What we’re learning about Aaron Rodgers, Jets from OTAs

The Jets are wrapping up OTAs this week and will have their mandatory minicamp next week before breaking for the summer.

The media has been present for three OTAs, the last one coming Tuesday. I don’t think you can read much into spring practices where players are wearing shorts and there is no contact, but here are some observations from the practices the media has been permitted to watch:

1️⃣ Aaron Rodgers looks like Aaron Rodgers. I’m not into breathlessly reporting every beautiful throw Rodgers makes in these sessions. I think it would be news if he did not look good, not that he looks good. But I understand the interest, and there are some questions considering he is coming off Achilles tendon surgery.

You would never know Rodgers is returning from a serious injury by watching these sessions. He is moving around well, and his arm is clearly healthy. Rodgers makes some otherworldly throws in every session that make your jaw drop.

I’ve watched a lot of football practices while covering the Jets and seen a lot of bad or average to slightly-above-average quarterbacks. Rodgers is in a different class.

On Tuesday, Rodgers made a ridiculous throw to his left while rolling right that hit Xavier Gipson in stride for a 70-yard touchdown.

The interesting thing to watch in training camp will be how Rodgers forms chemistry with so many new pieces on offense, especially with Mike Williams, Morgan Moses and Alijah Vera-Tucker all still limited by injuries. It is going to be difficult for this offense to hit the ground running in Week 1 against the 49ers, but a motivated Rodgers might be able to figure out ways to make it work.

Coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, Garrett Wilson has shown a chemistry with Aaron Rodgers that promises a leap in Year 3. Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

2️⃣ I think about Garrett Wilson every time I see a wide receiver get a hefty new contract. Justin Jefferson, who agreed this week to a four-year, $140 million deal with the Vikings, is the latest. Wilson is also supremely talented, and that has been on display in these OTAs. When you watch him run routes, it is clinical.

Wilson may be a bit underrated outside of the Jets universe because he has not put up monster numbers in his first two years due to the Jets’ lackluster quarterback play. With a healthy Rodgers, Wilson should be able to push himself into the conversation of best receivers in the NFL.

It will be interesting to watch how the Jets navigate the contract decision for Wilson. He is eligible for an extension in 2025, but the Jets have him under contract through 2027, so they may not be in a rush. They also will be dealing with potential extensions for Sauce Gardner and Breece Hall.

On the field, Rodgers and Wilson look like they already have forged a nice bond. Wilson had a diving catch last week in an open OTA and repeatedly got open. This should be a monster season for him.

3️⃣ The offense almost always dominates these practices because of the setup. There is no true pass rush. There is no jamming the receivers. It is essentially an offensive passing camp.

Though limited in what he is allowed to do in OTAs, Sauce Gardner has looked as pesky as ever on defense. Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

But the Jets cornerback trio of Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II has been making plays, and it is difficult to imagine a better trio of corners anywhere in the NFL. Gardner is one of the best in the league. Reed is one of the most underappreciated. Carter has become one of the best slot corners. Reed had a nice pass breakup last week, and Carter and Gardner have been around the ball.

The Jets defense lost some of its strength up front with the departures of Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers. If the Jets defense is going to be one of the best in the NFL this season, it may be because of these cornerbacks.

4️⃣ Rookie running back Braelon Allen has been impressive to watch. He is a very large human being, and he has flashed as both a runner and a receiver in these OTAs.

The receiving element has been the most noticeable perhaps because it was unexpected (Allen had 28 receptions for Wisconsin last season).

With Breece Hall not a participant in the first two open OTAs, Allen saw a lot of time. It’s only spring and there are no pads on, so running backs are nearly impossible to judge. But Allen has passed the early eye test.

5️⃣ Tyler Conklin is going to have a big year. Like Wilson, Conklin’s production has not been as much as it could have been the past two years because of the quarterback play, but he has been a strong free-agent signing by Joe Douglas. He could put up a monster season this year.

A good year from Tyler Conklin in the middle of the field could open up routes for his pass-catching teammates. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Po

Conklin could be the newest tight-end target for Rodgers. The two have displayed a connection in OTAs.

The Jets are going to need Conklin to be a target in the middle of the field and open things up for Wilson and Williams on the outside. So far, he looks up to the task.

6️⃣ The story of last season was the Jets’ failure to have a strong option behind Rodgers at quarterback. We all know how it went with Zach Wilson. Lesson clearly learned. The Jets went out and added Tyrod Taylor, and the veteran has looked strong in these sessions. Taylor can push the ball downfield, and the offense has been moving with him under center.

The question with Taylor, of course, is durability. But if the Jets need him to play a half or 1-2 games, they won’t have to panic this year.

7️⃣ I think the coaching staff has belief in Carter Warren as a backup tackle option. I wasn’t sure how the coaches felt about how Warren played when he was pressed into action late in his rookie season. Clearly, they didn’t think he was ready to start, so they went out and added three tackles this offseason that are now ahead of him on the depth chart.

But the Jets know you sometimes need lots of players to step in at tackle. Judging from what we’ve seen in OTAs, I think the Jets do have a belief in Warren.

Missing you

The Jets will have to wait until after OTAs to get a sense of how Haason Reddick will fit into the defensive game plan. AP

Haason Reddick’s absence from the OTAs has drawn some interest this week. There is a question about whether the edge rusher is looking for a new contact and this is a form of protest.

I would not worry about it until next week’s mandatory minicamp. If he does not show then, when it will cost him money, then we can start talking about whether this could get messy.

Reddick is not missing much at OTAs other than getting to know his new teammates and coaches. There isn’t a position group that gets less out of OTAs than veteran defensive linemen.

Reddick’s situation definitely bears watching, but there’s no reason for concern yet.

Stat’s so

The Jets invested money and a first-round draft pick to upgrade their offensive line this offseason. It clearly needed it after last year.

Here is a look at where the Jets ranked in percentage of dropbacks that were pressured last season, along with each team’s record:

1. Titans (6-11): 27.5 pressure %
2. Jets (7-10): 27.0 pressure %
3. Vikings (7-10): 26.7 pressure %
4. Giants (6-11): 26.4 pressure %
5. Broncos (8-9): 25.2 pressure %
6. Seahawks (9-8): 24.4 pressure %
7. Bears (7-10): 23.9 pressure %
8. Panthers (2-15): 23.4 pressure %
9. Chiefs (11-6): 22.9 pressure %
10. Browns (11-6): 22.7 pressure %

Source: Stathead

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