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Jets learned a lot from their stay in Green Bay

New York Jets' Tyler Kroft catches a touchdown

New York Jets' Tyler Kroft catches a touchdown pass during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke) Credit: AP/Matt Ludtke

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Jets left Lambeau Field winners in a number of ways.

Zach Wilson showed he’s ahead of a normal rookie quarterback’s progress, the defense continually was tested and persevered, and the players learned a lot during a pair of joint practices with the Packers. It was a valuable week for the Jets despite having to fly home resembling a MASH unit.

"I personally love the work," Jets coach Robert Saleh said after his team’s 23-14 victory on Saturday. "To get a different look and get all that stuff, that stuff is priceless, especially when it comes in a situation of time when you really get bored of playing one another. It was like perfect timing.

"Ideally, we get out of there without an injury, but, unfortunately, we had a couple. But overall, the work for this young team to go against a championship roster and a championship scheme to me was priceless."

Wilson went 9-for-11 for 128 yards, two touchdowns and a nearly perfect passer rating of 154.7 against Green Bay. He also took major strides during the week and learned plenty about his teammates.

"I think the thing I learned about our team is just how resilient these guys are, the energy, the passion, just wanting to be great," he said. "And they just want to keep getting better, and I think that’s always a positive thing with the team is those guys have the energy to just want to be good."

Wilson not only had a front-row seat to watch Aaron Rodgers in practice but was able to pick his brain on a number of occasions. The two talked a little at halftime and after the game.

"I really just appreciate him as a man. He’s an awesome guy," Wilson said. "He definitely doesn’t have to come up to me and say anything, I don’t expect him to. But it means the world to me that he’s able to come up to me and, just whatever advice it is, whether it’s ‘Hey, good throw’ or ‘Maybe you can do this a little bit better,’ it means a lot to me that he’s just able to reach out."

Jets tight end Tyler Kroft capped a strong week of practice by catching two touchdown passes from Wilson in the game.

"It’s great having that kind of competition. They’re a high-caliber team and we knew we had to bring it every day," Kroft said. "It was cool kind of getting that sort of experience, especially with a rookie quarterback and him being able to see the game and how fast it is. So I think it benefited us all a lot."

The Jets’ defense appreciated going up against Rodgers during the joint practices.

"Competition, different looks, intensity," lineman Folorunso Fatukasi said. "Aaron Rodgers, his resume speaks for himself, so to see him deal with an offense in a certain way gives us a chance to grow as defensive players and as a team in general. So I think there’s a lot of positives that we’re taking out from these joint practices."

The Jets had a rough week on the injury front, though. Defensive end Carl Lawson and defensive back Zane Lewis were lost for the season after getting hurt Thursday. During the game, five players did not return: linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), defensive lineman Ronald Blair (hamstring), cornerback Corey Ballentine (knee), offensive lineman Conor McDermott (knee) and quarterback Mike White (ribs).

"You never want to suffer injuries – obviously, the big one being with Carl – but otherwise, it’s part of the dog days of summer," Saleh said. "We’re expecting all of these guys back, especially with the injuries that happened on the practice field."

With Lawson sidelined, it’s a next-man-up philosophy for the Jets’ defense.

"Losing Carl, to be honest, was a [heartbreaker],'' Fatukasi said. "But one thing that we understand, especially after talking to him, is he doesn’t feel sorry for himself and he tells us that ‘Yo, the standard has to stay up. You guys have to keep performing.’ With that being said, hearing those words from him, we understand what we need to do and how we need to keep progressing forward."

Notes & quotes: Matt Ammendola was 3-for-3 on field goals, including a 54-yarder. Ballentine had a 73-yard kickoff return and Braden Mann pinned Green Bay inside the 20 on three of his four punts. "You love all of it," Saleh said of the special teams unit. "All week, I thought they did a great job competing. I thought they did a great job winning their one-on-ones during practice and they carried it on to the game."

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