An optimist whose patience has continually been on display this summer, Jets head coach Robert Saleh knows there will be ebbs and flows with his youthful bunch. It was June when he told reporters that you cannot be afraid to play young guys and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And as training camp ended on Wednesday in Florham Park with the second of two joint practices against the Philadelphia Eagles, Saleh pointed to the invaluable experiences his players have gotten the past few weeks.
Both the Eagles' first- and second-unit offenses scored TDs in a two-minute drill at the end of practice and Saleh, a linebackers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2014-16, immediately thought of teachable moments. Philly QB Jalen Hurts connected with WR Greg Ward on a short pass over the middle with seconds ticking down, but Ward had space and he took advantage by making a move and then darting into the end zone. Later Joe Flacco, who backed up Sam Darnold last season for the Jets, threw a rope into the back of the end zone that was hauled in by TE Jack Stroll.
"We have young [Jamien] Sherwood sitting in the middle and just a simple precision in terms of just going a little bit too far in his drop opened up the middle of the field, which resulted in an explosive play," Saleh said of the first score. "And Hamsah [Nasirildeen] getting hand-to-hand out there on the second drive where he looks back just enough for a veteran quarterback to slip it behind his left ear. It's like, God, these are real reps that you cannot re-create. I don't care how many times you try in practice, you can't re-create them. For them to get those moments, to see it on tape and learn to adjust for the next time it happens because it will — I feel like you can't draw it up any better expect we wish we had some of those injuries in check."
Sherwood, a fifth-round pick out of Auburn, has replaced veteran 'backer Jarrad Davis (ankle) in the starting lineup while Nasirildeen, a sixth-round pick from Florida State, took a lot of reps with the first unit early in camp. As Saleh said at the end of training camp, the light might be a freight train or it might be an actual light. The Jets will need sunglasses in the regular season because light can lead to the exposure of holes and it also can showcase growth.
With three preseason games in 2021, Saleh maximized his team's time with joint sessions with the Packers and the Eagles. After matching up with an elite team in Green Bay and one of the best to ever play in QB Aaron Rodgers, the Jets returned from a long week in the Midwest and were greeted by an Eagles team that is powerful on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Saleh said: "This is a veteran offensive line and defensive line and a really good, talented offensive and defensive line. So to get that work against them, to get the work with a Hall of Fame quarterback, the amount of work that we've gotten not only as units, but players and all that stuff, I think they're priceless. You guys know how much I love the intersquad practices. I feel like it's been very good."
With Friday's preseason finale on deck, Saleh would like to play rookie QB Zach Wilson and many of his starters for no more than a half against the Eagles. Nothing had been finalized, but the Jets' first-year head coach saw a lot of progress this summer and he's never been a big fan of pumping the brake.
"We have a ridiculously young team and they are growing and learning and all these experiences are important are so important to them," he said. "I feel like they've gotten so much better from the first day of camp to know. To pull off now, I feel like we would be doing them an injustice."
Response on Day 2
Just like last week in Green Bay, the Jets had a better effort on the last day of their joint session with the Eagles. The defense stood tall by the goal line, turning the Philly offense away on a number of short-yardage runs. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, whose workload increased this week, stopped an Eagles RB in his tracks and is beginning to peel off the rust.
"The first day we kind of struggled a little bit, but today I actually felt like we came out and got after it a lot," Williams said. "You could see it clearly on the field and the film that we got after it today. As a defensive line, we were strong and physical today. Also you had guys on the back end finishing tackles and having that mindset that we're not going to let anybody score on us or just walk into our end zone. Everybody felt like we had that mindset today and came out and executed and was very physical today against Philly."
Safety Marcus Maye flashed his versatility, stopping an end around to WR Jalen Reagor and coming up with a pass defense of a Hurts ball intended for TE Zach Ertz.
See the Top Photos on a Hot Day with the Jets and Eagles at 1 Jets Drive
Veteran DE Vinny Curry, the former Eagle who was placed on the Reserve/NFI list on Tuesday, revealed on social media on Wednesday that he has a rare blood disorder that required the removal of his spleen. During his recovery, blood clots formed and forced him to go on blood thinners, which prevent Curry from having any physical contact for the next three-to-six months. Curry thanked doctors in a statement and said, "I will be back stronger and more determined than ever."
The Jets have officially added Matt Cavanagh to the offensive staff to serve as a senior offensive assistant for OC Mike LaFleur. This will be a second stint for Cavanagh -- he was the Jets quarterbacks coach from 2009-12 under HC Rex Ryan and under OCs Brian Schottenheimer and Tony Sparano.
Rookie RB Michael Carter had a pair of impressive scores on Wednesday, getting in on the ground after charging through Eagles S Marcus Epps and then through the air as the North Carolina product took a screen pass from QB Zach Wilson and followed a convoy led by C Connor McGovern and G Dan Feeney. Speaking of screens, WR Braxton Berrios got into the end zone after a short toss from Wilson. And veteran WR Keelan Cole came down with a Wilson pass, maintaining possession despite a pop from Eagles S Andrew Abrams.
LT Mekhi Becton is in the concussion protocol after he sustained a head injury in Tuesday's practice. … RG Greg Van Roten had a veteran rest day. … reserve OL Jimmy Murray was carted off the field, but it did not appear to be a leg injury. … RB La'Mical Perine is dealing with a foot ailment. … WR Denzel Mims (hip), CB Justin Hardee (hip), DL Jabari Zuniga (knee) and OL Chuma Edoga (knee) did not practice. ... T Sheldon Rankins (knee) returned to practice.
The final words go to Wilson, who now has training camp one under his belt: "It's really adjusting to the game, understanding when to take risks and when not and understanding how to eliminate negative plays I think that's the biggest thing as a quarterback is how can I eliminate negative plays and keep us in a positive situation to keep converting on those third downs. They're tough in the NFL. How easy of a third down can I give us as a team, I feel like I've gotten better at that standpoint and just getting on the same page as the receivers and understanding the kind of routes those guys run."