As the Jets players, and their first-year head coach Robert Saleh and his staff know: Now the work really begins.
Friday night's third and final preseason game, a thrilling contest that finished in a 31-31 tie with Philadelphia, even though it doesn't count, saw the Jets rest a long list of players, including: QBs Zach Wilson and Mike White; WRs Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore and Denzel Mims; RBs Tevin Coleman and RB La'Mical Perine; TEs Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin; LT Mekhi Becton, LG Alijah Vera-Tucker, C Connor McGovern, G Greg Van Roten; DTs Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins, DL John Franklin-Myers; LB C.J. Mosley; CB Justin Hardee; Ss Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner.
Speaking about Wilson, his eager-beaver of a rookie and likely starter in the regular season opener, at Carolina on Sept. 12, Saleh said: "He always wants to play. He lobbied to play. They all lobbied to play."
He added: "From the offensive side of the ball, when you look at it all it's a difficult thing. With Mekhi being out it was not worth it to bring him [Wilson] out. He had a productive camp and from what we've seen in games. I really wanted to give the younger guys a look and let them try to etch a spot on the roster."
With all those players getting a rest, the objective, Saleh said, was to give the team's rookies an opportunity to stretch their legs, get some reps and put more plays on tape. The Jets and the 31 other NFL teams must reduce their rosters to 53 by late Tuesday, plus a 16-man reserve squad. Saleh knows there are decisions to be made. The bubble players know there are decisions to be made.
"Obviously [general manager] Joe [Douglas] and I are going to talk personnel and we're going to get input from all of the coaches," Saleh said. "From there, we're making some really tough decisions. This is the part of camp that's always the worst, when you have to face a lot of men and give them either good news or bad news."
With Wilson watching from the sideline with White, who is injured, as offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur again called plays from the field, Saleh gave the first half to veteran Josh Johnson and the second half to second-year man James Morgan. They each put in strong performances. Johnson was 7 of 8 for 73 yards, 1 TD pass and a 144.3 rating. Morgan hit on 13 of 23 for 158 yards, 2 TDs and an 88.7 rating. But he also led the Jets to three second-half scores and launched a desperation 49-yard scoring pass to TE Kenny Yeboah as time ran out, and the Jets added a two-point conversion to end the game in a tie, 31-31.
"We gave JJ a chance to go compete and felt like it was a great opportunity for him to show that he doesn't look like he's in his mid-30s running around out there," Saleh said. "He's a veteran, he knew where to go with the ball. Then Jamo [Morgan], getting another opportunity. He's put in a lot of time before and after practice and the way he was operating and moving, he showed a lot of grit to get a 60-yard throw into the end zone. We thought they [the QBs] all got better as camp went along. Mike White was getting better, Josh is a vet, Jamo just going through and learning. For the second half he had, it was awesome."
See the Top Images from Postgame at MetLife Stadium Following the Jets-Eagles Game
A couple of quick hits. ...
Saleh on playing the expected starting CBs Bless Austin and Bryce Hall: "They're still young corners, they need the reps. They still have a lot to get cleaned up back there in technique and tackling."
Speaking of tackling, the HC spoke about a couple missed by rookie LB Jamien Sherwood: "The first one was unlucky, you just don't let go. But I'm happy he got this game in. Every time he hits the field he's going to learn something. He'll have help with C.J. flanking him and Marcus on the other side for communication. It's important for him and Nas [Hamsah Nasirildeen] to get out there and execute." The second one came on Boston Scott's 49-yard catch-and-run TD.
On Ty Johnson 13 carries, 53 yards: "He still has so much more in the tank. He took a great step forward."