6 takeaways from Robert Saleh’s post-roster cuts press conference

Robert Saleh spoke about the Jets’ roster cuts and several other recent decisions. Here are the biggest takeaways:

Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas have made a lot of moves this week that will have major ramifications on the Jets’ short- and long-term future.

Not only did the Jets trim their roster to 53 players, but they also traded a starter and cut another less than two weeks before the season opener against the Panthers. Saleh explained some of the reasoning behind these recent decisions Wednesday afternoon.

Saleh’s focus revolved around developing the Jets’ young talent to create sustained success rather than make short-term fixes for a team still creating an identity. Here are six takeaways from the press conference.

Jets release projected starting CB Blessuan Austin

The Jets cut starting cornerback Blessuan Austin after trying to trade him earlier this summer.

The Jets cornerback room just got smaller and less experienced.

New York released third-year cornerback Blessuan Austin after the team unsuccessfully tried to trade him, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Austin started 16 games over the past two seasons after the Jets took him in the sixth round of the 2019 draft.

Austin, 25, was expected to start alongside Bryce Hall this year, but now he’ll search for another team. The Rutgers product tallied 88 combined tackles, eight defended passes, two forced fumbles and no interceptions during his two seasons with the Jets.

Austin recently said he was “the real deal” and that he can “make a lot of plays on that field that other corners cannot make.” Apparently, the Jets didn’t feel the same way about the young cornerback.

The Jets could now start one of their 2021 rookies alongside Hall at cornerback. Sixth-round pick Brandin Echols flashed the most this summer, though fellow rookies Jason Pinnock and Isaiah Dunn are also options. The Jets could also pick up another player in free agency or in a trade.

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Where do Jets rank in salary cap space after 53-man roster cuts?

Joe Douglas and the Jets still have a lot of cap space after roster cuts and trades from this week.

The Jets remain one the most financially flexible teams in the NFL following Tuesday’s 53-man roster cuts deadline.

New York has an estimated $15,419,255 in salary cap space, according to Over The Cap. This includes the money saved from all the roster cuts, the Chris Herndon trade to the Vikings, and the trade for Shaq Lawson.

The Jets are only behind the Panthers, Broncos, Steelers, and Washington from a salary cap perspective.

What – if anything – Joe Douglas does with that extra money remains to be seen. The Jets still have to fill out their practice squad with 16 players whose contracts are either $165,000 for the season (for rookies or players with fewer than two years in the league) or $252,000 (for veterans).

New York still lacks depth at key positions – like safety and tight end – and could pick up players off waivers, free agency or the trade block. Such moves would eat into the Jets’ cap space, but Gang Green has more wiggle room than most teams.

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Robert Saleh on roster cuts: ‘This is by far the worst part of football’

The Jets will cut the roster to 53 players Tuesday. The gravity of what that means for some isn’t lost on Robert Saleh.

Robert Saleh and the Jets have to trim their roster to 53 players by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday. That means a lot of difficult conversations with players whose NFL dreams will be shattered in the process.

The gravity of those talks and what it means for the men on the other side of the business isn’t lost on Saleh in his first season as a head coach.

“This is by far the worst part of football,” he said Monday. “For some of them, the dream of playing professional football is over. For some, they’re still going to be able to continue on.”

Saleh has been a part of many roster cutdown days before as a coordinator and position coach in the NFL. But this is the first time he’s playing a major role in the decisions of who to cut and who to keep as a head coach. It’s also the first time he talk to every player who gets a pink slip, opposed to just the defensive cuts he dealt with in San Francisco.

“You never want to be the one to deliver bad news and you just hurt for them because you know how much effort and how much work they put into it,” he said. “It’s not easy, it’ll never be easy.”

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Robert Saleh excited about slot cornerbacks Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry

Robert Saleh loves Javelin Guidry and Michael Carter II, the Jets’ two young cornerbacks battling for the nickel role on defense.

The Jets are rolling with their youth in the slot in 2021.

New York let veteran nickel cornerback Brian Poole walk in free agency, opting to replace him with 2020 undrafted free agent Javelin Guidry and 2021 fifth-round pick Michael Carter II. While that duo’s inexperience may seem concerning, Robert Saleh is looking forward to playing both this season after watching them develop this spring and summer.

“We’re really excited about the slot corner,” Saleh said after Friday night’s tie against the Eagles. “When you look at Michael and Guidry, we think they’re two NFL starters with the potential to be even more with their youth. They got a chance to grow into that position.”

