Blast from the Jets' quarterback past offers sage advice to Zach Wilson

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

1. Testaverde's tip: Aaron Rodgers has a genuine interest in sharing his wisdom with Zach Wilson, but he can't teach him what he doesn't know.

For instance: Rodgers, who rode the bench for his first three years with the Green Bay Packers, never experienced early-career struggles. He never got booed off the field by his fans.

Enter, Vinny Testaverde, who knows exactly what Wilson had to endure last season.

Testaverde, 59, who led the Jets to the playoffs in 1998 and 2001, sought out Wilson on a recent visit to training camp and shared his story. He's living proof that a highly drafted quarterback can overcome a rocky start and enjoy a prosperous career.

"I was in his position and, 21 years later, retired from the league," Testaverde told ESPN. "Who's to say he can't play in the league for a long time at a high level?"

Testaverde, picked No. 1 overall in 1987, played on bad Tampa Bay Buccaneers teams and led the league in interceptions in 1988 and 1989. It was rough -- he was ridiculed by fans -- but he stuck around and made his first Pro Bowl at the age of 33 with the Baltimore Ravens. At 35, he led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game, cementing his place in franchise lore.

His advice to Wilson?

"I told him to keep asking Aaron questions, and when he's tired of you asking questions, ask more," Testaverde said. "You can learn a lot from that guy. He's been through it all. He's one of the best. The nice thing is Aaron seems like he's willing to help him. Zach needs to take advantage of that because one day he'll be in there playing."

The Jets hope the former No. 2 overall pick doesn't have to take meaningful snaps this season, but they say he's part of their post-Rodgers future. For now, the goal is to rebuild his fundamentals and confidence as a backup after two difficult seasons as the starter (15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions).

Wilson steadied himself in the preseason, with a 66% completion rate and no turnovers. The coaches gave him a no-risk game plan that included plenty of easy completions -- a good way to get his mind right after last season's tumult.

2. Gang Not-So-Green: The roster has undergone a dramatic change over the past three seasons. In 2021, the Jets had the third-youngest roster (average age: 25.4), according to Spotrac. Now they have the oldest (27.3), as of Friday.

Because rosters are in flux, the average and ranking could shift slightly by the day, but the point is clear: The Jets are all grown up.

A 39-year-old quarterback is the main reason for the spike, but it's not just Rodgers. The Jets have nine players older than 30. An old team doesn't mean it's doomed to failure. In 2020, the Tom Brady-led Bucs won the Super Bowl with the oldest roster.

The Jets' front office would much rather view the roster from this perspective: Almost perfect balance, based on NFL experience.

Rookies and second-year players: 17

Third year to sixth year: 17

Seventh year or more: 19 (includes the kicker, punter and long-snapper)

3. Trick & Treat: The only thing better than a Cinderella story is two Cinderella stories. The Jets have them at wide receiver, where Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson -- both undrafted rookies -- made the 53-man roster.

In Gipson's case, team officials made like "American Idol" judges when breaking the news. They made it sound like he was about to get cut, thanking him for his efforts and saying, "I'm sorry ... " After a pause: "You made the team!"

"They kind of tricked me," Gipson said with a smile.

Gipson has a big fan in Rodgers, who said, "I think 82 has earned himself a lot of playing time. I'm so proud of him."

With that kind of backing, don't be surprised if you see Gipson in the opener against the Buffalo Bills.

4. From least to beast in the East? Forget the Super Bowl talk; the Jets should just focus on winning the division, something they have done only twice since the merger in 1970.

They haven't won it since 2002, when Chad Pennington was the quarterback and Herm Edwards was the coach. The 20-year slump is the third-longest active drought, behind the Cleveland Browns (30 straight seasons) and Detroit Lions (29), per ESPN Stats & Information research. The Las Vegas Raiders are tied with the Jets at 20.

Some context: Rodgers was a freshman at Butte Community College (California) the last time the Jets raised an AFC East banner.

This is their best shot in years to win it. Coach Robert Saleh said they "talk about owning the East," but claimed they're not focused on their opponents. He said their mindset is "whether they can stack up with us. Sounds cocky -- I get it -- but you can’t think of it any other way."

The Jets have dropped 16 of their past 18 divisional games. They need to flip that in order to have any shot.

5. Strange, but true: The season opener at MetLife Stadium will be the first time tackle Mekhi Becton, drafted in 2020, plays in front of a home crowd in a regular-season game.

He played in eight home games as a rookie, but there were no fans in 2020 because of COVID-19. In 2021, he played in only one game (at Carolina). He didn't play at all last season due to his second knee surgery. So, yeah, the Sept. 11 game will be huge for him.

6. Money to burn: The Jets head into the regular season with $20.3 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap, which will allow them to add a big salary at the trading deadline. That's something to watch, assuming they're still in contention.

Douglas acknowledged that Rodgers' $35 million voluntary pay cut provides that kind of opportunity. It came with the tacit understanding that it needs to be used for roster bolstering.

"It's almost like an unspoken thing," Douglas said. "You know if you're doing this, there's a reason why he's doing this. So it's going to give us great flexibility moving forward."

One name that surely will surface in the rumor mill is Bucs receiver Mike Evans, 30, currently engaged in a contract dispute as he looks for an extension. The Jets lost a big target in Corey Davis (6-foot-3), who retired. Evans (6-foot-5) has the body type to fill that role.

7. Tough cut: Teams don't like to cut their draft picks, especially not after one training camp. Douglas did it for the first time with one of his picks -- tight end Zack Kuntz (seventh round). He was later signed to the practice squad. The first 32 players drafted by Douglas, dating to 2020, made the 53-man roster as rookies (or landed on an injury list).

The previous time it happened with a Jets draft pick was 2019, when third-round pass-rusher Jachai Polite got the heave-ho because of disciplinary reasons. He was cut by Douglas, but he was actually a Mike Maccagnan draft pick.

8. Questions on offense: Rodgers likes the progress of the offense, but -- like a lot of fans -- he has some questions as they prepare for the Bills. Speaking to reporters, he wondered:

How much can they get out of running backs Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall, neither of whom has practiced much? How many snaps will wide receiver Randall Cobb contribute? Can tackles Duane Brown and Becton, both coming off limited offseasons due to surgery, play the entire game?

9. Questions on defense: There are only two relatively inexperienced players -- safety Tony Adams and linebacker Jamien Sherwood. The Jets had planned to start Chuck Clark at safety, but he went down in minicamp with a season-ending knee injury. Adams has only 118 career snaps on defense.

10. The last word: "I told a friend, this has felt like waking up inside of a dream, this whole experience – a beautiful dream. So many times you have a great dream and you wake up and you’re like, ‘I just want to get back into that thing. I can’t quite get back into the dream.’ I’ve woken up inside of that dream. It’s been really, really special." -- Rodgers on his time in New York