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NY Jets OTA Recap: Late-round rookies continue to shine

New York Jets OTAs, Practice, Team
New York Jets, OTAs, Florham Park, Getty Images

At the New York Jets’ latest OTA practice, two of the team’s late-round rookies continued to impress

While all the attention is on the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Wilson, and rightfully so, there have been some other standouts at New York Jets OTAs.

As the back half of OTAs approaches, some of the team’s later-round rookies are making significant impressions. Additionally, some interesting tweaks may be coming for the offense, specifically pre-snap.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the OTA recap for Friday, May 31.

Garrett Wilson and Aaron Rodgers continue to shine.

At this point, an OTA recap cannot start without mentioning the connection between Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Wilson.

Head coach Robert Saleh has evidently made it a central point for the duo to improve their chemistry beyond where it was last season. During warmups, he constantly talks to Rodgers and Wilson and spends the majority of his time with the offense.

Like the past few practices, the conversations paid off on Friday. Wilson was borderline uncoverable, breaking off routes against all types of coverage. He found the space consistently against zone coverage while beating cornerbacks off the line in man coverage. Sauce Gardner was the only player who shut down Wilson, breaking up the first pass intended for him during practice.

Rodgers was on point in delivering the ball to Wilson all day. When Wilson broke off a great route to the sideline, Rodgers put it in the perfect spot for the wideout to make a toe-touch grab. He constantly delivered the ball in stride on slant routes and fit the ball into windows when necessary.

It may only be the beginning of June, but the Rodgers-Wilson connection is thriving. With the season still relatively far away, the prospect of the connection improving even further should be exciting for fans.

Is the running back room shaping up?

In a prior article, I mentioned that the running back position would be very interesting to watch throughout the summer. With an influx of talent, OTAs would be the start of one of the most interesting battles on the entire Jets’ roster.

After another practice, it seems that the positioning of the room is beginning to take shape.

With Breece Hall not participating in team drills, rookie Braelon Allen has continued to shine in multiple aspects of the game. On the ground, the Wisconsin product has been decisive in his decision-making and has shown explosiveness downhill. His feel for running the ball is already at a high level.

More impressively, though, has been Allen’s receiving ability. He split outside on multiple plays, showing smooth route-running skills. Allen looked like a natural catching the ball when targeted, showing soft hands while transitioning from the catch onto the run.

With a combination of downhill running and receiving, Allen looks to be the front-runner for the RB2 job. He has shown a skillset that compliments Hall nicely while also fulfilling similar roles in certain plays.

Behind Allen and Hall, the competition seems to be moving swiftly.

Fellow rookie Isaiah Davis rotated with Allen on the first and second teams for the majority of the day, showing burst and explosion with the ball in his hands. Similar to Allen, Davis showed the potential to contribute in both the passing and running games. He looks to be a possible fun depth option on the team.

New signing Tarik Cohen was also involved in the offense. He looked extremely shifty and quick with the ball in his hands, showing the athleticism that made him a great player with the Chicago Bears. This was on display when he caught multiple balls from Rodgers.

On the other hand, running back Israel Abanikanda looks to be the odd man out at this point of the offseason. He did not run with Rodgers or Taylor at any point of Friday’s practice, only getting reps with quarterback Andrew Peasley.

When getting his reps, the former Pitt running back did not make much of an impact. He had a bad drop on a play where he was open and was much less decisive than the other backs when hitting the hole. This was evident during a run play where Abaniknda ran into an offensive lineman; he did not show the same decisiveness and vision as the other backs.

There is plenty of time for things to change, as training camp will help solidify the depth chart’s true standing. But as it stands today, Abanikanda is at risk of falling very far down the depth chart behind three new additions.

Stiggers breaking onto the scene

Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Michael Carter II are the solidified trio at cornerback. They are three of the best players at the position and have consistently proven it. During practice on Friday, Gardner had a great breakup on Wilson, Reed provided sticky coverage all day, and Carter II had a diving breakup during a two-minute drill.

However, the biggest defensive star for the Jets has been 2024 draft pick Qwan’tez Stiggers.

Stiggers continued a great start to his offseason on Friday, providing sticky coverage in all of his reps. He also had the play of the day, jumping a Tyrod Taylor pass and taking it all the way to the end zone for a touchdown.

Stiggers has already become a team favorite, as the entire defense goes crazy every time he makes a play. On the pick-six, players either jumped to celebrate or ran down to the end zone to celebrate with Stiggers.

He may not be a starter yet, but the rookie is breaking onto the scene already. With his coverage and ball skills, the Jets might have found their next weapon in the secondary.

Changes in training?

File this under “wait and see,” but the Jets look to be implementing some interesting changes to their training.

The Jets have seemingly implemented a more explosive and functional training regimen. Linemen were doing medicine ball tosses, simulating the explosion they needed to play their positions. Receivers and other skill positions worked on shuffles and change-of-direction drills, mimicking the motions they make every play.

Injuries have been a significant issue for the Jets in years past, so these changes could be the foundation for a much healthier season.

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