It's getaway day for the Jets. Following a light workout on Tuesday at One Jets Drive, Robert Saleh's club will board the buses, head to the airport and begin their trek to Titletown. The Jets and the Packers will practice Wednesday and Thursday before concluding the week with a Saturday afternoon contest at Lambeau Field.
Saleh told reporters: "I think we can get a lot out of it. It's an opportunity to go and compete against a championship roster. Obviously a new set of plays and scheme both offensively and defensively and even special teams. You get to lean on a different body for a couple of days. I value these things greatly because if you go in there with the right intent to compete and not look at it like it's free-for-all where you're trying to do extra, I think they're just valuable."
The strong relationship between Saleh and Packers HC Matt LaFleur will help both sides achieve their goals this week. Saleh and LaFleur were graduate assistants at Central Michigan in 2004 and the Jets boss was the best man in LaFleur's wedding.
"I think it helps," Saleh said of the bond. "We've had a lot of discussion to make sure we're both getting the work that we need. There has been a lot of collaborating to make sure not only are we getting the looks offensively, but they're getting the looks offensively that they need and vice versa. There is not as much guard up in regards to communication and protecting if you will, just a good collaboration to make sure we're both getting the work in that we need to get the most out of these practices."
After playing a couple of series against the Giants last Saturday, Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson will face a Packers defense that has a new coordinator in Joe Barry. The Pack has Pro Bowlers at multiple levels in CB Jaire Alexander, LB Za'Darius Smith and DT Kenny Clark. Wilson was solid against the Giants, but he needs to see more and he's about to get just that.
"Part of the process of getting better is getting reps against as many different looks as possible," Saleh said of Wilson, who is expected to play three or four series in the Green & White's second preseason game. "He's been seeing our defense, he's been seeing our system and it gets to a point where he needs to see something else, so he can take another step in his process. Their system is different than ours, they have different fronts, they have different coverages, they have different people and players and how they react. They have a different play-caller, so he'll be able to go through all that, and his eyes and visually and how route concepts play out to a new set of coverages is incredibly beneficial for him to be able to see it live and then go back and watch the tape and have that recall. Like I said, I think these practices are priceless."
On the other side of the ball, the Jets will lock horns with an elite offensive unit. Last season, the Packers finished first in scoring (31.8 Pts/G) and fifth in total offense (389 Yds/G). They have big-time talent at the skill positions headlined by RB Aaron Jones, WR Davante Adams and a future Hall of Famer at quarterback.
Saleh said: "Just overall, you're going to see a scheme that's on point in regards to efficiency because like I said they're year three now, so we're going to be challenged in terms of precision. The value of it is to see how precise these great offenses can be, it's going to be a tremendously valuable lesson for everybody. Not just the defense."
Veteran RG Greg Van Roten added: "This is a great opportunity to compete against somebody else other than our own team. I think it's a good tool teams can use to evaluate their guys and break up the monotony of training camp. You're going against the same defense every day. The drills kind of get tedious and now you're kind of doing the same drills, but you're going against different guys. It's still practice, but it gets very competitive."
Rodgers was the runaway MVP last season after leading the Packers to a 13-3 mark, connecting on a career-high 70.7 percent of his passes last season for 4,299 yards with 48 TDs and 5 INTs. He won't play Saturday night or in the preseason for that matter, but the three-time MVP will be a handful even in a practice setting.
DT Nathan Shepherd said: "I'm just going to watch those hard counts. That's my biggest thing — don't let him get you jumping offsides. But it's going to be great to go up against someone, a team, with such great caliber. Just to be able to challenge ourselves, keep our composure and play our brand of football and bring it to them."
The early reviews of Zach Wilson's first performance were extremely favorable from his locker room. Greg Van Roten said: "He exceeded all expectations as far as rookies go. He was not overwhelmed by the moment, very controlled in the huddle." And when Van Roten was asked on a Zoom call what has stood out most about the BYU product, he said: "His approach has impressed me the most. He's very consistent as far as how he approaches things, how he studies and he's very humble. Some guys are very competitive and they don't want to mistakes. He's very open about this is my time to learn what I can get away with and how I can operate in this system."
The Jets hope that rookie LG Alijah Vera-Tucker(pec, day to day) can see some action next week against the Eagles. "We'd love to get his feet wet," HC Robert Saleh said. "We're hoping to get him back for this third week. Obviously it's still day to day, but I'm not really concerned about his Week 1 status. Would love to get him some run in that third game." After the release of Chris Naggar, Saleh indicated this is an opportunity for Matt Ammendola to take a "stranglehold" on the place-kicking job.
Our final word from One Jets Drive before the team departs for the airport goes to GVR, a Penn graduate who began his NFL career with the Pack in 2012: "It was pretty cool as a rookie to be around those people and even cooler to be in that building. When you think of football, it's hard to think of it without the Green Bay Packers. Going back, it's going to be exciting. I played there once in my career after leaving, so it's going to be interesting to stay there for a few days and practice against them and then have a preseason game against them. So I'm looking forward to all that."