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Jets HC Robert Saleh: 'Disguised in the Negative,' Offense Is Making Progress

RB Tevin Coleman Showcases Versatility on Special Teams; Jets Excited for Return of LB Jarrad Davis


Jets head coach Robert Saleh has an endearing manner of using personal anecdotes as metaphors for his -- and his players' -- approach to football.

He was at it again -- in an interview on "Jets Gameday With Robert Saleh" that airs Sundays on CBS 2 NY TV at 11:30 a.m. -- into a question about the progress of rookie quarterback Zach Wilson through the first five games of the 2021 NFL season ... and of the BYU product's professional career.

After last week's loss to Atlanta in London, Wilson attributed some of the challenges to being too "robotic" in his play, sometimes making the simple things too complex.

"I can't speak for him, but I can see where he's coming from because of the fact that he's trying to be perfect, trying to go through his reads, go through his progressions and footwork, I could feel why he sees it that way," Saleh said. "It will become more natural as he gets comfortable."

And here comes the parable. ...

"This is a young man full of energy and a lot of anticipation. I've been telling the guys that I'm an avid golfer and I got a chance to play Pine Valley [in central Wisconsin] this year. I was super-excited. I laid out my clothes, polished my clubs, had my shoes ready to roll. I shaved. Everything was great. I went to range two hours early and had an unbelievable session. I get to the first tee and bam, I just laid an egg. The first four holes I was 10-over. I said why don't I just swing, use my athleticism. I then go even-par the rest of the way. Why not at the start. It's just a matter of reps. Don't make it bigger than it is and that goes for a lot of guys, not just him. The amount of time it's taking him is getting to be less."

The moral: Slow it down, don't overthink things, relax, and let your talent and skill drive the bus.

Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur are all in on Wilson, confident that their confident rookie is growing in his understanding and comfort, though the results for the Jets (1-4) are there for the taking in the next 12 games of the regular season.

"We've said before: start fast, finish faster," Saleh said. "We are finishing faster, now it's a matter of starting fast."

The team has yet to score a point in the first quarter of games, and has tallied 13 points in the first half across five games.

"As I've said before, his process, mental horsepower, his recall are through the roof," Saleh said of Wilson. "His work ethic is phenomenal. He's going to have a lot of success and is going in the right direction. It's a matter of getting reps, the experience of letting the game slow down. As it does slow down, we'll see the arm talent. We've seen it, but in the third quarter. If you go to the Tennessee game, all the quality NFL throws were happening in the late second, third and fourth quarters. He's getting more comfortable. It's only a matter of time, but he is getting better."

Against the Falcons last week, the Jets rallied from a big deficit to get within 3 points, 20-17, with about 7 minutes left in regulation. A stop on defense would have put the Green & White in position to tie or win the game. It did not happen. After totaling 20 points in their first three games, the Green & White scored 47 in their past two contests.

"Disguised in negative is an offense improving week-in week-out that can move the ball and can put up points," Saleh said. "Every single person thought if we can get a stop, we're going to win the football game. The offense was waiting to get the ball back to score. This is a young group getting better. It's a matter of starting fast so we can finish faster. Now we just need to put it together for four quarters."

Quick Hits
• The Jets gave veteran RB Tevin Coleman a go returning kickoffs last week. He returned the second-half kickoff 65 yards, leading to a TD run by Ty Johnson. In his seven-year NFL career (the first four seasons with the Falcons), Coleman had never been asked to return kicks.

Saleh, of course, said there was a story behind [defensive coordinator Jeff] Ulbrich and special teams coordinator Brant Boyer sounding out Coleman.

"The funny story there, and I give Ulbrich credit on this one ... When they were in Atlanta [Ulbrich was there from 2015-20 in various positions] he kept asking Tevin 'why don't you return kicks.' Tevin said that he had never been asked. We get to San Fran and we never talked about it. We get here and Brick asks Brant what he thinks of Tevin as returner. 'Man, he'd be awesome,' Brant said. So Tevin went back there, fielded a couple and away we go. Credit to Tevin to get in there and give himself an opportunity to touch the ball. I thought it was a cool moment for Tevin and every player on the team. It doesn't matter how many years you've been in the league, it's never too late to jump on a team and never too late to add another tool to your toolbox. It's so cool for Tevin."

• LB Jarrad Davis, signed in free agency, could possibly return from an ankle injury and be ready to face the Patriots on Oct. 24. Davis has not played in a regular-season game for the Jets thus far.

"JD, it's his leadership, speed, length and smarts, and having him out there brings stability. It's not a knock on other guys, Quincy [Williams], Jamien [Sherwood] or Naz [Hamsah Nasirildeen, who is injured]. Jarrad is champing at the bit. He brings a lot, he was a first-round pick for a reason. We're excited for him to show why he was a first-round pick."

The expected return of Davis gives the Jets a good problem at linebacker. C.J. Mosley has been having a stellar season, and Quincy Williams (picked up off the waiver wire) has emerged as a hard-hitting dervish.

"Joe [GM Joe Douglas] did a phenomenal job finding him on the waiver wire. He's caused three fumbles, not from ripping it out but by hitting so hard the balls are coming loose. He's another young man [25] who you give him reps and let him loose. He knows what he needs to do to get better. He's an NFL football player and deserves to be on the field."

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