Even though NFL teams know their opponents for months before the schedule is released, there's still excitement when it becomes official. It means football is one step closer. For Jets HC Robert Saleh, the planning can begin in earnest.
"It's exciting to get the schedule and see what we got going on over the course of the year and put the schedule together with regards of how we're going to operate day to day," he said on NFL Network's schedule-release show.
There are a few things most people look for when the schedule is released. First, the opener. If it's a road game, then the home opener followed by prime time matchups and the bye. The Jets' opener comes at Carolina when they'll see a familiar face in QB Sam Darnold, whom GM Joe Douglas traded in April.
"You knew we were going to see somebody Week 1," Saleh said. "The fact that it's Sam doesn't change the approach, but I am excited for Sam and his opportunity. He's a fantastic young man and it's going to be a great challenge to go against him."
When the Green & White dealt Darnold, they knew they'd play the Panthers in 2021. This could also be rookie QB Zach Wilson's first NFL start after being selected No. 2 overall, but Saleh said it's too early to talk about who will be starting, especially under center. They're taking it day by day.
"The plan for everyone is to get them to the level that they're all starting and to give them their best chance to compete," he said. "I always challenge anyone to talk to anybody on the 90-man roster as they're preparing for training camp to ask them if they're preparing to be a backup or a starter. I promise you they're all trying to be starters and so we're going to approach everybody on the roster to do our best to help them become what their vision is."
The Jets' off week comes in Week 6 after playing the Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. In the first 18-week schedule (17 games) in NFL history, that's on the earlier side.
"It is tough, but we do have the Thursday night game in Week 9 [at Indianapolis], which is kind of a mini bye," Saleh said. "Once that mini bye comes off, we have a lot of back-to-back home games with no back-to-back road games. They kind of did us a favor on the back end of it to ease the pain on the early bye week."
With preseason games just three months away, the expectation is that when football comes back, so will the fans after empty stadiums in 2020.
"I'm excited," Saleh said. "I've said it before that this Jets fanbase reminds me of the Michigan State Spartan crowd. I got my master's degree there. They're passionate, they're invested in the team, they're absolutely starving for something good to happen and our hope is that we deliver on that hunger. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be fun and they're every bit a part of this as we are. It's going to be a cool experience to go through."