Jets' Zach Wilson impresses new teammate with 'Aaron Rodgers throws'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. He's not Joshing: Quarterback Josh Johnson hasn't played a ton of football in his 14-year, 13-team NFL odyssey, but he has been around some good football players. He has shared locker rooms with a cast of quarterbacks that includes Eli Manning, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton and Jeff Garcia. I thought it would be interesting to get Johnson's early take on Zach Wilson, whom he met for the first time 11 days ago when he walked into a morning meeting following a red-eye flight from the West Coast.

"Oh, he's special, man," Johnson told ESPN. "He can make some throws that I only see a few quarterbacks making. He reminds me a lot of [Green Bay's] Aaron Rodgers with some of the throws he makes, the way he can get his body in position and make unique throws in the pocket. He has really special arm talent. Once this season gets going, I think the whole country is going to see it. He has what it takes to be successful."

Johnson, 35, who signed as a free agent on Aug. 4, spoke glowingly of Wilson's attitude.

"I've been around so many different quarterbacks and what I appreciate is his ability to want to be great and own everything," Johnson said. "He always wants to take the reins. He's hard on himself, which I respect. His work ethic and his appreciation for the game are what's going to make him a great player. ... He's always asking questions. He's always asking the 'why?' That's the biggest thing, understanding why things are happening."

Wilson has experienced a handful of shaky practices, but that's to be expected, especially facing the first-team defense every day. Johnson said he told Wilson, "You're supposed to go through this."

Johnson is a good sounding board for the Jets' inexperienced quarterbacks. He said he's willing to serve as a mentor, but his top priority is competing for a roster spot. That's no guarantee.

2. Give that man a medal: Defensive end Carl Lawson draws inspiration from his girlfriend, Rachel Dincoff, a discus thrower who competed in the Tokyo Olympics.

"She's better in her field than I am right now at mine," he said. "I'm trying to be an Olympic defensive end."

Lawson is having a medal-worthy camp, largely because he feels liberated in the Jets' 4-3 scheme; he was in a 3-4 with the Cincinnati Bengals. He described it this way: "I'm not bashing anything I played before, but it's kind of like being on chains and then breaking the chains. ... It's being unleashed."

Raw ability helps, too. Asked why his bull-rush move is so effective, Lawson said he uses leverage and technique in addition to being "strong as s---."

3. Camp awards: We're past the midpoint of training camp, a good time to recognize the good and bad. (Saturday night's game not included):

  • Best player in camp: Lawson. It's not even close. He's in the backfield so often he should qualify for residential parking.

  • Best rookie: Wide receiver Elijah Moore. He's just different.

  • Best player no one is talking about: Running back La'Mical Perine. Everybody forgot about him when they signed Tevin Coleman and drafted Michael Carter, but Perine has been the team's most physical runner.

  • Most improved: Defensive end Bryce Huff. The scheme suits him, and there's a good chance he will be used on passing downs.

  • Most disappointing: Tight end Chris Herndon. Everybody keeps asking, "When?" It hasn't happened for Herndon, who seems lost in the new offense. His job would be in jeopardy if the rest of the tight ends weren't so mediocre.

  • The Mike Maccagnan pick who should be most worried about his job: Tackle Chuma Edoga.

  • The Joe Douglas pick who should be most worried: Defensive end Jabari Zuniga. The Jets probably will find a way to keep the 2020 third-round pick, but the scholarship is running out.

  • Biggest question mark: Wide receiver Denzel Mims. The talent is there -- some encouraging moments in recent days -- but where does he fit?

4. Klecko update: The Pro Football Hall of Fame has reduced the number of senior candidates to 15 from an initial list of about 150 and, although the names haven't been announced, the word I'm hearing is Jets legend Joe Klecko is among the final 15. Later this month, the senior committee will narrow it to one for the Class of 2022.

5. Battle of the bigs: When the Jets signed veteran right tackle Morgan Moses in June, it was widely assumed he would unseat incumbent George Fant. Hold everything. This has turned into a legit competition, by Fant.

Since returning from the COVID-19 list, Fant has alternated with Moses, putting plenty of reps on tape. Coach Robert Saleh said he has "all the time in the world" to make a decision, so don't be surprised if this goes into the third preseason game.

Who gets the edge? Moses has a better résumé than Fant, but Fant, a former college basketball player, might be a better scheme fit because he's the better athlete. That's important in a zone-blocking system.

"This scheme, I feel like it's set for me," Fant said. "I'm an athlete. They want you to get up on guys quick. The way we run the ball, it fits me perfectly."

Fant has a chance to narrow the gap, but I'm going with Moses.

6. And the kicker is ...: With two unproven kickers on the roster, Matt Ammendola and Chris Naggar, it's easy to assume the Jets will scoop up a veteran on the final cutdown. But that's easier said than done because the pickings are slim. Potential casualties include Randy Bullock or Zane Gonzalez from the Detroit Lions, Eddy Pineiro (Indianapolis Colts) and Austin Seibert (Bengals). The Jets like their in-house candidates, but they have yet to be blown away.

7. What happens in Vegas..: Safety Lamarcus Joyner is happy to be out of Las Vegas and happy to be playing safety again.

"I'm pretty sure the whole world knows that," he said. "I made that known. I'm so happy it's over and I'm here with coach Saleh right now."

Joyner said he didn't have a beef with Raiders coach Jon Gruden, but he didn't like being used as a nickelback, which suggests he didn't see eye-to-eye with former defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. The Raiders cut him with two years remaining on his contract.

Saleh didn't know much about Joyner, but he heard good things about him from his previous boss, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. Joyner played in the NFC West as a safety for the Los Angeles Rams, so Shanahan became familiar with his game.

In Saleh's defense, Joyner will be the traditional single-high safety, Marcus Maye's natural position. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

8. The last word: "I always appreciate football that much more because you always see ex-players who wish they could still have the opportunity. You see a lot of people out in the real world, struggling, who want to put themselves in the position we are as athletes. The fact that teams are still calling let's me know that I've been blessed." -- Josh Johnson on his circuitous football journey.