Minus starters Sauce Gardner and Carl Lawson, the Jets' first-unit defense had a good showing in the first of two sessions with the Carolina Panthers in Spartanburg, SC.
In an early team period, S Tony Adams ripped the ball loose from a Panthers RB and LB Jamien Sherwood recovered for the defense. Then Brandin Echols, stepping in for Gardner who was held out due to quad tightness, deflected a Bryce Young pass by the sideline and outfought a Panthers receiver for an interception.
Jermaine Johnson, getting more first team action with Lawson (back) out, brought the edge with two consecutive tussles with TE Hayden Hurst that extended beyond the whistle. Linebacker Samuel Eguavoen, a recent roster addition, also delivered a textbook body slam to TE Stephen Sullivan after a short completion.
"I thought we were lights out," said LB Quincy Williams. "We got other stuff to work on and stuff, but I felt like we came in here and did what we were supposed to do and asserted our dominancy. It is just like going to somebody else's house."
Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the April's Draft, looked the part in the pocket, displaying an impressive calm. He ended practice with a two-minute drive that culminated with 3 points against the first unit. But the Jets defense won a lot of individual battles and that all started with a group up front led by DT Quinnen Williams.
"Just today I feel like we performed well," Williams said. "I feel like we took a step toward getting to the group that we want to go to. I feel like we got a long way to go, and it comes down to homing in on a detail, being consistent rushing as a group and feeding off each other and just most importantly, playing with passion and playing with love for the game."
This was also good practice for Young, who faced fellow Alabama products in the Jets' middle in Williams and LB C.J. Mosley.
"It is great from a competitor's perspective, but not so great from a quarterback's perspective," Young said about lining up against the Jets defense. "They are great players and seeing them on the other side is great. Great players and a bunch of guys that we have ton of respect for. And I think them being great, we are confident in our guys as well, so I think it just that back-and-forth. Us getting better and pushing ourselves to grow. So, us as a unit, that speaks to everyone up front and everyone in box, it is great to be able to go against great guys like that and push us, and hopefully us push them and we are both getting each other better. I think having guys that caliber, iron sharpens iron. It makes us better, so we are definitely grateful for it."
Quincy Williams, who had a crushing hit on WR Jonathan Mingo after a short reception, came away impressed with Young.
"He is a real good rhythm thrower," he said. "It was really more like he was one, two and then getting it out. If his first read is open, he is going to his first read. He was working on his pop-pop. His quick looked like quick game. And then he was actually getting connected on route, like if he saw a window, he's on. He is really goes through his progressions."
See photos of the Jets on the field in Spartanburg, S.C. for joint practice with the Carolina Panthers.
Fire Not Fully Lit for the Offense
Aaron Rodgers and the Jets offense made some splash plays Wednesday, but failed to establish dominance up front, according to C Connor McGovern.
"We could have brought a little bit more juice and fired off a little bit more as an O-Line and kind of tried to, for lack of a better term, impose our will a little bit more," McGovern said. "But it starts with the ones and then trickles down from there.
"I think they might have surprised us for a second then we kind of picked it back up a little bit."
After practice, Rodgers told reporters that Wednesday's work was the most reps the first unit has taken in camp. Garrett Wilson (ankle) was again held out of team drills while Breece Hall made the trip and continues to ramp up his rehab.
"I thought we were pretty good," Rodgers said. "I thought we maybe didn't have the same type of energy, for whatever reason, at the start of practice, but I thought there were some good things, a lot of learning tape out there. But I thought it was good to be out there against a different defense. I thought we handled the front pretty well in the run game. Pass game, there were some issues."
The line continues to operate without Duane Brown (PUP/shoulder) and is using Billy Turner and Max Mitchell at the tackle spots with the starters. McGovern has been flanked by LG Laken Tomlinson and RG Alijah Vera-Tucker throughout camp in the middle. Panthers edge Brian Burns was a handful to deal with in 1-on-1s and Panthers DE Derrick Brown is also an interior defender who made his presence felt.
"With Duane, he's going to play well," Rodgers said. "We got to figure out who the first five is going to be. So, a lot of guys in competition right now. It seems like they're switching the tackles left and right, just about daily with Max and Billy, just looking for consistency with those guys. I feel like the interior has been a bright spot, pretty consistent for us both the first and second group, we just need a little more consistency on the edge."
Rodgers had a handful of long connections,
including one to Allen Lazard down the sideline and C.J. Uzomah over the middle. The veteran TE had another nice, outstretched grab in front of the boundary. Rookie RB Israel Abanikanda also had a pair of chunk gains on the ground.
In the two-minute period, the offense went three-and-out. Michael Carter had a decent gain on first down before Panthers Derrick Brown pressured Rodgers on second down. The next two plays, passes, fell incomplete.
"The three-and-out was definitely disappointing, especially in two-minute," WR Corey Davis said. "We wanted to push the fields and stress the field and work where we can, but they did a pretty good job going out there. And a lot of it was self-inflicted so like I said, we got a lot to clean it up. A long way to go, but we're getting there, and I take it one day at a time and am not going to stress it."