As the Jets embark on their bye week, head coach Robert Saleh had a few suggestions for his players young and old: Limit your time on the beach, leave those Doritos in the cabinet and have a beer, or two -- but that's it.
"This is not a week off," Saleh told reporters on Monday, the day after his exciting and evolving team dispatched the Buffalo Bills, 20-17, at MetLife Stadium. "It's a week to get away from the building, from the coaches, to get away from the physical aspect. As far as regenerating mentally, that is not off-message. Continue to take care of your body so we can attack the second half [which opens at New England on Nov. 19]. I've seen players destroy their seasons because they went to the beach and ate nachos and ruined their entire season. The main thing is their bodies, don't waste days and come back ready."
The Green & White group of young players, particularly rookies like Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson and Garrett Wilson, have been making strong contributions. Gardner came up with a key interception, his second of the season, off Josh Allen; using his speed Johnson ran down Allen in the flat for a key sack (one of 5 by the Jets defense); and Wilson led the team's receivers with 8 catches for 92 yards.
"They're doing a fantastic job, playing opportunistic," Saleh said of his young dudes. "They bring a lot of juice, and they are not jaded by the NFL. Every first down is the biggest thing, and when you have that vibe it's contagious."
He added: "Bye week is perfect timing [for them] because this is usually when college season ends. Hopefully, they don't hit the wall."
With a 6-3 record after 9 games (2 more wins than in Saleh's first season at the Jets helm), the Green & White trail first-place Buffalo by a half-game in the AFC East (tied with Miami). For Jets Nation, thoughts have turned to a possible berth in the postseason tournament. But as Saleh likes to say, it's important for his players to keep "the main thing the main thing."
"It's been fun," he said. "Obviously, the first half of the year, even the most optimistic Jets fan wouldn't have had us at 6-3, but at the same time, we have a great opportunity coming up in the second half of the season, but that's going to require a mindset of just resetting every single day and treating every moment like a championship moment and staying true to what we've been able to do.
"It's attacking this bye week and coming back next week and attacking the week heading up to New England. So, while what's happened in the past, which is the first nine games of the season, and it's been awesome and it's fun and it's cool to get all of those affirmations, it doesn't mean anything if we don't attack the second half in the same exact manner."
He said he's aware of the buzz around 1 Jets Drive and throughout the New York/New Jersey area, with the two local NFL teams playing beyond early expectations.
"It's fun, but at the same time, just as quickly as we've been able to create buzz, we can easily create negative buzz," Saleh said. "I've said it a million times, reading old Bill Parcells' books and euphoria and disaster is New York is the best definition of New York, and it's really every market in the country now with social media. When you win, you're a winner. When you lose, you're a loser, but at the same time, you got to focus on the moment. It's exciting, but you know how quickly it can change if we can't keep and sustain what we're doing."
Laken Tomlinson and O-Line Were Rockin' the Rock
On an offensive line that has been nicked by injuries and put through the ringer, left guard Laken Tomlinson has been a study in consistency and stamina. Tomlinson, 30, was signed in free agency after two seasons in Detroit and then five in San Francisco. So far through nine games, Tomlinson has not missed a snap. And on Sunday in the Jets' upset of Buffalo, he had a front-row seat to the Jets spectacular final drive that covered 86 yards in 13 plays and ate up 6:10 of clock time. On that drive, the Jets first eight plays were runs.
"It was a great feeling, just going out there imposing your will, running the rock," Tomlinson said on Monday. "It was real cool the way the guys [RBs Michael Carter and James Robinson] took good care of the ball. The guys up front we were rocking off the ball."
Tomlinson and another veteran, Duane Brown, are charged with protecting QB Zach Wilsons' blindside. On the right side, he's witnessed injuries to Mekhi Becton in training camp and to Alijah Vera-Tucker a couple of weeks ago. But their absence has opened opportunities first for rookie Max Mitchell (who has been out with a knee injury) and lately for Nate Herbig, who Tomlinson said his teammates call Nasty Nate.
"He's doing real well for himself, we're fortunate to have in the room," Tomlinson said. "He's always out there trying to dump somebody. He's a good player and is doing real well for us.
"He's a really cool guy in the meeting room. The guys love him when he goes out there excited, he brings nastiness to the O-line which we love. We're happy to have someone like that in the room."
Bryce Huff Comes Up Big
Defensive end Bryce Huff has emerged as a situational player along the Jets' defensive line. And on Sunday, when the situation presented itself Huff was up for the task.
After the Jets drove 86 yards and took the lead, 20-17, over Buffalo on a Greg Zuerlein field goal, the Bills and QB Josh Allen had 1:43 to try to tie or win the game. With Buffalo out of timeouts and facing second-and-2 at their 33, Huff muscled into the backfield and strip-sacked Allen. Buffalo recovered the ball, but ran out of time after two passes fell incomplete.
"Honestly in the moment, I felt more calm than I expected," he said on Monday. "Before we lined up, I knew what was on the line. Just go out there and win my one-on-one and get to the quarterback."
Huff took only 16 snaps (26%) against the Bills, but he made one of them a key play in the win that leaves the Jets a half-game behind Buffalo heading into a bye week.
Speaking of the defense, Huff said: "We're really violent, definitely, full of speed with playmakers across the board. Every time we're on the field we expect to make something happen and get the ball to the offense.
"It feels good being 6-3, but we know we have to focus on the process and keep grinding and be prepared on Sundays."