Both players come with their own set of strengths that Saleh praised. For Guidry, it’s all about his speed. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the 2020 NFL draft combine at 4.29 seconds and looked solid in two starts as a rookie. Carter II appears to be incredibly mature for his age; Saleh praised his smarts and communication skills.

Carter II looked good in coverage in the Jets’ final two preseason games.

“We’re very excited about those two,” Saleh said. “Those are definite starters in this league and they just add to the value of that position.”

Only one will win the starting job, though, and it’s unclear who leads the pack. Guidry will likely get the nod considering his experience and quickness, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Carter II earn the job at some point this season or for Jeff Ulbrich to cycle the two throughout the year.

Either way, Saleh appears content with his slot cornerbacks – even if they aren’t household names just yet.

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Robert Saleh praises James Morgan, but not ready to name backup QB

The Jets will pick between James Morgan, Mike White and Josh Johnson to serve as Zach Wilson’s backup in 2021.

The battle to be the Jets’ backup quarterback is a three-way fight between veteran Josh Johnson, the inexperienced James Morgan and Mike White. But through three preseason games, Robert Saleh doesn’t appear ready to name Zach Wilson’s backup.

It sounds like Saleh won’t pick Johnson despite a solid preseason finale. The journeyman played an efficient half against the Eagles after completing 7-8 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, but Saleh had more praise for Morgan and his fourth-quarter comeback.

“If we don’t fumble that ball [late in the fourth-quarter] I really believe [Morgan]’s putting us in field goal range and we’re going to get a kick off with [Matt] Ammendola and win the game,” Saleh said Friday night. “That’s the way he was operating. That’s the way he was moving.”

Morgan went 13-23 for 158 yards, two touchdowns – both to tight end Kenny Yeboah — and one interception. The first score was a 21-yard strike to Yeboah, while the second touchdown came on a magical 60-yard Hail Mary pass. That gave the Jets a chance to tie the game, which they did on a Josh Adams two-point conversion.

“To show the grit to get us all the way down there and obviously to throw a 60-yard shot into the end zone was pretty cool,” Saleh said.

The backup quarterback job has been a hot topic all offseason and training camp because of the inexperience of Morgan and White. Joe Douglas brought Johnson in as a pseudo mentor for the young trio of Wilson, Morgan and White, but he likely isn’t in contention for a roster spot. Saleh sounds like he wants to stick with and develop the young quarterbacks rather than place a veteran behind Wilson.

Only Morgan played all three preseason games after White sat out the Eagles game, but he didn’t have a great summer prior to Friday’s tie. He only completed 6-12 passes for 48 yards against the Giants and Packers, while White went 20-28 for 166 yards in those games.

The Jets have a few days before they need to trim the roster to 53 players. The coaching staff must decide if it wants to head into the season with two or three quarterbacks. It’s a tough decision, but one that would only influence the Jets’ record if something happens to Wilson.

“We thought they all got better as the entire camp went along,” Saleh said. “I thought they all progressed pretty well. Now we’re going to evaluate.”

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Jets RB Ty Johnson aims to be ‘patient, but violent’ runner

Ty Johnson shined in the Jets’ preseason finale and earned the praise of Robert Saleh after the game.

The Jets’ running back rotation remains somewhat of a mystery after three preseason games, but Ty Johnson certainly earned a nice role after a solid finale Friday night.

Johnson rushed 13 times for 53 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. He had a couple of bruising hits and two third-down conversions.

Johnson’s performance was the culmination of an offseason and training camp spent focusing on the finer details. He said he’s learning to be the type of running back that excels in Mike LaFleur’s offense, and he showed he has that potential against the Eagles.

“That’s all I was really harping on during the summer: Tight turns when I’m catching the ball, violent cuts, find the right crease and everything. Patient but violent when I’m going downhill,” Johnson said after the game. “I think I’ve improved a lot. There’s a lot of things I can still keep improving on.”

Robert Saleh has talked about violence on the football field before – less about inflicting pain and more about overwhelming an opponent with physicality. Johnson did just that on a few runs during his touchdown drive Friday.

Johnson’s performance didn’t go unnoticed by Saleh, either. The Jets coach mentioned Johnson’s touchdown drive as a perfect example of things he’s worked on during the spring and summer.

“He converted a third-and-short, was moving piles, lowering his shoulder and getting tough, aggressive yards. That was a great plus for him,” Saleh said. “The thing about it is he still has so much more in the tank. That was a great step forward for him. He did a really nice job.”

