Jets’ Robert Saleh Slips Up With Telling Admission on Potential Starter

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh addresses the media in 2023.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has been much more tight-lipped to start his third year as an NFL HC, but he may have slipped up on July 26.

After yet another question came in on second-year safety Tony Adams — an early standout at training camp — following Wednesday’s practice, Saleh appeared to hint at the organization’s plans for the promising youngster.

“Tony, ah. I guess the cat’s coming out the bag a little bit, but Tony has got an unbelievable mental makeup to him,” the Jets head coach responded candidly. “Undrafted free agent [in 2022], unseated a bunch of guys who we all thought were going to make the team last year, made it impossible for us to cut him, does everything we ask of him and his effort, strain, communication, football IQ — all of it’s pretty damn good.”

Saleh did add that Adams is still competing for the starting free safety job with veteran Adrian Amos and former third-round selection Ashtyn Davis, but his words paint a different picture. The 24-year-old has dominated camp so far, with his latest highlight being an interception of Aaron Rodgers on July 26 — although an offside penalty might have negated the turnover in a real game.

Still, Adams has exceeded expectations at every turn since joining the Jets after the 2022 draft. Who would have thought another Adams could be starting at safety just three years after the franchise chose to part ways with a first rounder who shares the same last name?

Jets HC Robert Saleh Reiterates Draft Status Does Not Dictate Future, Says Tony Adams Has ‘Gotten Better & Better Every Day’

During a follow-up question from Antwan Staley of the New York Daily News, Saleh reiterated something that he’s been pretty consistent on since taking over as Jets head coach — draft status is not the end all be all.

“Well, that’s the thing, you never know,” he began. “I said it yesterday, opportunities come a million different ways and it’s not where your opportunity happened, it’s what you do with the opportunity when you get it.”

That mentality brought about the decision to keep Adams in favor of a 2021 draft pick like Jason Pinnock. It’s also led to the Jets parting ways with top-end prospects like Elijah Moore, Jabari Zuniga and Denzel Mims among others — after Saleh’s staff determined that they were not the right fit.

“The first and second and third rounders get all the accolades but it’s the day three guys and undrafted free agents that make up most of these football teams,” Saleh continued, “and every team has these stories. There’s always going to be a guy that slips through the cracks and in Tony’s case — he’s so smart and so versatile that he played a lot of different positions at Illinois, and while that’s great for Illinois, it kind of hides the player a little bit.”

“We were fortunate enough — knock on wood — to get him as a free agent, put him in the [No.] 1 spot where he can execute the same thing over and over and over again, and he’s just gotten better and better every day,” Saleh concluded.

Jets Secondary Looks Dangerous in 2023

Speaking of the NYJ secondary, it’s been very good to start training camp. Don’t get me wrong, Rodgers has made some highlight reel throws and mistakes have definitely been made here or there, but the coverage unit hasn’t made things easy on the future Hall of Famer throughout July.

Sauce Gardner had his first interception of the summer on July 25, while counterpart D.J. Reed Jr. has been breaking up passes left and right. The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt noted that the latter is having a “stellar camp” in 2023 after joining the Jets as a free agent a little over a year ago.

The ever-underappreciated Michael Carter II has also been rock solid, making the Jets’ first-team cornerback trio a classic case of pick your poison.

When you factor in the NYJ pass rush — which has looked fast and hungry every day — opposing quarterbacks should have their hands full against this Saleh-run defense in 2023.