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Notebook | Robert Saleh and Jets Hope to Continue Their Leap at Lambeau on Sunday

GM Joe D. Hit on Draft Picks; Alijah Vera-Tucker Is ‘Epitome’ of OL


Yesterday's news -- in this case Sunday's impressive win over visiting Miami -- has been put on the shelf Jets head coach Robert Saleh said during his news conference with reporters on Monday. On the horizon is a trip to Wisconsin, Titletown, U.S.A., a charming city also known as Green Bay.

Lying in wait for the Green & White is likely to be a fire-breathing future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, fresh off a loss to the Giants in London. Also awaiting Saleh is his close friend Matt LaFleur, the brother of Jets OC Mike LaFleur and a longtime pal of Saleh's.

"He was in my wedding," Saleh said. "I was in his wedding, and we were roommates together. He's the ultimate in terms of how close he and I are. I love him. But it's game week, and when the game kicks off on Sunday, it's all about the Jets."

While Saleh sought to minimize the significance of a trip to storied Lambeau Field, cornerback D.J. Reed, a veteran of games in the NFC with San Francisco and Seattle, offered a slightly different view.

"It's historic going to Lambeau," Reed said. "It's a football atmosphere, the grass is slippery, there's a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, and that excites me. It excites Sauce [Gardner] and all guys on defense.. We're looking forward to it. We treat each game like a championship game, and this is our championship week."

He added: "I love going against the greats. To be the best, you have to go against the best. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

A Compliment for Complementary Football
Saleh and his players extolled the spirited play of all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- in the 40-17 shellacking of the Dolphins. There was a special focus on the Jets' 21-point fourth quarter that has resulted in the team leading the league with plus-38 points in the final 15 minutes of games.

"I think it's a combination of things," said WR/KR Braxton Berrios. "I think your conditioning and your mental toughness had to be at the top of everything because when you get tired, the first thing that goes is you make mental errors or little mistakes. And, to that point, we've just been really clean in the fourth quarter. As far as our adjustments throughout the first, second, third quarters, that's what we plan to be.

"You want to play your best football toward the end of the year, and you also want to play kind of your best football each and every game toward the end. You want to close strong, and we've executed at a really high level when it mattered the most. Obviously, in Cleveland and Pittsburgh down the stretch, we've just been clutch for lack of a better word. And in this [Miami] game, we went into the fourth quarter up 2 points, somewhere around there, and then obviously, our defense made big plays and the offense was able to execute."

Berrios scored the Jets' final TD on Sunday, spending a few extra minutes on the turf. He said that he had landed on the ball and had the wind knocked out of him. No damage, only 6 points.

See the best images from the 40-17 victory over the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.

Young Men on the Rise
A big focus through five games has been the impressive play of the Jets' 2021 and 2022 rookie classes. On Sunday, RB Breece Hall ran for 97 yards and caught 2 passes for 100 yards. CB Sauce Gardner has lived up to the hype that comes with being the No. 4 overall draft pick, with a nickname to boot. WR Garrett Wilson continues to flash. OL Max Mitchell, DL Micheal Clemons and DE Jermaine Johnson (who is dealing with an ankle injury) have all made significant contributions.

Not to be forgotten is last year's crop, led, of course, by quarterback Zach Wilson; but also including RB Michael Carter, CB Michael Carter II and potential Pro Bowl OL Alijah Vera-Tucker.

"What's impressive is that nothing has been too big for them," Saleh said. "Usually with rookies, in the first game they've got big eyes. I remember I had a rookie in San Francisco. He makes a tackle on a big-name player, looks at me and says he just tackled so and so. I told him, no he got tackled by you. It hasn't been too big for them, there's still a long way to go, but what's exciting is that they're doing very well and haven't scratched the surface. As long as they continue the selflessness, this is going to be a special group."

Veteran center Connor McGovern credited GM Joe Douglas, his scouting staff and Saleh with making savvy choices and hitting on each of them.

"They've really hit on the last two rookie classes," McGovern said. "And you can just see it every week, especially the last one with Zach and AVT and all those guys in that draft, and then this draft, every single guy that got drafted has been productive. I don't know if I've ever seen a draft class where, and I might be wrong, but they've almost all started like every single guy. Every single pick has started a game. And not only started a game, but being on offense, huge weapons and on defense, playmakers. So, it's been really impressive to see a rookie class come out and dominate the way they have."

All-World AVT
Alijah Vera-Tucker has quickly gained legendary status among his teammates, and justifiably so. On Sunday, the second-year offensive lineman from USC played his fourth different position -- right tackle. The joke around MetLife Stadium and on Monday at 1 Jets Drive was that the only positions left for AVT to boss are quarterback and center.

"First and foremost, he's a selfless warrior," Saleh said. "I mean, the guy does whatever you ask of him. There's also this confidence in him that we have. Whatever we ask him to do, he's going to be unbelievable at it. What he's done is not easy as any old lineman can tell you.

"He's played four different positions already. Three in the last three weeks. And he's been lights out with all of it. But it's just a testament to who he is and the type of person that we've been bringing into this locker room with regards to the selflessness, the sacrifice for their teammates."

McGovern, who has been in the league since 2016, said that Vera-Tucker has Hall of Fame potential. Bear in mind that AVT, in his 22 games in the NFL has not missed a single snap on offense.

"He is the epitome of a great offensive lineman," McGovern said. "And then, I wish I could describe how hard it is what he's done the past couple of weeks. Unless you've played the position, it's hard to understand. But to go from guard to tackle is incredibly difficult. It's not a completely different game, but it's a different game. And then to have to flip sides, all the plays are backward in your head now. And it's absolutely incredible to see him do that, be so selfless to go out and do that. But then not only to go out and just play it, but play at an extremely high level at both tackles ... and guard it's incredible.

"There are a few guys in history that can do that. And he's one of them."

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