Training camp is now roughly two weeks in for the Giants and Jets. However, the process of building a Super Bowl-caliber playoff contender began at the end of last season.
It is a perpetual endeavor, even for the Kansas City Chiefs, which has the best football player in the world in quarterback Patrick Mahomes and has played in three of the last four Super Bowls, winning two.
The Jets’ acquisition of Aaron Rodgers in April in a trade with the Green Bay Packers is viewed as being the team’s much-needed final piece to form a title contender. The Jets are a combined 11-23 over the past two seasons, finishing last in the AFC East both years. Their glaring weakness over the past two seasons after building a strong roster was at the quarterback position.
Rodgers, a four-time NFL Most Valuable Player, the last awarded for his sterling 2021 campaign, brings leadership, a mastery of the game, and a steady hand at the game’s most consequential spot on the roster. He is an invaluable resource for second-year head coach Robert Saleh.
Thus far, Rodgers, who spent 18 seasons with the Packers and turns 40 in December, has been part coach, mentor, advocate and future Hall of Fame QB to the Jets. All facets of his vast experience are needed to fast-track the Jets toward achieving their larger goals.
A consequential long-term value Rodgers has brought to the Jets is being an exemplar for third-year quarterback Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Jets in 2021, who drew strong comparisons by many skill evaluators to Rodgers while playing at Brigham Young University. The 24-year-old Wilson has been the antithesis of an All-Pro in his brief NFL career.
“I hope this time for him is like a deep inhale and exhale, and he can really take a breath and pause and deal with the disappointment of last year and the frustration, and then channel it,” Rodgers said of Wilson during the first week of training camp. “I feel like he has, just re-channel it as a positive and focus on the opportunity in front of him to learn with a guy who loves him and cares about him and wants him to be great and wants him to do incredible things every day and be better.”
Rodgers didn’t play in the Jets’ preseason opener last Thursday, a 21-16 loss to the Browns in the league’s annual Hall of Fame game. He isn’t expected to play much, if at all, in their remaining three preseason games, including Saturday’s matchup versus the Carolina Panthers on the road.
The Giants ended their five-year playoff drought last season, going 9-7-1, securing a wildcard spot, and beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 in a wildcard matchup before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 in the divisional round.
Giants head coach Brian Daboll and his staff are scaffolding as they continue to construct the foundation for sustained success. They held joint practices this week with the Detroit Lions and will play them tomorrow in the first preseason games for both teams.
“I think it’s kind of the next step for training camp when you practice against another team,” said Daboll, according to Giants.com. “I think there is competitive juices; the coaches have it, the players have it, but we are going to try to practice the right way against a really good team. I think the program that the Lions have and what (head coach) Dan (Campbell) and (general manager) Brad (Holmes) have been able to do has really been outstanding, so it will be a good test for us.”
Giants tight end Darren Waller added that the practices versus the Lions have a distinctly different feel than going up against teammates.
“Just getting more acclimated to game-like situations and knowing that it’s a physical game at the end of the day,” said Waller. “It’s not always going to be 7-on-7 and people tagging off on you. It’s a good acclimation.”