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NY Jets practice notes: Targeting specific ills, Zach Wilson’s process

Robert Saleh, Zach Wilson, Boston Scott, J.T. Hassell
Robert Saleh, Zach Wilson, Boston Scott, J.T. Hassell, NY Jets, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

The NY Jets’ regular-season mindset has officially arrived

FLORHAM PARK, NJ—Football is a sport unlike any other (cue Jim Nantz in an altered fashion). No other sport exists in which coaching matters as much. Not baseball, not hockey, not soccer and certainly not basketball—as the superstars of the NBA own the association these days while flipping entire organizational fortunes from one year to the next.

While talent is critical to an NFL franchise’s future endeavors, the overall philosophy, direction and coaching loom large.

The sport’s nature leaves immense room for nuance. Superstars that should easily reach that level don’t always fulfill potential, whereas good players can overreach a production ceiling thanks to a myriad of factors—with coaching at the forefront.

It’s why New York Jets fandom burst into hysterical applause when its organization hired Robert Saleh to become the next head coach.

Saleh, 42, now ventures into the regular-season phase of his rookie head-coaching campaign. Sunday’s helmet-only practice marks the first in a two-week preparation sprint to the Carolina Panthers and Week 1.

NY Jets are targeting specific ills

Lighter practice or not, the attention to detail remained.

Among the highlights of positionals was the extremely popular and run-of-the-mill sideline tackling drill. Although the non-padded practice didn’t feature any live tackling—as few NFL practices do in today’s game—the attention to focus may just service a direct purpose.

In the Jets’ 31-31 preseason-capping tie with the Philadelphia Eagles Friday night, Boston Scott found paydirt after he darted down the sideline past safety J.T. Hassell.

First, Jamien Sherwood couldn’t keep up with the speedy Scott coming out of the backfield, then Hassell allowed Scott to juke him out of his own cleats.

For Sherwood, the angle was wrong. The tackling attempt was risky (lunging, not keeping his feet and driving). In Hassell’s case, not using the sideline to his advantage immediately popped up as a teaching point.

Defensive backs (or any defender, really) in that situation have to break down and keep their feet while using the sideline as an extra defender. Not until the right amount of space is eliminated should the head then get across via tackle.

Just two days later, the Jets defensive backs found themselves in the good-old-fashioned sideline drill—mirroring the issue witnessed at MetLife Stadium just two days prior. And sure, considering the frequency of this drill, it could have been a complete coincidence that Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich opted to focus on it early in practice after the Scott score.

Then again, it shouldn’t surprise anybody if purpose fueled Sunday’s early positional session choice.

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

Zach Wilson’s unique process explained

Zach Wilson took the podium after Sunday’s practice and remained as composed as he usually is both on and off the field.

Similar to his rookie head coach, Wilson is now also venturing into uncharted territory. Training camp is over and the first day of Week 1’s regular-season workweek schedule has arrived (albeit the Jets have two weeks to prepare for Carolina).

Interestingly, Wilson—a kid whose on-field talents force those around him to rave about between-the-ears qualities—explained how he prepares for a football game via his own unique process.

“I don’t know how veteran quarterbacks do it in the NFL, but I kind of found something that works for me as far as making sure I get on the tape, and I sort cutups in a certain way,” Wilson told reporters Sunday afternoon.

Naturally, the BYU product often described as a “film junkie” is watching the full tape, but he’s also come up with a formula that works for his own style of thinking.

It allows (or forces) him to not overthink things and instead, simply distinctively react when playing the position—something that’s an absolute necessity.

“I watch games earlier in the week and I start clipping more cutups as the week goes on,” Wilson added. “I kind of have a process of overloading information as the week goes. Then, at the end of the week, my process is, ‘OK, now how can I give myself one to two things that going to simplify the game for me?’ It’s going to tell me exactly what’s going on about one thing. Because you sit here, and you have all day to diagnose what’s going on; but on the field, you have a couple of seconds. And you don’t want to be sitting out there and overthinking anything.”

From all and early indications, the Jets’ new face of the franchise is not an overthinker. That certainty hit home during the early stages of OTAs for some.

NY Jets practice news and notes

The Jets acquired edge player Shaq Lawson from the Houston Texans in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round draft selection, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (trade announcement) and the New York Post’s Brian Costello (compensation details). This means Joe Douglas essentially traded Jordan Willis for Lawson, as the sixth-rounder was originally the San Francisco 49ers (deal made October 2020).

Most of the guys dealing with short-term injuries should be good to go for Week 1, Saleh confirmed Sunday morning. Brandin Echols practiced Sunday, and La’Micael Perine, Denzel Mims and Lamarcus Joyner are all considered day to day. However, Saleh expects all four players to be ready for Week 1.

Tuesday, Aug. 31 marks the 53-man roster deadline. The Jets will be busy from now until then as they shape this roster and the practice squad for Week 1 and beyond.

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