advantageous look for something, he’ll give you something very quick and you have to have your eyes on him and the ball. So, that’s just kind of a process oriented thing for those guys to get used to.”
As per wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni, Rodgers has been taking it “pretty slow” in OTAs and mini camp. He felt that the receivers have learned less than 10% of the signals. That process will be intensified once training camp starts. Receivers will have to learn fast with their crash course in Rodgers gestures.
Duane Brown has loads of NFL experience. He said “I’ve been around some really good quarterbacks, but just the command he has with everything, it’s different.” He calls those hand signals “his little cheats” and that Rodgers pops into various positional meetings to give his two cents on alignments and adjustments.
In a Rodgers led offense it is essential that everyone is on the same page and understands the adjustments, hand signals and line calls. Rodgers is an exceptional QB, but a lot of his success the last few years is predicated on players understanding his signals and seeing what he sees. It made Devante Adams one of the best receivers in the NFL; they worked together as a partnership. Rodgers is like a professor on the field, he doesn’t have the elite skills he once had when he was younger but his knowledge and the ability to know how to use that knowledge is the key to his success now.
Is it any wonder that Aaron Rodgers was the back to back NFL MVP award winner for 2020 and 2021 when he had Devante Adams? He received 88% of the vote in 2020 and 78% of the vote in 2021 but didn’t get a single vote in 2022 with only young receivers.
TE Tyler Conklin was a teammate of Dalvin Cook in Minnesota. He was making overtures on a possible reunion with Cook recently. Conklin stated:
“There’s plenty of room. We’ve got room for whoever wants to come help us win a Super Bowl. Me and Dalvin were basically locker mates my first couple of years and he was an awesome guy. I reached out to him because I was just curious, like are the rumors true? Is this actually possible? That’d be a special backfield with Breece and Dalvin and the rookie Israel Abanikanda and whatnot, Michael Carter. I don’t know. That’s a lot of running backs but I think that’d be special, especially in this outside zone scheme.”
Adding Cook would be a solid move with Hall coming back off a serious injury and not having to count on a rookie (Abanikanda) to take a huge load of the rushing offense. Cook was a Pro Bowl back the last 4 years in a row, so he has the talent. He is a capable receiver, is proficient in pass protection and would be an invaluable library of knowledge for both Hall and rookie Abanikanda. Learning from a Pro Bowl peer is far superior to learning from a coach in the NFL. The nuances that exist in the running game and what to look for as a pass receiver and protector are worth the salary plus the production. You would have to guess that both Hall and Abanikanda would relish the opportunity to play with a successful NFL star they have probably watched with intensity the last few years.
Learning from a coach is one thing but playing up to the standards of a player you had admired but now are in the same room is quite different. You naturally want to impress someone who has the accolades you wish to have. Every day in practice you want him to see you are just as good as a Pro Bowl player. It makes players better, faster, with the confidence to achieve great things.
Rodgers on Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner
Aaron Rodgers was pontificating on his new teammates who were the offensive and defensive rookies of the year in 2022. He totally believes in their potential. Even more so if they were to work on their skills against one another.
“We’ve got, at some point possibly the best corner and the best receiver in the NFL. It’s a legit possibility for those two guys. Maybe not in this upcoming year as I still think Davante Adams is in a league of his own, but those guys are talented. How we take the next step is to talk about the things that give us the most issues. To talk about release issues and what’s hard on Garrett and then Sauce telling Gardner what’s hard on him. I think right now we have good communication with those guys. They battle, they compete.”
One of the few ways for an elite player to get better is to have an adversary with equal talent working against them. With the Jets drafting both Wilson and Sauce in the first ten picks there is naturally going to be a rivalry between the two since they play in opposing positions. If they both work jointly together, with camaraderie instead of animosity they have a chance of achieving greatness singularly but also mutually.
