More than two dozen rookies, undrafted free agents and tryout players assembled for their first workout on Friday at the Jets Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, NJ, under the watchful eyes of Head Coach Robert Saleh and his staff.
"Getting out on the grass, that's the fun part, right?" Saleh said. "To be able to go out there and get on the grass with the guys and start teaching your techniques and fundamentals and scheme, and seeing the coaches coach and the players play. That's always the best part about this whole job."
See the 2021 Jets Rookies on the Field for the First Time at 1 Jets Drive
Three of the team's four top draft picks -- Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore and Michael Carter -- were made available to reporters on a Zoom call with the media:
The man the Jets traded up to select with the No. 14 overall draft pick last week said he was "just happy to be a Jet," and mentioned that he's gotten acquainted with No. 2 overall pick, QB Zach Wilson -- the guy he'll be protecting (probably) at left guard next to Mekhi Becton.
"First off, he's a good guy," AVT said, referring to Wilson. "I've talked to him a lot the past couple of days. He's a hard worker, we see what he does on the field. You really can't ask any more from a guy." He added: "There's a good feeling from Zach. He wants to get to know us, bring us all in and turn this organization around."
According to Pro Football Focus, AVT played 975 total snaps in pass protection and allowed only 5 sacks, 3 quarterback hits and 8 quarterback hurries. Vera-Tucker's career pass-blocking grade was 91.6, which is the second-highest among offensive linemen in the 2021 draft class.
To a man, the rookies, including AVT, were impressed by Saleh, his personality, approach, and passion.
"He brings a whole lot of energy," Vera-Tucker said. "He wants to get to know his players well, which is nice. He wants us to work our butts off."
Late in the interview, he was asked to explain he had such nimble feet for a big man (6-4, 315): "It comes from playing. I played soccer for 10 years growing up. It's a big factor. I've always been an athletic kid in a bunch of sports."
Jets fans, the coaching staff and the players are uniformly excited about having the fleet-footed and sure-handed wide receiver from Ole Miss on the team. As Saleh and GM Joe Douglas have said several times, they were stunned that Moore was still sitting on the board when the Jets were ready to make their pick of early in the second round, No. 34 overall.
Moore said he's ready to go.
"I am anxious but I'm blessed to be here," he said. "I'm going to make it count, I'm just so grateful."
Moore (5-9, 185), who had been projected as a mid-to-late first-round selection, is an explosive receiver who can play in the slot, on the outside, or ramble out of the backfield on a jet sweep. He had a huge 2020 season for Ole Miss, setting a school record with 86 catches for 1,193 yards in 8 games (he sat out the final two games to prepare for the draft). He led all of college football in catches (10.75) and receiving yards (149.1) per game. In addition, he caught 97% of catchable targets beyond the line of scrimmage in 2020. After opting out of those two games, he posted a blazing 4.35 in the 40 at the Mississippi pro day.
Of Saleh, Moore said: "He's super cool. I got to talk to him yesterday [Thursday]. It was awesome. He has great energy, and I love playing for a coach with great energy."
Moore is expected to be an important player as the Jets institute a new offensive scheme run by a new offensive general in Wilson.
"We've been in contact almost every day," Moore said. "We've both been very busy trying to learn the playbook. We've wasted no time. I'm going to do all I can to make him look good."
What better day to start his career as an NFL player: Friday was Carter's 22nd birthday.
"I'm excited, and to be honest, I forgot until last night at 10 that today was my birthday," Carter, a running back out of North Carolina, said. "I've been learning the plays and everyone's names and getting accustomed to being here. I'm excited to have my first NFL practice."
Like the situation that helped the Jets land Moore at the top of the second round, Carter was still available at the start of the fourth round. The Jets pounced and made him the No. 107 overall draft pick.
In the 2020 season, he had 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season, finishing with 1,245 yards on 156 carries (8.0 yards/carry) and 9 touchdowns and added 267 yards and two more TDs on 25 catches (10.7 yards/catch).
On Saleh he said: "I've rocked with him already. I can't wait to play for him. He wants to win and have fun doing it and have high energy, that's me. I'm excited to play for him, he's a great coach."
On Wilson: "The more I talked to him the more I see his energy. He's very positive, very eager to speak up. In terms of leadership people, that's the type of people you want to follow people. He wants the best for people around him and for the team."