Jets' Mike White toughs out loss, solidifies grip on QB job

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Monday, December 12, 2022

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- New York Jets quarterback Mike White took a physical beating Sunday in a 20-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills, resulting in a postgame trip to a local hospital for precautionary tests on an injured rib, but he might have solidified the starting job for the remainder of the season.

White, now 1-2 since replacing Zach Wilson, will start again next Sunday against the Detroit Lions -- if healthy.

"Yeah, for sure," said coach Robert Saleh, endorsing White, who rejoined the team for its flight home.

As Saleh spoke to the media, White was stepping into an ambulance in the stadium tunnel. He "checked out good" during a third-quarter evaluation that included X-rays after a fierce hit to his ribs by linebacker Matt Milano.

White spent time with the medical staff in the locker room but returned to finish the game, earning praise from teammates for his toughness. After a postgame evaluation, it was decided to send him to the hospital for additional testing. Saleh said it was "more precautionary than anything."

The Jets (7-6) have their first two-game losing streak of the season, they have serious pass-protection issues and star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is battling a calf injury (he's day-to-day, Saleh said), but they were surprisingly upbeat after the game.

Saleh buoyed their confidence by essentially telling the team it would reach the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons -- a bold statement. He repeated that sentiment to the media.

"We're going to see these guys again," said Saleh, whose team split the season series with the Bills (10-3).

"I think our team is good enough (to make the playoffs). Obviously, it's week to week, but we've got a good football team."

And it could be White leading the way. He hasn't been named the permanent starter, but the upcoming schedule points to that happening. After the Lions, the Jets face the Jacksonville Jaguars on a Thursday night in Week 16 -- and it's unlikely they'd make a quarterback change on a short week.

Saleh has said he intends to play Wilson again, but he'd likely roll with White if the Jets remain in contention for Weeks 17 and 18. Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021, was inactive for the third straight game.

"I think he showed resolve, toughness, everything that we've been seeing," Saleh said of White. "He's a good player."

White completed 27 of 44 passes for 268 yards, giving him 952 yards in three starts. He has led the offense to only two touchdowns in eight- and five-point losses to the Bills and Minnesota Vikings, respectively, though he was under intense pressure from the Bills.

The numbers were ugly -- three sacks, seven quarterback hits and 20 pressures. The hits were nasty.

In the second quarter, White got drilled in the chest by Ed Oliver, causing him to miss two plays. With 4:41 left in the third quarter and the Jets trailing 14-7, he was crushed by Milano. He was down for a few minutes and was taken to the locker room. Joe Flacco replaced him both times, fumbling on a strip sack on the first play of his second cameo.

"He's a dog, man," center Connor McGovern said of White. "He's willing to do whatever it takes to win. That's what every guy in this locker room, if they aren't that way, they need to be that way. I believe everybody is that way. Today, Mike was unfortunately an example of that. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to get the Jets to the playoffs and beyond."

Running back Michael Carter, who had a costly fourth-quarter fumble deep in Buffalo territory, called White a "f---ing soldier, bro. I love playing with that guy." Wide receiver Garrett Wilson said White had "a lot of heart and he's going to put it on the line for his boys. I would do the same for him."

When White jogged back from the locker room, it was 20-7 with 12:25 left in the fourth quarter. The Jets had four more possessions but managed only a field goal in addition to a safety on a blocked punt. Carter's fumble at the Buffalo 23 was huge.

"We ran power, it opened up like Disney World and I just tried to go score a touchdown," Carter said. "I tried to run him over, I tried to crank him up, but (Taron Johnson) made a good play."

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