Over the next 24 hours, One Jets Drive will become the Boulevard of Broken Dreams for many. The Jets cannot have more than 53 players on their active roster when the clock this 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Head coach Robert Saleh, who refers to his players as young men, says the final cut deadline is never easy.
"This is by the far the worst part of football and for some of them the dream of playing professional football is over," Saleh told reporters. "For some, they're still going to be able to continue on. You never want to be the one to deliver bad news and you just hurt for them because you know how much effort and how much work they've put into it. So it's not easy, it will never be easy and it doesn't matter what role you are — whenever you have to tell somebody that their dream of playing professional football is possibly over, it's not a good thing."
Saleh (42) has 20 years of life experience on his rookie quarterback and Zach Wilson (22) is seeing one of the most significant differences in college football and the NFL. In college, many players graduate, see their eligibilities expire, transfer or choose to hang up the cleats. The NFL is a bottom-line business and more than 800 players will be searching for work this week.
"You know it is a weird thing and something I've never really experienced before and already seen some guys out of the locker room," Wilson said. "You know, it's strange because you don't really say, hey, we want to welcome this new teammate and we got rid of this guy. It's a strange process how you all of a sudden see someone else in the locker room and you're like, 'Well, he's gone, what happened?' It's a business for sure. And guys just got to take care of their opportunities and everything that's going on, but you know it's part of the game."
And it's the worst part of the game for Saleh. He believes in servant leadership, striving for each of his players to find individual success. His philosophy has struck a chord within the Jets locker room.
C Connor McGovern said: "The Jets previous head coaches have been gurus, they've been the X's and O's, we're going to beat you with the better scheme. And Saleh is we're going to beat you because we work harder and we play with harder effort. He is what I would call a leader of men. He doesn't think X's and O's win football games. He knows players win football games, so he's the kind of guy who is going to motivate everybody. He makes it simple enough to where we can play fast and play incredibly effective but not so simple that it's easy to beat. He's a head coach that I've always wanted to play for."
Learning on the Job
The Jets are led by a first-time head coach (Robert Saleh), first-time offensive coordinator (Mike LaFleur) and a defensive coordinator (Jeff Ulbrich) who had took over DC duties in Atlanta during the 2020 season. Saleh has used a lot of time this summer trying to create game-like experiences on the practice field, attempting to simulate what could/will happen on gameday.
Saleh said: "Young staff, there are some things they haven't been exposed to. But at the same time, it doesn't mean that they're crippled. They're going to find ways to get better, they're going to be able to find ways to expose themselves and they're going to learn because that's what they do. They get paid a lot of money to do it. My faith in our staff is unwavering in the sense that there are going to be learning moments, but I know we're only going to get better as time goes."
Game management coach Matt Burke is also in Saleh's ear, bringing up situations that have popped up throughout the league. During last Friday night's Jets-Eagles contest, Saleh said he could have taken a different approach with the clock.
"We could have done something (I'm not going to talk about the situation) that could have saved us a little bit more time and it was something we jot down," he said. "There are so many different things that can happen and will happen and our ability to learn is going to be what defines the staff."
See the Top Photos from Monday's Preseason Practice at 1 Jets Drive
The following Jets did not practice: LT Mekhi Becton (concussion protocol), RB Michael Carter (lower extremities), S Ashtyn Davis (foot), DL Ronnie Blair (hamstring), T George Fant (personal), TE Ryan Griffin (hamstring), S Lamacus Joyner (back), RB La'Mical Perine (foot), DL Kyle Phillips (ankle). WR Vyncint Smith (heel) and DL Jabari Zuniga (knee). Carter is expected to practice Wednesday and Davis, who could be taken off the PUP list soon, is set to begin a ramp-up period.
Last week, the Jets made it official that Matt Cavanaugh had joined the staff as a senior offensive assistant. Cavanaugh, who played in 112 games and was the Green & White's QB coach under Rex Ryan from 2009-12, will be a valuable resource to both OC Mike LaFleur and rookie QB Zach Wilson. "Mike is running the scheme part and (QB coach Rob) Calabrese does a great job on the field in regards to drills and building cut-ups and teach tapes. But to have that old soul who's been through so much and has had so many different experiences, one for Mike as a play-caller to help him through all the different questions he might have game-planning, such a valuable resource. And obviously for the quarterback, talking about all the different experiences he's had and developing quarterbacks along the way. It's very similar (God rest his soul) with (Greg Knapp) Knapper and what we were expecting out of him. To have him, he's going to provide a lot." …
Our final word this afternoon goes to C Connor McGovern, who is the man responsible for getting the ball to Wilson on gamedays and helping protect the talented Jets' passer. "He's what I would call a gamer. Not that he doesn't practice well, but he takes it to a whole another notch when it's game time. I've been really impressed with his huddle presence during game time and the way he just goes about handline the whole drive."