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Rookie Recap | C Joe Tippmann, Undrafted WR Xavier Gipson Stood Out in Year 1

DE Will McDonald Had 3 Sacks Over Final 5 Weeks, T Carter Warren a ‘Pleasant Surprise’


With the New York Jets 2023 NFL season in the rearview, here is a lookat how the Green & White's rookie class performed.

DE Will McDonald IV
DE Will McDonald, the Jets first-round pick (No. 15 overall) in last April's draft, played sparingly as a rookie averaging, 12.2 snaps per game on defense in 15 appearances. The Jets depth at the D-line position made it difficult for McDonald to crack the rotation and resulted in him playing primarily on special teams.

The Iowa State product, however, came on late with 3 sacks in the final five weeks. He finished the season with 14 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 7 pressures.

"I've always said aside from quarterback, the D-line is as hard as any position to adapt to in the NFL because it's a completely different game in there," HC Robert Saleh said. "So, I'm excited for him. He's got a talent and a skill set that's very rare, and as he continues to evolve and develop his skill set along with his body, he's going to be a problem for a long time." 

Pass rusher Jermaine Johnson produced similar stats his rookie year with 2.5 sacks, 3 TFL and 7 pressures before taking a leap to 7.5 sacks and 25 pressures in Year 2. Saleh said he sees McDonald following a similar path.

"I've been taking advantage of my opportunities with the reps I've been getting, so I'm going to continue to do that," McDonald said. "I'm taking after Jermaine, Bryce [Huff] and them. They teach me everything I need to know so that when I get in, I'm already ready for what I need to be doing."

C Joe Tippmann
C Joe Tippmann, the Jets' second-round pick (No. 43), spent most of the training camp playing with the second team. But after early-season injuries to the Jets O-line, Tippmann started at right guard in Week 3 and then became the starting center in Week 9 after an injury to Connor McGovern. He handled being thrust into the starting lineup in stride.

"I guess I didn't know what to expect, especially I ended up starting at guard in Week 3," Tippmann said of his rookie season. "After that, I was like, 'Oh [crap], I'm going to be a guard in the NFL.' Then whatever week it was I moved to center. It has had its … I don't want to say ups and downs, but it's had its surprises."

In total, Tippmann, a Wisconsin product, started 14 games (4 at guard, 10 at center) and played in 16. Tippmann received a 61.0 offense grade from Pro Football Focus, theeighth-highest among rookie O-linemen and the second-highest among rookie centers.

"He's did a really nice job," Saleh said. "He got a battle scar every week, which is what you want out of a rookie. He's going to be a very good center for a very long time, a very good center for a long time. He's a special mind, he's a special individual, he strains, he's got good feet. Every day he's learning something new, it's important to him. He's going to be a Jet for a damn long time."

T Carter Warren
T Carter Warren, the Jets' fourth-round pick (No. 120) out of  Pittsburgh, sustained an injury during the preseason and was placed on IR to start the season. He returned to practice at the start of October.

Despite the setback, Warren was thrust into action in Week 11 after an injury to LT Mekhi Becton. Saleh referred to Warren as a "pleasant surprise" after he came on in relief against Buffalo.

Warren started five of the last seven games – one at LT and four at RT. With each week he progressed and surprised Saleh and others with his versatility and toughness. Veteran LG Laken Tomlinson said Warren showed "real guts" throughout the year.

"He missed all of OTAs with an injury, missed all of training camp with an injury, got to the 53," Saleh added. "I thought he's done a remarkable job for a rookie. He's still getting better. His big thing this offseason, get strong. Find some more strength and come outand compete."

WR/PR Xavier Gipson
WR/PR Xavier Gipson, an undrafted rookie from Stephen F. Austin, made an immediate impact with agame-winning punt return TD in Week 1 against the Bills. Since the epic return, Gipson has progressed into an all-purpose weapon playing 30-plus snaps on offense in each of the last eight weeks after surpassing that mark once in the first seven weeks.

Over 17 games (3 starts), Gipson recorded 21 receptions for 229 yards and rushed 8 times for 68 yards and a touchdown. His fancy footwork took the league by storm as he racked up 9 forced miss tackles, second on the team behind Garrett Wilson.

"I think he was learning on the fly as every young rookie does," special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. "I think there are some things he is doing really well and when you talk to the opposite coaches and everything, they don't want to give him opportunities. He is getting more comfortable every time he is back there, but certainly a couple of balls have hit the ground that we need to catch, but he is progressing every day, getting better at catching every day, and he has a bright future."

WR Jason Brownlee
WR Jason Brownlee, an undrafted free agentfrom Southern Mississippi, made the team during training camp but didn't make quite the immediate impact as Gipson. Brownlee was inactive for 10 of the Jets' first 14 games.

Brownlee started the final three games and recorded his first NFL TD reception in Week 16 against the Commanders. He finished the season with 5 receptions for 56 yards. After he played 112 snaps on offense over the first 14 games, Brownlee posted 199 offensive snaps in the final three games.

Take a look through some of the best photos throughout the Jets 2023 season.

RB Israel Abanikanda
RB Israel Abanikanda, the Jets' fifth-round pick (No. 143) from the University of Pittsburgh, flashed in the preseason with several explosive runs, but started the season with nine consecutive gameday inactives. After the team released RB Michael Carter in Week 11, over the final seven weeks, he appeared in five games and rushed 22 times for 708 yards.

The Brooklyn-born RB's game appearances in the final week allowed him to get comfortable withthe speed of the NFL.

LB Zaire Barnes
LB Zaire Barnes, the first of the Jets' two sixth-round draft picks (No. 184), was the only player the team drafted in 2023 that did not see the field on offense or defense. The Jets veteran trio of LBs, C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams and Jamien Sherwood, made it difficult for the Western Michigan product to break through. Barnes played 32 snaps on special teams between Weeks 8-11.

CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse
CB Jarrick Bernard-Converse, a sixth-round pick (No. 204) from LSU, spent the start of the season on IR before being activated in Week 10. He was made active for the final eight games and played 4 defensive snaps and 101 snaps on special teams.

TE Zack Kuntz
TE Zack Kuntz, the Jets' seventh-round pick (No. 220) from Old Dominion, did not play until Week 18 against the Patriots where he took 2 snaps on offense and 4 on special teams.

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