Key injuries overshadow strong debut for Jets’ Wilson

AFC East

NEW YORK (AP)Stop if you’ve heard this before: The New York Jets are dealing with major injuries to a few key players.

And it’s only Week 2.

Left tackle Mekhi Becton will be sidelined at least a month with a knee injury, and safety Lamarcus Joyner is out for the season with a torn triceps.

Coach Robert Saleh confirmed the injuries Monday, a day after the Jets fell 19-14 at Carolina in their season opener – taking some of the shine off what was a promising NFL debut for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.

Becton, the No. 11 overall pick last year, will be out for what Saleh said is a minimum of four to six weeks with a dislocated right kneecap.

”Everything else seems to be intact,” Saleh said.

Saleh added Becton is still being evaluated and seeking a second opinion to determine if he’ll need surgery. NFL Network reported Becton also has a sprained MCL.

Becton was hurt when he was rolled into during Wilson’s first NFL touchdown pass, a 22-yard toss to Corey Davis with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

”Positive vibes only!” Becton wrote on Twitter on Monday. ”I’ll be good!”

George Fant, who started Sunday at right tackle, will fill in on the left side during Becton’s absence as he did against the Panthers. Morgan Moses, signed as a free agent during the offseason, takes over at right tackle.

”There’s a shuffling that has to happen,” Saleh said. ”We’re very fortunate we have three legitimate starting tackles.”

Joyner, another offseason free-agent signing, was hurt in the first half. He was expected to team with Marcus Maye to give the Jets a veteran safety tandem that would help a young, inexperienced cornerbacks group.

New York is suddenly thin at safety with Joyner sidelined. Veteran Sharrod Neasman (hamstring) and second-year safety Ashtyn Davis are both on injured reserve. That leaves just Sheldrick Redwine, who replaced Joyner on Sunday, and Adrian Colbert and Jarrod Wilson on the practice squad.

Saleh acknowledged the Jets ”for sure” will be exploring various roster moves over the next few days.

That includes finding another punter since Braden Mann will be sidelined four to six weeks with a sprained left knee. He left against Carolina after his first punt, when his leg was rolled into. Kicker Matt Ammendola replaced him and averaged 48.5 yards per kick despite not having ever punted in a game in college or high school.

Linebackers Jamien Sherwood (sprained ankle) and Blake Cashman (hamstring) will be sidelined a few weeks.

There’s a glimmer of positive injury news: Wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole could be back this week after missing the opener. Crowder is on the COVID-19 list, but Saleh said the team was awaiting tests Monday that could clear him. Cole is dealing with a knee injury and Saleh said he’s day to day.

WHAT’S WORKING

Well, other than the athletic trainers and doctors? Wilson showed poise and confidence in his first NFL start since being the No. 2 overall pick in April.

He took a lot of hits and made some rookie-like mistakes – overthrows, a forced toss on an interception, holding the ball too long – but also flashed the playmaking ability that made him so coveted.

Wilson finished 20 of 37 for 258 and two TDs to Corey Davis (both in the second half), along with the pick.

”I thought he was really good in the pocket, stood in there strong,” Saleh said. ”He did take his lumps. He can learn from it, and learning how to do the right thing to avoid the hits themselves. Overall, I thought it was promising for him.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Offensive line. Wilson was hit 10 times and sacked six. That’s not what you want to see for your young quarterback – or from your big boys up front. They need to provide a lot better pass protection for Wilson. Losing Becton doesn’t help.

”We didn’t play as well as we wanted yesterday and everybody’s pretty frustrated,” right guard Greg Van Roten said. ”We didn’t play up to our standard as an offensive line.”

STOCK UP

Ammendola. Not as a kicker, which is why he’s on the roster. But as a punter. After being pressed into punting duties, the rookie was solid. He averaged 48.5 yards on six kicks, including a 65-yarder, showing some good hang time. Ammendola still hasn’t kicked a field goal or extra point in a regular-season game, but proved he can punt in a pinch.

STOCK DOWN

Wide receiver Denzel Mims. The second-round pick from last year played only three snaps on offense despite Crowder and Cole being out. Mims had a 40-yard catch, but that was on the Jets’ final drive of the game. He fell behind during the offseason when he lost 20 pounds because of food poisoning, and still has not found a steady role in the offense.

INJURED

See above. The injury bug plagued the Jets the past few seasons, and it seems it’s lingering.

KEY NUMBER

2.6 – The Jets’ average per run against the Panthers. The running backs couldn’t get going and the offensive line didn’t create much space as New York finished with just 45 yards on 17 carries.

NEXT STEPS

There’s plenty to clean up – and a desperate need for healthy bodies – before the Jets host the AFC East-rival New England Patriots in their home opener Sunday. It’ll be a matchup of rookie QBs with Wilson facing Mac Jones, and the loser will be 0-2.

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