The Jets are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and it shows every time they take the field.
One week New York looks likes it is making serious strides in the right direction. The next it looks like it could be defeated by a middle-of-the-road college football program. All of that can be traced back to its youth and inexperience.
It’s not showing in the results just yet — the Jets are 2-8 after losing to the Dolphins — but Robert Saleh is pleased with the progress Gang Green’s young talent is making. With the way some of his rookies have played recently, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
“We still have a lot of faith. We still think our quarterback [Zach Wilson] is going to be special,” Saleh said. “[Alijah Vera-Tucker] is getting better every single week. Elijah Moore, his play speaks for itself. Michael Carter, his play speaks for itself. The nickel Michael Carter, his play speaks for itself. [Brandin] Echols had been doing a nice job before he got injured.”
Moore stole the show against Miami, catching eight passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Carter rushed for seven yards per carry before suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter, while Vera-Tucker dominated in the trenches and freed up plenty of holes for him to run through.
Carter, Moore and Vera-Tucker haven’t just been the Jets’ three best rookies this season. They’ve been their three best offensive players. Wilson showed some flashes of potential — albeit inconsistently — before spraining his PCL and could join that conversation soon.
As for Carter II and Echols, they’ve been about as reliable as the Jets could have hoped two rookie defensive backs would be. There have been some bumps along the road — Stefon Diggs torched Echols in Week 10 — but the two have shown enough to establish themselves as building blocks in the secondary.
Don’t forget about New York’s 2020 rookie class, either. Bryce Hall is starting to look more and more like the dominant cover cornerback he was before suffering a catastrophic injury at the University of Virginia, while Bryce Huff has shown flashes as a pass rusher.
“Bryce Huff, we’re really excited to get him back,” Saleh said. “Bryce Hall has been doing a nice job at corner. [Javelin] Guidry has been stepping in and doing a nice job. Ashtyn Davis had an interception today. There were a lot of first and second-year players doing a lot of good things.”
The Jets have a young core they feel can they can build around. Now, it’s time for Joe Douglas to surround that nucleus with the right group of veterans. New York’s youngsters might give Saleh fits from time to time, but he’s been around the block enough to understand the beauty of the maturation process.
“Are there frustrating moments? Sure, there are,” Saleh said. “But at the same time, these are scars they’re getting and they’re learning. I’ve said it a million times, you have to learn not to lose first. Once you learn how not to lose, you figure out how to win and once you learn how to win, you gotta learn how to close games. Today was clearly one of those learning moments of how not to lose.”