Week one of preseason really could not have gone much better for the New York Jets.
Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson rebounded from his sloppy performance at the Green & White scrimmage and the Gang Green defense picked up right where they left off. In the end, it all equaled a win for head coach Robert Saleh, his first on the job.
Several players stood out in the 12-7 Jets win, however, with the first round of roster cuts looming on Tuesday, August 17. Below I’ll rank and break down the top five performances for the Green & White.
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Improvements in the Run Game & Special Teams
Honorable Mention: Ty Johnson & La’Mical Perine
The Jets running backs as a whole had very positive results, outside of Tevin Coleman and Austin Walter. The veteran Coleman didn’t play due to “personal reasons.” Coach Saleh did not elaborate beyond that, but his absence does count against him being that his replacements did so well. Walter also struggled during limited chances.
The stars were definitely Johnson and Perine, although rookie Michael Carter had his moments as well. The three-headed attack blasted through the New York Giants defense like a battering ram and Perine, in particular, carried a few defenders into the end zone on a touchdown run.
“Just being aggressive man,” the former Florida Gator told team reporter Eric Allen after the game. He continued: “[That’s] something that I always taught myself being a hard-nosed runner and just a hard, physical back… Once I get down there and it’s short-yardage and I’m right by the end zone I feel like I won’t be denied, so I need to score anytime I get there.”
Perine had the score, but Johnson and Josh Adams were the most productive backs of the night. The former totaled 33 yards at a 3.7-clip and added two receptions. The latter only received two carries, making the most of them for 7.0 yards per run. The reason this is only an honorable mention is that with all the competing running backs doing so well, there really was no “winner” of the bunch.
5. Starting Offensive Line
Building off that point, the offensive line displayed major strides from what we saw in the intrasquad scrimmage. Perhaps the Giants’ defensive line is just much weaker than the Jets, but either way, it was a confidence booster for this unit that needed a strong outing.
Wilson spoke on his appreciation for the blockers that lead the Jets’ rushing attack that “gashed” the opposition. “Really it was just, hey great job, it’s understanding that we just converted on a third-down [because of their help],” the quarterback stated. He continued: “I think it just stems back to giving credit where it is, everyone sees me make the throw and Keelan [Cole] make the catch but it starts with those guys up front.”
This starting unit was without rookie first-rounder Alijah Vera-Tucker, but the really stout performers were the veteran Jets of the group. Mekhi Becton bounced back in a major way off his struggles against Carl Lawson, and both Connor McGovern (70.4) and Greg Van Roten (79.7) received very encouraging grades from Pro Football Focus.
4. Vyncint Smith
I have to admit that Vyncint Smith has been a player that I have been adamant would get cut this training camp. My partner Boy Green on the other hand had him making the roster as the seventh wide receiver. He started slow this spring with numerous drops in OTAs and minicamp, but the speedster has begun to find new life here in the more crucial stages of the preseason.
Against the Giants, he added a key element to his game that could be the difference in whether or not he makes the top 53 — his ability on special teams as a gunner.
Special Teams coordinator Brant Boyer has been looking for players that can take on that punt coverage gunner role alongside specialist Justin Hardee, and Smith just showed the franchise what he can do on his athletic highlight downing the ball at the one-yard line. The wide-out was also second in receiving yards on Saturday, with three catches for 39 yards.
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Top 3 Jets Performers Versus Giants
3. Hamsah Nasirildeen
Jets fans have heard this name a ton over the last week or so, and that’s a credit to how quickly the former college safety has adapted to his new position at weakside linebacker. With the news that Jamien Sherwood is learning how to play MIKE-backer, Nasirildeen’s greatest competition at WILL is Blake Cashman, who’s been more of a special-teamer/reserve linebacker so far.
As of now, the rookie out of Florida State is the clear starter, and he’s certainly playing like it. Nasirildeen made a few tackles both on special teams and defense, but the play that made headlines was when he forced a fumble down near the goal line.
Linebacker leader C.J. Mosley called Nasirildeen a “smart guy,” before going on to rave about Sherwood and Camilo Eifler as well. As for the soft-spoken Florida State product who told reporters he’s been watching Fred Warner tape to learn the position, he’s “just happy to be here and ready to play ball.”
2. Jets Depth Defensive Linemen
We didn’t hear much from bigger names like Lawson or Sheldon Rankins during week one of the preseason, but that didn’t stop Gang Green from throwing a sack party and inviting every Giants quarterback that touched the field. 2020 undrafted free agent Bryce Huff got things started with a lightning-fast sack on the initial third down of Big Blue’s opening three-and-out possession. He ended up with two on the game, as well as two QB hits and two tackles for losses.
John Franklin-Myers also stripped quarterback Mike Glennon mid-throwing motion. Unfortunately, the loose ball was ruled as an incomplete pass after nearly being intercepted. The other three players that had tremendous games were 2021 sixth-rounder Jonathan Marshall and 2021 UDFAs Hamilcar Rashed Jr. and Michael Dwumfour. Marshall ended the game with a clutch sack in the end zone that went for a safety clincher. The athletically gifted rookie finished with one sack and three tackles (plus two QB hits) but assisted on an earlier one that was credited to Dwumfour and Rashed.
Speaking of the UDFAs, my partner Boy Green already discussed Rashed’s performance in detail (four tackles, 1.5 sacks, one TFL, two QB hits) but Dwumfour was doing just as well before leaving the game with an injury. The Rutgers product is a local prospect from Scotch Plains, New Jersey who ended up with one tackle, a half-sack, one pass defended and one QB hit in limited action. It’s going to be tough to sort out which of these Jets’ defensive linemen don’t make the roster.
1. Denzel Mims
As we know, the headliner for this opener was the 2020 second-round pick out of Baylor. Mims has had a roller coaster of an offseason that began with him being labeled as a breakout candidate by numerous publications. In the end, he slipped in the ranks after a bout with food poisoning and the emergence of additions like Cole and Elijah Moore. Recently, beat reporter Connor Hughes even went on an eight-minute viral rant directed at the unwavering Mims supporters within the fanbase.
After spending most of the first half appearing only on special teams and the bench, the talented wide receiver ended up rising to the occasion by having a huge night with the second and third-team offense. Here was the big highlight yards-after-catch play that went for 20.
Mims ended up leading the team with three grabs for 51 yards and after the game, he told reporters that he “always [tries] to play angry” when he’s on the field. The second-year player also commented that he’s “not worried” about the depth chart, replying that his main focus is on “[getting] better every single day.” One telling example of that new mentality was when Mims admitted that he asked Coach Saleh and Boyer for an opportunity to prove himself on the starting special teams unit.
As for Saleh’s thoughts on Mims, the Jets HC called his 20-yard play “awesome,” noting that the wide-out has been “grinding” to catch up with the offense. In terms of ‘giving up on Mims,’ Saleh shot that idea down on August 11 responding “no, absolutely not.”