Florham Park, NJ… Look at the events surrounding the New York Jets:
1. Bright lights, big city: It’s a long way from a big man on campus to the biggest market in the country, so playing quarterback in New York can be overwhelming. Constant surveillance can get into a player’s head (see Geno Smith), the paparazzi can find you at any time (Mark Sanchez), and media attention can give a pro (Chad Pennington) a few bad moments in front of the cameras.
The Jets are expected to release BYU’s Zach Wilson, who was born, raised and educated in Utah, in 11 days. Is he ready for Gotham? Can he pull the eternal loser from the abyss?
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who spent time with Wilson and other top quarterbacks during the filming of his new ESPN QB21 series, gave his opinion this week in a conference call with reporters.
What I liked about Zach Wilson is that he has a chip on his shoulder, Herbstreit said. He’s wearing a bracelet that says, “Prove them wrong,” and I am: Who wants to prove him wrong, man? Like everyone loves you. But he was not heavily recruited. He grew up in Salt Lake City. His father played in Utah. Utah did not draft him. And I think from that moment on, he had a rock in his heart that he didn’t want to let go of.
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Herbstreit recounted how Wilson made a 10-hour trip (round trip) to Southern California last spring during KOVID-19 quarantine to meet with his personal trainer, former BYU quarterback John Beck, to stay in shape. He did this several times.
Mental strength is what you need to get there [in New York]. I don’t think I can personally doubt that, Herbstreit said. Having grown up in Utah, I would be careful not to look at the book with a baby face and judge the cover by what you see. This guy’s got good wiring. I like a guy who proves everyone wrong, and I don’t think he’s emotional about it, or isn’t like [said on] social media: You’ll see. It’s not that at all. It’s like an inner fire that burns, I guess, right.
In reality, it is impossible to predict exactly how the 21-year-old will handle the pressure. Sam Darnold has always held his own as a pro, saying he benefited from playing at a big-budget university at USC, but he doesn’t produce on the field.
Being quarterback for the Jets is a tough job, one of the toughest in sports.
2. Too many muffins? Wilson’s big problem is the level of competition he had in college. As the starting quarterback against teams in the AP rankings during his career, Wilson went 2-4 with eight touchdown passes and five interceptions, far fewer than in his other games. That has to factor into his evaluation, but the Jets clearly agree.
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit says Zack Wilson has a chip on his shoulder, a feature he believes will help the QB. This guy has good wiring, he said. Jeff Swinger/USA NETWORK OF ACTION
3. With the 23. Choice We didn’t pay much attention to the Jets’ pick at #23 (for obvious reasons), so let’s take a look. The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft (April 29-May 1 in Cleveland, on ESPN and ESPN the App) is a semi-hot spot, as the pick has been traded in three of the last six drafts. Maybe they’ll get a call.
Assuming the Jets keep the pick and knowing that general manager Joe Douglas prefers to use high picks at so-called premium positions, we can narrow the list down to cornerback or edge rusher. This avoids chasing and running away from the ball, three other important needs. The offensive tackle is a top position, but they seem to be ready to throw with George Phantom on his right side. More than half of his 2021 salary ($4.45 million of $8.5 million) is already guaranteed. Ideally, you don’t want to have that much money in the bank.
Available cornerbacks could be Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) and Greg Newsom II (Northwestern). Here’s what you need to know about Coach Robert Saleh: He wants big corners for his zone scheme. At 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, Farley is the perfect choice. He’s a top 15 talent, but back problems (recent microdiscectomy) could make him hesitant.
Another thing we know about Saleh: He doesn’t think you can have too many edge rushers, which is why the defense stops, even though they spent a lot of money on Carl Lawson. Names to check: Jaelan Phillips (Miami), Aziz Ojulari (Georgia) and Zaven Collins (Tulsa). Ojulari is particularly fascinating. At 6’3 and 6’10, he may be a little smaller than a 4-3 defender, but he’s sharp and explosive.
Historical context: The Jets have made only the 23rd pick in franchise history. That was linebacker Bob Crable in 1982. He struggled with injuries and only lasted six seasons.
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4. A false start? The (voluntary) off-season program is scheduled to begin Monday. There will be virtual meetings again, without field exercises. This will be Saleh’s first chance to address the entire team, a chance to set the tone for the spring – even if it is on a laptop.
The entire offseason schedule has been suspended because the NFL and NFLPA can’t agree on whether or not to hold in-person events. (The Jets, like many other teams, chose not to). If the entire offseason remains virtual, many players in the league will lose their training bonuses.
But not the Jets. None of the list members receive a training bonus from overthecap.com (OTC). In past years, they were very committed to training bonuses, but the current government has moved away from that. They are one of five teams without a practice allowance.
5. Check the cap: The Planes have $25 million in space and their draft class will gobble up $9.4 million per OTC, meaning they should have carryover until 2022.
6. Here: Some may be wondering about released cornerback Richard Sherman. Saleh is interested in meeting Sherman, I hear, but it depends on several factors. From the Jets’ perspective, it may depend on how the draft goes. As for Sherman, he seems to prefer a team that plays in the West. Of course, there’s always money. In other words, several bridges have to be crossed before anything happens.
7. Switching sounds: Things are quiet on the C.J. Mosley front, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the linebacker’s name pops up in trade speculation during the draft.
8. Late return home: Defensive end Vinny Curry was on the Jets’ radar as a free agent in 2020, but he wasn’t ready to commit to them or anyone else due to a personal tragedy. His half-brother, Gerald Glisson, the principal of the New Jersey school, died last spring from complications of COVID-19.
It got me off my chest. My attitude wasn’t there, said Curry, who waited until last August to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s just that I had so much personal stuff.
Vinny Curry is a veteran on the Jets’ defensive front. Photo: Stacey Revere/Getty Images
Curry, who idolized Glisson, said the virus came out of nowhere. How? Oh, he’s got COVID. Then he was put on a respirator. And before you know it, he’s gone.
The New Jersey native, who missed the game while on the COVID-19 list, ended his time with the Eagles on a solid note by earning a one-year contract with the Jets. Douglas, the former Eagles manager, finally got his man.
9. Slot machines : The retirement of Julian Edelman has brought back memories of former Jets star Wayne Ridge, who considered Edelman the godfather of slot receivers.
Edelman’s competitiveness and drive have taken him from a seventh-round pick to Super Bowl MVP. Ridge never made it to the Super Bowl, but his story is no less dramatic. Hell, he wasn’t even selected. You’ll be surprised to see that their regular season numbers don’t differ much.
Approvals : Edelman 620, Ridge 580.
Foster Yards: Ridge 7,365, Edelman 6,822.
Touchdowns: Ridge 41, Edelman 36.
10. The last word: I felt I was on my way to the top of the linebacker class. Of course the injuries have plagued me, but I’m confident I’ll be able to do all those things again and be a special player. — recently signed by former New Orleans Saints player Sheldon Rankins.