The Jets are a few hours away from opening their 2023 preseason against the Cleveland Browns in Canton, Ohio. It will not be the Jets debut for Aaron Rodgers as head Coach Robert Saleh has indicated the starters will not be in the lineup.
What parts of this game will be worth watching? Here are five.
The return of Mekhi Becton
Becton has not played a full game from start to finish since 2020. He won’t play a full four quarters tonight, but he will get some badly needed game reps. The Jets have indicated Becton is on a pitch count as he recovers from a second consecutive knee injury so his snaps could be quite limited. He is also likely to face backups. Still it would be a positive to go out and play effective football. Tackle is perhaps the biggest question mark on the roster for the Jets, and Becton performing well could take the team to another level.
The Zach Wilson project
With the trade for Rodgers, Wilson has become an afterthought for the Jets. Once the franchise’s future, he is now a reclamation project. I have little doubt tonight’s results will be overanalyzed. No matter what happens, Wilson has a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Going in I would expect him to play well against what will likely be a backup defense and a vanilla scheme. The next four weeks will be important, though, because barring an injury they are the only live game reps Wilson will get on his long path to development.
This is a first opportunity to see the Jets rookie class of 2023. The odds of this year’s rookie class being as good as last year’s are zero. The 2022 Jets Draft class was a once in a decade group. Expectations are more modest this year. The Jets might well have no rookie starters as they have shifted to a veteran focused roster in search of immediate results. Rookies will have to battle to see the field. Will McDonald, Joe Tippmann, Izzy Abanikanda, and others will give us a look at what roles are realistic for the season. Undrafted free agent Jason Brownlee has been making a strong push for a roster spot in training camp practices. He will look to continue the momentum.
Can the camp breakout stars keep it going?
Outside of Brownlee, there are other camp standouts trying to carve out a bigger role this year. Jermaine Johnson has reportedly been turning heads. There was nothing wrong with Johnson’s rookie season. It’s just tough to stand out in a rookie class that also includes Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and Breece Hall. Johnson will try to cement a bigger role this year in preseason. Another second year player, safety Tony Adams, is aiming to earn a spot on the first team defense.
Surprise cut watch
On a less pleasant note, the first preseason game can also offer an indication of which players are on the outs with the coaching staff. Four years ago the Jets surprisingly cut third round pick Jachai Polite after his first training camp. If there are any players unexpectedly playing in the second half with practice squad candidates, it could be a bad omen.