Is Robert Saleh’s approach the correct one for the 2022 New York Jets?
FLORHAM PARK, NJ—If “All Gas, No Brake” still serves as the official moniker of the New York Jets—the now-2022 iteration—then “knocking on wood” is a close second.
Jets sophomore head football coach Robert Saleh cannot help but literally knock on wood each time injuries are mentioned. And considering injuries are an unhealthy yet legitimate part of this game we label football, Saleh has both uttered the phrase and used his right-hand knuckles against the podium more times than we can count.
“It is (frustrating). You’re always going to (have injuries). You’re never not (going to suffer injuries),” Saleh told the media Thursday when asked if injuries are frustrating.
“I’ve said it before … you love the sport of football because it’s the best in the world, but the hard part about football is that it’s the most violent sport in the world. You’re going to have injuries.”
Then comes the actual act which is the Jets sideline boss smacking his right-hand knuckle against the wooden podium frequently seen on video—when these guys are made available to the media.
“Those things are going to happen. Knock on wood, we’ve been pretty healthy for the most part, with the exception of Mekhi (Becton) and Zach (Wilson). So, knock on wood that we can keep it that way.”
On one hand, moving through team preparation with a legitimate focus on preventing injuries is a fine and admirable plan. On the other hand—perhaps the one that features Saleh’s scraped-up knuckles—concerns must run rampant in the minds of many.
Just how ready will this team be?
Even the most starry-eyed optimistic should expect at least some rust when the Jets host Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. After all, this is the NFL in the year 2022, which means conditioning will leave a bit to be desired and the tackling will look atrocious.
This is simply one of the tradeoffs all football coaches were forced to accept en route to keeping football as healthy as possible. In order to focus on the game’s long-term health—eliminating as many head injuries as possible—the all-out, 100% live, tackle-to-the-ground practices of the Bill Parcells-type past are long gone.
Nonetheless, at least some part of Saleh’s brain undoubtedly questions just how country club-esque the Jets feel is at the moment.
In New York’s come-from-behind 24-16 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons, nearly every starter took a seat. In Florham Park, when the slightest issue arises, the player is cautiously sat to the side.
While it’s wholly understandable and most likely the correct move—thanks to a slew of unfortunate injury-related events that plagued this team during Saleh’s rookie head-coaching season—no football coach alive will ever escape such an injury-prevention prep plan without major worries about overall readiness.
I do agree with the New York Jets’ overall philsophy—limiting injuries as much as possible, thanks to the plauge that has hit them over the last few years—but that does not mean valid concerns should automatically be eliminated from the discussion.
Week 2 of the preseason features a new degree of ugliness. Forget the fact that the MetLife Stadium crowd resembled that of a New Jersey Generals attendance number circa the USFL’s heyday.
It was ugly.
Mike White struggles, Chris Streveler shines
Mike White received the start and put forth one of his worst efforts. His 12-for-17, 90-yard box score output did not tell the story. With Joe Flacco sitting this one out, White was late on most of his throws and could not place it where he wanted to.
Granted, White played with the Jets’ second-team offense (for the most part), while taking on Atlanta’s first-team defense, but the performance certainly didn’t instill much confidence in anybody.
On the flip side, the Jets’ preseason hero, Chris Streveler, shined yet again. Finishing 8 of 11 for 119 yards, a touchdown and an interception, Streveler’s presence in the lineup injected immediate energy into an offense desperately seeking something.
The former CFL standout also gained 33 yards on the ground (six official attempts). Most importantly, he entered the game while trailing 16-10 but led the Jets’ to a come-from-behind 24-10 victory.
At the risk of Jets fans clinching their fist and calling me a downer, let’s hold our horses for the time being. Streveler’s performance wasn’t all that it’s been cracked up to be.
The Lawrence Cager 34-yard touchdown featured a horrific busted coverage on the Atlanta side. Cager found himself wide open on the simple drag over the middle, and Streveler did the rest—one of the easiest touchdowns a quarterback could dream of.
Moreover, New York’s third team dominated Atlanta’s third team in every way. Whether it was in the trenches, downfield concepts or defensively, the top callout of the night is the idea that Joe Douglas’s depth has dramatically spiked.
If the Jets opt to move on from White, expect Saleh to carry just two quarterbacks (Wilson and Flacco)—given that Wilson is healthy enough to give it a go. If Wilson cannot dress for Week 1 and even Week 2, expect White to be the backup.
Even if Streveler does beat out White in the eyes of the organization, the former is the perfect practice squad player. Trusting the kid to handle backup duties in Week 1, over a guy who’s incredibly familiar and has proven to come in and play well (see Cincinnati on Halloween), is a tough ask.
Streveler to the practice squad is perfect, considering it would be tough for another NFL team to claim him and guarantee a spot on the active 53-man roster. There just isn’t enough evidence (yet) to feel comfortable in such a move.
Sure, it’s the preseason. And sure, the Jets starters weren’t out there (save for rookie Sauce Gardner and perhaps veteran Solomon Thomas). But, man oh man … you’d love to see just a bit more imagination.
Understanding what he’d face, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith dialed up Cover 3 and quarter-beating concepts all night.
I know it's the preseason, but my goodness, goodness gracious (Suzyn) … it's Cover 3, quarters and the sprinkled-in Cover 2. Not one blitz (save for perhaps a goal line run-look situation).
I get the idea that they're starting from the bottom, but momentum/feel is important. https://t.co/MtyhCdst9n
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 23, 2022
On one hand, it’s understandable that Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich want to evaluate talent by starting from the ground up. On the other hand, momentum and feel are also a hell of a football item. Mixing in at least some disguise and some interesting concepts could do some of these kids a world of difference in the confidence department.
The first pass-situation pressure New York dialed up resulted in an excellent defense stop:
Hey, now … #Jets dial up a pressure on third down (shout from the rooftops), and they make something happen. Offensive pass interference, force the QB into a quick, unwanted throw. Guidry breaks on ball (understanding the blitz look).
Nice job. #Jets
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 23, 2022
Monitoring just how vanilla the Jets’ defense remains in the regular season will be something of major note.
Jets-Giants joint practice notes
On Thursday, the Jets made the familiar trip to East Rutherford, only this time they did so in order to take on the New York Giants at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, adjacent to MetLife Stadium.
The Jints wore white, whereas the Jets wore all green. In 7v7s, Daniel Jones and the Giants offense got the better of the Jets first-team defense. Even Sauce Gardner experienced some early hiccups.
Giants offense is getting the best of the #Jets defense in 7v7. Crisp routes, the timing is usually excellent, etc. Daboll’s fingerprints showing up here.
(And listen, the offense should always get the better of the defense in 7v7, in today’s league.)
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 25, 2022
As teams (11v11) commenced, however, Saleh’s defense showed up.
The Giants couldn’t find any running room, as the usually-suspect Jets run defense looked hungry. Even the pass defense flew around, keeping Giants’ weapons in front of them while limiting any completion to a short-yard gain.
Again, #Jets run D has looked excellent against this Giants’ first-team ground attack. And usually, it’s tough to look this good (run defense) when not going live (complete to the ground) football.
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 25, 2022
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a look at the other side of the field (Jets offense vs. the Giants defense), but overall, based on reports, it turned out to be a solid showing from the guys in green.
Next up for the New York Jets will be their 2022 preseason finale against these very same Giants, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, at 1 p.m. ET.
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