Locked on an Island
During Saturday night's Green & White scrimmage, both rookie Sauce Gardner and Bryce Hall lined up with the first-team defense. D.J. Reed (hamstring) did not participate in team activities, but the former Seahawks DB is penciled in as a starter at one outside spot. Gardner and Hall have alternated days with the starters throughout training camp and their friendly competition wages on. They are listed as co-starters opposite Reed.
"He still has to go earn it," Saleh said recently of Gardner, the No. 4 overall selection in April's NFL Draft. "Bryce has started. He's taking the one reps, and it's not for show. You've got to go earn your right to go play football. Just because you were drafted in a certain spot doesn't mean anything."
Hall, who had INT of Zach Wilson during Friday's practice and nearly produced a pick in the scrimmage, and Gardner, who is extremely long, sticky in coverage and physical, both are rising to the challenge.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said of Gardner: "He's a very interesting young player because most young players are fighting for a roster spot. They're fighting to potentially start. I don't think that's his mindset. I think his mindset is, 'I'm going to be the best in this game.' Not saying he'll get there this year, next, whatever the case may be. He's going to approach this game in that way. Excited about his future. Got a long way to go, but he's got a lot of really cool qualities that a lot of special players have."
Ongoing Kicking Battle
There hasn't been much separationbetween placekickers Eddy Piñeiro and Greg Zeurlein in camp. Sans a Zeurlein miss from 47 yards during a special teams drill, both were perfect Saturday night. Zeurlein showcased his big leg with a 56-yard boot toward the end of practice. They share the top line on the unofficial depth chart before preseason action as both look to secure a spot with LS Thomas Hennessy and P/holder Braden Mann.
"If you can find stability at that spot and get your three specialist spots, have those stable at least, your core is always going to change, but at least your three specialists are working together all the time and you have the same guys who are working with the same guys all the time," said special teams coordinator Brant Boyer. "I think that'll really help this football team."
See the Jets' full roster at training camp.
While Sauce Gardner is listed as co-starter, the rest of the Jets' early-round picksare placed behind veterans. Wideout Garrett Wilson, the No. 10 overall selection out from Ohio State, follows Elijah Moore at one of the outside spots. Breece Hall, who again popped during the scrimmage with his vision and speed, comes in at third on the unofficial depth chart after Michael Carter and Tevin Coleman. In a similar spot at DE, Jermaine Johnson, whom the Jets' traded back into the first round to draft, slides in after Carl Lawson and veteran Vinny Curry.
The Jets are loaded at defensive line. On the edge, it's Lawson and John Franklin-Myers atop the depth chart and the first backups listed are Curry and Jacob Martin respectively.
"The group of guys we have in our room is amazing," DT Quinnen Williams said Saturday. "Every single one of them works their butts off. Not all of them are going to be able to stay for the whole season. But we push each other to bring the best out of each other every single day. If each and every one of us is at 100 percent, if we push each other to get to 100 percent, we're going to be dangerous."
Solomon in the Middle
With Folorunso Fatukasi now a Jaguar, the Jets' defensive interior will look different this season. Quinnen Williams remains the big name of a DT group that includes Sheldon Rankins, Nathan Shepherd, Tanzel Smart and second-year player Jonathan Marshall.
HC Robert Saleh said: "One thing with our system, we don't really designate any of those guys 'run stuffers.' We want a bunch of three-techniques that just fire off the ball creating knockback."
In March, the Jets signed former Saleh pupil Solomon Thomas. Drafted third overall by the 49ers in 2017, Thomas (6-3, 280) played in 17 games for the Raiders last season and totaled a career-high 3.5 sacks plus 12 QB hits and 2 FF. He sits atop the unofficial depth chart alongside Williams.
"He is constantly just 100 miles an hour, everything he's got, doesn't leave anything left in the tank," Saleh said of Thomas. "He is an undersized guy, but when you watch him play, he plays with so much explosiveness and power that he doesn't get moved very often. Just really excited that he's here."
With Mike C.J. Mosley and OLB Quincy Williams entrenched as starters in the Jets' 4-3 base defense, it will be interesting to see who secures the third "starting " position. With Jamien Sherwood backing up Mosely at the Mike spot and fellow second-year backer Hamsah Nasirildeen penciled in behind Williams, former Niners backer Marcel Marcell Harris is currently sits with the first team on the depth chart. Harris is followed by Kwon Alexander, a recent free-agent addition, and rookie DQ Thomas.
While the Jets figure to be in nickel/sub most of the time, Alexander should push for playing time immediately.
"It's always good to add more guys," DC Jeff Ulbrich said after the Alexander signing. "You know, Coke [the Coca-Cola soft drink] is really good, but Coke is even better with something added. You know what I'm talking about. He's an addition to our Coke.
"He's awesome. He's got this infectious energy, he got an edge and the ability to elevate the people around him. It will make us better in practice, meetings and ultimately on Sundays."