Jets-Eagles Preseason Game Preview

4 Things to Watch as HC Robert Saleh and QB Zach Wilson Lead the Green & White Into Preseason Opener

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After more than two weeks of training camp and 12 practices, the Jets will get their preseason schedule underway Friday night against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I'm definitely excited about that, excited about the opportunity to showcase our talent and showcase what we've been working on," said the Jets' new DT Solomon Thomas.

Amid the dog days of summer, the Jets had a few feisty exchanges earlier this week as tempers flared. This is a group ready to test their skills against an opponent wearing a different shade of green.

"I can't wait," WR Corey Davis said. "It gets competitive coming out here, running routes on some of the same dudes. They kind of get a bead on you a little bit, but it's good because you have to switch up your routes a little bit — make things look a little different. I'm excited to get in front of some new faces, some new numbers, and play ball."

At the end of Wednesday's practice, HC Robert Saleh reminded his players of the opportunity ahead.

"I talked about it when we broke the team down just now," he said. "It's really the first time that 31 other teams get to see your tape. Just really diving deep into the playbook, making sure you're on your P's and Q's, and executing at the highest level. Just giving yourself a chance to put your best foot forward."

Return of the Freak
It's been almost a calendar year since Carl Lawson tore his Achilles tendon during a joint practice with the Packers. After a grueling recovery, he has progressed throughout camp and is expected to get snaps with the starters Friday.

"Even the other night was just a little bit weird, being in the stadium, it's totally different than a practice," Lawson said. "Just getting that underneath my belt will be a huge confidence just for a little bit, just something."

Lawson said he felt amped and jittery before the team's Green & White scrimmage last Saturday at MetLife Stadium. The explosive pass rusher, a workaholic obsessed with football, is improving and he'll cross another hurdle in Philly.

"I've had to take a few steps back to go forward a couple of times," Lawson said. "I've had to tell myself that's O.K. just from a football standpoint, not a physical standpoint. Just like the mental part of the game, the actual plays and stuff. I'm slowly but surely getting there."

Right Tackle Change
The Jets had questions at both tackle spots before training camp began, but they were focused on the where and not the who. A left tackle competition between George Fant and Mekhi Becton never materialized as head coach Robert Saleh declared that Fant would be the team's left tackle and Becton would shift to right tackle. Fant, who had offseason knee surgery, has gradually increased his workload in team activities throughout camp. But after handling the position switch in stride, Becton, who went down in Week 1 at Carolina last year with a right knee cap dislocation, reportedly sustained an avulsion fracture to the same right knee cap on Monday and is expected to miss the season.

"That right tackle spot is open," Saleh told reporters Wednesday.

By Thursday, that opening probably closed. ESPN reported the Green & White had agreed to terms with Duane Brown. A three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, Brown started 33 regular-season games for the Seahawks in 2020-21.

"Looks great, he's in phenomenal shape," GM Joe Douglas said of Brown this week on WFAN radio in New York. "Obviously, wheels are in motion. We'll see how things work out, but it was great having him in just being around the atmosphere."

If the starting tackles in the regular season are Fant and Brown, the only question again will be who will be LT and who will be RT. As far as game with the Eagles, Chuma Edoga, a third-round pick in 2019 who has started 12 games with the Jets, and rookie Max Mitchell, a fourth-round pick with versatility, have lined up with the first team in Becton's place across from Fant in practice. Conor McDermott (low ankle sprain) is expected to miss a week or two. Healthy the first two couple weeks of camp, the Jets have some questions up front.

"Everybody came here wanting to be on the field," said RG Alijah Vera-Tucker. "Nobody comes into camp not wanting to play. It just opens up an opportunity for more guys. Everybody is ready to take on the challenge."

Saleh added: "We all got to step up and get them ready and as that evolves through camp, we'll get them ready. That's kind of where it's at and it's one of those things, it sucks, for a lack of better word, but no one cares. You've got to get up, you've got to get ready, next man up, all those dumb clichés in these moments, but we'll get them ready."

Wilson Begins Year 2
Last summer, rookie QB Zach Wilson got the preseason-opening start against the Giants and led the Jets to 3 points on two drives while connecting on 6 of 9 for 63 yards. After the offseason roster transformation and the Becton injury, Wilson will likely operate the controls against the Birds with eight different starters around him.

"I'm approaching this like it's a game week," he said. "I mean, I would say maybe the prep on the Eagles specifically isn't going to be crazy just because we're still working on ourselves. I'm going to work to prep what we've got going in this week and nailing those plays down. Shoot, if I go out there and play the whole game this week, I'll be ready for it. So, I'm going to prepare like that and just take it like it's a game one week."

Wilson's goal in the summer opener is for the offense to play clean football.

"The pre-snap penalties, you need to avoid," he said. "Mental errors, missed assignments. We need to look like a football team out there. We've got to execute, and if we do that, I think everything takes care of itself from there."

Wilson, who is expected to play about a quarter, will be followed sequentially by veterans Joe Flacco and Mike White.

Kicking Battle Is Tight
The Green & White have a good battle underway at placekicker. Both Greg Zeurlein and Eddy Piñeiro have been accurate and impressive from distance. What happens during the team's three preseason games could ultimately decide a winner.

"Fans – don't get mad," Saleh said. "There are going to be some fourth downs where we send the kicking unit out instead of going for it. It's for a reason, to see where those guys are at. It's a really good opportunity. We're going to have some opportunities to kick some field goals here in the next three games. It is neck-and-neck. They're both doing a really nice job kicking the ball, and hopefully we get some opportunities for them to do it in the game."

See the Green & White on the practice field in full pads during week three at training camp.

Veteran Watch
No matter what happens Friday, the Jets could be in the market for a veteran tackle. During the scrimmage last Saturday night, Duane Brown paid a visit. Brown (6-4, 315), a three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, started 33 regular-season games for the Seahawks in 2020-21.

"Looks great, he's in phenomenal shape," GM Joe Douglas said this week on WFAN radio in New York. "Obviously, wheels are in motion. We'll see how things work out, but it was great having him in just being around the atmosphere."

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