Mekhi Becton
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets and Browns kick off the 2023 preseason at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game Thursday night.

Aaron Rodgers won’t play. Many other starters aren’t expected to, either. But there will still be various players to keep an eye on, including last year’s starting quarterback…

Here are four Jets players to watch in the preseason opener:

QB Zach Wilson. The No. 2 overall pick-turned-backup will start against Cleveland — it’ll be his first action in any game since his disastrous end to the 2022 season that led to a benching and eventual demotion.

Wilson is set to be the second-string quarterback behind Rodgers and it’ll be interesting to see if he made any sort of improvements this past offseason, even if it’s in limited action against Browns backups.

Regardless of how well Wilson plays, his performance will be a significant talking point with starters on the bench. If he looks good, maybe he’s taking that next step under Rodgers’ mentorship. If he struggles against other second-stringers, then fire up the headlines.

OT Mekhi Becton. Head coach Robert Saleh told the media at training camp this week the fourth-year offensive tackle will get reps against the Browns. The Jets have had Becton come along slowly in camp after he missed 33 of the last 34 regular-season games — including all of last season — with knee injuries.

Becton has a ton of ground to cover if he wants to lock down a starting job. Duane Brown will be penciled in as the starting left tackle if and when he’s activated off the physically unable to perform list. Max Mitchell is pencield in as the starting right tackle. Veteran Billy Turner is also in the mix. So Becton must impress early and often this preseason, which is why Thursday’s reps will be crucial for the 2020 first-rounder.

RB Michael Carter. Starting running back Breece Hall is still on the PUP list after tearing his ACL last season and Dalvin Cook isn’t around just yet (if he even will be). So Michael Carter is expected to be one of the top backs on Thursday night’s roster, and every rep will be important for the young back.

Carter took a step back last year and averaged just 3.5 yards per carry after averaging 4.3 yards his rookie season. The coaching staff simply lost trust in him amid the rise of Hall (prior to the injury) and decent play from reserve back Bam Knight — Carter averaged only 7.1 rushes per game after he carried the ball 10.5 times on average the year prior.

Coming off a true sophomore slump, Carter needs to turn heads with Hall returning, Knight returning, Cook potentially joining the roster, and rookie Israel Abanikanda also in the mix.

Essentially any rookie. We cheated here by adding a group of players, and we say “essentially” because it’s unclear how often, if at all, first-round defensive end Will McDonald will play. The former Iowa State star dealt with a leg contusion earlier in camp and it might be smart to hold him out.

But besides that, the Jets have a plethora of first-year players who should garner eyeballs. The fifth-rounder Abanikanda will earn notable carries to show off his great speed. Meanwhile, fourth-round offensive tackle Carter Warren will look to develop and prove he can serve as a reliable reserve swing option.

Second-round center Joe Tippmann is reportedly struggling in camp and it seems veteran incumbent Connor McGovern has a hold on the starting job. But a great performance for Tippmann could go a long way toward changing the narrative.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.