Defensive end Bryce Huff has collected 7.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hits in 37 games over the past three seasons with the Jets, mostly while playing a low percentage of total snaps.
That’s why it wasn’t surprising when Huff sacked the Browns’ Kellen Mond for a 7-yard loss to end the first series of the Jets’ eventual 21-16 loss Thursday in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
What was a bit eye-opening was that Huff was on the field in the fourth quarter, which sparked a small uproar online about whether he was potentially being showcased for a trade.
Coach Robert Saleh stuck a fork in that notion Sunday, saying Huff and first-round pick Will McDonald IV played late into the game because the team dressed a limited number of defensive ends.
“When you look at our D-line and — knock on wood — you’re like, ‘OK, who’s going to play? Who do we want to sit?’ You could argue that all of them should sit [to prevent injuries],” Saleh said. “That’s in my opinion. They’re all pretty damn good football players. I think they’re all deserving to be on a 53-man roster somewhere, if not here.
“So, somebody had to play, and Huff got some plays in the first half, but we needed him and Will to be emergency guys in the fourth quarter. …. So, not a knock on [Huff], really more of a tip of the cap to him for going out there and doing what he’s done. We think the world of Huff, and he’s going to be a big part of this football team moving forward.”
The Jets made some roster moves at linebacker, releasing Hamsah Nasirildeen and Maalik Hall, and signing Nick Vigil and Sam Eguavoen.
“Unfortunately, in the game, Maalik suffered an injury that’s going to take a few weeks, same with Hamsah,” Saleh said. “With Chaz [Surratt] being out also, along with [Claudin Cherelus], we’re down a lot of humans at linebackers, so we’re trying to restock that group to be able to handle the reps to practice.”
Nasirildeen was a sixth-round pick in 2021. With Elijah Moore having been traded earlier this offseason, six players remain with the Jets from that draft — Zach Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, both Michael Carters, Jamien Sherwood and Brandin Echols.
Sunday’s practice at Florham Park in front of a jam-packed fan section ended with an end zone interception of Aaron Rodgers by Sauce Gardner. The 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year returned the ball for a “touchdown” with an entourage of defenders. No one was giving chase, however, as the offense started doing pushups for losing the two-minute drill session.
Shortly before that, CB Justin Hardee and WR T.J. Luther got into a brief scuffle after a tackle.