Connor McGovern, Joe Tippmann, New York Jets
Connor McGovern, Joe Tippmann, New York Jets, Getty Images

New York Jets hand their rookies nothing, from undrafted free agents to first-round picks

When the New York Jets selected Sauce Gardner with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2022 draft, he was clearly going to be a starting cornerback from the get-go. However, the Jets still made Gardner “earn” the job. Not only did they insist on calling him “Ahmad” until he earned his stripes, but Sauce took second-team reps in camp.

The same applied to No. 10 pick Garrett Wilson. Wilson found himself buried on the depth chart and actually started the season as the WR4. It took just one Week 1 catch-and-run to change that.

Even the electric Breece Hall began the season as the clear RB2. He didn’t truly take over the starting job until Week 4. Michael Carter actually looked better than Hall to start the season.

The same seems to apply to the Jets’ 2023 rookies. Will McDonald is taking second-team reps, which is natural given the Jets’ defensive line rotation. Izzy Abanikanda is taking third-team reps at running back, also not surprising.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh said he is seeking more urgency from Abanikanda.

“What I’m noticing is RBs coming from college, they’ve got 100 plays to go through, so it’s a little different,” Saleh said. “It’s no different than with Breece last year. Just the sense of urgency, the finish, running through contact, all the things they didn’t have to do in practice [in college]. But his level of urgency is going to have to catch up with the standard around here.”

However, Joe Tippmann‘s spot on the depth chart in the early going is somewhat perplexing. The Jets weren’t just going to hand Tippmann the starting center job with veteran Connor McGovern on the team. However, free-agent signee Wes Schweitzer has been taking second-team reps and competing with McGovern for the job. Tippmann, meanwhile, languishes with the third team.

When asked about Tippmann, Saleh commented, “Obviously [Tippmann] is catching up, he’s got a lot of stuff to absorb. The offensive playbooks in this league are thick.”

Hearing that, a Jets fan might get nervous, especially coming off the Denzel Mims experience. However, thinking back to Sauce’s experience in 2022, it actually seems like par for the course as a Jets rookie.

The team just started padded practices, so the early returns from trench battles mean very little. Still, over the next few weeks, this is a story to monitor. If the Jets’ second preseason tilt (after the Hall of Fame Game) against the Panthers comes on August 12 and Tippmann is still the third-string center, then it’s fair to question why the rookie is buried so far. Until then, the most likely answer is that the Jets push their rookies as far down the depth chart as they can.

The Jets are paying lip service to Schweitzer’s ability to win the center job. However, per Joe Blewett’s film review, that should not be even a remote possibility. More likely than not, talk of Schweitzer at center will ebb as camp progresses. He would move to his more natural guard spot while Tippmann battles with McGovern for the starting job.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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