When the New York Jets finally made the deal to acquire Aaron Rodgers, many parallels naturally sprang to mind.
The Denver Broncos will finish out Peyton Manning’s career. The move of Brett Favre to the Jets is a no-brainer. Or, more recently, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams.
Strong safety Jordan Whitehead, formerly of the Bucs but now with the Jets, found the analogy to quarterbacks apt.
“I tell the guys it’s kind of like déjà vu for me,” Whitehead said through team member Jack Bell. “I made it clear that we need the right crew,” he said.
A similar incident occurred to him while he was with the Buccaneers, he said. We were lacking one key component of last year’s formidable defense. That was unmistakably Brady’s work, and there is hope that Rodgers can have a similar effect in the Big Apple.
When asked how OTAs felt overall, Whitehead replied, “The same vibe that I did with the Bucs.” To paraphrase: “I joke with the guys that we’re about to create a team.”
The Early Impact of Aaron Rodgers at Jets OTAs, as Told by Jordan Whitehead
Whitehead also discussed Rodgers’ impact on training camp and preseason workouts.
“On the field, he’s making us better, we’re getting the best we can get,” Whitehead said. As one member of the group put it, “He’s making us check down and communicate on another level.”
“[Then] in the locker room you see and hear him,” he said. “He’s quite the colorful figure. He’s a decent human being, receptive to new ideas. He’s a really kind man.
The former Green Bay Packers star quickly earned the admiration of his fellow players at Florham Park. That’s what having a team-first approach and a Hall of Fame résumé will get you.
In his first season with the Bucs, Brady passed for 4,633 yards and 40 touchdowns, helping lead the team to an 11-5 record and a trip to the Super Bowl. While Manning didn’t win another Super Bowl until his fourth season in Denver, Stafford improved his passing yardage and touchdown totals in his first year with the Rams (12-5) to 4,886 and 41, respectively, on his way to a championship.
At age 39, Rodgers may have the greatest defensive and offensive line he’s ever had with the Jets. The offensive line is the one area of concern, but they are starting to get healthy in time for training camp.
Jets’ Jordan Whitehead Discusses Year 1 in NY & What to Improve in Year 2
Whitehead’s 2022 campaign was mixed. The defense was the team’s strong suit, and the veteran safety’s consistent play across 17 games was a big reason why.
Pro Football Focus reports that Whitehead missed a team-high 17 tackles, which was matched for the most by LB Quincy Williams. His run defense scores were below average, and his coverage evaluations were less than they had been with Gang Green in 2020 and 2021.
Whitehead said, “We all talk about it, especially since we had a lot of PBUs [passes broken up],” when questioned about the defense’s increased ability to force turnovers in 2023. But we need interceptions and touchdowns on interceptions to win games. We were aided greatly by our formidable pass rush, which forced many fumbles via sacks. We must now take advantage of the quarterback’s miscues.
Whitehead admitted responsibility, saying, “I had a couple of chances, but I don’t want to speak about squandered opportunities. The phrase “my bad” should not be used. Making myself accountable is something I’ve been trying to do. It is in our interest to triumph. It’s a very competitive environment.
Overall, though, he was pleased with the work of his defense in his rookie year with the Jets.
Whitehead reflected on the season, saying in June, “It was a wonderful learning experience being in a new system and playing with new players. Michael Carter, D.J. Reed, and Sauce Gardner. The cornerbacks were a blast to be around and really helped me out. The sauce is no longer a rookie, and I am ready to take on the gang. They’re a more seasoned bunch over there.”