Jets' Robert Saleh faces tricky QB decision, but correct call is Mike White

Jets quarterback Mike White has thrown five touchdown passes in seven quarters. Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images

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

1. White hot: If Mike White can grip it, let him rip it.

It's a sticky quarterback decision, with so many layers, but the right call for coach Robert Saleh is to start White next Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Make no mistake, the organization is firmly committed to rookie Zach Wilson, and his development is Priority No. 1 in 2021, but the risk-reward factor points to White for another week.

Wilson, two weeks removed from a second-degree PCL sprain in his right knee, is expected to practice this week, but it makes sense to take a conservative approach with such an important piece to their future. Do they really want to throw him out there against the NFL's top-ranked defense? Do they want to hear the home crowd chanting "We want Mike!" if Wilson fails to direct the offense as proficiently as White and Josh Johnson?

Let Wilson chill for a little bit longer and have him return the following week against the woeful Miami Dolphins.

White, who has more touchdown passes in seven quarters (five) than Wilson has in 22 (four), didn't do anything Thursday night to diminish his newly established luster. He just, well, got hurt -- a freakish right-forearm injury that shouldn't keep him from practicing, according to the Jets. After a first-quarter touchdown pass, he lost his ability to grip the ball. Two fingers went numb, as did the entire fan base.

This is a slippery slope for Saleh, who faces a long-term/short-term conundrum. He knows the best thing for the organization is to get Wilson experience, but he also sees how the team has responded to White. The same could be said for his offensive coordinator, Mike LaFleur, who has morphed into an aggressive and creative playcaller with White in the lineup.

Still, the Jets' decision-makers have everything invested in Wilson, including ego and reputation. It was no surprise when general manager Joe Douglas said last week that Wilson is "absolutely progressing" and that "his arrow is pointed straight up." But right now, he's not their best quarterback.

Let White play. If he upsets the Bills, then what? Considering what happened Thursday night, the Jets would welcome that problem.

2. White makes green: Even if he returns to the bench, White has made himself a fortune. It's a quarterback-driven league, and teams will pay a premium for potential -- even glimpses of it. One agent said White already has secured "several million" in future earnings.

Right now, White is making the minimum salary on a one-year contract -- $850,000. He should get a nice bump after the season, when he becomes a restricted free agent. To retain the right of first refusal, the Jets would have to tender him at $2.4 million, based on projections by Over the Cap. They would receive his draft round (fifth) as compensation if they decline to match an offer sheet and he goes elsewhere.

If the Jets give him the second-round tender, the price jumps to $3.9 million. They usually don't like to go that high for a backup quarterback, but exceptions can be made. He could make a nice score as an unrestricted free agent in 2023, but that’s a long way off. Either way, he’s doing OK for a former practice-squad player.

3. Did you know? White and Johnson each have three touchdown passes in consecutive games. The last time a team had quarterbacks that didn't start Week 1 throw for three touchdowns in back-to-back games was the 1999 Philadelphia Eagles. Koy Detmer and Donovan McNabb did it in the final two games. Their opening-day starter was Doug Pederson.

4. Maye day: Safety Marcus Maye's torn Achilles tendon will have a dramatic impact on his future. The timing stinks for Maye, who is in a contract year with designs on becoming one of the highest-paid safeties. Chances are, he will have to take a one-year, prove-it contract when he's healthy in 2022, which may not happen until the preseason. It probably won't be with the Jets.

Before the injury, they were lukewarm on the idea of re-signing Maye. Obviously, another franchise tag ($12.7 million) is out of the question. The possibility of a 2023 compensatory pick also went out the window. It's a tough break for all parties involved.

Maye bet on himself, rejecting the Jets' long-term offer last spring. It wasn't a bad decision, but there's always huge risk because of the injury rate in football.

5. Defensive changes? As we saw last week with the oddly-timed hiring of John Beck as an offensive assistant/Wilson coach, Saleh isn't afraid to make staff adjustments on the fly. I wonder if he's toying with the idea of taking a bigger role on defense, which is performing at a historically poor level.

Coordinator Jeff Ulbrich calls the plays, but the plays aren't working. The Jets are allowing 31 points and 408 yards per game, both of which are the worst in franchise history. You thought it couldn't get any worse than last season, when they allowed a franchise-high 457 points. Well, they're on a 534-point pace for 17 games.

In Thursday night's beatdown, Ulbrich tried to use some new-look fronts, and it backfired. He said he adjusted by putting an extra player in the box as the game progressed, although it should be noted that 119 of the 127 rushing yards in the third quarter came with a “light” box, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The defense wasn't overpowered; it was caught out of position. When a team averages 7.0 yards per rush before contact, it means the defense isn't trying or it has no idea what it's doing. Either way, it's not a good look.

Ulbrich, who vowed after the 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots that it would never happen again, let it happen again.

6. He said what? Saleh believes this is the best defensive line he's ever had. He apparently shared that sentiment with Fox analyst Troy Aikman, who repeated it on the air during Thursday night's telecast. Maybe Saleh was caught up in the emotion of the Week 8 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, because this is most certainly not his best defensive line. Remember the 2019 San Francisco 49ers, with Nick Bosa & Co.?

Truth be told, the Jets' line is underachieving. In the four games since signing his contract extension, John Franklin-Myers has only four tackles and one sack (garbage time against the Colts). Quinnen Williams has flashed dominance at times, but he, too, has cooled off. Clearly, they miss Carl Lawson, lost in the summer to a season-ending Achilles' injury, but he wouldn't have made a difference in the run game. That's not his strength.

It's a line built for speed, not power at the point of attack. Their biggest run-stuffing tackle, Folorunso Fatukasi, is due to become a free agent. They could use the beef up front.

7. Moore production: It took a while, but we're starting to see the Elijah Moore who dominated the practice fields in the spring and summer. The rookie wide receiver has 13 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games. Funny how that happened with White and Johnson at quarterback.

8. The last word: "Obviously, he’s always going to have things that he needs to improve on, but every other day I walk into Joe’s office and thank him for being very aggressive in going up and getting him. It was worth everything. AVT is a stud." -- Saleh on guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, a first-round pick.