FLORHAM PARK, NJ — With fans packed close to each other in the stands, the New York Jets had a packed practice at their team’s facility on Saturday.

From fourth-round pick Max Mitchell wowing the crowd before practice to Ahmad “The Sauce” Gardner causing a stir pretty much every time he did anything (seriously, he was booed for just running down the sideline at one point), fans in attendance at the Jets training camp got a treat to start the weekend.

Zach Wilson is having a rough day

How did a QB theme on north-eastern Naga at Pro Football Network’s training camp, Jets QB Zach Wilson was at practice. His accuracy seemed to slip in the middle of team practice, but he eventually recovered and had a solid enough outing overall.

It should be noted that the defense played well in the third practice of the training camp, and there were quite large drops on the receivers. But Wilson had some shots he’d probably like to have back, too.

Still, he threw well in the flat on Saturday, something he struggled with as a rookie. There was one play in particular during an 11-on-11 game when Wilson faced almost immediate pressure, didn’t let it faze him and sent a laser out of the defender’s reach at running back Michael Carter, who caught the ball in stride and sped up the field.

The highlight of the day for Wilson came early in practice. He sent a low laser over the middle to Garrett Wilson in the first round, who stretched and rushed for the catch. The crowd erupted as if they had all received free trips to Cancun for the Oprah tapings.

Wilson and Wilson nearly put together a highlight reel of the opposite option a few plays later, when the QB sent a high rocket to the outfielder who rushed for the ball but couldn’t catch the ball as it landed in his hands. The rookie was clearly and audibly disappointed with the fall and admitted it after practice.

The starting QB had a mixed number of reps in the red zone by the end of practice. At the 10-yard line, Wilson targeted Elijah Moore in the left corner of the end zone. However, starting cornerback DJ Reed, a free agent, jumped the route and picked off the pass.

Reid returned the ball to the opposite end zone as he was joined by his defensive mates. Gardner said he even did a backflip (admittedly not the best) to celebrate. Before the pick, Gardner (more on him later) and Reed said they wanted an interception on the day.

However, it is a positive sign that Wilson has recovered from the reversal. He completed back-to-back touchdown passes after the pick. First, he threw a TD to Jeff Smith, then returned a nice scoring throw to tight end Tyler Conklin.

Bottom line: Wilson is still working on improving his game, but it was a good sign to see him fight back after a few rough mistakes.

Joe Flacco has a way with him

Joe Flacco is one of the more natural passers in the league, even as he enters the twilight of his career. Working with the second-team offense on Saturday, Flacco threw the ball away several times, making his receivers look good.

Flacco made a great throw to Rashad Davis early in team drills. Davis ran a go route, held for most of the route and still gained about 40 yards after Flacco sent a nice rainbow throw. The Jets had refs at practice and threw a flag for pass interference, but it didn’t matter as Davis made a great catch after Flacco sent the ball right at him. Later, Flacco hit tight end Keshun Abram on an out route for a good connection.

Flacco also made a strong impression in red zone drills, hitting Corey Davis with a nifty fade pass over Reed and safety Will Parks.

After practice, head coach Robert Saleh sang for Flacco. Saleh even (most likely) indirectly quoted New Yorker Billy Joel, complimenting the veteran’s presence.

“He just has a way,” Saleh said. “I support that, it’s not his job to mentor or coach anybody. His job is to go out and play, but I think the way he does it, his business is very good for what we have, which is a very young football team. Not just for Mike (White) and Zach, but for other positions as well.”

Sauce – star with “juice”

Although Gardner didn’t have flashy plays in the third practice, his presence was hard to miss.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound cornerback towers over all of his defensive linemates, making him easy to pick out of this lineup. The fans kept an eye on him as the fourth overall pick participated in individual drills and received regular cheers.

After practice, second first-round pick Jermaine Johnson II complemented the cornerback’s style of play.

“He’s got juice,” Johnson said. “He’s got juice and he does everything right, on top of the fact that he’s got talent. So a guy as talented as Souce, but with the mindset that he has and the teammate that he is, [he’s] special”.

Garrett Wilson, another first-round pick, went head-to-head with Gardner during camp, and the competition seemingly became a fun daily battle.

“That boy is a dog,” said Wilson. “He really is a dog. He is very comfortable, very good with his hands. More often than not, he puts himself in the right scenario. When going up against Sauce, you really have to have a plan. You have to make sure you have a plan going your way – how you want to win – and you still might not win against this boy, so he’s a really good player. He just keeps building, we make each other better, he makes the whole reception room better.”

It should be noted that Gardner had very tight coverage on Elijah Moore in the middle of the field, which was eventually brought down by Zach Wilson. Gardner and Moore rushed down the sideline, but the ball went out of bounds.

Injury update

In the middle of practice, defensive lineman Quinnen Williams was escorted off the field by a pair of trainers. He later returned to the field but did not take part in training for the rest of the session. After practice, Saleh said he got hit in the throat during the game, but he’ll be fine.

Tight end Jeremy Ruckert and running back Tevin Coleman remained on the active/non-football injured list Saturday.

Left tackle George Fant did not participate in team drills as he returned from physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Fresh off the PUP list this week, the soft-spoken Becton made changes during team practice.

The running backs look explosive

It’s hard for running backs to look bad during practice in shirts and shorts. Still, second-round pick Brice Hall and incumbent starter Michael Carter played a game of “anything you can do, I can do better” during team drills. Both exploded out of the trenches for several big runs, and Carter did a nice job as a receiver in the flat.

Hall and Carter are vying for top dog status at the position, and Saturday’s session, while impressive, seemed evenly matched for both playmakers. After practice, Hall admitted he was looking forward to putting on the pads next week.

Running back Ty Johnson also did a nice job with some sharp runs. On paper, the Jets have an impressive group of hitters. At the very least, the competition for the position should be fierce until the end of the summer.

Quick shots

  • Rashard Davis, who caught a 40-yard bomb from Flacco early in practice, also had a very good catch on his way out a few plays later. The former USFL standout was on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad in 2017 when the team won Super Bowl 52 with general manager Joe Douglas in the front office. It has bounced back quite a bit since then. Still only 26, Davis could be a fun underdog story to watch for the rest of camp.
  • Defensive linemen John Franklin-Myers and Bryce Huff had back-to-back sacks during 11-on-11 work sequences.
  • Wideout Denzel Mims, who is fighting for a roster spot, had Mike White’s pass go right through his hands. The ball was a little high, but Mims was able to catch it because he had both hands on the ball. Returning to the bench, he looked frustrated by the mistake.
  • While Elijah Moore didn’t create any big plays, he did draw a flagrant holding penalty on cornerback Bryce Hall during team periods. Moore went past Hall and the cornerback grabbed Moore all the way down the field. The flag was thrown away.
  • Defensive lineman Quinnen Williams blew up a run at the line of scrimmage early in team drills.
  • Safety Kai Naqua had an impressive pass breakup when he threw in a bullet while working in the red zone.
  • The practice ended with a TD throw from White to Tariq Black. After the catch, Black’s entire offense was abuzz with cheers and hugs.
  • The Pro Football Network’s training camp tour continues Monday in East Rutherford, N.J., with a New York Giants training camp practice.

New York Jets training camp observations: Zach Wilson has uneven morning, Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner draws praise, and more

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