On a rain-soaked Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, midway through the second quarter of the Jets Week 8 matchup with the Giants, the Green & White's offensive line came back to the sideline in disarray after a punt.
In a matter of 22 snaps, the unit had lost C Connor McGovern (knee) and C/G Wes Schweitzer (calf) to injuries and was running out of options at center. Amid the panic, O-Line coach Keith Carter cooled the tensions with one big "shut the f* up" and turned to OL Xavier Newmanto fill the void.
Newman, who had never snapped a ball in an NFL game and had joined the roster three weeks ago, played the final three quarters at center, cool and calm, and helped the Jets to a crucial 13-10 overtime win over the Giants.
"Credit first to Keith [Carter], our O-line coach and our O-line for just staying composed," HC Robert Saleh said. "There was a lot of panic on the sideline. "And then credit to Xavier Newman who stepped up big time to going from guard as a practice squad callup and then to play center. A lot of shifting along the offensive line. He showed a lot of composure."
An undrafted free agent in 2022, Newman signed with the Jets practice squad on Oct. 5 after spending the first five weeks of the season with the Titans. There he made one start at guard and played primarily on special teams.
Before Sunday, Newman was named scout team player of the week, and with rookie OL Joe Tippmann out with a thigh injury, elevated to the active roster Saturday.
"He's been here a short time, but he's made his name known," LB C.J. Mosley said. "Before coming in yesterday and saving the day for our offense, he was on scout offense working with us and giving us looks and credit to him."
Saleh added: "He's been working his butt off. It feels like he got here yesterday, but he goes out to practice and he grinds, and he works. It's not easy to block our defensive line. Whatever you need him to do, he does. He plays tackle, plays guard and he was servicing the defense and he gives us a really good look."
Take a look through some of the best photos from Sunday's 13-10 win over the New York Giants.
On game day, despite being a longshot to play, Newman arrived at MetLife prepared to start. And with 12:04 left in the second quarter after McGovern left the game, he got in the game at RG and Schweitzer – starting in place of Tippmann at RG – slid over to center.
"The day started pretty normal, knowing I had a game," Newman said. "But you have to have that mindset that anything could happen, and I felt like I was in the right place to know what I needed to go out there and do."
After Schweitzer went down, the line shuffled again. Billy Turner, normally a tackle, stepped in to play RG and Newman saw the injury as an opportunity. On Newman's first play at center, he and QB Zach Wilson fumbled the exchange and the Giants recovered. Wilson and Newman went to the sideline and worked on snaps between drives and at halftime to get it right. Over the final three quarters, Newman played 46 (72%) of the snaps in total,43 at center. Post fumble, the offense played turnover-free for the remainder of the game.
"Me and Zach communicated on the fly and worked through some things, whether it was during halftime or on the sideline, so I want to give hats off to him," Newman said. "In this game, you have to have short-term memory. I had to come back to the center and forget about it."
Wilson: "I thought it was an unbelievable job by X [Newman]. X and I had never even taken a snap together, so it was 'Let's lock in and get this right.' He asked me on the fumble 'Was that me or you?' And I said, 'Dude, that's me.' We just haven't practiced these. I'm out there trying to figure out where to put my hands to be comfortable for you.' We just had to move on, next play."
In addition to Newman's pass and run blocking, he played a pivotal role on the team's game-winning drive in OT.
With the Green & White down ,10-7, with24 seconds remaining in regulation and no timeouts, Wilson completed consecutive 29-yard throws to move the team to the Giants 17-yard line. After WR Allen Lazard went down on the second completion, the clock read 8 seconds and Newman raced to the line, got the ball set, made sure the official touched the ball and allowed Wilson to spike it with 1 second left in regulation, setting up the game-tying35-yard field-goal attempt.
"Such a good job by [Newman] being on top of that," Wilson said. "I remember right before the drive started, X was like 'If we clock it, what's the cadence?' That just kind of tells you, we haven't practiced that. Overall communication of just getting the guys where they need to be and the absolute hustle right there."
After the game, Mosley saw Newman lying on the turf, exhausted. The second-year lineman provided the Jets with a spark and poise in a moment of panic, the type of player the Jets pride themselves on signing.
"Just give a lot of credit to him and a lot of credit to our organization and our staff for bringing those type of guys," Mosley said. "Those type of men that that you can depend on and count on when the unexpected happens, when things get tough. That's the type of things it takes to build a championship team and win these tough football games."