It may have been more than 90 degrees in Florham Park for the first of two joint practices with the Eagles, but there may as well have been snow on the ground and a reindeer in the sky. Head coach Robert Saleh was elated as a handful of injured players returned to practice.
"It was kind of like Christmas," Saleh said. "We had a few guys back. We had Elijah Moore back, Alijah Vera-Tucker came back. Quinnen [Williams] got more reps, so it was good to get those guys back in the fold. [Jason] Pinnock made a return today, so we're getting some healthy bodies back."
Moore picked up where he left off even though he and Vera-Tucker both were on a pitch count, taking 10-12 reps as they ramp up for Week 1 at Carolina. Moore, who continually flashed before sustaining a quad injury, connected with QB Zach Wilson for a chunk gain on a post-corner route down the left sideline with Eagles CB Avonte Maddox in coverage.
"I'm really just selling my eyes and my hips and everything," Moore said of the play. "I have to make him believe that I'm running a post. As soon as he gave his eyes, he played a little inside, I knew I had room to go on the outside. Zach put a good ball, I kept my feet in and moved the chains."
Saleh said that the staff will determine whether Moore, Vera-Tucker and Williams, who received a heavier workload Tuesday, would play against the Eagles in Friday's preseason finale. Moore said he's day to day, but the plan is for him to make his preseason debut Friday.
"I love the fact how I get back out there and the whole time being inside and taking mental reps, it was like I was really out there," he said. "I really didn't feel like I was gone. Mental reps are just as important as being out there. Even when I was in Green Bay, I was learning so much. I look at everything as a positive and it definitely was."
On the negative side of the injury spectrum, LT Mekhi Becton exited practice with a head injury out of precaution after a collision with an Eagles defender. Last week in Green Bay, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said that Becton (6-7, 363) wasn't playing his best football and working through "some things."
When asked about that comment, Saleh said, "One, he missed all of OTAs. Two, it's a completely different scheme that he's in. Not only run game, but from a protection standpoint. When he's used to just getting in front of people and mauling them, we're asking him to run off the ball and do things a little bit differently than he's used to. It's not just inside zone and maul the guy in front of you because you're just a big human. We're trying to extract the athleticism that he has, which he does.
"There's an adjustment that he has to go through. Obviously for him and everybody else. Quinnen is out there and these are his first reps, so he's rusty. But we like where Mekhi is going and we need to continue to build on the positive and keep showing him when he does do it right, harp on that and correct the times when it's not."
3-4 Back to a 4-3
Last week in Green Bay, the Jets O-line was challenged by a 3-4 defensive front. This week with the Eagles in town, the line is matching up against a 4-3 Eagles front.
Veteran RG Greg Van Roten said: "Philly is a very physical defensive front, a lot different than what we've seen in the first two preseason games. Kind of similar to our defense, honestly, so it was good to go against a different look – a four-down front versus a three-down front to kind of get us ready for what we're going to see Week 1 against Carolina as well."
In addition to the return of Vera-Tucker, veteran T Morgan Moses (personal) was back at practice after missing Saturday's game. The Eagles might have finished 4-11-1 last season, but their team is not devoid of talent and that's especially the case on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The headliner on the defensive side is DT Fletcher Cox, who's racked up 54.5 career sacks.
"Definitely a lot of things to learn from in this practice," GVR said of Tuesday' session. "Going forward, you always want to build on it and correct the things that you did wrong and then build and perfect the things you did well. Going into tomorrow, we definitely want to respond to today's practice and take it to the next level."
In a two-minute simulation at the end of practice, the offense went three-and-out. But Wilson, who faced strong pressure at times, earlier connected on seven consecutive throws. Last week, the offense took it up a notch the second session of joint practices with the Packers. They'll get their chance Wednesday against the Birds.
"Just to get better as an offense," Van Roten said. "A big thing we're working on right now is our tempo, in and out of the huddle, working our calls and helping Zach to play fast, so he has more time at the line of scrimmage to diagnose the defense."
See the Best Images from Tuesday's Joint Practice at 1 Jets Drive
While Jason Pinnock was back in pads, the Jets got a scare late in practice when rookie Brandin Echols defended a vertical pass and landed hard on his hip. He is getting evaluated this afternoon. … S Lamarucs Joyner (lower back), WR Denzel Mims (hip) and DT Sheldon Rankins(knee) all have minor injuries and Robert Saleh indicated they'd be good to go if it was a game week. …
Rookie LB Jamien Sherwood and veteran Noah Dawkins lined up with the first team at linebacker, flanking C.J. Mosley. Sharrod Neasman continues to work with Marcus Maye at safety. J.T. Hassell, who had a forced fumble and a sack in Green Bay, had an interception of Joe Flacco that was negated by a PD infraction by a Jets CB. … Eagles QB Jalen Hurts got a boost from a couple of pass interference flags in the Eagles' two-minute drill, eventually culminating a long drive with a TD pass to Jalen Reagor.
Our final word today goes to Saleh, who took a macro approach when asked about pass protection struggles: "I'll speak for the entire team — nothing is where we want it to be. I know that's what's going to catch the headline, but that's part of training camp. We're building, we're trying to get ourselves better. We're working every single day and the reality is we'll never be where we want to be. We're always going to try and improve.
"It's a hard blank statement in terms of not being where we want to be, but you could ask me on a 16-0 team and I'll tell you we're still not where we want to be. We're trying to improve things, we want things to be better. We want to challenge ourselves to find a way to inch… It's a whole mantra – go to bed better than you woke up. With regards to all of it and to Mike's (LaFleur) sentiment, absolutely. It could be a lot better and I think it is getting better."