FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Zach Wilson should have some more weapons Sunday when he faces a Bill Belichick defense for the first time.
Slot receiver Jamison Crowder and veteran wideout Keelan Cole are expected to return when the Jets play the Patriots at MetLife Stadium.
Crowder likely will be cleared Thursday from the COVID-19 list. He was working out on a side field Wednesday. Cole missed last week’s loss to Carolina with a knee injury. He was limited in practice Wednesday.
Wilson and the Jets could use all the help they can get against the Patriots. Belichick historically throws so many looks at rookie quarterbacks that they struggle mightily against his defense, and he also takes away opponents’ best playmaker.
In Week 1, that was Corey Davis, who caught five passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina. If Belichick neutralizes Davis, the Jets are confident they will have more than enough to counter that
"We feel like we’ve got more than one guy," Saleh said. "There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for other guys to get open if they want to double a guy. If they want to double a guy, there’s going to be opportunities in the run game.
"That’s where that chess match with coach Belichick always happens. You got to pick and choose your battles and stay sound and committed to what you’re doing and get ready to play chess with one of the best chess players in the world."
The Jets have played pawn for a long time against Belichick. The Patriots have won 10 consecutive games against the Jets, a streak that Saleh would like to end to earn his first win as a head coach.
This will be Saleh’s first time matching wits with Belichick as a head coach. Saleh said he doesn’t know Belichick personally, but he has tremendous respect for the Patriots coach and called him "one of the greatest of all time."
The Jets will need a better offensive game plan than they had against Carolina, when their run game stalled, and Wilson was running for his life. He was sacked six times and hit 10.
Saleh believes having the two proven receivers out there with Davis will help Wilson. He had good chemistry with Cole during spring workouts and Crowder was the Jets’ leading receiver the past two seasons.
"Veteran presence," Saleh said. "Those guys do things the right way. They’re where they’re supposed to be. They’re all gas, 100 percent of the time. They’re reliable. For a quarterback you can’t ask for much more than that. To have two more options on the football field for that quarterback is priceless."
The Jets didn’t have much balance or diversity to their offense. Davis and veteran slot Braxton Berrios totaled 10 catches, half of the team’s total. Rookie Elijah Moore, a dynamic playmaker in training camp, caught just one pass for minus-3 yards.
Moore couldn’t haul in a long pass on a post route, and his one seemingly positive play – a 22-yard catch – was negated by an illegal formation penalty. Davis, a team captain, spoke to Moore after his shaky debut.
"You just try to tell him there’s highs and lows in this game," Davis said. "That’s his first game. There’s a lot to learn from, that’s for sure. That’s what you got to focus on. Just worry about what’s in these walls. Nothing else really matters, just the guys who are out there on the field with him, going to work with him, that’s all that really matters."
Saleh also spoke to Moore, who will continue to see plenty of snaps and could be more involved and used differently this week.
"He’s done nothing but prove everybody right in terms of how good he is and how special he is as an individual, with his preparation and the way he plays," Saleh said. "We all have confidence that he’s going to be able to step up this week and get a lot better."