Robert Saleh didn’t choose to face the New York Jets starters in the second game of preseason

Robert Saleh didn’t choose to face the New York Jets starters in the second game of preseason

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — New York Jets coach Robert Saleh can’t decide whether to play his starters against the Atlanta Falcons Monday night.

“I’m torn,” Saleh said on Saturday after the second training session with the Falcons. “I wake up one day and I’m like, ‘OK, they’re going to play.’ The next day I wake up and they won’t play.”

For Saleh, it’s a multifaceted decision. The starters only played two series in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles and do not typically play in the finals. If they go up against the Falcons, it would be like having three straight bye weeks ahead of the September 11 season opener.

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On the other hand, there is the injury factor. The Jets have already sustained serious injuries to right tackle Mekhi Becton (season-ending knee surgery) and quarterback Zach Wilson (arthroscopic knee surgery). Wilson, who is injured against the Eagles, is expected to be out for about a month, making it likely that Joe Flacco will play against the Ravens in Week 1.

Flacco, 37, didn’t see any action against the Eagles, so he wouldn’t have game representatives ahead of the opener — a risky proposition for a quarterback who hasn’t seen much game action in recent years.

“He doesn’t need it, but I feel like everyone can use it as a reminder on how to prepare and make sure every game is just a normal game,” Saleh said, backing up again.

Saleh said they had two productive days against the Falcons, reducing the need to see his starters in the game. The Jets were in a similar situation last year and those memories aren’t pleasant ones.

They lost defensive end Carl Lawson in a joint practice session against the Green Bay Packers to a season-ending Achilles injury and then played their starters in the following game. One of them, linebacker Jarrad Davis, suffered a serious ankle injury and was sidelined for two months.

“It was like bloodshed,” Saleh said, recalling the trip to Green Bay.

The Jets were also crushed by injuries throughout the season, which could explain Saleh’s cautious approach. In Philadelphia, he made a last-minute decision to rest key veterans, most notably Lawson, linebacker CJ Mosley and George Fant.

One potential problem area is the offensive line. Due to Becton’s injury and Duane Brown’s delay, the five starters still have to train together. Brown, 36, who signed on August 15, spent all week with the conditioning staff and worked his way into football shape. He won’t play Monday night, meaning the offensive line may not be together in a game setting until the opener.

Safety Jordan Whitehead said the joint drills were “just like preseason” but acknowledged actual game representatives were also important.

“As you get into the game it gets faster so you definitely need some reps to get ready for the season,” he said. Another factor for Saleh: Monday Night Football.

“This is of tremendous value. This one is different because it’s Monday Night Football,” he said. We’re such a young team and a lot of guys dream of that.”

Saleh said the Monday Night Football stage creates a “raised environment” that he says helps prepare players for the intensity of the regular season.