Mike LaFleur has been an upbeat voice for the Jets' offense since he rejoined Robert Saleh, his 49ers coaching compadre, in January and took over as coordinator. So it was unusual to hear him, even though still working the high end of the positivity meter, having to deal with some speedbumps that his unit has faced recently, even during their two joint practices with the Packers in Green Bay this week.
Such as pass blocking. Zach Wilson and the Jets' other QBs have been under the gun from the Pack's veteran pass rush, which was seventh-best in the NFL last year in sacks/pass attempt.
"Today, actually, I thought it was a little better than yesterday," LaFleur told reporters after Thursday's final practice before Saturday's Jets-Packers preseason game at Lambeau Field. "It's been almost two weeks now where we haven't had the greatest pass protection.
"The thing about passing the ball, it's no doubt up front, the five of those guys," he continued. "But it's the quarterback getting it off on time, it's the running backs stepping up in protection, freezing the linebackers and blitzers at the line, it's the receivers getting off the ball, creating more separation.
"It's always going to fall on the offensive line and the quarterback, but this is a group effort. This is me calling better plays. ... So its a work in progress."
As goes the unit, so goes one of its big components. Second-year LT Mekhi Becton, LaFleur said, is "going through some things now."
"He's not playing at his best and he knows that," the OC said. "But at the same time, Mekhi didn't have a training camp last year, he didn't have OTAs in May and June [due to injury]. He's still working through some things. I've got all the confidence in the world in Mekhi because, one, I know how talented he is, and two, he's a good dude and he's going to work through all this stuff."
It's not all tough love for the Jets' mostly youthful offense. The unit has been without starting LG Alijah Vera-Tucker and dynamic rookie WR Elijah Moore, two of their first three April draft picks who've been working back from their own injuries. Veteran Tevin Coleman just returned to the RB rotation this week. Despite the absences of key personnel, LaFleur said there was a lot to like about how the offense performed in its preseason opener at the Giants.
"I loved how Zach and really all the quarterbacks had good command of the offense," he said. "I've been in the first preseason game of year ones before, where there are so many presnap penalties, and that's what drives players and coaches nuts. And we only had one, so I was pretty proud of them for that.
"I thought assignment-wise, we were pretty dang good. We just didn't sustain and strain and finish enough. It wasn't a lack of competes or anything like that. It just was going against a whole different deal — it's our first game under the lights, here we are, we haven't had fans it seems like forever.
"Now they've got that one under their belt. They're playing somewhat of a similar scheme that we played last week, so you'd like to see a little bit more of that finish."
After Green Bay on Saturday afternoon come two more joint practices next week, with Philadelphia, followed by the final preseason game, Jets-Eagles at MetLife. A bye weekend for the entire league follows before everything turns real for the Jets at Carolina on Sept. 12.
Is that enough time for this offense to get ready? LaFleur goes full-positive again. He may be in his first year as a coordinator but he already knows it's the best way to fly.
"We've got a good group," he said, "and I'm expecting to see it."
See the Top Photos from Green Bay During the Final Joint Practice with the Packers