It's been eight months since Jets HC Robert Saleh has experienced a regular-season game.The last time he was donning scarlet and gold as a defensive coordinator. Now in green and white, he's gearing up for his first game as an NFL head coach.
"As we get closer, just like being a position coach and a coordinator, my blood starts flowing a little bit faster, which is natural," Saleh told reporters on Monday. "Right now, it's all about the players and giving them every opportunity and all the focus is on them to help them make plays on Sunday, that's most important.
"I really don't think about what it means for me or anything. Everything is about them because at the end of the day, they're the ones that are putting on the uniforms, they're the ones inside the white lines, they're the ones that have to execute at a very high level. It's our job to make sure they're given every opportunity to do that. Not to underscore the question, I'm sure I'll be amped as all heck on Sunday. But right now there's calm and preparation that has to take place."
With an extra week between the final preseason game and the start of the regular season, Saleh said the coaches' focus didn't extend past the Panthers in Week 1. The Jets are obviously familiar with Panthers QB Sam Darnold and have a good sense of Carolina's system because the coaches – HC Matt Rhule, OC Joe Brady and DC Phil Snow all remained from last season – but Saleh is expecting wrinkles in Year 2.
"There's going to be a lot of new things that show up," he said. "Lot of respect for Joe Brady and his ability to create different types of schemes and different issue plays. Same thing from the defensive side of the ball, coming from [Baylor], that college system a year ago and what they've been able to evolve. They got better as the year went on. They're extremely fast on defense. So, it's a challenge just because there's going to be wrinkles that nobody knows about, those unscouted looks. We just have to play good, sound, disciplined football and do the best we can to defend it and attack it."
Decisions at RT & CB Close to the Vest
Saleh wouldn't tip his hand about who would start at right tackle between George Fant and Morgan Moses, which will carry into Sunday's game. At CB, Saleh mentioned he had an idea who would start on the outside but wanted to let the week play out. He said last week that rookies Jason Pinnock, Brandin Echols and Isaiah Dunn are competing for a starting spot as well as second-year player Javelin Guidry, who lined up at nickel throughout training camp. As for how long of a leash that starter will have? That's up to the player.
"It all depends on the look in his eyes," he said. "If it looks like he's under control and he's made a couple mistakes and he can recapture the moment, then we're going to roll as long as we can. I've also seen the flip side where they got that glass look in their eye and they're like, 'Holy cow, what the heck's going on. It's going too fast.' Just to be able to recognize that but, the good thing is, with all these guys who are competing for this spot, they're built the right way. We're anticipating a guy who's going to go in there and fight his tail off, work through any mistakes he may or may not have and finish the game."
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Jets WR Jamison Crowder, who tested positive for COVID-19, is considered day-to-day. After clearing symptoms, he can return once he presents two negative tests because he's vaccinated, according to Saleh. Saleh, who added he does not believe any players will be ruled out after coming back from an extended break, did not rule out Crowder or any other players for Sunday's game. … RB La'Mical Perine (foot) is day-to-day and LT Mekhi Becton (concussion) could be officially cleared Tuesday.
"He's at practice," Saleh said of Becton. "He's going through everything and then he'll be officially clear for gameday tomorrow. But he is at practice."