FLORHAM PARK, NJ – A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:
1. Raised QB: Focusing on the team and himself, Zach Wilson won the offseason.
When he wasn’t playing for his receivers on his “Zach Across America Tour,” the sophomore quarterback was working on his body. Listed at 6ft-2, 214lbs, Wilson will never be confused with Josh Allen (6ft-5) or Justin Herbert (6ft-6), which is why his goal was to add cushion-weight to the weekly punch.
“He looks muscular – in a good way,” said coach Robert Saleh.
Wilson said he wanted to do this the “right way”, focusing on a healthy diet. People close to him say he has become meticulous about what he eats. He has tried to gain weight in the past, reaching 218, but he didn’t feel comfortable from an athletic standpoint. This time, he went slowly and steadily to keep his quickness and throwing motion loose. He hasn’t disclosed his current weight, but the change is apparent to everyone around him.
“Looks like he’s put on some weight,” linebacker CJ Mosley said, smiling. “He was in the weight room. Maybe he went to Miami and the [players who train there] got it right. I don’t know if they were lifting weights like that at BYU. But that’s the difference between Year 1 and Year 2. Your body starts to change, you get a little older and you discover the ins and outs. That’s part of being professional and growing.”
Wilson is showing he wants to improve after a disappointing rookie season. He’s doing and saying the right things, getting praise for his mature approach, but that only takes a player so far. It’s a production business, and he has to produce much better than he did last year.
An updated supporting cast will help, but it will eventually fall to Wilson. It can start with the little things – literally. In passing attempts between 1 and 10 yards, he completed 62% – 10% below the NFL average, according to a survey by ESPN Stats & Information. If he manages to reach the average, which calculates about two more shots per game, the offense will be in a better place.
2. Peculiar schedule: The Jets’ programming is, in a word, bizarre. Four AFC North opponents to start the season? That’s very Rust Belt.
Their Week 1 opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, face the same deal with the AFC East. The Jets and Ravens are the first teams to open a season with four straight games against the same division since 2004, according to a statement from the Elias Sports Bureau.
Other interesting facts:
The Jets have eight fewer days off than their opponents, tied for fourth-worst rest differential.
The Jets have to travel 7,500 miles more than their opponents, the second worst differential.
They have the fourth easiest submission stretch (December to January), based on their opponents’ 2021 win percentage (0.407).
3. Man of Intrigue: Every draft class has a mystery man. For the Jets, it’s fourth-round defensive end Michael Clemons (Texas A&M), a tantalizing mix of promise and concern.
He’s produced on the field (ranked 13th out of 470 qualified pass-rushers in FBS-level pressure percentage), but he comes with age (24), injuries and off-field questions. He was arrested last August on charges that included illegal possession of a weapon, resulting in a game suspension. He was also cited with multiple traffic violations on at least five occasions from 2018 to 2021, according to Texas court records.
In the field, you can tell he’s wired a little differently than most. General manager Joe Douglas called Clemons “one of the nastiest players” in the draft”, with Saleh adding, “When he puts on a helmet, he goes to a very dark place.” The Jets will be happy.
4. Dear D: If the defense stinks again this year, it won’t be because the front office refused to invest money on that side of the ball. The Jets spent $111.6 million on defense, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers ($130.8 million), according to Over the Cap. You can tell they’re paying for the potential because only one player (linebacker CJ Mosley) has a Pro Bowl in his pocket. resume.
5. Major concern: The Jets ranked 29th and did not replace defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi (Jacksonville Jaguars). I bring this up for two reasons:
They open the season against the Ravens, who have dangerous quarterback Lamar Jackson and one of the most prolific offenses in the league. This could be a problem. That’s why the Jets are showing interest in defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who could immediately join the team alongside Quinnen Williams.
6. Dead end, no more: No position has seen more upheavals than the tight end, which is pretty impressive when you consider the team’s recent history. For a decade, the Jets didn’t care about the position, evidenced by the embarrassing production — a record 561 receptions from 2011 to 2021.
They replaced Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft with CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, adding a sweetener to the draft — third-round pick Jeremy Ruckert. They still have Trevon Wesco in the cast.
“Now, our cramped room… scary,” said Uzomah.
7. Special tome: Remember Mike Westhoff? Of course you do. He was the Jets’ special teams coach from 2001 to 2012, an X’s-and-O’s genius who never shy away from speaking his mind. Now retired, he hasn’t lost his candor, as you’ll quickly learn by reading his autobiography, “Discover: My Thirty-Two Year Journey as I Revolutionize Professional Football’s Special Teams.” He was assisted by Associated Press NFL reporter Barry Wilner.
A cancer survivor, Westhoff has a story to tell. His chapters on his time with the Jets, which included six playoff seasons and some embarrassing casualties, are particularly intriguing. He covers everyone from Tim Tebow (“not an NFL quarterback”) to Mark Sanchez (“just a manageable quarterback at best”), also covering the two general managers and three coaches he worked with.
Westhoff has good things to say about each of his former bosses, though he does manage to spark some trouble at former coaches Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini. He saves his harshest words for former GM Terry Bradway, who “wasn’t my favorite. I thought in a lot of ways he was just mediocre.” He criticizes former GM Mike Tannenbaum for excluding him from the pre-draft process in 2012, adding, “We went from a championship-level team to a bull operation, and this was another example.”
He also reveals how his friendship with Bill Parcells, whom he considered a mentor, was ruined when Parcells, in a 2008 letter to the NFL office, accused Westhoff of violating league rules. While under contract with the Jets, Westhoff, who had “retired” for health reasons, visited a Miami Dolphins training camp as a guest of Parcells. A few days later, Westhoff returned to the Jets, who were preparing to open against Miami. This did not please Parcells, who figured that Westhoff had been spying on the Dolphins illegally.
“With a miserable letter, chickens—“, writes Westhoff, “he destroyed what I believed to be a great relationship.”
Westhoff’s fascinating football life is a good summer read.