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Unsatisfying season a ‘learning experience’ for Jets: Robert Saleh

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Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Despite collapsing in the second half of the season, Jets head coach Robert Saleh is highlighting the positives of the year, calling their season a “learning experience.” 

“It’s a tremendous learning experience,” Saleh told reporters on Monday. “[But It] stings because we didn’t get it done.”

“[It] didn’t work out the way we wanted it to for whatever reasons you want to give, but next year, we’re going to be in this exact opportunity and it’s going to be about finishing.”

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The coach noted the impactful reps that the team’s young roster now have under their belt, and said that would help them as they head into next season looking to end a 12-year playoff drought. 

“We played real December football with our butts on the line versus teams that were fighting for a playoff spot, too, or are in the playoffs,” he said. 

For fans of the team, that may sound like a coach looking for the positives in a sea of bad news, but there is real truth to his remarks. 

Last offseason, Gang Green brought on a tremendous rookie class — led by cornerback Sauce Gardner (the 4th overall pick) and wide receiver Garrett Wilson (the 10th overall pick). Both of those players are in serious contention to win Rookie of the Year for their respective sides of the football. 

Meanwhile, the team saw a serious jump in play from other stalwarts on their roster. 

After his fourth season, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (who is looking for a new contract), increased the level of his play to become one of the best defenders in the NFL. He finished the season with 55 tackles (12 for a loss of yardage), 28 quarterback hits and 12 sacks. 

Between Williams and Gardner, along with other youngsters like linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Jordan Whitehead, the Jets defense is filled with several players that can be the staples of one of the best defenses in the NFL for several years to come. 

On offense, Wilson will continue to grow as a pass catcher, and first-year running back Breece Hall will hopefully return from his ACL injury and be back as a serious dual threat in the backfield. 

The obvious question mark going into the offseason surrounds what general manager Joe Douglas will do about the team’s porous quarterback position — with Zach Wilson being seriously underwhelming, and Mike White failing to establish himself as the long-term answer at MetLife. 

As long as that major problem is solved, the team will be in a good position to succeed next season.

At least on paper. 

Outside of their roster, the franchise will need to reckon with the fact that they utterly collapsed down the stretch run of the season. 

Gang Green lost their final six regular season games, and squandered their 7–4 start to the season. 

For his part, Saleh took ownership of the Jets’ lackluster season ending, and committed to making sure the team is ready to capitalize next year. 

“That 7–4 start wasn’t a mirage,” Saleh said. “It means everything we do is about finishing.”

Douglas also noted the dichotomy in the different halves of the year, calling their start “surreal, in a positive way” and added that the brutal finish was “surreal, in a negative way,” according to the Associated Press.

Fans can only hope that Saleh’s optimism about this year being a “learning experience” is true, but some in the locker room are buying into that notion. 

“Better days are coming,” Garrett Wilson said.

For more coverage of the Jets, head to amNY.com.

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