In one week, the Jets will wrap up their mandatory minicamp and the onset of their summer will begin. This week marks the end of the voluntary portion of their offseason as OTAs will conclude. Before Thursday's session, Head Coach Robert Saleh provided an update of where the club was with its installations.
"To this point, obviously the main installations are done, they're installed," he said. "Now, the gameday installation, and what happens on gameday, the different nuances that'll start coming once preseason games happen. There's a teaching progression, so the entire offense and the entire defense are not in, but the teaching of our techniques and the teaching of our fundamentals and the process at which we do things, those have been installed. Right now, they're just out there practicing and they're on repeat."
While offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is putting his own spin on the Shanahan offense, Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbricht have moved to a 4-3 front on defense. In the back end, some of the young cornerbacks who were on the roster last year are learning Cover 3 concepts.
Saleh said: "Obviously it's a learning curve. With Coach [Gregg] Williams a year ago there was a Cover 2 base, while here we're more single-high based. They're being asked to learn completely new techniques and play into the style that we play, which everyone's different, doesn't make anyone wrong or right, it's just everyone's different. It's an opportunity to continue to grow, they still have two more minicamps obviously. From there we'll sit down, reassess, see where we're at. As of now, the focus is on them."
There will be a number of training camp position battles on special teams including veteran Sam Ficken and rookie Chris Naggar putting their best foot (feet) forward at kicker.
"It's a good competition so far," special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. "Just like every phase, everybody here, including ourselves as coaches, we all have things we can improve. I think they're both doing a nice job. There's so much to be told here to training camp and from training camp to the preseason. We'll see what happens."
Boyer has said in the past the best time to evaluate special teams are preseason game. So far in OTAs, however, Ficken and Naggar have had their ups and downs – displaying their leg strength while missing a few field-goal attempts in sessions attended to by the media. When they kick, Saleh has the players leave the sideline and make noise to try and simulate a game as much as possible.
Ficken dealt with a groin injury in 2020 that Boyer says had an impact on him down the stretch. Ficken made 86.7% of his FGs (13 of 15) and 80% of his XP attempts (12 of 15) in nine games before he was released before Week 17 and brought back on a reserve/future deal. Naggar signed with the Green & White as an undrafted free agent in May after one season at SMU. He went 17 of 21 on field goals (81%), which led the AAC, and made 43 of his 46 extra points. He began his collegiate career at Texas where he played in seven games from 2016-19 and had 25 punts for 983 yards.
"I really liked his interview when we interviewed him and spent 20-30 minutes with him on Zoom meetings," Boyer said of Naggar. "It's unfortunate that you can't see them kick in person. I really like the rise on the ball he has. He has upper-level leg strength, he has very good rotation on the ball that he kicks. I think he was very productive and I think that says a lot, being a guy from Texas who was behind two scholarship guys, comes back, battles and doesn't quit. He transferred to SMU and comes out, wins the job and does a heck of a job in the year he got the chance. I think that says a lot about a person."
Wilson Earns Praise
Tevin Coleman likes what he sees of the quarterback who's been handing him the ball and delivering darts to the Jets' offensive targets.
"He's a dog man. I like Zach Wilson," Coleman said. "He has a lot to learn and there's going to be a lot of pressure, but he's good with it. He's slinging that ball, he's throwing that ball. That's great to see from him. He's throwing that ball and he's definitely being a leader, so that's good."
Wilson has shown a bounce-back mentality on the practice field. While he tried to hit TE Chris Herndon through a tight window and the ball couldn't be corraled and wound up in the hands of safety J.T. Hassell, he did fire TDs to Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios in red zone 7-on-7 work.
"There's going to be so much more to learn, and your best learning comes through adversity and conflict," Saleh said. "Obviously OTAs, everything has been feel good (and) everyone's excited about everything that's happening around the organization. Until we actually hit adversity (is when) we will be able to learn more about each other and how we handle things."
See the Best Photos from Thursday's OTA Practice
Not deterred by an earlier pass to Chris Herndon that led to an interception, Zach Wilson converted a third-and-10 when he connected with Herndon close to the sideline and the athletic tight end quickly got up the field. … The Jets' first pairing at safety throughout OTAs has been J.T. Hasselland Lamarcus Joyner. While Marcus Mayehasn't been in Florham Park, second-year safety Ashtyn Davis is on the road back from foot surgery. "Ashtyn's here, he'll be ready for training camp," Saleh told reporters. "He's still working through his injury, he's in meetings, he's going through all that stuff. We're excited to get him on the field so we can work with him." … Saleh told reporters he expects every player on the roster will be in attendance for minicamp.