FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A have a look at what is taking place round the New York Jets:
1. Marquee matchup: It’s Sauce vs. Cheetah. Get your popcorn (and Buffalo wings) ready.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner was once drafted fourth general for days like this — a showdown Sunday in opposition to Miami Dolphins celebrity Tyreek Hill, arguably the maximum electrifying vast receiver in the recreation. It almost certainly may not be an each and every-down matchup, as the Jets determine to exchange coverages, however let’s hope the rookie will get some man-to-man alternatives.
Gardner, rarely the bashful kind, needs his shot in opposition to the highest.
“It’s what I dreamed about,” he mentioned. “Coming to the NFL, with the goals I have for myself — Rookie of the Year, All Pro, Pro Bowl — I have to go against guys like that in order to be recognized. It’s a great opportunity. Me and D.J. [Reed] and the rest of the secondary, we were talking about it. It’s a great opportunity to show the world what we can do.”
Be careful what you wish for. Hill, who leads the NFL with 477 receiving yards, can make the most seasoned cornerbacks look bad. Hill (quadriceps) is listed as questionable after showing up on the injury report Thursday, but he didn’t miss any practices and the Dolphins are “very hopeful” he will play, coach Mike McDaniel said. As for Gardner, he’s off to a good start — no penalties and hasn’t been burned on any deep balls — but he’s about to step up a weight class. Hill has video game-type speed.
“I went in opposition to guys which can be speedy, like Jameson Williams of Alabama,” said the former Cincinnati star, referencing the Detroit Lions’ first-round receiver. “He was once speedy. I ain’t announcing he is Tyreek Hill speedy, however I’ve were given positive issues I love to accomplish that I will deal with guys like that.”
It will be interesting to see how much the coaches trust Gardner, who also will see a lot of dangerous receiver Jaylen Waddle. Gardner has played straight man coverage about 30% of the time on passing downs, with a mix of Cover 2, Cover 3 and Cover 4 the rest of the time. It probably makes sense to play a two-deep look against Hill & Co., giving Gardner safety help.
For entertainment value, let’s hope they put Gardner on an island.
2. Where’s mine? Gardner is the only member of the starting secondary, including nickelback Michael Carter II, who doesn’t have an interception. You know it’s on his mind because he’s the one who mentioned it to reporters.
3. The amazing AVT: Alijah Vera-Tucker, man of many positions, could add a fourth to his résumé. That’s right, he could get the nod at right tackle against the Dolphins, one week after making his first career start at left tackle.
Vera-Tucker’s versatility has saved the injury-plagued offensive line from a full-blown crisis. He held up reasonably well at left tackle, not allowing a sack or a quarterback hit. Line coach John Benton said he was “as inspired as I’ve ever been with a participant.”
With injuries mounting, Vera-Tucker started practicing left-tackle pass sets in “Flight School,” the Jets’ version of after-school help — a post-practice session that allows players (mostly third-stringers and practice-squad players) to get extra work.
He did that for a few weeks before being asked to replace George Fant (knee), who replaced Duane Brown (shoulder), who replaced Fant. (Yeah, it’s complicated, but there have been a lot of moving parts.) The coaches didn’t force Vera-Tucker; they left it up to him and he was all-in. Now that Brown is off injured reserve, Vera-Tucker probably will flip to the right side until Max Mitchell (knee) is healthy.
“I don’t believe there is a place I will’t play,” said Vera-Tucker, who played left tackle in 2020 (USC), left guard in 2021 (rookie, 16 starts) and right guard (2022, three starts). “That’s simply being assured in myself.”
If Vera-Tucker starts at right tackle, he’d be only the second player in the past five years to start at four different offensive line positions within his first 21 career starts, according to Elias Sports. Daniel Brunskill did it with the San Francisco 49ers in 2019 and 2020. Players and coaches shake their heads in amazement when asked about Vera-Tucker’s feat.
4. Least in the east: By now, you know all about the Jets’ 12-game losing streak in division games, an embarrassing trend that coach Robert Saleh emphasized in his first team meeting back in April as part of his “shut the hole” campaign. That includes a wall message in the building that says, “Own the East.” Here’s some additional perspective on the skid:
It’s the longest active streak in the league, and it’s not even close for second. The next longest is five, by the Denver Broncos.
It’s two losses shy of the Jets’ franchise record (1995-97) and seven shy of the all-time record in the post-merger era (19, Detroit Lions, 2007-10).
Only four of the 12 losses have been one-possession games. All told, the Jets have been outscored 358-158.
“This group hasn’t gained shortly inside the department, and if we would like to take that subsequent step as a company, we’ve were given to do higher in our department,” Saleh said.
It starts Sunday.
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5. Air ball: Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich spoke with Quinnen Williams to explain his “gasping for air” remark from remaining week. (When requested why Williams wasn’t enjoying extra snaps, Ulbrich answered, “There’s like these critical moments in games and ‘why is Quinnen not out there?’ and you look to the side and he’s gasping for air, so just got to be judicious with it.”)
It gave the impression of an off-hand commentary inside the context of a proof of why they like to rotate their defensive linemen. Ulbrich mentioned he has “tremendous respect” for Williams, including that he has no factor with Williams’ conditioning.
Publicly, Williams shrugged it off, announcing it was once no giant deal, however the remark resonated in the locker room.
“The competitor in him, I think it would bother anybody,” defensive take on Sheldon Rankins instructed ESPN. “If you’re a competitor who works his ass off to be at the top of his game and gets in the best shape of his life to go out and contribute to a team’s winning success, yeah, as a competitor it should bother you a little bit. But that situation has been rectified and everybody is on the same page.”
6. Not so candy at house: The Jets by no means will likely be perceived as a valid danger till they begin successful at house. Since 2020, their house file is a league-worst 4-15. They’re no longer even aggressive, with some degree differential of minus-184. That, too, is the NFL’s worst over that span. They’ve scored just one landing in 8 quarters at house this season. If they would like to get the crowd in the back of them … ranking.
7. Pick celebration: The Jets are tied for the league lead with 4 interceptions in the fourth quarter. Some point of view: They had simplest seven interceptions for the complete 2021 season — in each and every quarter.
8. D-line quandary? They may just finish up dressing 10 defensive linemen for the 2d week in a row, which is extremely peculiar. They have 10 on the roster, with Vinny Curry eligible to come off injured reserve in the subsequent two weeks. Would they truly stay 11? That’s a loopy surplus. You have to imagine basic supervisor Joe Douglas gets calls as the Nov. 1 buying and selling closing date approaches.
9. Fantasy alert: In the first two video games, operating again Michael Carter were given extra enjoying time than rookie Breece Hall (87 snaps to 53), nevertheless it flipped in the subsequent two — an 84-66 edge for Hall. Carter will at all times have a job as a result of he is too treasured, however that is indisputably trending the method many expected.
10. The remaining phrase: “We’re in this massive, massive staff room at the stadium, the old Reliant Stadium, and it’s just me and him sitting right across from each other. Since then, we’ve been pretty darn close. … We had a lot of really cool conversations, a lot of cool date nights with whoever he was with at the time, not his current wife … and with my now wife.” — Saleh on Dolphins trainer Mike McDaniel, a fellow low-stage assistant with the Houston Texans (2006-08)