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Injuries Dim Optimism Around Jets and Giants as N.F.L. Season Nears

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Zach Wilson, the centerpiece of the Jets rebuild, stood in a shaded area near a small weight-lifting area on the team’s joint practice against the Giants on Thursday.

He wore a baseball cap and shorts with a black compression sleeve that covered his right leg, the positioning of a surgery last week to repair Wilson’s torn meniscus, as his backup, the 14-year veteran Joe Flacco, took reps against the Giants.

Across the sphere, the Giants contended with an injury to Kayvon Thibodeaux, the sting rusher whom the team drafted with the fifth overall pick in April. Thibodeaux sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Sunday in a preseason game from a low block by a Bengals tight end.

The event of Wilson in his second season and the arrival of Thibodeaux were among the many causes for renewed hope that the Jets and Giants could reverse recent bouts of ineptitude, but entering the teams’ final preseason game, against one another, on Sunday, any optimism for immediate success has been tempered.

“Anyone that’s healthy, that’s able to go, we’re going to play,” Giants Coach Brian Daboll said on Aug. 12. “And the fellows that we don’t think are quite ready or perhaps need just a little bit more time, we’re going to assist them get pretty much as good as they’ll in order that we’ll get the perfect version of themselves once they’re able to go.”

He added: “There’s constant roster management. Who’s going where? That’s just a part of the business.”

Hiring Daboll, the previous Bills offensive coordinator, in January, sparked anticipation that he would invigorate an offense that ranked second-to-last within the league in scoring. The additions of Thibodeaux and offensive tackle Evan Neal, whom the Giants chosen seventh overall, were expected to assist the rebuild and help the team evaluate quarterback Daniel Jones in the ultimate 12 months of his rookie contract.

But Thibodeaux’s injury could reportedly cause him to miss as much as 4 weeks, jeopardizing his availability for the Giants’ season opener against the Tennessee Titans. Last week, Jones revealed he had neck surgery this off-season, which he said was unrelated to a neck injury that caused him to miss the ultimate six games of the 2021 season.

The Giants placed two promising rookies, linebacker Darrian Beavers (knee) and guard Marcus McKethan (knee), on the season-ending injured reserve list earlier in training camp. The team also lost third-year receiver Collin Johnson for the season to an Achilles’ injury, and second-year linebacker Azeez Ojulari appeared to injure his leg Thursday during conditioning sprints and needed two trainers to help him off the sphere.

Still, Daboll maintained optimism. He said he had been pleased with Jones’s progress in quickly learning the terminology and formations of the brand new offense and added that the team would get a lift from the returns of running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Sterling Shepard, who returned to practice this week after tearing his left Achilles’ tendon in December.

For the Jets, who were ecstatic that their first round of the draft was graded highly by analysts, additionally they are adjusting their expectations after injuries.

Jets Coach Robert Saleh said he would almost certainly wait until the week of the primary game to make a decision who will start at quarterback. He said Wilson, who missed 4 games last 12 months due to a knee injury, has progressed well in his rehabilitation and continues to be energetic in meetings with the coaching staff. But when Flacco were needed to start out Week 1, Saleh said he had faith within the veteran’s experience.

“He’s just a chilled figure back there,” Saleh said. “He’s very confident, runs the huddle, everyone’s on the identical page, very decisive. He’s been there, done that, seen all of it.”

The offense was expected to provide after the team brought in tight end C.J. Uzomah and receiver Garrett Wilson as targets for Wilson’s passes. Jets executives focused within the draft on improving the league’s worst-ranked defense, choosing in the primary around the cornerback Ahmad Gardner and edge rusher Jermaine Johnson.

However the offense needed addressing when Mekhi Becton, the Jets’ starting offensive left tackle fractured his right knee, which can cause him to miss the 2022 season. Days later, Wilson went down.

Saleh said that shuffling was just a part of the sport. He expected the starters to play at the least one quarter on Sunday while Daboll had not yet announced any plans for his team.

“You’re keen on the game of football since it’s the perfect on the planet, however the hard part about football is it’s essentially the most violent sport on the planet,” Saleh said in a news conference. “You’re going to have injuries, those things are going to occur.”

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