As Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh made moves that stocked the Jets with new, quality players on the defensive and offensive lines, the defensive backfield and provided reinforcements surrounding second-year quarterback Zach Wilson at running back and wide receiver, only Marcell Harris was signed at linebacker. He joins only a handful of linebackers listed on the current team roster.
Harris (who has also excelled on special teams) played three years for San Francisco under Saleh, then the DC. The switch to linebacker came in 2021 under DeMeco Ryans when Harris was transformed him from strong safety to linebacker, a practice Saleh brought to the Jets when they drafted two safeties in 2021 -- Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen -- and instantly crowned them linebackers.
Speaking about Harris, linebackers coach Mike Rutenberg said: "I'm excited about him, obviously he's from San Francisco and has a similar system. He has experience with Coach Saleh, who was with him longer than I was in my one year there with him. I like what he brings to the table, energy, he plays the game the right way, he's a tough player with knowledge of the systems and that really, really helps. It's enjoyable to have him here."
For Rutenberg, 40, who joined the Jets in February of 2021, strengthening the defensive backfield (which added CB D.J. Reed and S Jordan Whitehead in free agency, and the No. 4 overall draft pick CB Sauce Gardner) also helps his linebacking corps.
"Any time you make investments in the back end it's a plus," he said. "We all work together. All the help in the back end helps the linebackers since we work together so much."
As things stand now, a few days before the start of the Jets' mandatory minicamp, Rutenberg knows he has a pair of studs to work with and build around. That short list includes the two LBs who led the defense in tackles last season: C.J. Mosley (168) and Quincy Williams (110).
"Quincy's superpower is his speed and strength," said Rutenberg, who was Jacksonville's assistant LB coach when the Jaguars drafted Williams in 2019. "And those superpowers are starting to show up. Coming out of college he showed more on the edge, he has the speed we're looking for. He's an ideal linebacker in our system. I love the eagerness and having him here for a full offseason, getting more reps in the system. He's more comfortable."
But it's the man in the middle -- Mosley -- who really got Rutenberg's juices flowing.
"First of all, it's a privilege to coach him, C.J. is a special player," Rutenberg said. "He's done an amazing job learning the defense and figuring out how to make plays for himself in the defense. In meetings, he has an amazing, amazing brain. His intelligence is incredible. I'm so lucky, he provides excellent leadership on and off the field. He shows how to be a professional physically and mentally. We're fortunate to have him here."
See the best images of the Jets during the final week of OTA practices in Florham Park.
QB Coach Rob Calabrese Has Deep Jets Roots
The Jets new quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese said that he never really had a choice about being a Jets fan as he grew up and starred as the quarterback at East Islip High School on Long Island. Hint: He won the Boomer Esiason Award as Suffolk County's top QB as a junior and a senior. Along the way, he also broke Esiason's school records for passing yards and TDs.
"Being from Boomer's hometown, I really didn't have a choice," he said about being a Jets fan.
Calabrese now shoulders some of the responsibility for facilitating Zach Wilson's development, the main voice in the QB room after last season when Wilson was also supported by Matt Cavanaugh and John Beck, among others.
"You see what you see, on tape he's a football player, you see how talented he is," Calabrese said. "He can make any throw on the field. A quarterback who can make any throw can extend plays with his feet. Now he's come back [in OTAs] and plays the quarterback the right way. As a rookie, the thing is you learn it the hard way. You just have to make the right decision. As Jets fans, we want to see that so we can be in it in the fourth quarter. In this building with this staff and these people, that's the most important thing. I'm invested in him. The goal is to win."
In his previous job as Denver's offensive quality control coach, Calabrese crossed paths with Jets backup QB Joe Flacco, soaking in all he could as he contemplated his next move along the professional coaching hierarchy. Now, as the voice in Wilson's head, if not his helmet, Calabrese is all in on his second-year signal caller.
"The main thing in Year 2 is growing in the scheme, getting with staff," he said. "As a first-time position coach, I'll do everything I can to make his job easier. Zach has grown from last year and I'm excited.
"I've always wanted to leave my footprint on something, especially being from this area. And being with Zach, seeing his potential and what he went through last year, I wanted to see what he'd do this year. He'll get one clear, concise message. We all go through [OC Mike] LaFleur, we're all on the same page. In Year 2, after being a rookie, the terminology, the verbiage is more comfortable. As Coach Saleh said, he's gone from Football 101 to 301 and then 501. He's done a good job getting more confident with things we want him to do."
Special Teams Coordinator Brank Boyer Sees Team 'On the Rise'
Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer has been with the Green & White longer than any other player or coach, holding his current position since 2016. Now he sees promise on the horizon.
"I think that this team is on the rise," he said. "Again, I'm not going to put any expectations out there, but I think there is more competition at every spot than I've seen here since I've been here. I think Joe [Douglas] and upstairs have done a fantastic job at bringing in more talent. I think they are going to be well-coached across the board. I think that we'll surprise some people as far as how physical this team is going to play. I think we are faster and we're bigger. I have high expectations. I think we are going to win some games this year, I really do."
With minicamp about to start, Boyer is overseeing a two-man competition at placekicker between holdover Eddy Piñeiro and free-agent signee Greg Zuerlein.
"It's been good to see those guys battling back and forth, and it's been a really tight competition," Boyer said. "They're both doing a really nice job, and it is neck and neck so far, and we'll see what happens as we get through the mandatory minicamp and into training camp. Zuerlein has come in and fits right into our room and has done a fantastic job so far. Eddy has improved his rise and things that I've asked him to do. So, it's going to be a heck of a competition."