Jets’ Robert Saleh Heaps Praise on Zach Wilson, ‘Excited’ on Early Returns

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh speaking at a presser.

Head coach Robert Saleh gave New York Jets fans a lot to be excited about during an interview about the first week of organized team activities on May 27, 2021.

The Jets finished the 2020 season at 2-14, last place in the AFC East, but the Green and White brass have already begun to change the culture of the franchise utilizing both free agency and the draft.

They also made a calculated decision to move on from Sam Darnold, drafting the newest Jets franchise quarterback, Zach Wilson, who Saleh was asked about pretty early on.

Saleh Addresses Media & Wilson

New York Post beat reporter Brian Costello asked Saleh what he would like to see from Wilson this spring, and the head coach responded:

You know, for him it’s more about just acclimating himself to the offense and the verbiage, and going through his progression, learning his teammates. A lot of stuff is new for a lot of guys. We got a very very young offense, very young defense for that matter. This is the first time that they’re hearing everything. Minicamp we’ll hit the reset button and they’ll hear it again. Training camp they’ll hear it for the third time. … You just really want to see him get better, and focus on getting better every day, learning the system, and getting it to the point where it’s second nature for him.

He added, “[Wilson] looks good, you know his arm is live … gets the ball in and out of his hands pretty quickly. He’s a good decision-maker and all that good stuff. … Like I said there’s going to be ebbs and flows with him, but we’re really excited about what he’s shown so far.”

Saleh also stated that Wilson is “relentless in terms of his want for knowledge” when asked if there was anything that stood out about the young quarterback, touting his ability to study and pick up NFL tape.

How Has C.J. Mosley Looked in Camp?

Another interesting name in Jets camp is C.J. Mosley, who has barely played since signing a five-year, $85 million contract with the organization in 2019 just before Joe Douglas took over.

Saleh was asked if the star linebacker looked “rusty” so far in camp.

“No, he looks good,” he replied. “He’s a very powerful mover. Obviously we can’t see tackling but you can see a lot of power in his movement. … He eats up a lot of ground. He’s fluid, he’s smart, he’s savvy, he’s a tremendous gentleman and just really excited to get a chance to work with him.”

He said Mosley has many qualities that make him an asset to the team.

“Anytime you’ve got a person who’s played a lot of football at a very high level and still young like he is, and the leadership that he provides and all that, it’s always a benefit,” Saleh said. “You never want to say no to that, obviously. You know you add in the character of the individual, his work ethic, his communication skills, just all of it. He’s been fantastic.”

The Jets media also asked about some of the rookies that will be joining the defense, and Saleh said “they are definitely going to contribute this year,” adding that they are “improving every day.”

The head coach did note that no player makes the team during OTAs, stating: “When the pads come on, that’s when everything gets real.”

Matt Burke’s Role & the Sports Performance Department

Just the day before, the Jets announced they were hiring former Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke to a game-management role. This confused many fans and analysts on social media, but Saleh touched on Burke’s role in his May 27 interview.

“This time of season, working with our analytics department, Brian Shields, gathering as many scenarios as you can for example … going through all the different scenarios that may or may not come up over the last few years, what would you decide in this situation,” Saleh said. “And then I give my answer. Alright here’s what the book would’ve said. … Then we have a discussion.”

Saleh also discussed Burke’s role during the season, saying, “Trying to create different situations that are real-life applications to football. Then obviously on game day, being in the box and keeping us ahead of schedule. … For example, we crossed the 50, coach it’s four-down territory. And then from there it’s my job to process all the information that he gives me.”

Burke had a similar role with NFL coach Jim Schwartz, and Saleh ended by saying he is a “tremendous asset to this staff.”

Jets media asked Saleh about the new Sports Performance Department within the organization, asking how it “equates to wins on Sunday.” Saleh responded, “You can never guarantee wins, obviously, but what you can do is prepare yourself the best way you possibly can.”

He noted, “At least from a physical standpoint when [players] walk into this building, there’s 100% full attention on each individual, and their menu for what they’ve got to get done when they’re here is custom-made for them. So our belief is they can maximize from there, and if you’re maximizing a player you hope it can lead to wins.”

The Cornerback Battle & Bringing in a Veteran

Possibly the most uncertain positional group for the Jets right now is the cornerback room, which is extremely young and inexperienced. All offseason it has been debated whether or not Douglas will bring in a veteran to headline this first and second-year core, and Saleh at least cleared up his mindset on the issue.

“The easy answer is to right now bring in a veteran, but a veteran will probably just eat up reps and not give us an ability to look at these young guys who are just starving for an opportunity,” he said.

Saleh noted that they have time to make a decision on signing a veteran, and they’re more focused on developing the talent they have. “Right now the sole focus is just on our guys,” he said.

Saleh also discussed vaccinated players (including vaccine education and NFL rules that could affect non-vaccinated athletes), his appearance at Madison Square Garden and Mekhi Becton’s weight.