New York Jets rookie offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker at training camp on...

New York Jets rookie offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker at training camp on Saturday, July 31, 2021. Credit: James Escher

1. Zach Attack: Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson passed his training camp and preseason tests with flying colors, but it’s for real now. Starting Sunday, Wilson will face first-team NFL defenses and see different blitz packages and coverages for the first time. The No. 2 pick has proven to be a quick study. The Jets believe in Wilson has it all. He just needs to keep developing and stay calm, poised and grounded amid all the pressure and expectations he’s carrying.

2. Defense can’t rest: Robert Saleh won’t let it, that’s for sure. But there are a lot of question marks on the defense. Losing edge rusher Carl Lawson for the season was a major buzzkill. Now some unproven players have to step up on the edge in Saleh’s 4-3 scheme, and Quinnen Williams has to take another big step on the interior. The Jets could start two rookie linebackers (Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen) and are extremely young and inexperienced at cornerback. Teams will throw on the Jets' young corners. Saleh’s defensive genius will be tested.

3. Protect the franchise: The Jets’ offensive line has underperformed in recent years. They beefed it up with rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and durable veteran right tackle Morgan Moses joining left tackle Mekhi Becton, center Connor McGovern, right guard Greg Van Roten and swing tackle George Fant. This group could do well in coordinator Mike LaFleur’s outside zone blocking scheme. But giving Wilson the protection that he needs to make plays and stay healthy will be critical. Eyes will be on Becton after an unimpressive training camp.

Season prediction

The Jets have talent and finally appear to be moving in the right direction under first-time head coach Robert Saleh. But this is an extremely young team. They have a rookie quarterback and a large number of first- and second-year players starting or playing major roles. They’re learning new systems on offense and defense. It’s going to take time. Zach Wilson’s development, and establishing a culture and standard and style of play are most important. Losing edge rusher Carl Lawson (ruptured Achilles) was crushing. Not addressing the cornerback position remains stunning. The Jets will play hard and show improvement, but their playoff drought will extend to 11 years. Record: 5-12, Division: Last in AFC East

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