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5 huge winners from New York Jets’ preseason opener

Denzel Mims was a winner for the NY Jets in their 2021 preseason opener against the NY Giants.
Denzel Mims, NY Jets, Getty Images

QB Mike White

Highlighting the winners from the New York Jets‘ preseason-opening win over the New York Giants is Mike White.

White took a step forward in his competition with James Morgan for the Jets’ backup quarterback job. He received second-team reps and got a hefty amount of action, leading the Jets with 19 pass attempts (Zach Wilson and Morgan each threw 9).

While there wasn’t much about White’s performance that was sexy, he showed a decent command of the offense.

White got the football out promptly and was fairly accurate on the quick-hitting short throws that will be prominent in Mike LaFleur‘s offense. You want your quarterback to be able to consistently place the ball in a spot where the receiver can run through it in stride and continue upfield. White did a solid job of that.

All told, White completed 13 of 19 passes (68.4%) for 127 yards (6.7 per attempt), zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He took one sack for eight yards.

K Matt Ammendola

Matt Ammendola seems to be slowly gaining separation on Chris Naggar in the Jets’ kicking battle.

Entering the Giants game, Ammendola had gone 14-for-16 (87.5%) in training camp practices while Naggar had gone 15-for-20 (75.0%). All the while, Ammendola consistently showed superior power in addition to his accuracy advantage.

Ammendola was only asked to kick one extra point on Saturday and he drilled it. Naggar was given two field goal attempts, making one from 30 yards but missing another from 53 yards.

Obviously, a 53-yard kick is somewhat difficult, but Naggar wasn’t even close on the miss. The ball was wide left and short as it fluttered lifelessly through the air. It was a continuation of what Naggar has shown in camp thus far – there just is not much juice on his kicks.

Ammendola is the front-runner in this battle. The Jets could add a better option who gets cut later in the offseason, such as Tampa Bay’s Jose Borregales, but Ammendola is clearly the best kicker on their roster right now.

EDGE Bryce Huff

The Jets will be looking for someone to replace Vinny Curry‘s snaps during the veteran’s absence (he is expected to be out until at least Week 2).

There are quite a few different candidates to take those snaps. John Franklin-Myers could kick out to the edge. More pure edge defenders like Ronald Blair, Kyle Phillips, and Jabari Zuniga could each make a play to steal Curry’s spot, or the Jets could divvy up the vacant snaps amongst all of them.

Bryce Huff seems to be on his way to taking all of Curry’s snaps – and perhaps even maintaining them upon Curry’s return.

On Saturday, it was clear that the Jets wanted to test out how well Huff could handle a starter’s workload. Huff started the game and played all the way through.

And he may have been the best defensive player on the field.

Huff recorded two sacks, and they were both legitimate sacks in which he scorched the right tackle and reached the quarterback in a flash. He created plenty of pressure throughout the night in addition to those sacks, impressing with his explosive get-off, cross-chop moves, and ability to smoothly bend around the corner.

In his rookie season, Huff was highly efficient in games where he played a small number of snaps, but his effectiveness dwindled when he had to play a larger role. That disparity suggested he could become a good situational player.

Saturday’s performance suggested he could be more than that. Dominating from start to finish, recording one sack in the first quarter and one sack in the fourth quarter, Huff showed the capability of handling a starter’s workload.

QB Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson had an excellent NFL debut. He checked all of the boxes that you would like to see a rookie check in a vanilla preseason environment. His decision-making, timing, and accuracy were all great even if he did not have any groundbreaking Patrick Mahomes-esque highlights.

Wilson was impressive on the fast-release, three-step-drop plays that dominated the Jets’ play-calling during his time in the game. He got the ball out quickly and released it on time, hitting receivers just as they came out of their breaks.

His accuracy was crisp. Wilson hit a handful of tight-window throws in the intermediate range. He threw a beam to Corey Davis from the opposite hash on a well-covered out-route and fired the ball into Keelan Cole‘s chest on a contested dig route over the middle. Both plays were third-down conversions.

Highlight-reel moments are nice, but it’s the intangibles that are most important when you evaluate a rookie quarterback in his first NFL preseason. Is he making the right decisions? Is he deciphering the defense fluidly? Is he getting the ball out on time?

Wilson hit all of those marks. He consistently chose the best available target and played decisively, looking comfortable in the offense and showing a strong understanding of the concepts he was asked to run.

From a mental standpoint, Wilson was intriguingly sharp in his very first NFL game.

WR Denzel Mims

Denzel Mims received reps with the special teams unit and seemed to be part of the third-team wide receiver group, with Jeff Smith and Vyncint Smith entering the game before him.

That’s not a promising place for Mims to be in. Regardless, Mims did just about everything he could on Saturday to catapult his way back up the depth chart.

Mims was targeted four times and recorded three catches for a game-high 51 yards. All three receptions went for at least 12 yards and moved the chains.

The most impressive moment of the night for Mims was an inspiring showing of grit on a third-and-18 check down. Mims caught an uncontested pass about five yards downfield and charged his way to the first down marker, evading two tacklers and dragging at least three more with him beyond the line-to-gain.

One of Mims’ other two catches was a 12-yard pickup in which he caught a six-yard quick-out and then gained six yards after the catch to get the first down, putting his head down and plowing a defender past the marker.

With those two grabs, Mims silenced any doubts regarding his ability to gain yards after the catch. He is a threat with the ball in his hands, and thus, a good fit in an offense that places a premium on YAC.

It is difficult to see everything on the television broadcast, but Mims’ releases off the line of scrimmage looked solid even on plays where he was not targeted. He did a good job of using his hands to defeat press coverage and free himself up to separate.

We will see if this performance from Mims was enough to regain some faith from the Jets’ coaching staff.

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2 years ago

Vyncint Smith with three catches, and a great Special Teams Play, could be the gunner opposite Hardee. Josh Adams had a nice 12 yard gain. Can’t see either making the 53 , but could be employed elsewhere.Banging the drum for Smith, because he is cheap deep speed, and want a vertical passing game for Zack. But the Jets can only carry 6 WR’s and Berrios has had a good camp, and he is the only legitimate trustworthy punt returner.

verge tibbs
2 years ago

In the post game presser, Saleh mentioned something about Huff “transformed his body” from OTAs on. I hope to hear more details about this in the future. I wonder if he maybe followed Q’s diet change from year 1 to year 2 or if it was a workout change or what. Either way, speculation here but you know part of the reasoning was Huff getting to OTAs and seeing how stacked the DL was and choosing to do everything he could to make it. It’s inspiring and more proof that competition brings out the best in players.

2 years ago
Reply to  verge tibbs

Certainly more stamina, played a lot , got better as the game progresssed