It all looked too easy. On the first training camp throw of his NFL career, Jets QB Zach Wilson dropped back after a play-action fake and uncorked a long heave down the middle of the field. Elijah Moore had sprung free with Bryce Hall in chase mode. Moore came down with it as he fell to the ground but Wilson, who signed his first NFL contract Thursday, thought he should have delivered it sooner and the ball placement was off.
"Not the greatest ball, something I can clean up," Wilson told reporters. "I can put it out there more to the left and let him run to it. Just the look, it's one of those we take a shot down the field, big play-action pass and Elijah made a great job coming up with the catch."
Wilson, who took all the first-team reps Friday and has the "inside lane" on the starting job according to head coach Robert Saleh, tasted very early success. But this was a day where the defense was in full control and the offense was often a step behind.
"The defense was moving around really well," Saleh said. "The third day of install is very, very heavy from an offensive perspective and obviously Zach's first day. So you can see them bogged down a little bit with install where the defense has kind of been consistent in regards to their install. So anticipated a day of a speed difference if you will."
Not too long ago after his long-distance call to Moore, Wilson attempted an intermediate pass over the middle of the field. Jamison Crowder was crossing laterally, but he had company and veteran safety Marcus Maye neatly stepped up for an interception. Maye was mobbed by his defensive teammates after his theft and run following the takeaway.
"The receiver was doing his job, he's running his route," said Wilson of Crowder. "I threw it sooner than I was supposed to and there were a lot of bodies over there. I shouldn't have even thrown the ball, but it's a learning experience."
Maye, a fifth-year veteran who missed most of the team's spring workouts, has Saleh excited about the Green & White's prospects at safety.
"He's a very talented football player," Saleh said of the Jets' 2020 Team MVP. "I'm really excited about that combination between him and Lamarcus Joyner, I think that's a really good combo. Marcus has been impressive. Obviously didn't get a chance to talk to him much during OTAs and didn't get a chance to talk to him during the summer but having the interaction now and being able to talk to him, he's a tremendous young man and I'm really looking forward to working with him."
While Wilson had a short touchdown pass to Corey Davis during an early red-zone team period, the defense repeatedly stymied the first-team offense later in more work inside the 20.
"They mixed it up," said the signal-caller who was taken No. 2 overall in the draft. "They went with a one-high (safety) and kind of zone in the red zone. It's tough, but we just have to find a way to execute down there with all of our base plays."
One player who continues to make life challenging for the offense is Carl Lawson. While pads won't come on until next week, Lawson is both explosive off the edge and relentless. He had a would-be sack and was in the QB's vicinity on multiple rushes.
"I know we get caught up with sacks, but my God all he does is win and hit the quarterback," Saleh said. "Especially when you look at him, you're not expecting it, but then he just dominates. Really excited for pads to come on because then you'll get some real good work in 1-on-1s and all that stuff."
See the Top Images from Friday's Practice at Jets Training Camp
A Shocking Loss
The Jets will wear GK decals on their helmet in 2021 in honor of Greg Knapp. Hired as passing-game specialist in January, the revered Knapp died last week after succumbing to injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in Northern California. After working with the likes of Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub, Knapp was tied to Zach Wilson throughout the offseason.
"It was shock, complete shock," Wilson said. "I had just been talking to him the day before, right before the incident happened. It was almost like I didn't believe it. I felt like I could have just called him right then on the phone and he would have answered. It really hit later on when I was like, 'Jeez, this is rough.' I was just praying for him and his family and everyone else involved… It's tough man. Life is a precious thing."
The defense being ahead of the offense on the third day of training camp? Not earth-shattering says head coach Robert Saleh. "It goes in waves. The defense always comes out of the gates pretty quick and then the offense slowly catches up and then it becomes a slugfest back and forth. This has been traditional for the history of time, so this isn't a one-day anomaly." … Elijah Moore wasn't too impressed with his deep-ball grab Friday. The rookie who lit up the SEC last season sees it as his job to get the rock when called upon. "It was my turn to make a play," he said. "The ball's in the air and I have to make it." … Rookie Hamsah Nasirildeen, a converted college safety, has run with the first-unit defense early in camp. … Wideout D.J. Montgomery was on the receiving end of a long pass from Mike White. While Isaiah Dunn, an undrafted rookie CB from Oregon State, was beaten on that rep, he came back later and deflected away a White pass intended for Jamison Crowder. … Defensive linemen Quinnen Williams and Kyle Phillips along with safety Ashtyn Davis all got some work in with the performance staff at the onset of practice. … Today's Final word goes to Saleh, who said of Wilson: "He starts out with a bang on that go ball, on the post down the middle of the field. But the defense was moving at a very fast rate and the windows were very, very tight."