FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mike White will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets coach Robert Saleh confirmed Wednesday. The status of their newest backup, Joe Flacco, is uncertain.
Flacco, acquired Monday in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, wasn’t at practice Wednesday. He was excused for a personal reason, won’t report to the facility until Friday and might be inactive for Sunday’s game. He’s participating in meetings virtually, according to the Jets, who said they knew about Flacco’s personal issue when the trade was made.
It has been an eventful few days for the reeling Jets (1-5), from Zach Wilson’s knee injury to the Flacco trade to the questions regarding Flacco’s absence. The only certainty is that White, a former practice-squad player, will face the Bengals (5-2) at MetLife Stadium.
“Mike has done a hell of a job and he has earned his right to play on Sunday and show what he’s capable of,” said Saleh, who nevertheless wouldn’t commit to White beyond this week.
Wilson is expected to miss two to four weeks with a sprained PCL.
White, who made his regular-season debut in Sunday’s 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots, received strong praise from Saleh on Monday. But a few hours later, the Jets traded a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick for Flacco, raising questions about their immediate plan.
A source said they brought in Flacco, 36, to be a backup, the role he held last season with the Jets. Still, the timing was curious, considering they had decided a few months ago to go without a seasoned backup. They said journeyman Josh Johnson, 35, on the practice squad, would provide experience in the quarterback room, mentoring Wilson and White. They apparently had second thoughts. Because of Flacco’s late arrival, the Jets might have little choice but to activate Johnson to be the backup on Sunday. Saleh sent a mixed message.
“Josh will be up this week and he’ll be ready to go if he has to step in,” said Saleh, noting that Flacco would be inactive. Moments later, Saleh backtracked, saying they will take it day-by-day and assess the situation after Flacco practices on Friday.
“We’re assuming the worst, all right?” said Saleh, explaining the rationale for the trade. “We’re still trying to make sure the quarterback room is exactly where we need it to be. Obviously, Zach got hurt and an opportunity came and it was a good one, so we took advantage of it.”
Saleh said they always want to have three healthy quarterbacks. There’s a chance that Wilson might land on injured reserve, which would mean three games on the sideline. The Jets will make that decision by the end of the week.
They professed their faith in White, 26, who has been cut three times by the Jets and once by the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted him in the fifth round out of Western Kentucky in 2018. In Sunday’s relief role, he completed 20 of 32 passes for 202 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
“We have all the confidence in the world in Mike,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said.
At least the Jets are getting healthier on defense. Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, is expected to play. Linebacker Jarrad Davis, who suffered a severe ankle sprain in the preseason, returned to practice and could be activated for the game.