CJ Uzomah witnessed the firsthand the year-to-year rise of Joe Burrow to a Super Bowl quarterback.
And after getting close with Zach Wilson during his first months with the Jets, the tight end is convinced Gang Green will see similar growth at its most important position.
“Not if, he will,” Uzomah said after Thursday’s training camp session. “And he’s been showing strides already. I don’t play quarterback. I don’t know what they have to deal with on a daily basis and making that leap from college to NFL. But I think the game is slowing down for him already. And I think you can see it in his reads from him, and what he’s looking when he’s looking off defenders, how he’s delivering the ball. The arm position. He’s got a helluva arm. He’s going to be able to make the tough throws so it’s just a matter of slowing the games down.”
Uzomah, the 29-year-old veteran, has a budding relationship with Wilson, the 2021 second overall pick who carries the franchise’s fortunes on his untested shoulders. It’s a smart maneuver by a tight end to cozy up with the man delivering the passes.
“That’s like li’l bro. And that makes me sound old and I don’t love it. But he’s 22, he’s super young,” Uzomah said. “He’s a little brother to me. He lives like two or three doors down from me. So that’s going to be fun. Going to be knocking on his door randomly to get food from his chef. He’s li’l bro. That’s how it is and that’s how we treat one another.”
Uzomah also helped turn Wilson’s off-the-field drama into a lighthearted moment, wearing a t-shirt to training camp with Wilson’s face over a cover of Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year.’ The context was Wilson’s ex-girlfriend of her allegedly accusing him of cheating on her with his mom’s best friend of her.
“That’s my quarterback,” Uzomah said. “I got to support my guy anyway I can. I ran it by my agency and a couple friends, and I was like, ‘Yo, Zach, is it straight if I wear this? And he was like, ‘Do whatever you want.’ That was pretty much the thought that went into it.”
The Jets have surrounded Wilson with weapons in the offseason, including Uzomah, to bolster last year’s anemic offense. Wilson pushed back on the team’s success being tied to his performance — “I’m just one of 11,” he said — but acknowledged there’s added responsibility attached to the quarterback.
“Of course, I touch the ball every play,” he said. “So I gotta do my 1/11th of my job and everything else takes care of itself. That’s all I gotta focus on is, what’s my job? What’s the best play?
During Thursday’s 11-on-11 session — which was essentially touch football with no pads — Wilson was frequently under pressure and forced to make ‘off-schedule’ plays outside the pocket. Coach Robert Saleh said it was a productive exercise, noting that Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson are so difficult to defend because they’re so good at ‘streetball.’
“There is no defense for a second play,” Saleh said. “Playing with an internal clock, having to move out of the pocket and go off schedule. He looks more comfortable doing that than a year ago so that’s a good thing.”
Saleh felt neither comfort nor concern over his defensive line overwhelming the offensive line in Thursday’s drills.
The coach is going to wait until next week, when full contact is introduced into training camp, for such determinations.
“Any time you don’t have pads the D-Line is always going to have the advantage over the O-line,” Saleh said. “So I’ll save judgment for Monday.”
George Fant, the projected starting left tackle, was sidelined during the 11-on-11 scrimmages Thursday as he ramps up from his offseason knee surgery.
“We’re just working with him,” Saleh said. “He didn’t have any OTAs, he’s been working through different things. But he’s doing all the walkthroughs, individuals, group stuff. He does everything (else).”
It was a trying first season with the Jets for wide receiver Corey Davis, who missed the final eight games with a core muscle surgery after signing his three-year, $37.5 million deal.
He focused his body by dropping 15 pounds.
“I just actually lost some weight,” Davis said. “I did a lot of running this offseason. I did a lot of high interval training, just trying to get in the best shape I can. I’m just trying to run for days. Go out there, run a (route). Come back and run another one. That was kind of my main focus.”
How does he feel physically?
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“A little different. Definitely run better,” he said. “My joints are thanking me.”
The lack of pads and tackling in the early days training camp — as mandated by the NFL for body preservation purposes — is a complex issue for running back Michael Carter.
“It something I feel like I’m battling now. OTAs didn’t really do too much of it. So training your eyes is the most important part of it,” Carter said. “Physicality will happen. Dogs will be dogs when it’s time to play. So I think it’s different. It’s not a challenge. It’s a different way of doing things. And for the game, it’s probably better — because we save for what y’all really want to see on Sundays.”
Carter is expected to share the running load this season with rookie Breece Hall, who was picked in the second round and provides a larger and stronger option compared to the 5-foot-8 Carter.
Still, the probability of a reduced role hasn’t soured Carter’s ambition to be as consistent as former Jets great Curtis Martin.
“I have transferred that (consistency) to the game — and multiple games, and multiple seasons. And now he has the gold jacket,” Carter said. “So I think him and Emmitt Smith are the best examples of consistency. So I think for myself, what I want to be is one of the best. So I think the main thing to improve on is my consistency.”