The Jets defense stepped up its game by stepping on some young quarterbacks the past two weeks.
The Steelers' Kenny Pickett, for instance, completed all 13 of his second-half passes. Unfortunately for him, fortunately for the Green & White, three of those "completions" were interceptions to Jets defensive backs to help spur the comeback victory. The Dolphins' Skylar Thompson was bounced around like a bumper car by Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Quinnen Williams and the pass rush.
But this week the task is not to tame a rookie QB playing in his first NFL game. It's taking on Aaron Rodgers, and that, said Williams, will require the Jets to rise even higher.
"He's a Hall of Fame quarterback, man. He's Aaron Rodgers. Nothing needs to be said," the Jets defensive lineman said after Wednesday's practice. "Everyone in this organization knows you've got to be effective, you can't beat yourself up front or on the back end against him. He's been doing it 18 years. You've got to execute to another high level, be dominant to another high level. You've got to go to another level because guys like this can beat you single-handedly."
As you can tell, the not-so-secret description by the Jets of the Packers' quarterback this week goes by the initials of HOF. One suspects the idea isn't to flatter Rodgers into mistakes at Lambeau Field on Sunday, it's to remind the Jets of the chores they must undertake in Cheeseland, USA, to come out of this game with their third road victory of the season.
"He's a special talent, obviously," head coach Robert Saleh said. "He gets the ball where it needs to go, he gets it there quick. He can change the play at the line of scrimmage. He makes everyone around him better. He challenges you from a defensive standpoint to substitutions to everything."
And what things does Rodgers do specifically to accumulate his mind-numbing numbers, such as 56,517 passing yards, 457 touchdown passes, 96 interceptions for a TD/INT ratio of 4.76 to 1, solidly the best in NFL history for all QBs with 1,000-plus attempts? Not to mention a career passer rating of 104.3, third-best all-time, and a win-loss record of 142-68-1, which includes a 3-0 mark against the Jets?
"It's just trust your teammates," Saleh said. "I think Aaron does an unbelievable job with it. He gets the ball to his players in space, and he gets it out quick and those guys will get 4, 5 yards, break a tackle, and next thing you know it's 10, 15. It takes all 11 to make a play work, and the great quarterbacks understand that and they get the ball where they need to get it as quickly as possible, and they trust that their playmakers will make plays for them."
"If you make it a tight window, he still fits the ball in there. That's just what it is," S Jordan Whitehead said. "And Rodgers has the hard count. He's an old vet that just knows how to play the game, so you've got to really stay disciplined. He going to make some throws, some Tom Brady throws."
At least Rodgers seems to be having some downs to go along with his usual ups. For one thing, he's got a right thumb injury that kept him out of Wednesday's practice. For another, Green Bay's passing offense ranks 20th in yards/game after five weeks — Rodgers has finished out of the NFL's top 10 in this category only three times in his 14 previous seasons as the Packers' starter. In the Pack's post-Davante Adams world, they're breaking in a new group of receivers around old slot standby Randall Cobb and ageless TE Marcedes Lewis, such as WRs Allen Lazard and Romeo Doubs and TE Robert Tonyan.
But that still maturing passing game gets triggered by the effective 11th-ranked run game led by the Pack's own one-two punch of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
"You've got to stop the run first," Williams said. "Then you've got to deal with Aaron Rodgers."
Williams, thought, was far from throwing up his hands and wailing, "Woe are we." The Jets are feeling pretty good about themselves and where they're headed. WR Corey Davis, who won't have to battle Rodgers by trying to stop him but only by trying to outscore him, explained the mindset that's spreading like wildfire around One Jets Drive.
"That's what you want. In order to be the best, you've got to play the best," Davis said. "The Packers are one of the best, a great team. Aaron Rodgers obviously is a future Hall of Famer. He's done a few things in his career. So we're going to be on top of our game and do what we've got to do to go out there and get this win."
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Packers game.