The 2023 season has not been kind to the NY Jets or their designated captains. Not only was Aaron Rodgers lost for the season after just four plays, but the injury bug flying around Florham Park has not taken a bite out of special teams ace Justin Hardee as well.
The Jets are getting ready for a game against Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles, who possess one of the best 1-2 punches at the wide receiver position in the league in AJ Brown and Devonta Smith, without stud No. 2 cornerback DJ Reed and quality backup Brandin Echols.
Part of the upset formula for the Jets this week is winning the special teams battle, in which Hardee was expected to play a starring role. The latest update on Hardee's health is exactly the opposite of what Robert Saleh and the Jets wanted to hear about their veteran leader.
Hardee's hamstring injury could sideline him between four and six weeks, which could knock him out of commission until December. While he may not be the flashiest player, the Jets clearly lean on him and trust him to be the on-field coach for their kick coverage teams.
NY Jets' Justin Hardee out 4-6 weeks with hamstring injury
After starting his career with the New Orleans Saints, Hardee made his way over to New York in Robert Saleh's debut season and eventually emerged as one of the best at his position as a gunner and kick coverer. His Pro Bowl nod in 2022 speaks to the effect he had on this team.
With Hardee nominally listed as a cornerback when he's not running down returners, the Jets might be without half of their normal cornerback rotation against Philadelphia. While Bryce Hall played well against the Broncos, will he be as effective against Smith, brown, and Philly?
It's easy to forget this Jets team is still quite young and in need of veteran mentorship. Losing Hardee, especially right before a game in which the Jets need all hands on deck to pull off a huge upset, is a brutal blow. The Jets' special teams have been solid, but can they stay hot without Hardee?