FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mike White is going from little-known backup to the Big Apple spotlight.
White will make his first NFL start Sunday for the New York Jets against the Cincinnati Bengals in place of the injured Zach Wilson.
“We have a lot of faith in Mike,” coach Robert Saleh said Wednesday. “Mike has done a hell of a job. He’s earned this right to go out there and play on Sunday and show what he’s capable of.”
White filled in for Wilson last Sunday after the rookie quarterback injured his right knee in New York's 54-13 loss at New England. Wilson has a sprained posterior cruciate ligament and will be sidelined at least two weeks.
The Jets traded for Joe Flacco on Monday, acquiring the 36-year-old veteran from Philadelphia for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. Flacco will not join the team on the practice field until Friday because of personal reasons — something Saleh said the team was aware of when they traded for him — but is participating in remote meetings.
Saleh initially said 35-year-old backup Josh Johnson will be promoted from the practice squad and be the backup to White against the Bengals with Flacco “more than likely” to be inactive. The coach later backtracked, saying the Jets will see how Flacco looks during practice Friday and go from there. New York usually makes just two quarterbacks active for games.
White is in his fourth NFL season, but hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game before last Sunday when he went 20 of 32 for 202 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions against the Patriots.
He was drafted by Dallas in the fifth round in 2018 out of Western Kentucky, and waived during final cuts the following summer. The Jets then signed him to their practice squad, and he served as a backup to Sam Darnold the past two seasons.
Wilson was injured in the second quarter last Sunday when he was hit by Patriots linebacker Matt Judon, who fell on the back of the quarterback’s legs after he threw an incomplete pass. An MRI on Monday revealed the sprained PCL, which will sideline him for at least Sunday's game and next Thursday's game at Indianapolis.
Saleh said it still hasn't been determined whether Wilson will be back after two weeks or need more time to recover and be placed on injured reserve. Saleh also didn't commit to White starting beyond Sunday, or if Flacco would take over in Wilson's absence.
“We'll see how it goes,” Saleh said. “We'll see how everything goes in regards to absorbing the offense and all that stuff.”
It's possible the Jets could have parted with a draft pick for a quarterback that might play only one game — or none — if Wilson comes back after just two games. The sixth-rounder New York sent to Philadelphia could become a fifth-rounder, based on Flacco's playing time.
“We’re going off of where we’re assuming the worst, all right?” Saleh said. “And we’re still trying to make sure that that quarterback room is exactly where we need it to be. Obviously, Zach got hurt. An opportunity came, and it’s a good one. So we took advantage of it.”
Flacco has not played in a regular-season game since last year when he was with the Jets under then-coach Adam Gase. He threw for 864 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions last season, but opted to sign with the Eagles as a backup in the offseason.
Flacco has thrown 224 career TD passes over 14 seasons with Baltimore, Denver, the Jets and Eagles.
The New Jersey native, who was selected the Super Bowl MVP with Baltimore during the 2012 season, has some experience running the system offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is using with the Jets. Flacco played under both Gary Kubiak and Rich Scangarello, who ran the Mike and Kyle Shanahan-style offense in Denver.
“Some similar verbiage and all that stuff, so the recall should happen quick,” Saleh said. “At a certain point, all these offenses run the same concept, so.”
NOTES: RB Tevin Coleman (hamstring), DE Bryce Huff (back), LB Quincy Williams (concussion) and TE/FB Trevon Wesco (knee) all didn't practice. ... Saleh said LB C.J. Mosley, who missed the game at New England with a hamstring injury, was expected to fully practice Wednesday — a good indication he'll likely play Sunday. ... LB Jarrad Davis (ankle), P Braden Mann (sprained left knee) and DE Kyle Phillips (ankle) were also designated to return to practice, and all could be activated to play as early as Sunday. Davis and Mann are on injured reserve, while Phillips is on the physically unable to perform list.
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Dennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press