FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The old adage, repeated by coaches the world over, and so often by ones in high-profile positions, is that when a pivotal player goes down, it’s time for the next man up. And sure, that has some value, but when the Jets host the Dolphins on Sunday with Joe Flacco at quarterback, they’ll be straining that cliche to its very limit.
It’s not the next man up, or the next, but the one after that, as the Jets debut their fourth quarterback this season and their third starter.
All of which means the people around Flacco – and in this case, an offensive line that should already have its hands full – will have to adapt again. It’s not just the new quarterback, so different in style and ability than Zach Wilson, but also the fact that the team, as a whole, has struggled containing opposing teams’ run game. There is, too, the Dolphins' bruising Cover 0 defense and its oft-deployed blitz packages.
But though the Jets are 2-7 and recently had to deal with the disappointment of Mike White – the backup quarterback who enthralled fans before fizzling and losing his job – Robert Saleh’s confidence is unwavering. As is, too, his belief that his team will adapt.
"Our group, they’re resilient," he said before practice Friday. "These players, knock on wood, I’ve been fortunate to be around some really cool teams and this group, they’re made of the right stuff … I feel like their heads are in a good space, they’re speaking the right language and the energy in the building has been really good."
Both offensive line coach John Benton and right tackle Morgan Moses seemed to say that adjusting to a new quarterback in a week isn’t quite as impossible as it might seem from the outside looking in. It helps, Moses said, that Flacco is a veteran and a Super Bowl MVP. Granted, he’s 36, underwent neck surgery last year and his better days are behind him, but the 13 years of NFL experience count, too.
He’s "well-polished, you know, [he has] the accolades of the NFL awards, Super Bowl MVP and the knowledge that he brings to this offense," Moses said. He’s able "to see different people disguise things on the defensive side of the ball and be able to see that process and get the ball out fast. That’s years of NFL, of seeing things and growing as a player – I think that’s the beauty of it, having a veteran guy in there that’s seen a lot of things and when you get that under center, you grow with it."
Moses joked that he averaged about four quarterbacks a year in his career anyway, so this wasn’t too much of a departure.
"I think when you add someone to the starting lineup, a lot changes, just because his drop could be different from the last quarterback’s drop," Moses said. "Everybody can see things differently. The one thing you can put eyes on is that Joe’s played a lot of football … [But] it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before. When you get a veteran guy in there, it makes it a lot easier to transition."
Benton echoed the sentiment. "It takes a few days to get used to cadence and how they go about their vernacular and that type of thing, but it hasn’t been a real issue," he said. "They were very used to Zach and then Mike – there with him in practice all the time, too – and it seems to be going well with Joe. Joe is so calm. I think he eases the transition."
Notes & quotes: WR Denzel Mims (COVID) received a negative test but will need another to be cleared to play, Saleh said. Mims is doubtful for Sunday … Wilson is also listed as doubtful for Sunday, but Saleh indicated he could be ready for Week 12 in Houston.