Jets Veteran Got Super Bowl Déjà Vu With Aaron Rodgers at OTAs

Aaron Rodgers

Getty New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a big smile at 2023 NYJ OTAs.

When the New York Jets completed the trade for Aaron Rodgers, there were several immediate comparisons that came to mind.

Peyton Manning closing out his career with the Denver Broncos. Brett Favre to the Jets, for obvious reasons. Or more recently, Matthew Stafford winning with the Los Angeles Rams and Tom Brady doing the same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That last QB comparison rang true with a former member of the Bucs organization who now starts for the Jets — strong safety Jordan Whitehead.

“I tell the guys it’s kind of like déjà vu for me,” Whitehead voiced via team contributor Jack Bell. “I let everyone know that we have to have the right group.”

He added that “it was kind of the same situation I fell into when I was with the Bucs. We had a great defense the year before and we just needed one piece that was missing.” That piece was obviously Brady, and some believe Rodgers could have the same impact in New York.

“The same vibe that I did with the Bucs,” Whitehead responded when asked about the feel around OTAs. “I joke with the guys that we’re about to create a team.”

Jets’ Jordan Whitehead Describes Aaron Rodgers Early Impact at OTAs

Whitehead also spoke about Rodgers’ influence on practice and OTAs.

“On the field, he’s making us better, we’re getting the best we can get,” Whitehead noted. “He’s making us checkdown and communicate on another level.”

“[Then] in the locker room you see and hear him,” he went on. “He’s a funny character. He’s a good guy, open to everything. A real great guy.”

It didn’t take long for the Green Bay Packers legend to gain the respect of his peers at Florham Park. That’s what a Hall of Fame resume and a team-first mentality will do.

Year one in Tampa Bay, Brady threw for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns, leading the Bucs to an 11-5 record and an eventual Super Bowl run. Stafford bumped his numbers to 4,886 and 41 in year one with the Rams (12-5) during his championship campaign, and Manning eventually exploded for a career-high 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns in Denver — although that total came during his second season as a Bronco (2013) and Manning didn’t win another ring until year four (2015).

As for Rodgers, he might have the best supporting cast he’s ever had at age 39 with the Jets when you consider both defense and skill positions. The one question mark is the offensive line, which is finally getting healthier heading into training camp.

Jets’ Jordan Whitehead Discusses Year 1 in NY & What to Improve on in Year 2

Whitehead had an up-and-down season in 2022. Overall, the defense was the strength of the team, and the veteran safety played a large role in that considering he started all 17 games.

At the same time, Whitehead missed a team-high (tied with LB Quincy Williams) 17 tackles according to Pro Football Focus. His run defense grades were also down from his 2020 through 2021 average, although his coverage grades were solid with Gang Green.

“We all talk about it, especially since we had a lot of PBUs [passes broken up],” Whitehead replied when asked about the defense forcing more turnovers in 2023. “But we need those INTs and pick-sixes that change games. We got a great pass rush that got some sack fumbles and that made the job easier for us. Now we need to capitalize on those quarterback mistakes.”

Whitehead put some of that on himself, stating: “I had a couple of chances, but I don’t like to talk about missed opportunities. It’s not okay to say ‘my bad.’ I’ve been working to hold myself accountable. We want to win. There’s a lot of competition in the room.”

Overall, he was proud of what his defensive unit accomplished during his first season as a Jet, however.

“It was a great season, a great learning experience being in a new system and playing with new guys,” Whitehead said in June. “D.J. [Reed], Sauce [Gardner], Michael Carter. It was a great time with the cornerbacks, who made my job easier. I’m really, really — I’m ready for the guys, Sauce is not a rookie anymore. It’s a more veteran group.”

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