For the first time since Jan. 3, the Jets will play a game. Even though the results of Saturday's preseason matchup against the crosstown rival will have no bearing on the Green & White's record, players will start to stake their claim to a roster spot.
"I think it's awesome," head coach Robert Saleh said. "Every day is an unbelievable blessing but it's always about the players. It's a great opportunity for them to showcase who they are. There are 31 other teams who are going to get their tape for the first time and the style they want to represent and all the different things they want to showcase. I think that's what's most important about these preseason games. You can take them for granted from a team standpoint because it doesn't matter on the win-loss record, but your style of play, what you want to represent and what you want the entire league to know about you starts Saturday. That's why I think there is tremendous value for these preseason games."
Every preseason, coaches balance preparing their players for the regular season and not putting their starters in harm's way. Saleh, entering his first game as head coach of the Jets, believes the reps are necessary for a lot of his players because of their inexperience in the NFL.
"We're a very young football team," he said. "They've got to be able to go through the process of pregame and prepping themselves mentally, getting in their own space, getting ready to play a football game and then going out there and playing a couple of drives. If you think about last year's group, 30 guys on our roster, somewhere around there, that never have had preseason action. To me, this is a big deal. These moments are priceless."
Game 1 for No. 2
There will be a lot of eyes on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson in his first game with the Jets. Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft, has experienced typical rookie ebbs and flows throughout his first training camp and is ready to line up against different colored jerseys.
"I'm excited," he said. "It's going to be good to prepare, just to get back into a season. It's crazy how fast it flies by from college to now, preparing with these guys. I feel like we're learning a lot and we still got a lot of time to just keep learning. We're learning now. We got a lot of learning this week and when we see these different opponents, it's going to be great for us."
Wilson, who threw for 33 touchdowns and 3 interceptions his final season at BYU, hasn't had a chance to display his off-script ability that draft analysts and evaluators consider one of his biggest strengths. That will change Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.
"I'd say an off-script, playmaking ability comes naturally in the game," he said. "I think when you kind of just done that your whole life, you get in a real game and things break down, you kind of just naturally have a feel to get out of the pocket. Make plays, find guys. Really, what I'm trying to train myself to do out [at practice] is, not do that and how can I just kind of focus on staying in this pocket? Guys around me, going through my reads and tight windows and, naturally in a game when I get that pressure, it'll just get me out of the pocket and work some of that stuff."
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The Jets drafted six defensive players on Day 3 of the NFL Draft and some of them could take significant reps in the regular season. LB Hamsah Nasirildeen, who was listed as a starter on the team's unofficial depth chart, CB Michael Carter II and CB Brandin Echols have all taken first-team reps in practice while the other three -- LB Jamien Sherwood, CB Jason Pinnock and DL Johnathan Marshall -- have all flashed at times. But Saturday will be their first time against an unfamiliar opponent.
"I wouldn't say it's a surprise, just because I always had big goals for myself," Nasirildeen said of his first-team reps. "I wasn't coming in expecting anything handed to me. I definitely had that in my goals."
Carter II added about Saturday: "I'm excited. Being my first NFL game, it's something I've dreamed about for a long time. I'm looking forward to actually putting on the game uniform and running out there and just giving it my all for the team."