Jets football is back this Friday. The Robert Saleh-led squad will head to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in either team’s preseason opener.
The outcome is meaningless. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tune in and see Gang Green take the field for the first time this season.
Here are five things to watch:
Second-year leap? Quarterback Zach Wilson is entering year two and is expected to improve. He’s now in his second year under offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s watch. General manager Joe Douglas also greatly improved this roster in the offseason to benefit Wilson, signing Laken Tomlinson to play left guard and bringing in numerous weapons via free agency and the draft.
We should see for the first time Friday night whether the former No. 2 pick is more comfortable in the system after a rookie year to forget. Poor decision-making, pure indecisiveness, and a knee injury hindered Wilson’s development last season. Now, it’s time to step up, starting even with the preseason.
Running back tandem. The Jets have two running backs on the roster you can classify as starters — that’s a good problem to have. 2021 fourth-rounder Michael Carter and rookie second-rounder Breece Hall will get the bulk of the load.
But how will LaFleur utilize either back? With Hall coming in as a recent early draft pick, where will Carter exactly find himself in the mix? The running back position should be one to focus on come Friday night.
New-look secondary. Douglas overhauled the secondary in the offseason. He signed cornerback D.J. Reed and safety Jordan Whitehead before drafting cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner at No. 4 overall.
Each of these guys will be starters in the regular season, looking to change the narrative from last year (the Jets were 30th in the NFL with 259.4 passing yards allowed per game). In the team’s first game situation against another organization, the secondary will need to start developing chemistry. This, so the unit can thrive when the 17-game slate begins. The unit must also help maximize the talent within the front seven — the pass rush won’t be all that effective if opposing receivers are constantly open.
The rookies. Obviously, the rookies will garner plenty of eyeballs Friday night.
This fanbase will finally get to see Gardner in action, as well as first-round receiver Garrett Wilson and first-round defensive end Jermaine Johnson. Will Wilson start to prove he can be a reliable target alongside his wide receiver counterparts in Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Braxton Berrios? Will Johnson show he can greatly complement other pass rushers such as defensive ends Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers?
Hall and third-round tight end Jeremy Ruckert will also see action. Mitchell, on the other hand, will audition for a role as the team’s top reserve swing tackle (it’s tough to imagine he’ll immediately assume the starting right tackle job).