C. J. Mosley
Mosley is the veteran on this team who came to the Jets from a team with high expectations year after year. Mosley was drafted two years after Ray Lewis retired, but he knew right away who he was replacing on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. The 5 time Pro Bowl player enters his 9th year in the league with renewed hope because of a peer who he respects. Aaron Rodgers is a player who stands out in a room and on a team. He has made his presence felt by the veteran linebacker. As Mosley said:
“It’s a different vibe; he sets the bar. He sets the expectations with his resume, with his name and with the way he approaches the game every single day.”
Mosley has been around, he understands team dynamics and what to expect from a season. You can’t escape the optimism Mosley has expressed in his comments. He doesn’t say much usually but his few words say a lot. He sees an opportunity, you know he is going to relay that to his teammates.
When you have a veteran team leader with renewed expectations, who then expresses that to his teammates, you have the potential for a team leap in production in the win total. When players are inspired, who have talent and are expecting greatness: then you have a chance at something special.
Talking about the offense:
“We are far away. We have a lot of work to do. I think guys have gotten the nuts and bolts of it during this offseason. There are a lot of guys that haven’t been out there that we need to see and be able to evaluate and see how they fit in but there’s a lot of work still to be done.”
Hackett is correct to lower expectations before the first snap of the preseason. There are a lot of moving parts on this team and how they gel (on offense) with their new QB will be key. The Jets have to figure out the offensive line, who is starting and where, then keep them there so they can have some cohesion between players. At this time of year no offensive coordinator is ever satisfied, but with a new QB who has his own unique way he (Hackett) has a right to be concerned.
Robert Saleh and Duane Brown
Saleh on Duane Brown being the starter at the left tackle position
“That’s something that we’ll look at. He is obviously very comfortable at the left tackle spot. We’ll get to all of that as we go, but I have a feeling Duane will be a hard out anyway. He looks good, and he’s doing a real nice job, but everything will be taken into consideration once we start to settle in on which five are going to be the five that we roll into the season with.”
That rambling statement was as clear as Saleh could be on the starting left tackle without just coming out and saying the job was Brown’s to lose. Brown was much better at pass protection than run blocking in 2022. He allowed a single sack in 450 pass blocking snaps while playing with a painful shoulder injury. Brown had complicated rotator cuff surgery in the offseason, and he stated that the surgery was a success and he is in the final stages of recovery. He stated “I wanted to get healthy, last year I was playing at way less than 100% so I want to get healthy and play at the level I’m accustomed to.”
I’ve seen Brown in press conferences and he looks very good. He seems to be in great shape plus he is very motivated. He said “Obviously, you know a team that, this is a great shot to win. I’ve done everything I could possibly do individually in my career but I want to win and I want to be the best version of myself to contribute to that.
It’s nice for once to hear Jet players sounding so positive about the upcoming season. You rarely hear a negative word from the players unlike previous seasons. Now they just have to assimilate to a new offense, understand all the nuances of their QB in order to be a proficient scoring team, develop cohesion on the offensive line once we know who is starting, then figure out who is playing certain spots on defense, then get them proficient in doing so.
There is a lot of work to be done but the optimism throughout the entire team is unmistakable. Though with high expectations comes severe criticism if you don’t succeed. The Jets need to be sure they are ready for opening day on Monday night against Buffalo, which will be billed as Aaron Rodgers against Josh Allen. Rodgers and Allen are 1 and 1 against each other, with the Bills winning last year against Green Bay 27 - 17 after the Packers shut out the Bills and Josh Allen in 2018 22-0 in Allen’s third game as a pro.
It’s finally time for optimism for Jet fans but there is still a lot of work that has to be accomplished before a successful season a can be attained. We will be watching intently as training cap begins. Position battles at the offensive line, safety and linebacker will take place with great anticipation. Players who will man certain spots may not even be on the team yet so we will have to wait until signings occur or not. Those position battles could be the difference between greatness and folly in 2023.
We shall see.