The final score of a preseason game is usually beside the point. Gang Green defeated the Giants 12-7 on Saturday, but with key players getting limited time on the field, assessing their impact is far more beneficial.
That being said, Jets fans have to like what they saw. The team came out strong on both offense and defense. On the first drive of the game, New York forced a three and out on defense. Their defensive line was firing on all cylinders, putting their speed on display as they generated immense pressure on all three downs. This culminated in a third down sack by Bruce Huff, as he and Carl Lawson collapsed the pocket seemingly in an instant.
After a punt, the offense continued where the defense left off. It was clear right away that offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was looking to establish the running game, and he certainly did just that. Young running backs Ty Johnson and Michael Carter consistently found some big holes on that first drive, easing the pressure on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. After a 11-yard run by Johnson on the first play from scrimmage, Wilson found receiver Corey Davis for 9 yards on a simple play action rollout for the first completion of his career.
When New York found themselves in a third and 6 on the next set of downs, the young quarterback remained composed, standing strong in the pocket before delivering a strong, accurate throw to Davis in a tight window for a first down. Gang Green settled for a field goal on the 12-play drive, but it was an excellent showing from the offense as they methodically marched down the field, a sign of things to come this year.
The second drive began with another first down run from Johnson, before the Jets found themselves in another third and long. Again, Wilson didn’t appear afraid of the moment, finding Keelan Cole over the middle on third and 9. In a run-first offense, the second overall pick will need to come up big on third down time and time again, and he quickly showed his ability to do just that.
As Robert Saleh promised, most of the starters on offense and defense played two series, before giving way to the backups. There were certainly huge bright spots of note from the later stages of the game, though, on both sides of the ball. Four minutes into the second quarter, rookie linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen forced Giants running back Corey Clement to fumble deep in the red zone, again demonstrating the speed and activity level of this year’s defense. The Giants were undoubtedly missing some key players, but regardless, the Jets defense held up well, allowing only 163 total yards.
Another extremely promising sign for New York was Denzel Mims, who proved he should be getting more opportunities with the first team. Entering the game with backup quarterback Mike White, the second-year receiver caught 3 passes for 51 yards. This included an impressive 20-yard catch and run on third and 18, which featured Mims dragging defenders with him to move the chains, reminding us why the Jets drafted him in 2020.
Entering the season, there were promising signs that the Jets would make a major improvement from the 2-14 campaign last year. If nothing else, yesterday’s game confirmed that expecting better things for this team isn’t wishful thinking. Under Saleh, this team has a new identity.
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