Should Robert Saleh bench all of the New York Jets’ starters for their second preseason game?
Speaking to the media on Saturday after their second joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh dropped an interesting nugget about his plans for Monday night’s exhibition contest. Saleh revealed that he is “torn” on whether to play any starters.
Robert Saleh admits he’s still “torn” on how to attack the Atlanta preseason game (playing time), believes it’s a bit different because it is “Monday Night,” and that experience is valuable.
Clemons took a shot to the ribs, believes he’ll be fine. #Jets
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 20, 2022
So, Jets fans, what do you think? Should Saleh go all-in and bench every starter for this game?
Just to put in my two cents: I think the answer is a clear yes. Saleh needs to take this team’s health seriously and put every first-string player on the bench.
The Jets should already be thanking their lucky stars after what happened with Zach Wilson. New York’s QB1 went down in the first preseason game with a non-contact knee injury that seemed like it would be a season-ending torn ACL in all likelihood.
But for some reason, the football gods smiled upon this franchise and gave it one of its luckiest breaks in recent memory, as Wilson was diagnosed with a bone bruise and a torn meniscus that will keep him out for only 2 to 4 weeks.
Just imagine what the Jets’ season outlook would be if Wilson were out for the year. They would not get to evaluate their second-year franchise quarterback for even a single rep, leaving them completely in the dark regarding where he is in his development entering 2023.
Maybe Joe Flacco would come in and help the team stay relatively competitive in 2022, but Wilson is the key to what happens to this franchise in 2023, 2024, 2025, and beyond. Flacco has zero effect on the team’s odds of winning a Super Bowl in those seasons. Wilson means everything to where the Jets will be in one year, two years, three years, and so forth.
How would it have changed the Jets’ long-term timeline if Wilson missed the whole year? If Wilson struggled in 2023, would the Jets pull the plug or treat it like it was his second NFL season? Would the entire regime get another year of slack to accommodate Wilson’s status?
In many ways, the Jets’ entire rebuild timeline would essentially be pushed back a year. It would be a nightmare for the team’s long-term future.
All of this so he can play some meaningless reps in an early August preseason game against the Eagles.
I mean, come on. If that scare isn’t enough to make it clear that playing your starters in the preseason isn’t worth it, I don’t know what is.
The Jets just completed two joint practices with the Atlanta Falcons and are still scheduled to partake in joint practices with the New York Giants next week. That’s plenty of inter-squad work right there. What do starters get out of playing in a preseason game that they can’t get in a joint practice?
Preseason games are nice to help players get their feet wet and to evaluate roster-bubble players who are battling for a spot. I get that.
But for players who are a lock to make the team and are poised to play a crucial role, the value of “getting their feet wet” isn’t even in the same universe as the value of keeping them healthy. There is absolutely nothing of tangible value that can be gained from playing starters in the preseason, and yet, each and every rep puts a player at risk of suffering an injury that can cost him games that do matter.
It is not worth risking starters’ health for preseason reps. It’s just not. Period.
Perhaps this is a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction because of what just happened with Wilson, but in my opinion, I think it’s justified to have a knee-jerk reaction after you go through what the Jets just did. They practically stared death in the face (in a football sense). After an experience like that, who wouldn’t make major changes to their approach?
Injuries largely come down to luck. That’s the unfortunate reality. But there are a select few things that teams can do to decrease their odds of losing important players, and minimizing preseason reps is among the biggest ones. It’s imperative to take full advantage of this rare iota of control.
I would implore Robert Saleh to bench his starters on Monday, especially since it seems he is already on the fence about doing it. That should make it a no-brainer to just go ahead and pull the trigger.