Since taking over for Zach Wilson two weeks ago, Mike White has received a lot of praise from his teammates, fans and even the media.
But this Sunday, White will try to exorcise some demons from the last time he played the Bills at Highmark Stadium.
Last year as he was starting for Wilson due to injury, White completed 24-of-44 passes for 251 yards and four interceptions in a Bills 45-17 demolishing of the Jets.
“It’s a good opportunity, obviously new team — both sides of the ball,” White said. “I’ve learned a lot from it, but I’ve tried my best to close the book on that and move on.
“I think it’s going to be a really good test for the team. It’s obviously a very tough place to play. They’re rolling right now, so it’s going to be a battle. I’m looking forward to it.
“I think it goes back to how I said before, you can’t play hero ball. You can’t go in there thinking, ‘I want revenge for what happened last year.’ What happened last year is over with. It’s done with. It’s got to move on from it.”
In his two starts since becoming the Jets’ starter following Wilson’s benching, White has played much better football. He has thrown for 684 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
His ball placement and decision-making down the field have stood out during starts. He also gives receivers such as Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis opportunities for explosive plays, which has helped the offense average 26.5 points per game in the Jets last two games. In the final four games Wilson started this season, Gang Green’s offense only averaged 14 points per game.
Down 20-3 against the Vikings in a game that appeared to be headed towards a Minnesota rout, White kept the Jets calm and led the team back into the game. Gang Green was down 27-22 with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter. A Braxton Berrios drop in the end zone and a late White interception secured the victory for the Vikings.
What also has stood out is White’s demeanor in the huddle and on the field. No matter the situation, the moment doesn’t seem too big for him.
“If I had to pinpoint, probably from growing up being a baseball player, being a pitcher,” White said. “As a pitcher, you’re never too high, never too low, and I try to take that into the quarterback role.
“You don’t want to ride the highs too much and ride the lows too much. You kind of want to stay even-keeled no matter what’s happening. If I had to pinpoint something, it’d probably be that.”
White will face arguably the biggest challenge of his career against the Bills team determined to exact revenge following a 20-17 loss to the Jets on Nov. 6. Not only are the Bills (9-3) in first place in the AFC East, but they currently hold the No. 1 seed in the entire conference. That means if Buffalo were to retain that spot for the rest of the season, it would have a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Bills are 10th in the league in total defense (320.2 yards per game) and fourth in points allowed per game (17.4). Buffalo has won its last three games but will be without one of its best defensive players for the rest of the season.
Von Miller, who signed a six-year, $120 million deal with the Bills in the offseason, will miss the rest of the year after having surgery for an ACL injury. Miller suffered the injury in the second quarter of Buffalo’s win against the Lions.
Miller initially said he hoped to return before the game against the Jets, but it was determined he needed a knee scope after seeking multiple opinions from doctors. Without Miller, the Bills’ defense held the Patriots’ offense and quarterback Mac Jones to one touchdown in their 24-10 win last Thursday.
“They’ve gotten healthier, obviously, with the exception of Von [Miller], which is a big loss in terms of their edge, but they’ve ran two deep there for it seems like forever now and they rotate, and those guys play hungry,” Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “[Jordan] Poyer being back is just huge for them, he brings that veteran leadership and that presence in that back half.
“Obviously, the corners, they rotate a lot but getting Tre’Davious [White] back has been big for them, bringing in [Xavier] Rhodes, so, it’s a new cast of guys, but guys that we’re familiar with. The message to the young receivers was, ‘hey, the guys that you’re going against, the guys that you’re studying, the guys you’re getting used to in that first game, it’s going to be different because there’s going to be different bodies out there.’
“We got to study the last few weeks and get a feel for how those corners are going to play us.”
A day after missing practice due to a flu bug hitting the team, wide receiver Davis, cornerback D.J. Reed and right tackle George Fant all returned on a limited basis. Left tackle Duane Brown [shoulder] and safeties Lamarcus Joyner [hip] and Ashtyn Davis [hamstring] were also limited.
Defensive lineman Micheal Clemons, who has also been dealing with an illness, is the only Jets player who did not practice Thursday.