After two joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday in Green Bay, the Jets and the Packers concluded their week at Lambeau Field on Saturday afternoon in the second preseason game for each team.
While Green Bay didn't dress 32 players and the Jets had about 15 players out, the game was valuable for both sides in evaluating personnel. The Jets moved to 2-0 in the preseason with a 23-14 triumph as rookie QB Zach Wilson showcased his big-time ability with both future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay backup Jordan Love out of action.
Entering Saturday's game, Wilson talked of having clean execution, engineering some explosive plays down the field and leading the offense to points. He checked all those boxes, leading the offense to 17 points in three possessions, which included his first two TD passes in preseason action.
Corey Davis was Wilson's favorite target (6 times), connecting with him on 4 for 70 yards. After converting twice on third-and-6+ against the Giants, Wilson converted his first third down with a 24-yard connection to Davis on a third-and-8 play. On the Jets' third possession, Wilson backpedaled on a third-and-2 and went to Davis over the middle for 14 yards. The next snap, Wilson lined up in shotgun formation, faked a handoff to the left and found Davis open down the right sideline for 27 yards.
"We're definitely figuring things out," Davis said. "Young gun is a great player and he's comfortable in there. That energy is definitely needed. A lot of the other guys feel that as well. That long connection, that was all him. He did a great job of keeping the play alive and finding me down the field. It was a good connection."
Two plays later, Wilson patiently sat in the pocket and fired to TE Tyler Kroft for an 18-yard TD and the Jets took a 10-7 lead. Then later in the half, Wilson took over in plus-territory and made quick work of the Packers reserves. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur fooled the defense with run action to the right and Kroft moving across the line to the left. Wilson delivered a short throw and Kroft handled the rest for another 18-yard TD.
"The first one was a little double move that I had on the linebacker," Kroft said. "He was pushing out to me and it was stick route and up. I saw the safety was pushing, so I tried to keep it as vertical as I could and Zach put a perfect ball away from the safety to protect me. You couldn't have throwed a better pass than that one."
Kroft said of his second score: "We set it up the player before where I had a flash block on the back side and then the next play we ran a boot off of it. I have to give a shoutout to my guy Chris Herndon because he was busting on the back side and he ended up digging out another defender to make it a little easier for me once I caught it."
In two preseason games, Wilson has led the Jets to scores on four of his six possessions. He was 9 of 11 for 128 yards against the Pack, ending his day with a passer rating of 154.7. That's a number Packers fans have been treated to a time or two in the stadium. While acknowledging Wilson has played against a lot of backups thus far in two summer games, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft continues to impress as his pro regular-season debut in Carolina nears.
"I think it's part of the process," Wilson said. "Just stack this up -- one on another. I think it goes back to the joint practices, too. How can we just keep building off of those, good or bad on the field. How can we keep getting better and learning from the good plays?"
After losing DE Carl Lawson and S Zane Lewis to season-ending injuries on Thursday, ILB Jarrad Davis had to be carted off the field in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Like Lawson, Davis joined the Jets as a free agent in the offseason and the former Lion has been a constant in the middle of the defense alongside C.J. Mosley. He had 3 solo tackles before being replaced by rookie Jamien Sherwood. Then right before halftime, reserve T Conor McDermott was also carted off the field after sustaining a knee injury.
Late in the third quarter, backup QB Mike White had to depart after taking a shot to his ribs. James Morgan, who attended Ashwaubenon HS in Green Bay, took over for White and received a loud ovation from the locals.
"I've said it before, the NFL train stops for nobody," head coach Robert Saleh said. "But when someone falls off the train, it's another opportunity to jump on the train. There are a lot of men on this football team, especially at that D-end spot that are chomping at the bit for an opportunity and they've got it. We'll work our tails off to get those young men ready and I know that they're going to reciprocate and work their tails off to be ready for Week 1."
Special Plays on Teams
Given the chance to take a stranglehold of the kicking job, Matt Ammendola responded with a 54-yard boom to start the scoring and he added 46- and 30-yarders in the third stanza. After placing three punts inside the 20-yard line against the Giants, P Braden Mann continued his hot streak with some backspin as his first punt was downed at the Green Bay 12. In the second quarter, Corey Ballentine, who exited with a knee injury, had a 73-yard kickoff return that preceded Wilson's second score to Kroft.
"You love all of it," Saleh said. "I thought all week they did a great job competing, winning their 1-on-1s and they carried it into the game. Again, they created a lot of explosive plays. Obviously Green Bay got one too, but overall I thought our special teams did a really nice job this week."
See Best Images from the Second Preseason Game of 2021 at Lambeau Field
The following Jets did not play Saturday: CB Bless Austin, DE Vinny Curry, S Ashtyn Davis, T Chuma Edoga, TE Ryan Griffin, CB Justin Hardee, S Lamarcus Joyner, Carl Lawson, WRs Denzel Mims and Elijah Moore, T Morgan Moses, DL Kyle Phillips, CB Jason Pinnock, DT Sheldon Rankins, OL Alijah-Vera Tucker and DT Quinnen Williams. …
Dan Feeney started at LG but Jimmy Murray got some work with the first team as well. … Fourth-round pick Michael Carter, who had two kick returns, averaged 5.2 yards on his first 10 carries. RB Tevin Coleman made his preseason debut, rushing 4 times for 19 yards. …
Noah Dawkins started at linebacker after rookie Hamsah Nasirildeen got the nod against the Giants. Fellow rookie 'backer Jamien Sherwood had a fumble recovery in the third quarter after reserve S J.T. Hassell popped the ball loose from RB Patrick Taylor. CB Brandin Echols came up with an INT of Kurt Benkert in the third. … With Austin out of the lineup, Isaiah Dunn, an undrafted free agent from Oregon State, lined up with the ones across from Bryce Hall. He finished with three tackles.
The Jets defeated the Giants, 12-7, last week and wrap up their three-game preseason schedule against the Eagles on Friday night at MetLife Stadium after another few sessions of joint practices.