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Former Newfield star  Elijah Riley has impressed Jets' defensive coaches

Jets rookie defensive back Elijah Riley lines up

Jets rookie defensive back Elijah Riley lines up against the Miami Dolphins in his NFL start on Nov. 21, 2021. Credit: New York Jets/Dan Szpakowski

Elijah Riley didn’t need much time to make a good impression on Jets coaches.

The Jets signed the former Newfield star off the Eagles’ practice squad on Nov. 9, and he has picked up the defensive system quickly. Riley, a safety, earned his first NFL start last week. The Jets are excited about his potential and some of the traits he’s shown.

"He’s got natural moxie, instinct, feel for the game," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "He’s been here two weeks and he’s already got a real strong grasp of this defense. Does he have it? Not by any means. He’s got a long way to go. But for as little time as he’s been here, he’s able to really grasp it."

The Jets were looking for bodies in the back end after losing safety Marcus Maye for the season to a torn Achilles. Ulbrich sees Riley as a natural leader and wants to see what he can become as he gets more comfortable.

Riley played four defensive snaps with the Eagles, who signed him last year as an undrafted free agent out of Army. He played 64 last week against the Dolphins and had six tackles. Now he appears to be in line for much more.

"You always look for that safety that’s like the operator back there," Ulbrich said. "That field general that can communicate, get everybody on the same page, help with the anticipation, pre-snap indicators and all the things that good safeties do. I think he’s got those qualities to him.

"He sees the game. He understands the game. As he starts to really learn this defense, I think his athleticism will unhinge a little bit and he’ll be able to just go. He’s another guy that we’re excited about."

Injured starters

The Jets could be without two key players Sunday against the Texans. Receiver Corey Davis did not practice Thursday because of a groin injury he suffered Wednesday. Starting defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi did not practice because of a foot issue. Their availability Sunday is in doubt.

Nice work, Doc

Robert Saleh was impressed with how right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff played in his first start as a Jet and first game in nearly two seasons. Duvernay-Tardiff, a medical doctor, opted out last year to treat patients in his native Canada.

The Jets started Duvernay-Tardiff, whom they acquired from Kansas City on Nov. 2, last week against Miami in place of Greg Van Roten. Saleh intimated that Duvernay-Tardiff will start again.

"For a first game back in two years, I thought he did a good job," he said. "There’s always going to be plays that he’s going to want back. Excited for him to get another opp and another crack. Expecting him to be better this week."

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