All eyes were on the Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, however briefly, in Saturday night's opening preseason victory over the Giants -- none moreso than the eyes of his teammates.
"He was good, but there's still a lot of stuff to work on for all of us," said offensive lineman Dan Feeney, who started at left guard in place of injured rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker. "Zach was cool, calm and collected. He was very cool in the huddle. He came in and took charge like a boss."
That is pretty heartening praise from one of the Jets' veteran players.
Wilson attempted only 9 passes, completing 6, for 63 yards and an 86.8 QB rating over a couple of series early in the game. He "bossed" the field on the Jets first drive, which came right after the defense sent the Giants to three-and-out on the first drive for either team.
After Ty Johnson gained a quick 11 yards on the Jets' first play from scrimmage, Wilson found Corey Davis (who was signed in free agency from Tennessee) for a 9-yard gain, into Giants' territory. Five plays later (and after one incomplete pass), Wilson converted on a third-and-6 play out of the shotgun, again connecting with Davis. The Jets settled for 3 points when the drive stalled.
In that series, however, Wilson offered a glimpse of his command and capability.
"He looked really comfortable, really efficient," linebacker Jarrad Davis said. "He took his time back there and took what the defense was giving him. From the defensive side, we can't ask for more. We know he can make big plays, but it's nice to see him being smart and taking care of the team. It was nice to see him doing his thing. He said he felt good out there. I'm excited to see him grow."
On his second and final series of the night, Wilson converted another third-down play, finding Keelan Cole with a pass over the middle that resulted in a 16-yard game and a first down. On that drive, which stalled when the Green & White failed to convert on fourth down, Wilson hit on three passes, collaborating with Vyncint Smith (for 12 yards), Jamison Crowder (4 yards) and Tyler Kroft (13 yards).
"He looked comfortable, like a leader out there," said second-year running back La'Mical Perine. "I told him to just go out there and have fun, and do what you always do."
Vyncint Smith said: "He's looking good."
Jonathan Marshall 'Happy to Make' a Big Play
After the Jets starting front four on the defensive line (Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Folorunso Fatukasi and John Franklin-Myers) left Saturday's game and the second unit did their thing, the third unit showed that DC Jeff Ulbrich has a lot of talent and many options at his disposal when it comes to getting to the quarterback.
DT Jonathan Marshall (6-3, 317), drafted by the Jets in the sixth round (No. 207 overall) in April's NFL Draft out of Arkansas, showed his ingenuity and desire when he shared sacks, one with fellow rookie Michael Dwumfour, the other with another rookie, Hamilcar Rashid.
"It was a great opportunity to go up against somebody else," Marshall said, referring to facing teammates in practice over the past two weeks. "I think this D-line can be great with the people we have here right now. There are a lot of guys continuing to fight and get better."
In the game, Marshall was credited with three shared tackles, one total sack (two half-sacks) and two QB hits. Not a bad night's work in a limited window..
In the second quarter, he combined with Dwumfour (a rookie out of Rutgers) to sack Giants QB Clayton Thorson for a 7-yard loss. Then late in the fourth quarter, with the Jets leading by 10-7, a Braden Mann punted pinned the Giants at their 6-yard line. Marshall led the defensive line's surge that stopped Thorson in the end zone for a safety and 2 points. He shared the sack with another rookie, undrafted free agent Rashed.
"On the first one, I was just like working a little move and it popped on me quicker than I expected," Marshall said. "On the second one, I gave two of my best moves and ran right into it. The coaches kept talking about someone making a play to stop the drive. I was happy to do it."
Vyncint Smith: A Special Play on Special Teams
The Jets appear to be stacked at wide receiver, a room that includes Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, each signed in free agency; rookie Elijah Moore (who is out injured and unlikely to face the Packers on Saturday); Jamison Crowder; Denzel Mims; Braxton Berrios; Jeff Smith; and others.
Vyncint Smith, who is entering his fourth season in the NFL, is battling for a roster spot. He had a strong game against the Giants, catching three passes for 39 yards, with a long grab of 18 yards. But his most memorable play of the game came in the fourth quarter. After Braden Mann's 46-yard punt, Smith raced down the field and acrobatically batted the ball away from the end zone. It landed out of bounds at the Giants' 1-yard line.
"Definitely, that special teams play was my favorite," he said. "To push it out of bounds I had move as fast as I could. Mann put perfectly, it hit the ground stayed there and I was able to get a hand on it. That was perfect, and he dropped another one where we got the safety."