Jets’ First Showcase Signals Plenty of Positives Ahead

We can all feel a little better about Zach Wilson today after his performance in the Jets’ preseason opener against Cleveland Thursday night.


Wilson looked calm and composed in his 3-for-5, 65-yard performance. He threw some nice balls downfield and didn’t get rattled under pressure. There’s plenty of talk around  that Aaron Rodgers has taken Wilson under his wing, and can be credited for his new look. Yet, with defined roles for Wilson and Rodgers, life should be easier. 


Overall, though, this was the NFL-NBC national televised kickoff to the 2023 season with the Hall of Fame game, where the interviews of the latest round of inductees is definitely a reason to turn the game off. I’ve never been a fan of the Manning brothers running show on ESPN broadcasts. Just give me football.


We had football last year, but we all know the merit of preseason games, especially the first one. However, this one was more tight, and wasn’t as sloppy as some are.


For Wilson to do well, though, was essential. A disastrous start would have been a problem. We’ll see more of Wilson and probably a quarter or two of Rodgers – maybe nothing of him –until September.


It was the first showcase for the backup players, and the Jets did look good on both sides of the ball despite their 21-16 loss. Rodgers and most of the Jets’ starters watched from the sidelines.


Defensive end Bryce Huff, who had their lone sack, showed once again why the team should not let him get lost in the line shuffle up front. Huff has never received the respect he deserves, and he could be a camp casualty or a trade chip in the next few weeks, but the Jets should look twice.


Top draft pick Will McDonald, who has flown under the radar unlike most of his predecessors likely due to the Rodgers’ phenomena, also had a strong game and looks like he can provide the steady pass rush the Jets have been seeking.


Rookie center Joe Tippmann played all four quarters, and that should signal that he will have some significant playing time. Much-maligned tackle Mekhi Becton survived without getting hurt, and was fairly consistent.


Rookie running back Israel Abanikanda showed how his outside speed can be an asset this fall, and may have the Jets thinking twice about signing Dalvin Cook. By the way, what happened to all the fanfare and assumption that the Cook deal would be done by this time? The Cook talk has been silenced.


Linebackers Damien Sherwood and Chazz Surratt were solid at the position the team needs to watch closely.


Kicker Greg Zuerlein had field goals of 54, 44, and 43 yards, and proved once again that he has one of the game’s strongest and consistent legs.


In the end, though, there was a sense of confidence in the air and along the sidelines. This Jets’ team has an aire and presence about them that hasn’t been present in a while.


Still, this is the opening act of a long-anticipated show before the fat lady finally sings.


About the Author

Jeff Moeller

Jeff Moeller has been covering the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and college football and basketball as well as high school sports on a national and local scene for the past 39 years. He has been a Jets and Giants beat reporter for the past 13 years.

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