EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Aaron Rodgers‘ much-anticipated debut Saturday night was brief, but effective – and he barely got touched.
Saying “you can’t coach scared,” coach Robert Saleh played the 39-year-old quarterback in the Jets’ final exhibition game because he wanted him to get acclimated to the stadium and his new teammates before the season opener – a decision that sent shivers through a fan base that has witnessed many quarterback injuries over the years.
Rodgers played only two series – a total of nine snaps – ending his abbreviated night with a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Garrett Wilson. The four-time MVP, in his first preseason action since 2018, was replaced by backup Zach Wilson. It was a pass-heavy night for Rodgers, who completed five of eight attempts for 47 yards. He was pressured twice. The Giants were credited with two quarterbacks hits, but they were more like touches, not actual hits. Not once was he knocked to the ground.
Things did get a little heated. On the play before the touchdown, Rodgers and linebacker Jihad Ward exchanged words after Ward bumped him after a completion to wide receiver Mecole Hardman. After his touchdown throw to Wilson, Rodgers barked some words back at Ward.
It was a Giants’ home game, but there were plenty of Jets fans in the house. They gave Rodgers a loud ovation when he walked on the field for the Jets’ first possession.
Rodgers zipped a wide-receiver screen to Wilson, who bulled his way for 10 yards. Rodgers and Wilson developed instant chemistry in training camp, and they brought it to the game. Wilson caught all three balls from Rodgers, totaling 30 yards.
The touchdown was a textbook back-shoulder pass, as Wilson beat rookie cornerback Gemon Green. The coverage was solid – only one yard separation – but it was a vintage Rodgers pass, a tight-window dart.
Rodgers played behind four-fifths of the Jets’ starting offensive line. The only missing starter was left tackle Duane Brown, who is expected to play against the Buffalo Bills in the opener. Also out were running backs Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall. They, too, are expected for Week 1.