Rookie Class Limited to Conditioning
If you wanted to spot any of the Jets' seven-player 2022 NFL Draft class during camp, your best bet was to find the team's head strength & conditioning coach, Mike Nicolini. During most of the two workouts including 7-on-7 action, Nicolini had a group of rookies working on footwork, change of direction and speed drills.
"The reason being for it all is their schedules over the last month have been rigorous with regards to travel and the lack of working out that they've been able to fit in, very spotted, wasn't worth bringing them in here and injuring them or risking injury," head coach Robert Saleh said. "Let them go off to the side, let's get a great weekend of work in for them and it also gives us a better chance to get eyes on the tryout guys rather than the entire organization being fixated on the new draft picks."
WR Garrett Wilson, the second of the Jets' three-first round picks, added: "I love playing and being out there. But not competing and not being hurt, not doing the competitive stuff, it's hard for me to watch, being the way I am. But just putting on the threads, it's starting to sink in a little bit, finally."
Saleh, admittedly, remains scarred from his Dante Fowler experience in Jacksonville. While serving as the Jaguars linebackers coach in 2015, Saleh watched Fowler, a University of Florida product who was taken with the No. 3 overall selection, tear his ACL on the first day of minicamp and subsequently miss his entire rookie year.
"It's just not worth it," Saleh said. "With those draft picks, they're not in any danger. There's nothing to learn, they can go through the process without going through it and then to get them that extra work. Again, just one person's opinion, a million ways to do it. They're still getting in great work, they're still going through all the meetings, they're still going through all the walk-throughs, so they're getting in good work."
Change in OTA Format
The Jets, who are in the middle week of their Phase 2 workouts, are scheduled to begin voluntary OTAs on May 23. They'll have 10 OTAs over three weeks before wrapping up the offseason with a mandatory minicamp the week of June 13. In addition to changing his approach to rookie camp, Saleh will alter his OTA format for the linemen.
"We're going to be more cognizant with regards to our bigs, so it's going to be a lot more 7-on-7 this year, making sure that the quarterback, receivers and the back end of the defensive are getting in all their work," he said. "But the bigs, instead of the banging, they're going to be a lot more individual-based and we're going to have a lot more walk-throughs to get the bigs incorporated, again trying to save their bodies."
It will be interesting to see how the Jets will simulate a pass rush this spring.
"We're coming up with a creative way to keep that timing and that distraction level for the quarterback," Saleh said.
Two College Tryouts Land on Roster
Saleh said last Saturday that some of the team's 54 tryout players caught his eye during the two sessions and there would be a discussion who to add to the 90-man roster. WR Calvin Jackson, Jr., and OL Derrick Kelly signed with the Green & White on Monday morning.
Jackson, who also returned punts in last weekend, had a career-high 66 catches, 987 yards (second among Pac-12 WRs) and 7 TDs at Washington State in 2021. Kelly first signed with the Saints in 2019 as an undrafted free agent out of FSU. He spent two seasons with New Orleans and played in 6 games in 2020 before joining the Giants practice squad in 2021.
Making a team as a tryout player is an uphill climb, but Saleh referred to former Seahawks DL Benson Mayowa as someone who carved out his path from tryout player to Super Bowl champion in 2013.
"He comes to the tryout, dominates for three days," he said. "Makes it to the 90-man roster, dominates during OTAs and training camp. Makes it to the 53-man roster as an undrafted tryout guy on the Super Bowl team. That defensive line, everyone remembers how good that one was, and he was there the entire year. He's still in the league to this day, so he's the one that stands out to me."
Ruckert Still Rehabbing
TE Jeremy Ruckert, the team's third-round pick out of Ohio State, did not participate in the same conditioning as the six other draft picks. He's still rehabbing a foot injury he sustained at the Senior Bowl. The rookies can join the veterans starting next week in OTAs, but Saleh is uncertain if Ruckert will participate on the field.
"We'll see where he's at next week as we get closer to Phase 3, but I know he's working through it," he said. "He feels good, it's just a matter of continuing to rehab and all that stuff."
See the 2022 Jets rookies on the field for the second practice during Rookie Minicamp at 1 Jets Drive.
QB Zach Wilson Looks Different; Edge Carol Lawson Remains an 'Animal'
Last week, players and coaches took the field together for the first time since the end of last season as Phase 2 of the voluntary offseason program started. Saleh said that he could tell the players have put in a lot of work since January and specifically mentioned second-year QB Zach Wilson and DE Carl Lawson.
Wilson looks "beefy in a good way" after putting on more weight and has already shown an improved command of the offense.
"There's little things he's doing where you're seeing more security," Saleh said. "He's not a rookie, so he's being a little more vocal. He looks good, he's getting more comfortable. … He's much further ahead at this point than he was a year ago."
Lawson is sprinting and "ready to roll" after rupturing his Achilles tendon last August, but he will not participate in any 11-on-11 periods throughout the spring.
"I think he's been ready to roll since the second he tore it," Saleh said. "The guy is an animal with rehab. So, I'm not worried about his availability."
He later added: "I'm really excited for him to be able to get back to the field healthy. He's put in so much work to get to this point where he is and I know he's not even close to stopping."
Love for Lazar
The Jets honored Lazar LaPenna throughout the weekend. Lazar, a fourth grader at East Elementary School on Long Island, died recently when he sustained an epileptic seizure after getting a hit in a youth baseball game. Inside the club's fieldhouse. The Jets hung a No. 9 jersey with Lapenna's name on it and they didn't issue the No. 9 to any player. On Friday, Jets GM Joe Douglas and Saleh both wore black sweatshirts with No. 9 and LaPenna adorned on the back.
"An absolute tragedy," Saleh said.