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Garrett Wilson key to Jets success

Two weeks before training camp began during a round of golf with Robert Saleh, we spoke about golf, family and, of course, football. 

When the topic of his team and the upcoming season came up, there was a common theme that the Jets head coach kept coming back to. Saleh was excited, energized and curious to see who among his young players would emerge as the “superstars’’ that would take over games in the fourth quarter. 

Two games into Saleh’s second season with the Jets, he appears to have found at least one of those players: Garrett Wilson. 

The rookie receiver out of Ohio State, the 10th-overall pick in the draft, was a story in his first NFL game by virtue of his lack of use early on and more so in Sunday’s improbable 31-30 comeback victory over the Browns in Cleveland, where he caught eight passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns

The second touchdown, a lightning-quick 15-yard catch-and-run with 22 seconds remaining, provided the winning points in a game the Jets looked almost certain to lose. 

Offensive skill position has been a black hole for the Jets for too long, with no players with the kind of dynamic talent that raises the eyebrows of opposing defensive coordinators and players. 

It’s early in his career, but there already are signs that Wilson, for whom the game and the pressure moments are not too big, is a rising star. 

New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) celebrates past Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit (22) after scoring a touchdown
Garrett Wilson’s breakout second game showcased what he can bring to the Jets.
AP Photo

It doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that in Week 1, when Wilson was used sparingly early in the game against the Ravens, the Jets fell behind early and lost, and in Week 2, when Wilson was featured in the passing game, the Jets won. 

One person who noticed this was former Jets receiver Keyshawn Johnson, the No. 1-overall draft pick in 1996 who’s now an ESPN radio and TV personality. 

Johnson’s message to Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, during a phone call with The Post on Tuesday, was simple: “Throw him the damn ball.’’ 

When I mentioned to Johnson that the low-key Wilson would likely never utter those words publicly because he has a much more understated personality than him, Keyshawn, who famously authored a book titled, “Just Give Me the Damn Ball!’’ said, “That’s OK. Everybody’s personality fits differently. I’ll tell the Jets to give him the football. He doesn’t need to tell them. I’ll do the dirty work for him.’’ 

Johnson, who went out of his way to compliment Jets general manager Joe Douglas for the way he’s been building this team, said he views Wilson as “a future Pro Bowl player … as long as the Jets don’t screw him up.’’ 

Asked to elaborate, Johnson said, “By not involving him in the game plan and trying to get cute with the football.’’ 

“As long as they don’t play games and they put an emphasis on getting him the football and letting him shine, they’ll be OK. You’ve just got to get him the ball. 

broadcasts a Super Bowl preview show from Disney California Adventure in Anaheim on Thursday, February 10, 2022 Pictured, from left, are hosts Dan Orlovsky, Keyshawn Johnson, Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spears and Mina Kimes. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Keyshawn Johnson will advocate for Garrett Wilson if the wideout isn’t going to do it himself.
Orange County Register via Getty Images

“[The Raiders’] Davante Adams gets the football, [the Saints’] Michael Thomas gets the football, [the Bills’] Stefon Diggs gets the football. 

“Give [Wilson] the ball. That’s what you do with receivers that you draft high. You give them the f–king ball. Why else would you draft them? Throw him the f–king ball and let him do his job. I think they got a nice one and they better not screw it up.’’ 

Johnson said he met Wilson in the spring after the draft at an event and came away highly impressed. 

“Just from having a conversation with him, I can see he gets it,’’ Johnson said. “When you have a young receiver that understands what it’s like to be a professional, you’ve got a good one. That’s where he’s at now — even as he’s still learning. He’s a willing-participant worker who wants to learn. As long as they don’t screw him up, they’ve hit on him.’’ 

On the field, Johnson said, “I see the explosiveness, I see the good hands, the nice route running, the ability to change direction.’’ 

This is what Wilson’s teammates have been watching since the spring minicamps and through the summer — and it has them excited. Sunday in Cleveland simply provided early validation. 

“Garrett’s a playmaker, man,’’ linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “When the ball’s in his hands you don’t know what’s going to happen. You know he’s going to do something.’’ 

Tackle George Fant predicted Wilson “is going to be a good player for a long time,’’ and added, “I’m eager to watch him grow as a player.’’ 

Keyshawn Johnson, of course, is eager to see Wilson get the damn ball as often as possible. 

“They’ll be fine,’’ Johnson said, “if they let him shine.’’ 

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