Sabo Radio, Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Jet X Graphic, USATSI

Zach Wilson, Robert Saleh and the New York Jets were enthusiastic on day No. 1 of rookie minicamp, which should increase fan optimism.

Yes, New York Jets fans, be excited.

Have no shame. Be not depressed. Forget about the past—if only for one offseason. The first day of 2021 rookie minicamp has come and gone, and the only conclusion is this: You should be going nuts right about now.

From start to finish, a different feel was in the air. Whether it was new head coach Robert Saleh cracking jokes during his pre-minicamp Zoom session or the coaching staff as a whole creating on-field excitement, the previous regime’s characteristics have vanished.

These days, it’s all about the process. It’s all about growth. It’s all about football. General manager Joe Douglas‘s goal is to find as many true football players as possible, while Saleh looks to put them in the best possible situation each day.

Jets Quotes, Jersey Numbers

“Players are here to go play football,” Saleh told the media Friday morning. “It’s our job to help put them in the best situation possible so they can get better every single day.”

Obviously, the change in coaching philosophy is nice, but the headliner came in the form of No. 2.

That’s right, the second-overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, Zach Wilson, donned his draft-pick status Friday afternoon in Florham Park, NJ. Although every jersey number is unofficial, Wilson’s No. 2 is a solid bet to stick considering undrafted free agent Chris Naggar is planning to roll with No. 1 while Denzel Mims still has No. 11.

I knew the Michael Carter-Michael Carter II confusion would eventually get me. I didn’t anticipate it happening on the very first day. Unlike the tweet above, Michael Carter the running back is slated to wear No. 32, whereas the defensive back, Michael Carter II, performed on Friday in No. 30.

Other notable numbers include Alijah Vera-Tucker‘s 75, Jamien Sherwood’s 44, Hamsah Nasirildeen’s 46, Jason Pinnock’s 41, Kenny Yeboah’s 48, Jonathan Marshall’s 96, Brandin Echols’s 25, Isaiah Dunn’s 36 and Elijah Moore‘s 8.

Speaking of the do-it-all rookie wideout, Moore also spoke to the media prior to his first-ever NFL session and couldn’t say enough good things about his new quarterback.

“Just by talking to him on the phone, I can tell he’s just like a general,” Moore said about Wilson. “He’s just super excited to be here as well. His passion comes out through the phone.”

Interestingly, when asked how he’s adapting to his new professional home, in Northern New Jersey, and what he plans to do after rookie camp, Moore kept it about strictly football, believing that he and his new quarterback will figure it out together.

Jets X-Factor

“We’ve been in contact every day,” Moore added. ” … He’s [Wilson] someone who wasted no time. … I really don’t know yet; I’m going to get it all figured out with Zach and everybody else.”

Jets Highlights

Wilson partook in 24 or so reps of 7-on-7 Friday afternoon, but the media wasn’t around for that part of day No. 1. Nonetheless, there wouldn’t be much to break down. In shorts, against air—with only 25-30 players on the field—doesn’t allow for much dissection of any kind.

Despite the smaller-in-stature talk surrounding the BYU product, the kid didn’t look all that small in person. He seemed composed, confident and ready to let it rip all afternoon.

Aside from his already-legendary high knees and power skips, Wilson took part in simple route work. Some flats to the backs, slants to the wideouts and Y-sticks to the tight ends highlighted his positional breakout time.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, pass game specialist Greg Knapp and quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese started Wilson off with some footwork drills—prior to positional breakouts.

His ball placement was fine, as hardly any footballs hit the ground—something that should be expected at this level, especially when playing against air. Whether or not that trend continues in the summer’s 7-on-7s, against defenders, will be the first true eye test for the kid.

Quite frequently, in the Adam Gase era, Sam Darnold and company struggled to keep balls off the ground in 7-on-7s, which is always an eyebrow-raiser.

Final thoughts

As mentioned at the top, the atmosphere has drastically changed. The enthusiasm was rampant, as was the optimism. Even the head coach’s visible attempt to connect with media members and players was on full display.

Instead of maintaining distance during pre-game stretches, Saleh planted himself right in the thick of things while engaging with his players.

Yes, it’s safe to let go of all those haunting thoughts of recent yesteryear. Every New York Jets fan deserves the right to head into a summer filled with real optimism about his and her football team.

And yes, keeping the optimism at a “real” level is important, for genuine football people are now in the building and on the field who are ready to meet those expectations.

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