Jets season preview: Aaron Rodgers and Co. will have hard time meeting expectations

Welcome to the most anticipated Jets season in more than a decade. 

Expectations are high for the 2023 season and for the Jets’ new quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. It has been an unforgettable offseason with the pursuit and acquisition of Rodgers, the spotlight of “Hard Knocks” during training camp and experience of Jets fans embracing their team being relevant again. 

Now comes the hard part. 

Rodgers and his new teammates will have a target on their backs this season.

Opponents have heard all the talk coming from Florham Park and surely want to knock the Jets down a few pegs.

The Jets have a tough schedule, especially the first half of the season, but they have leaned into the talk of being a playoff team and going to the Super Bowl. 

“There’s always expectations,” head coach Robert Saleh said. “One thing I learned about this city is that you could have an expansion team and the expectation is to go 17-0, but as far as pressure goes, the pressure is to do your best every day, find a way to get better every day, and you trust that the results will come. 

Aaron Rodgers’ arrival brings high expectations for the Jets.
Robert Sabo for NY Post

“You don’t have control over results, but you do have control about how you approach every day personally and as a team, so we embrace those expectations, we embrace being a team that may have a target on its back and take all of it, and it is what it is, but you still got to bring yourself back to the moment where your feet are present and attack the day and find a way to get better.” 

Saleh is in his third season with the Jets.

The team has gotten progressively better under his watch, and now should make a bigger leap with Rodgers at quarterback instead of Zach Wilson.

The Jets are trying to end a 12-year playoff drought, the longest in North American sports leagues. 

If they reach the postseason, Rodgers will surely have been a huge part of it, but the Jets also need the supporting cast to play well.

The defense finished No. 4 in yards against and scoring last season.

The Jets need that group to maintain the same level of play or improve.

Breece Hall
Breece Hall is back for his second season.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner and Breece Hall are now entering their second seasons and the Jets can’t afford any sophomore slumps. 

The Jets will get started on Sept. 11 with their first appearance on “Monday Night Football” since 2020.

They will face the Bills, who are considered the favorite in the AFC East.

It should be the most anticipated game at MetLife Stadium in years, a fitting start to the most anticipated Jets season in years. 

“I’m expecting a big crowd, expecting a loud crowd,” Rodgers said. “It’s going to be electric. ‘Monday Night Football,’ last game of the first week, so it will be a pretty special moment to take the field against a division rival and great quarterback, really good football team. It’ll be a really special environment to start off my career with the Jets.” 


You may have heard that the Jets made a change at quarterback this offseason. Aaron Rodgers, a four-time MVP, instantly changed the organization when he walked through the doors at One Jets Drive in April. Rodgers has everyone believing this team can go to places it has not in the last decade — namely the playoffs.

While Rodgers is the headliner, he is not the only new face on the Jets’ offense. Nathaniel Hackett was hired as offensive coordinator in January and has been reunited with Rodgers. The duo spent three seasons together in Green Bay and Rodgers won the MVP in two of them.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers has sights set on a title.
Robert Sabo for NY Post

Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb also came over from the Packers to join Rodgers and Hackett, and both figure to have prominent roles in the offense.

Garrett Wilson, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2022, looks primed for a monster season catching passes from Rodgers. The two showed great chemistry throughout training camp.

Running back Breece Hall returned late in camp after recovering from his torn left ACL and he is expected to be ready for Week 1. Hall was on his way to a tremendous rookie campaign before the injury. How quickly he can regain his form will be something to watch early in the year. With that in mind, the Jets added veteran back Dalvin Cook in August. Cook and Hall should form a devastating 1-2 punch.

Garrett Wilson
Garrett Wilson
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

The biggest question mark on the Jets is the offensive line. They moved players around throughout camp and there were some shaky days. Duane Brown is returning from shoulder surgery to play left tackle at the age of 38. Mekhi Becton won the right tackle job, but can he be counted on after he missed almost all of the last two seasons due to right knee injuries? Alijah Vera-Tucker and Laken Tomlinson have looked good at guard and Connor McGovern is solid at center.

Get ready for more tight end usage than you’ve seen in years with the Jets. It was clear in camp how much Rodgers likes throwing to the tight end. C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin could have huge seasons.

The Jets’ offense is not perfect, but Rodgers will cover their warts most of the time. He’s that good.

Grade: B


The Jets’ defense improved from the worst unit in the league in 2021 to No. 4 in the NFL last season. They have their sights set even higher this year.

“That’s the goal, to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL,” defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said. “We’ve got the guys in our room, guys who had phenomenal talent last year and are getting better every single day now, who can be better than they were last year.

“We’ve got guys who haven’t even scratched the surface last year who can be better.”

Williams, who signed a four-year, $96 million contract extension this summer, is the leader on a deep and dangerous defensive line. The Jets have edge rushers Jermaine Johnson, John Franklin-Myers, Carl Lawson, Will McDonald, Bryce Huff and Micheal Clemons to throw at people. Williams will be joined in the middle by Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson.

As good as the defensive line is, the secondary is not far behind. Sauce Gardner won Defensive Rookie of the Year last season and is eager to get his hands on more footballs this year. D.J. Reed had an impressive first season with the Jets and, with Gardner, forms one of the best cornerback duos in football. Michael Carter II has become a good slot cornerback.

At safety, the Jets are hoping second-year player Tony Adams is ready to take on the starting role alongside veteran Jordan Whitehead.

Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner enters his second season with sky-high expectations.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

C.J. Mosley is back to man the middle of the field at linebacker. He is the leader of the defense and put together a Pro Bowl season last year. Quincy Williams re-signed in the offseason and Jamien Sherwood rounds out the linebacker corps.

The Jets are going to have quarterbacks on the run this year with waves of edge rushers to work into games. The defense does need to get more takeaways this season, however. The Jets failed to get one takeaway in the season-ending six-game losing streak last year and finished 28th in the NFL with 16 takeaways. Having Rodgers on offense should mean more leads for the Jets, and perhaps more chances at interceptions.

Grade: A-

Special Teams

There is some rare stability at kicker with Greg Zuerlein back for a second season. Zuerlein went 30-for-37 on field goals last year, with no misses inside 40 yards and a long of 60 yards.

The Jets made a change at punter, getting rid of 2020 draft pick Braden Mann and bringing back Thomas Morstead, who punted for the team in 2021 while Mann was hurt. Morstead, a 15-year veteran who kicked for the Dolphins last season, had a strong preseason and should bring more consistency to the position than Mann.

Mecole Hardman is the favorite to be the kick and punt returner. He had plenty of experience returning kicks with the Chiefs and can slide into the role vacated by Braxton Berrios, who departed in free agency.

Justin Hardee is one of the best special teams players in the NFL and got that recognition last year when he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Grade: B


Since Robert Saleh arrived in 2021, he has been pointing to Year 3 as the season for a breakthrough.

He and GM Joe Douglas worked to turn over the roster and add young talent in the first two years. Everything got accelerated even more this year with the trade for Rodgers.

The pressure is on for Saleh to produce with a team that has talent all over the roster.

Saleh has not shied away from expectations, but has embraced them.

The six-game losing streak to end last year was a blemish for Saleh, who otherwise has done good things as the Jets’ head coach.

Jets coach Robert Saleh
Jets coach Robert Saleh
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

Nathaniel Hackett replaces Mike LaFleur as offensive coordinator and we’ll see how he does in the job.

Rodgers loves him, which gives him job security, but his play-calling will draw plenty of scrutiny.

The Jets also added passing game coordinator Todd Downing and offensive line coach and run-game coordinator Keith Carter.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich could become a head coaching candidate with another strong season. The Jets have a very strong defensive coaching staff.

Grade: B-

Two-Minute Drill

Most important offensive player: Let’s not overthink this. Aaron Rodgers is the first, second and third most important player on the offense and the entire team. The Jets went for it when they traded for Rodgers in April. They will go how he goes. If Rodgers does not play well, this season will be a disaster.

Most important defensive player: Tony Adams is not a big name, but he will have a big role on this team. The second-year player is going to be the starting free safety and the Jets need him to live up to their expectations. There are not many holes on this defense. Adams is a question mark.

Rookie to watch: Will McDonald has been impressive during training camp and the preseason. The edge rusher out of Iowa State is freakishly athletic and has tremendous bend around the edge. The Jets have a lot of depth at edge rusher, so McDonald will be part of a rotation, but expect major production from him.

Star on the rise: Jermaine Johnson was a forgotten man as a rookie. The 2022 first-round pick was overshadowed by fellow rookies Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall and had a limited role. He looks like a different player in Year 2. Johnson seems bigger, faster and ready to make an impact. He should lead the Jets in sacks this year.

Jermaine Johnson
Jermaine Johnson is looking to produce big numbers on defense.
Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Biggest coaching decision: We’ve talked about how much depth the Jets have on the defensive line. Robert Saleh must figure out how to keep them all happy. The Jets love to rotate players at the position, but with all of their talent, someone is going to see very limited playing time and might grumble about it. Saleh will need to manage the egos in that room and try to keep everyone satisfied.

Don’t be surprised if: The offense is slow out the gate. The group has not had a lot of time to work together. The offensive line has been a work in progress all training camp and Duane Brown did not play in any preseason games. Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook have had limited work and no preseason game action. There are a lot of new faces, including a new quarterback and coordinator. There could be growing pains.

Sure to make fans grumble: Nathaniel Hackett is familiar with how Jets fans feel about their offensive coordinator. His father, Paul, had the job and was vilified by Jets fans. Hackett’s play-calling surely will bother Jets fans at some point. They can no longer scream about the quarterback, so the offensive coordinator is an easy target.

Can’t Miss ’Em

Sept. 11 vs. Bills: MetLife Stadium is going to be crazy for the opener. Aaron Rodgers’ debut would have been huge no matter when it was or what team it was against. Having it on “Monday Night Football” against the Bills has supersized it.

Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes visits the Jets on Oct. 1.
Getty Images

Oct. 1 vs. Chiefs: Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes have never played each other. Let’s hope both of them are healthy for this “Sunday Night Football” clash. Two of the greatest quarterbacks in the game facing off should be great theater.

Oct. 29 at Giants: This crosstown game should have more juice than it has had in years. The Giants are coming of a playoff season and have a good, young core of players, but all they’ve heard about this offseason is the Jets. Emotions will be running high, both on the field and in the stands.

Prediction: 8-9

The Jets will be better with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but their record may not reflect how much better they are because of how difficult their schedule is. They need to get through the first six games at 3-3 to have a chance. I think they’ll start the season slow as the offense works out the kinks, then hit their stride midseason, but lose the final two games in Cleveland and New England to miss the playoffs.

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