By Jack Bell
Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley is about to pass the threshold from veteran football player to wise elder statesman when he turns 30 years old on Sunday, June 19. If anything, Mosley is getting older and getting better.
"I'm blessed and honored to still be sitting here and having guys look up to me and to grow as a player and as a person," Mosley told senior team reporter Eric Allen on the latest edition of "The Official Jets Podcast." "I came into this year not satisfied with what I did personally last year. As a team I'm not satisfied with our defense, but I still found ways to improve myself and help everyone get into a better position.
"That's the unique thing about this game. As you get older you think you've seen it all, but there's always something new to this game. It's always evolving, like a game of chess. Each year the offense gets better players and the defense has to find a way to counter that. Last year, I took pride in studying the opposing offenses and when we make a play, we're not just stopping the offense, but the offensive coordinator."
By any measure, Mosley roared back to action in the 2021 season after missing most of two seasons, first because of an injurythat derailed his first go-round after signing as a free agent with the Green & White in 2019, then by opting out of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Last year, for me, was more of a proving ground," Mosley said. "I hadn't played in two years and I was really focused on me doing my job, doing the right things every day. Coming to work and providing the right attitude and saving my best speech for Sunday. It meant a lot to me. I'm not a selfish player, but it was me making sure I was doing things the right way. It was really being more vocal, more comfortable being in an uncomfortable situation, whether in the team room on the sideline. Any knowledge that pops into my head, I've been willing to share that."
In 2021, there were few who would have predicted that Mosley would play in 16 games, lead the team with 168 tackles (103 solo), and add 2 sacks, 2 TFL and 3 QB hits. He was an absolute demon from sideline to sideline, the clear leader of the defense.
His professional approach to the smallest detail was not lost on the Jets rookies last season, but particularly impressed running back Michael Carter, who had a pretty decent first NFL season for himself.
"I look up to C.J. [Mosley] and I look to [George] Fant," Carter said recently. "Two OGs who have played in this league for a long while. And they do every single thing the right way. I appreciate them and their professionalism rubs off on me. Here having someone to show me the ropes, and I include TeCo [Tevin Coleman], it's been really cool."
Asked how it made him feel to be called the "OG" by Carter, Mosley said: "That's one thing about the milestone of turning 30. You see the cycle of life change in front of your eyes in the NFL.
"In another side story for me, [CB Rachad] Wildgoose is [Elvis] Dumervil's nephew. I mean I played with his uncle at Baltimore in 2014-15 and now I'm playing with his nephew. And he says that 'I used to watch you when you were at Alabama and I was in middle school.' Middle school? I said what? Every time I hear something like that, it puts it into perspective. It's pretty cool, now it's me and I get to sprinkle around all those things I used to hear, and I find myself always quoting [former Ravens teammate Terrell] Suggs. I feel I can be that person to mentally help bring the players and the team closer. I've seen a lot of football and I've been around a lot of smart coaches and systems."
With OTAs behind him and minicamp up this week, Mosley has gotten a look at the Jets cache of promising rookies -- like WR Garrett Wilson, cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, edge Jermaine Johnson, and others. And he quickly cleared up any confusion about what he and his teammates call the No. 4 overall pick out of Cincinnati.
"I was laughing when you said his name," said Mosley, who likes what he has seen of the talented corner. "His name is Ahmad. We're not calling him Sauce as a rookie. Once he makes a play, we'll give him Sauce. Sauce is for the fans. He's just pure raw talent."
While Mosley's numbers last season befit a true professional who has been an All-Pro and has played four times in the Pro Bowl, he said that the statistics don't necessarily excite him.
"I don't care how many tackles I made, I just want to win," he said. He added: "I wouldn't say last season was my best. Stats-wise yeah, making tackles can be good and bad. It can show you're being on the field too much. I don't rate my season on tackles."
Some quick hits from Mosley:
• On opening the 2022 season against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, followed by games against the other three teams in the AFC North: "It's not easy, he's a unique player. We know what kind of plays he can make. The opener at home is going to be an exciting game. I played 4-5 years for Baltimore and the hype is always going to be there. ... I'm used to playing those three opponents year in and year out. It's going to be a test early in the season, the first four. A lot of mistakes can happen for us, we just got to be sure we come out precise and try to play mistake-free football and be a team that can close out games."
• On his partner at LB, Quincy Williams: "I talked to him about his film study As a young player, not that he didn't want to watch, but he didn't know what to look for. I told him if you want to watch together, we got it. I expect him to be more vocal this year now that he's been in the system. He'll be comfortable. I need my partner in crime. It's going to be a great and fun year for him.
• On second-year QB Zach Wilson: "The next step I would say, especially for a quarterback from Year 1 to Year 2 is with recognition, what you're reading and what you're looking at. I think that's the next step for him. He takes care of his body and has the right people in his corner. But when you get on the field, it's always going to be about recognition.
"When you're a rookie, the No. 1 guy and the quarterback, there's pressure all the time. New system, new league, new players. From Year 1 to 2, he's going to be less jittery, he knows the playbook, he knows the players and the system. He'll be more confident. He's seen these things already, seen the formations. In camp, the defense won't take it easy on him, we'll make him uncomfortable being comfortable. In Year 2, you're going to see him make plays with his feet and arm, and taking care of the football.
• On HC Robert Saleh: "When he talks, you listen. We have a really good relationship. I guess I do things well enough that he's not coaching me much. It's pretty cordial, we check on family, a little football talk, crack a joke. He only asks a few things, like 'All Gas No Brake.' If you believe in him, he believes in you. It's really the only thing you can ask."
To sum up, Mosley is a leader, a true professional one who believes that there's "always one little thing you can find to get better at," no matter if you're an over-30 veteran or an eager rookie.