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Offense has issues, Quinnen Williams wreaks havoc in latest ‘Hard Knocks’ with Jets

by nytime
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The first tangible concern for the New York Jets and their Super Bowl aspirations this 2023 NFL season came to light in the latest “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets.”

A week after Aaron Rodgers looked the part of savior for a franchise sporting the longest playoff drought in the NFL — 12 seasons — the offense was out of sync during a joint practice with the Carolina Panthers.

In Rodgers’ first live-action practice snaps as a Jet against an opponent, the team’s offense was lackluster. The culprit was a leaky offensive line, and the unit takes much of the blame for the rough outing from head coach Robert Saleh, who delivered a monologue that was way less confusing than last week’s analogy involving crows and eagles.

“It was our first (expletive) opportunity to change the stink that’s been in this organization for a very long time on the offensive side of the ball. You can have a Hall of Fame quarterback. You can have two $10 million-plus receivers. You can have a reigning offensive rookie of the year. You can have all kinds of skill in the running back room. None of that (expletive) matters until the big boys up front change who the (expletive) we are,” Saleh tells the team. “We as coaches, we as an organization can’t want it more than you. And I’m watching that tape all night last night trying to find something to show that we’re (expletive) changing and it didn’t show, and it was our first (opportunity). And I’d love to say we got another practice, but you know what, it’s like Sunday, you don’t get Monday morning to go redo. It’s getting your mind right to represent who the (expletive) you are every single (expletive) time you are on the (expletive) field.

“We’ll fix the footwork. We’ll fix all that (expletive). But you can’t fix (expletive) until we know you’re giving it everything you got. Making it (expletive) hurt. Straining and fighting for everything you (expletive) got, because we will go as you go. We proved last year that we’re a 7-10 football team with a really (expletive) good defense and a mediocre offense. That’s about what we proved. Flip that (expletive) (expletive). We don’t get anymore second chances.”

It appeared Jets players took Saleh’s message to heart. Because three days later, the team dominated the Panthers in a preseason game at Bank of America Stadium.

While Rodgers did not play — he hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2018 — backup Zach Wilson completed 14 of 20 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Third-stringer Tim Boyle added two more touchdown passes, including one to rookie tight end Zack Kuntz when he ran the wrong route.

However, it was the defense that continued to make the biggest statements. Quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, was harassed by the Jets pass rush, getting hit on three of his seven drop-backs.

Rookie Will McDonald IV, drafted in the first round with a selection acquired in the Rodgers trade with the Green Bay Packers, was a force, fresh off getting some new piercings to his eyebrow and nose (“My style is unpredictable,” he tells the NFL Films camera). McDonald collected one of the Jets’ five sacks in the 27-0 rout.

“God, I love kicking people’s asses,” a more jovial Saleh said toward the end of the game.

Will McDonald IV (99) celebrates with teammates Bruce Hector (69) and Jamien Sherwood (44) after registering a sack against the Carolina Panthers.

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Here is more of what we learned during the second episode of “‘Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets”:

‘Shoutout to Optimus Prime’

Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson was famously nicknamed “Megatron” during his dominant career with the Detroit Lions.

Quinnen Williams, the Jets’ fifth-year defensive lineman, might need a nickname more representative of his offense-destroying skills than “Q-Ball.”

“I want to get a shout out to my wife, she’ll be out here today. I want to get a shout out to my newborn daughter, she’ll be out here today, too. Shout out to Optimus Prime, I love Transformers. Shout out to my daddy,” Williams says into the mic hidden in his shoulder pads and jersey. “Shout out to my agent, Nicole Lynn, for helping me get paid.”

Just a month ago, Williams received a four-year, $96 million contract extension that made him the second-highest paid defensive tackle in the league behind the Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald.

During the joint practice with the Panthers, Williams was a destructive force, registering a crazy amount of “sacks” (there technically aren’t sacks during training camp since quarterbacks aren’t allowed to be tackled). Unofficial count of “sacks”: 11.

So, perhaps a cool Transformers-inspired nickname such as “Devastator” or “Menasor” would be a more appropriate moniker for this game-plan wrecking tour de force who is fond of the robots in disguise.

Aaron Rodgers left mystified by card trick-goldfish illusion

The Panthers defense and leaky offensive line weren’t the only things to throw Rodgers off tilt this week.

The Jets took a pause from their “All Gas No Brake” training camp for some light-hearted entertainment that left Rodgers flummoxed — a card trick by mentalist Oz Pearlman. “Oz the Mentalist” was a third-place finisher during Season 10 of “America’s Got Talent” and can now add “Hard Knocks” to his IMDB page.

Pearlman asked Rodgers to pick a card from a deck, and Pearlman proceeded to correctly guess the exact card — a three of diamonds — to oohs and ahhs from the congregation. Pearlman’s wizardry wasn’t done. He’d asked one of Rodgers’ teammates or coaches to pick an animal that isn’t the nickname of an NFL team (“giraffe, whale, lizard, hippo, elephant, sheep”).

After the card trick with Rodgers, safeties coach Marquand Manuel revealed that he picked a goldfish. Rodgers then opened his hands to reveal … a goldfish. Minds were blown.

A curious Jet could be heard yelling, “what if you would’ve picked a giraffe, though?”

Now that would have been mind-blowing!

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hard Knocks Jets recap: Aaron Rodgers loves Oz Pearlman magic tricks

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