With most of the likely starters sitting this one out, numerous key backups had a chance to get some much-needed reps. Or in the case of quarterback Zach Wilson, it was a chance to prove he was learning from his mistakes in 2022.
Wilson played a quarter in Canton and went 3-for-5 for 65 yards, including a 57-yard toss to wide receiver Malik Taylor, a very nice deep throw that landed right on the mark, a play Saleh said was suggested by Aaron Rodgers. Wilson started taking what the defense gave him, something he severely struggled with last season. This was against mostly backups for the Browns, but the progress has been evident for the former No. 2 overall pick.
The other top player most had their eyes on Thursday was offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. He was expected to play 20-25 snaps. He wound up playing only seven offensive snaps plus a few snaps on special teams. But in his limited time, Becton played well. He looked very strong in both run blocking for Israel Abanikanda — who had a 10-yard touchdown run and finished with 27 yards on nine carries — and pass protection for Wilson.
The Jets seem to be making Becton earn a spot in the offensive tackle competition, hence him running with the second team in camp and starting on Thursday. Head coach Robert Saleh said the limited snap count was more about building up Becton’s confidence that his knee can hold up but that Becton “felt it a little bit”. There’s no setback for Becton, however, and that is the most important piece here. Just getting Becton healthy after his first game action since Week 1 of the 2021 season is a confidence booster for both Becton and the team.
Tim Boyle played the second and third quarters and went 6-for-11 for 61 yards and Chris Streveler finished out the game, including waiting out a delay due to the lights in the stadium going out, finishing 1-of-7 for nine yards.
Taylor’s 57 yards receiving were a game-high. Four other Jets had double-digits: Alex Erickson (1-19), EJ Jenkins (2-18), Jason Brownlee (2-17) and Kenny Yeboah (2-13). Zack Kuntz and Abanikanda each had a catch for six and five yards, respectively.
On defense, undrafted rookie Trey Dean led the way with seven tackles and sixth-round pick Zaire Barnes had five. First-round pick Will McDonald showed some very nice spin moves and showed the speed and flashes that made him the 15th overall pick by the Jets. Micheal Clemons and Bryce Hall (who recorded a sack) also showed they will be key parts of the rotation as well.
Not that preseason records mean much, but Thursday was actually the first preseason loss for Saleh in his third year and 7th preseason game. Saleh was 5-0-1 in the preseason entering Thursday — the Jets and Eagles played to a 31-31 tie in 2021.
The Jets return to the practice field Saturday and will have a pair of open practices to the public Saturday and Sunday before a day off Monday. They’ll practice at home Tuesday and then head to Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina for a pair of joint practices with the Carolina Panthers Wednesday and Thursday before their preseason meeting next Saturday, August 12 at 4:00 p.m. eastern.