New York Jets OTA, Zach Wilson, Sauce Gardner, Aaron Rodgers
New York Jets OTA, Zach Wilson, Sauce Gardner, Aaron Rodgers, Getty Images

New York Jets OTAs did not unfold exactly to plan

FLORHAM PARK, NJ—Well, “There are more than a few people here.”

Aside from the gigantic understatement of that sentiment, it’s a semi-sarcastic quote that could not be avoided when rolling through 1 Jets Drive late Tuesday morning.

The first media-attended New York Jets OTAs took place in Florham Park, NJ, on Tuesday, and the NFL media world came together with eyes on one man wearing a No. 8 red uniform top.

Then, suddenly, the once-optimistic narrative shifted as only can happen in these parts of New Jersey.

Aaron Rodgers leaves OTAs with a tweaked calf

During the pre-practicing conditioning portion of OTAs, Aaron Rodgers was seen jogging off the field and into the facility.

Once he returned, it quickly became clear that he wouldn’t participate in the rest of OTAs. No seven-on-sevens, individuals, or team sessions that would have the Jets beat drooling out of both sides of their excited mouths.

Oh, the pain.

During quarterback individuals, Rodgers hung out with good buddy and Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

Remember, Rodgers jogged off the field after he felt his calf give way. This isn’t a serious injury, nor should Jets fans take it as such.

The 39-year-old quarterback simply didn’t feel right at some point during the pre-practice conditioning period—one that featured Zach Wilson by his side.

“I just tweaked my calf during the pre-practice conditioning, so I decided to take a vet day,” Rodgers said with a smile after OTAs ended.

In short, don’t take the bait. Don’t fall into the doom-and-gloom stuff that may be played up in a way that increased engagement across all platforms—as companies and individuals realize just how well revenue and extreme Jets-fan emotions mesh.

Everything is well with Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets.

Zach Wilson unchained

On the other side of the pillow—the cool side on this particular day—is where Zach Wilson lived.

Wilson, 23, put forth a solid effort in Rodgers’s stead. In seven-on-sevens, the BYU product put a few dazzling completions on the board.

One such connection featured Garrett Wilson down the left sideline in one-on-one coverage. Although the 40-plus-yard chunk play showcased excellent placement and timing, the more critical callout comes in another area altogether.

Wilson made the correct read.

At no point during the play was the Jets’ defense threatening a second man near the sophomore wideout. Without getting into specific offensive concepts and defensive coverages, the young quarterback appropriately read that his receiver simply needed to beat his man (and nobody else).

The cherry on top is the idea that Wilson looked off the deep-high safety, ensuring that nothing over the top would threaten the big-time completion.

Yes, Zach Wilson enjoyed a nice day; but don’t go all-in quite just yet. In spite of several nice-looking throws and splash completions, some of the same nagging habits still appeared.

At times, Wilson still checked the ball down when something more desirable could have been there, and he still took entirely too much time in the pocket (timing woes).

Goal No. 1 for the kid has to be the following: Remove the fear that is making a mistake. NFL quarterbacks want and need to limit mistakes, but they should never cross the line (into injuring themselves) via worrying too much about the mistake.

Wilson appeared to be unchained a bit and much more free-flowing today. It’s as if the weight of the world is suddenly off his shoulders—and he feels every bit of that unfettered stature.

Caution tape is required, however.

Without a legit pass-rush bearing down on him, not much can be learned. (And besides, the kid historically puts forth solid efforts in seven-on-sevens.)

Will McDonald and Joe Tippmann sightings

Jets fans received their first chance to check out the fresh baby faces at rookie minicamp a couple of weeks ago, but Tuesday was the first “real deal” veteran practice for the youngsters.

First-round pick Will McDonald practiced with a defensive line group that was extremely uptempo and getting after it during positionals.

Second-round pick Joe Tippmann was also spotted, looking quite comfortable in his No. 66 uniform.

Other news and notes

Newcomer Allen Lazard found himself popped on a seven-on-seven play over the middle. He remained down for a bit but returned quickly.

In fact, he had something to say on Twitter after the day was over:

Breece Hall was out there in his familiar uniform. Without a helmet—while still on the mend from knee surgery—he limited himself to the training area.

Hall played catch with Garrett Wilson and Michael Carter during some of the down times of OTAs (i.e. special teams work).

Sophomore Sauce Gardner was one of the several who did not practice today. He was no doubt out there on the field, but his day consisted of a lot of hanging around and watching drills.

There’s no question that Robert Saleh is taking things easy with a kid who could very well be the most valuable defensive player in the NFL (in terms of value to his defensive unit).

The next open OTA session to the media occurs on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. The New York Jets get right back at it with another OTA session tomorrow, May 24, 2023.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]
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