FLORHAM PARK, NJ — A look at what’s going on around the New York Jets:
1. Augmented QB: Focusing on the team and himself, Zach Wilson won the offseason.
When he wasn’t throwing to his receivers on his “Zach Across America Tour,” the second-year quarterback was working on his body. Wilson, who stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 214 pounds, will never be confused with Josh Allen (6-foot-5) or Justin Herbert (6-foot-6), which is why his goal was to add weight — buffer for the weekly shake. .
“He looks beefy, in a good way,” trainer Robert Saleh said.
Wilson said he wanted to do it the “right way” by focusing on a healthy diet. Those close to him say that he has become finicky about what he eats. He tried to gain weight in the past, reaching 218, but he wasn’t comfortable athletically. This time, he took it slow and steady to keep his quickness and his throwing motion loose. He didn’t reveal his current weight, but the change is apparent to everyone around him.
“Looks like he’s put on some weight,” linebacker CJ Mosley said, smiling. “He’s been in the weight room. Maybe he went to Miami and the [players who train there] gave him the reason. I don’t know if they were lifting weights like that at BYU. But that’s the difference between year 1 and year 2. Your body starts to change, you get a little older and you figure out what to do and what not to do. That’s part of being a professional and growing up.”
Wilson is showing he wants to get better after a disappointing rookie season. He is doing and saying the right things, receiving praise for his mature approach, but that takes a player to a point. It is a production business and he has to produce much better than last year.
An improved supporting cast will help, but it eventually falls to Wilson. You can start small, literally. On pass attempts between 1 and 10 yards, he completed a league-low 62%, 10% below the NFL average, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. If he can get to the average, which is two more completions per game, the offense will be in a better place.
2. Peculiar hours: The Jets’ schedule is, in a word, weird. Four rivals from the AFC North to start the season? That’s a lot of Rust Belt.
Their Week 1 opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, faces the same deal with the AFC East. The Jets and Ravens are the first teams to open a season with four straight games against the same division since 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau statement.
Other interesting facts:
The Jets have eight fewer rest days than their opponents, tied for the fourth-worst rest differential.
The Jets have to travel 7,500 more miles than their opponents, the second-worst differential.
They have the fourth-easiest final leg (December-January), based on their opponents’ winning percentage in 2021 (.407).
3. Man of Intrigue: Every draft class has a mystery man. For the Jets, it’s fourth-round defensive end Michael Clemons (Texas A&M), a tempting mix of promise and concern.
He produced on the field (13th out of 470 rated pass-rushers in percentage rushing at the FBS level), but it comes with age (24), injuries and questions off the field. He was arrested last August on charges that included illegal possession of a weapon, which resulted in a one-game suspension. He has also been cited for various moving violations on at least five occasions between 2018 and 2021, according to Texas court records.
In the field, you could tell it’s wired a bit differently than most. General manager Joe Douglas called Clemons “one of the nastiest players in the draft,” with Saleh adding, “When he puts on a helmet, he goes to a very dark place.” If that spot is the opponents’ backfield, the Jets will be happy.
4. Expensive D: If the defense sucks again this year, it won’t be because the front office refused to spend money on that side of the ball. The Jets have spent $111.6 million of their salary cap on defense, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers ($130.8 million), according to Over the Cap. You could say they’re paying for potential because only one player (linebacker CJ Mosley) has a Pro Bowl under his belt. resume.
5. Great concern: The Jets went 29 against the run, and they haven’t replaced defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi (Jacksonville Jaguars). I mention it for two reasons:
They open the season against the Ravens, who feature dangerous quarterback Lamar Jackson and one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the league. That could be a problem. That’s why the Jets are showing interest in free-agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who could jump right into the lineup alongside Quinnen Williams.
6. Dead end, no more: No position has experienced more turmoil than tight end, which is pretty amazing considering the team’s recent history. For a decade, the Jets didn’t care about position, as evidenced by the embarrassing production: a league-low 561 receptions between 2011 and 2021.
They replaced Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft with CJ Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, adding a draft sweetener: third-round pick Jeremy Ruckert. They still have Trevon Wesco on the roster.
“Now, our tight wing room… it’s scary,” Uzomah said.
7. Special Tome: Do you remember Mike Westhoff? Of course yes. He was the Jets’ special teams coach from 2001 to 2012, an X’s and O’s genius who never shied away from speaking his mind. Now retired, he hasn’t lost his candor, as he’ll quickly learn by reading his autobiography, “Find Out: My Thirty-Two-Year Journey While Revolutionizing Pro Football’s Special Teams.” He was assisted by Associated Press NFL reporter Barry Wilner.
Westhoff, a cancer survivor, has a great story to tell. His chapters on his time with the Jets, which included six playoff seasons and some embarrassing slacks, are particularly intriguing. He covers everyone from Tim Tebow (“not an NFL quarterback”) to Mark Sanchez (“just a manageable quarterback at best”), and also talks about the two general managers and the three trainers with whom he worked.
Westhoff has good things to say about each of his former bosses, though he does manage to spark a few issues with former coaches Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini. He saves his harshest words for former general manager Terry Bradway, who “wasn’t my favorite. I thought, in a lot of ways, he was just mediocre.” He criticizes former general manager Mike Tannenbaum for excluding him from the pre-draft process in 2012, adding, “We went from a championship-level team to a bull operation, and this was another example.”
He also reveals how his friendship with Bill Parcells, whom he considered a mentor, was ruined when Parcells, in a 2008 letter to the NFL office, accused Westhoff of violating league rules. While under contract to the Jets, Westhoff, who had “retired” for health reasons, visited a Miami Dolphins training camp practice as a guest of Parcells. A few days later, Westhoff rejoined the Jets, who were preparing to start against Miami. That didn’t sit well with Parcells, who thought Westhoff had scouted the Dolphins illegally.
“With a miserable chicken letter,” Westhoff writes, “he destroyed what I thought was a great relationship.”
Westhoff’s fascinating football life is a good summer read.