Where Johnson will sit on the Jets’ running back rotation remains to be seen, though. He led the Jets backfield in carries this preseason and looked like the best running back on the roster. But the Jets have a lot of talented rushers and LaFleur likes to cycle them throughout games.

Johnson will have a part to play on the offense. He’s fast, powerful and even added two receptions for 18 yards on Friday. It will be hard to keep him off the field, even with players like Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter and La’Mical Perine on the roster.

“We got a lot of guys that do a lot of different things,” Johnson said. “I’m going to play my role, whatever that role is, and I’m going to play it well.”

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Jets LT Mekhi Becton in concussion protocol after leaving Tuesday’s practice

Jets LT Mekhi Becton didn’t practice Wednesday after entering the concussion protocol following a head-to-head collision.

Mekhi Becton didn’t practice Wednesday after entering the concussion protocol following a head-to-head collision, Robert Saleh confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

The Jets starting left tackle was evaluated for a head injury after leaving practice early on Tuesday. Becton was spotted vomiting on the sideline after the play that knocked him out and didn’t return. He’ll need to be cleared by the medical staff and an independent neurological consultant after following the five-step Return-To-Participation protocol, per league rules.

It’s unknown how long Becton will be out, but George Fant will likely take over at left tackle in his place and if Becton misses any games.

Becton is the biggest injury to befall the Jets offensive line this summer. Gang Green already lost backup Cam Clark to a spinal contusion and Alex Lewis to retirement. Rookie Alijah Vera-Tucker has missed a lot of time with a pectoral strain. Backups Connor McDermott, Chuma Edoga and Jimmy Murray have also been injured throughout training camp.

As far as other Jets injuries go, running back La’Mical Perine is dealing with a foot injury, while Sheldon Rankins, Brandin Echols and Mike White returned to practice. Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore and Quinnen Williams returned to practice this week, too, though Saleh doesn’t think Vera-Tucker or Moore will play against the Eagles on Friday.

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Jets hire Matt Cavanaugh as a senior offensive assistant

Matt Cavanaugh most recently coached in Washington in the Shanahan-style offense, but he also has a connection to the Jets and Mark Sanchez.

The Jets hired longtime NFL assistant Matt Cavanaugh, according to the New York Post’s Brian Costello.

Cavanaugh fills the vacancy left by the tragic passing of Gregg Knapp, who died last month after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle.

This is not Cavanaugh’s first stint with the Jets. He previously served as the quarterbacks coach during the Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez years from 2009-2012.

Cavanaugh is acquainted with the Shanahan-style offense. He coached quarterbacks with Washington under offensive coordinator Sean McVay from 2015-2016 (after Kyle Shanahan left to run the Falcons offense), then took over as offensive coordinator from 2017-2018. He most recently served as a senior offensive assistant under Jay Gruden in 2019.

It’s unclear exactly what Cavanaugh’s role on the team will be, but he’ll undoubtedly help with Zach Wilson’s development and should join the team next week after clearing COVID-19 protocols.

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Jets release 4, place DE Vinny Curry on reserve/NFI list

The Jets cut Tristen Hoge, Edmond Robinson, Josh Malone and Manasseh Bailey to trim the roster to 80 players.

The Jets roster shrunk to 80 players Tuesday after the team released tackle Tristen Hoge, linebacker Edmond Robinson and receivers Josh Malone and Manasseh Bailey.

New York also placed veteran defensive end Vinny Curry on the Reserve/NFI list.

None of the cuts are terribly surprising, as all four were longshots to make the roster.

Hoge is an undrafted free agent out of BYU who played in 46 offensive snaps in the preseason. He would have been a backup offensive lineman.

Robinson signed with the Jets earlier this month after spending last year with the Falcons. He played in 10 defensive snaps and 17 special teams this preseason. His role would have been on special teams.

Malone moved between the Jets practice squad and active roster the past two seasons and appeared in six games over that span. Bailey is heading into his second season in the league but first with the Jets after spending time with the Chargers and Eagles last season. In a crowded receiver room,  Malone and Bailey didn’t have a path to the roster.

The Jets already expected Curry to be out until Week 2, so his designation is not a shock. He can be activated at any time between now and the start of the season. If the Jets keep him on the NFI list for Week 1, he’ll have to miss the first six games of the season.

Final roster cuts are next week. The Jets will need to cut 27 players to get the roster down to 53 ahead of the regular season.

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