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Notebook | Jets HC Robert Saleh: 'A Lot of Growth ... Over the Last Few Months'

Irv Charles Helped Spark Special Teams vs. Washington


Victory Monday, Christmas Day, a short week ahead of Thursday night's game at Cleveland and Jets head coach Robert Saleh -- as has been his habit through his three seasons leading the Green & White -- is unwavering in his belief that the organization is building toward the game's ultimate prize.

"It's been a grind, you know," he told reporters during his morning press conference. "Everybody closes their eyes and imagines success right away. But we knew there was going to be a process. We all felt great coming into this year with all the expectations and hype that's around the football team, and that was awesome. It hasn't gone the way we wanted, obviously.

"But it doesn't mean that the goal of winning championships is over. I still think we've got a really good football team. I've said it before, I think we've built a championship roster. There's a lot of things that we've learned through adversity over the last three months since Aaron's [Rodgers'] injury that will help us, not only as coaches, myself, from our process and how we do things to players and areas we can improve and areas where players have come out of nowhere to show they belong. So there's a lot of growth that has happened over the last few months and it's going to be our job to make sure we attack it in every facet."

With two games left in the 2023 season (at Cleveland and at New England) Saleh is presiding over a defense that has shown its quality pedigree the entire season as he watches a (mostly) young offense mature before his eyes. Is there anything to gain from wins late in the season?

"Absolutely," Saleh said with emphasis. "Especially when you look at the offensive side of the ball. [Jason] Brownlee gets his first touchdown yesterday, Xavier Gipson is becoming more and more of a player. Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall are still just second-year players, both who were obviously major contributors yesterday, like they are every week."

Wilson had 9 catches (on 15 targets) for 76 yards (8.4 a catch); and Hall ran 20 times for 95 yards (4.8 a carry), caught 12 passes (on 16 targets) from QB Trevor Siemian for 96 yards (8 a catch) and ran for a pair of TDs in the 30-28 win that upped the Jets record to 6-9.

"[Joe] Tippmann's a rookie, Carter Warren's a rookie, Jacob Hanson's trying to prove that he belongs," Saleh added. "And then obviously Laken [Tomlinson] and Mekhi [Becton] are both veterans trying to finish out their seasons strong. There's more. [Tyler] Conklin's played well, [Jeremy] Ruckert is a second-year kid. So there's a lot, a lot of youth that is just trying to get a little better every single week, everyday and really kind of propel themselves in the '24 season."

Hall, especially, earned kudos from his coach.

"Credit Breece," Saleh said. "He's been putting in the work, he's been chomping at the bit to be more involved in any way he can and I think I read we gave him over 30 touches yesterday, which is awesome. And it's deserved. He's one of our best playmakers and we have to do everything we can to find a way to get him the football. With Breece, he's a special talent."

Irv Charles Making It Special

The Jets' special teams had another standout game in the victory over Washington at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

The cherry on top of the Christmas Eve win was Greg Zuerlein's game-winning 54-yard field goal that left 5 seconds remaining in the game. He was 6 of 6 (3 FGs, 3 PAT) and hit on his 25th straight FG-attempt. Jermaine Johnson blocked a punt, leading to the first points of the game. Ashtyn Davis recovered a fumble (his third of the season overall). And punter Thomas Morstead landed 2-of-6 punts inside the 20-yard line en route to averaging 48.7 yards per boot.

Although his contribution might not have been as splashy as some of his special-teams compatriots, reserve wide receiver Irv Charles is serving notice that he is quickly developing into a young gunner of substance.

Back in October, the 2022 undrafted free agent forced a fumble in the Jets' victory at Denver on the first regular-season play of his NFL career. On Sunday, Charles led the Green & White with 3 ST tackles, upping his season total to 7 solo tackles through 10 games this season.

Morstead, the guy who launched those punts, has (and is) playing with Justin Hardee, the Pro Bowl gunner who was Morstead's teammate during their days with the New Orleans Saints. Morstead thinks Charles has the potential to follow a similar path to Hardee, a former undrafted free agent, and become a special player on teams.

"His natural ability is unique," Morstead said after the game. "You don't see guys that can run as fast as he can, that are as heavy [219 pounds] and strong as he is. Once Irv learns how to be a true pro, the sky's the limit. He's not there yet." He added: "Justin Hardee, I saw him early. He got cut, dragged through the mud a little bit. He's got a chip on his shoulder and he's never lost that, that's why he's so different. And so I hope Irv can find that, because if he does, he'll be a force."

Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer let his guys know last week that he needed -- expected -- a big effort from the unit.

"It was more so Boyer just wanted a complete game from the special teams unit," Charles said. "So I just took that a little more personal this week. I just did a lot of film study, saw a lot of opportunities and took advantage."

He added: "Me personally, whenever the ball's near me I got to stop the ball, stop the vertical spot. Anything. Create edges, set edges. I just got opportunities to make plays whenever they come my way."

See the best game action photos during Sunday's home game against the Washington Commanders.

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