Speaking Wednesday during their offseason program, several Jets players addressed the transformed vibes and expectations since Rodgers was finally traded to the team ahead of the draft last week.
"It takes a little time just to realize," wide receiver Garrett Wilson said. "Still probably hasn't sunk in all the way until I caught the first ball from him. That's a legend right there, that's a Hall of Fame player, and we're all blessed to be able to … You know, this is something 20 years from now, 30 years from now, I'll tell my kid I played with Aaron Rodgers. I try not to think about it too much at this point just because we're going to work and he's my teammate, and that's gonna be the mindset. But the reality of it is it's awesome, man. It is awesome having someone like that around the facility, and I just can't wait to keep working."
Wilson, who Rodgers recently compared to Davante Adams, perhaps stands to gain more than anyone from aligning with the former Packers quarterback. Despite juggling four different starting QBs in 2022 while beginning his NFL career on a floundering offense that only totaled 15 passing touchdowns, Wilson was stellar on his way to earning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The 2022 No. 10 overall pick had 83 receptions for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns, over a quarter of the team's scores through the air. If he develops proper chemistry with Rodgers, he could explode even further during an encore to his first campaign.
Wilson recognizes elevated play from him and the offense as a whole is now an expectation under Rodgers rather than hopeful thinking, especially if the Jets are to post their first winning season since 2015 and snap a 12-year postseason drought.
"We know what we have in this room," he said. "We've known what we've had in this room. You add someone like that with the accolades that he has and the ability that he has. We expect to compete with everyone in the league, beat everyone in the league, be one of the better teams in the league. We expect to do that.
"I'd be lying if I said that we had someone of Aaron Rodgers' pedigree and the expectation doesn't go up a little bit. That's how it is in this industry. So we're excited to have him, and we know what comes with it. We know that, all of a sudden, eyes are on us, and we've got to back it up every time we take the field, practice or game. We're excited to prove that every week. What we know we have, we're excited to prove that to the world every week."
It's not just those preparing to stand in the huddle with Rodgers that are admitting what a difference his presence makes, though.
Players on the other side of the ball are suddenly having to contend with the prospect of going against a future Hall of Fame QB every day in practice. Plus, unlike last year when the offense was an albatross on the league's emergent, fourth-ranked scoring defense, the Rodgers-led unit is one that can match the D and win games given more opportunities this year.
"I ain't gonna lie to ya, I was kinda star-struck at first because we warm up right next to each other," linebacker Quincy Williams told reporters. "So I was like, 'Hold on, coach. Let me just take a little minute, take this in, watch a few throws a little bit and see him in the green.' So just took that in a little bit and was like, 'Ah, now let's get to work so we can get him more opportunities to throw the ball.'"
And another defender has already started picking the QB's brain outside team facilities. After Rodgers attended a Devils-Rangers playoff hockey game over the weekend with running back Breece Hall and wide receiver Allen Lazard, he took in the Knicks' Game 2 second-round win over the Heat on Tuesday with cornerback Sauce Gardner.
Gardner, who matched Wilson's ascension by taking home last season's Defensive Rookie of the Year award, has taken the opportunity to bond with Rodgers over the approach they'll take to finally turning things around in New York.
"It's not pressure," he said about expectations heading into 2023. "When it comes to playing in New York, you just got to tell yourself, 'I'm built for this.' Me and Aaron, we just caught ourselves yesterday telling each other, like, 'I'm built for this.' He'd say he's built for this. We just had that one-on-one moment where we were out eating dinner. That's all there really is. I was just trying to share with him my experience when it comes to playing in New York, and how my mentality was to have a mindset that I'm built for it and embrace the New York culture. Embrace the New York media. Embrace the New York fans. Embrace everything that comes with New York."