Four! New York Jets' 2021 NFL draft could yield that many starters on offense

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

1. Four on the floor: If the Jets hadn't traded up from the No. 23 pick in April's NFL draft, they would have lost out on guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. They're convinced of that. In that scenario, they would have considered wide receiver Elijah Moore at No. 23. We all know how it turned out:

They got both players (Vera-Tucker at No. 14, Moore at No. 34) after drafting quarterback Zach Wilson second overall.

"If you would've said that we would come away with those three, plus Michael Carter in the fourth round, I would've asked you what you were smoking," Jets coach Robert Saleh said.

Where there's smoke, there's fire -- and the Jets believe this group is hot stuff.

While it's too early to make bold proclamations, it has become clear after nine training camp practices all four will have prominent roles at the start of the season.

Wilson and Vera-Tucker are locked in as starters. Moore, the most productive wide receiver in camp, is destined for a Week 1 starting role. Forget about all that talk about him being a slot receiver; he's good enough to play anywhere. There should be an investigation if he's not on the field for most of the snaps. Carter might not be the starting running back, per se, but his early work with the first team suggests he will be involved.

The Jets, long known as a poor drafting team, have a chance to reverse the trend with their Class of '21. The last time a draft produced three opening-day starters was 2013 (cornerback Dee Milliner, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and quarterback Geno Smith), but take that with a grain of salt because Milliner turned out to be a bust.

You have to go back to 2000 to find a Jets draft with at least three legit contributors from the outset. That class included defensive linemen Shaun Ellis and John Abraham, tight end Anthony Becht and wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who was starting by Week 5. Let's not put the new Core Four in Canton, Ohio, before the first preseason game, but they definitely will get a chance to perform on the early stage.

2. Rookie entertainment: Training camp isn't all work and no play. The Jets have something they call the "rookie hype machine." For each public practice, a rookie runs out in front of the bleachers and does what he can to fire up the crowd. The idea was hatched by offensive line coach John Benton, who mentioned it to linemen Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten before the first open practice.

"It puts a smile on your face and we get the rookies out of their shell a little bit," Van Roten said.

Word has it the rookies are critiqued and evaluated on tape later that night, which makes for a lot of laughs. Yes, there will be a traditional rookie show. It will happen while they're in Green Bay for joint practices and the Aug. 21 preseason game.

3. Buddy system: One of the things I have noticed at practice is tackles Morgan Moses and Mekhi Becton often talk to each other during breaks in the action. This must make the team's brass happy. Moses is a pro's pro and willing to share the knowledge he has accumulated over his seven NFL years. Unbeknownst to many, they met years ago at the Washington Football Team's training camp in Richmond, Virginia, Becton's hometown.

Becton, in college at the time, met Moses when he went to visit former Louisville Cardinals teammate Geron Christian. They talked ball and struck up a friendship.

"I thought I was a big dude, but I was like, 'Dang, he's blocking the sun from me,'" said Moses, who is listed at 318 pounds, which is 45 less than Becton's listed weight.

4. Signals crossed? Another practice observation is linebacker Jarrad Davis, not C.J. Mosley, is calling the defensive signals. It appears Davis is getting the call from the sideline and relaying it to the huddle. It's interesting because it was widely assumed Mosley would handle it. Obviously, it could change.

5. No Joshing: When the Jets need a veteran quarterback to mentor a first-round draft pick, they sign the best available Josh.

In 2018, they had Josh McCown to help groom Sam Darnold. Now they have Josh Johnson to work alongside Wilson. Like McCown, Johnson is known around the league as a good guy who has seen just about everything.

Johnson was in Jets camp in 2015, when they needed an extra body in the aftermath of Geno Smith's infamous broken jaw. This time, Jets coaches want Johnson to be an experienced set of eyes who can explain the nuances of the position from a player perspective. Johnson, 35, is the oldest person in the quarterback room, including the coaches.

Check out his remarkably itinerant career:

  • Different teams: 13

  • Times cut: 14

  • Different leagues: Four (NFL, XFL, United Football League and Alliance of American Football)

6. Homework assignment: In the offseason, running backs coach Taylor Embree asked Carter to do a report on the history of the Jets' offense, which is derived from the Mike Shanahan/Gary Kubiak system. Carter did research, pulling up information and tape on the many teams that have employed this version of the West Coast offense -- namely, the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and WFT.

"Being able to watch so much film is fun," Carter said.

The running game is an outside zone scheme that isn't easy to master because it requires repetition and precision, especially for the offensive line. It could be slow going at first, but the system has a proven track record.

7. Did you know? Love this nugget, courtesy of Andy Vasquez (North Jersey Media): The only player on the Jets' roster with a touchdown pass is ... wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who tossed a 43-yard scoring pass last season.

8. Billions: The Jets are valued at $4.05 billion, ranking eighth among NFL teams, according to a new report by Forbes magazine. The value increased by 14% over the past year even though the product on the field was trash. Imagine if they won.

9. Dangerous corner: In two weeks, the Jets should have a better idea of where they stand at cornerback. They will be tested by some good wide receivers, starting with a game against the New York Giants (Aug. 14) and traveling to Green Bay for joint practices (Aug. 18-19).

No one has stood out in camp. Incumbents Blessuan Austin and Bryce Hall have received most of the first-team reps, with rookies Brandin Echols and Isaiah Dunn getting a small share of the work on the outside. Rookie Michael Carter II has logged a lot of first-team reps in the slot. To say they're young and unproven is an understatement. Saleh said he is not opposed to rolling with the kids, but let's circle back after Green Bay.

10. The last word: "There are many ways to do it. For me, it's more trying to create accountability with self rather than forcing accountability. These players are grown men." -- Saleh on whether he believes in penalty laps and pushups as a form of team discipline.