BGA: The Expendables – Part Four

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Every year, teams have to let some players go. Even though the Jets brought back Sione Po’uha, Bryan Thomas and Nick Folk, they chose not to bring everyone back. Although it’s only preseason, I’ve been keeping track of the progress on the guys who left so we can at least start to form some views on whether letting any of these guys loose was a mistake or a smart move. If you missed part one, two and three, you can read them here, here and here.

Here’s the final part of the Expendables series for preseason. We will revisit this during the bye week, after Thanksgiving and maybe at the end of the season, at which time we’ll also be able to evaluate any players cut at the end of camp (like Terrance Ganaway, for example).

After the jump, all of the details from the third preseason game for the rest of the guys the Jets let go from last year’s team.

In no particular order…

Jim Leonhard – Safety, Broncos

Leonhard might have been considered a long shot for the Broncos roster after not playing in the first three games of preseason. However, he made the team after a solid performance in the last game, which he started at free safety. While Leonhard was only credited with one tackle, he was in on several plays, moved well and looked comfortable directing the secondary. He did have an “assist” on one of Arizona’s touchdowns though (see here).

Colin Baxter – Center, Chargers (Cut)

At the start of the preseason, Baxter was considered a lock to make the Chargers roster as a backup, but seemed to have a poor camp. He didn’t enter the game here until the last minute of the third quarter, with the Chargers already 35-0 down. While they “won” the fourth quarter 3-0, Baxter got badly beaten for a hit on one play and was mostly used to double team while operating as the third string center.

Robert Turner, Center, St. Louis

Robert Turner got the start at guard and the Rams haven’t decided yet who is going to start the opener, but he definitely has a chance. As he did all preseason, Turner looked really good, often pulling from the guard position and nearly always getting a positive surge. He also looked comfortable in pass protection. The only black mark on his performance was a holding call on a play where he pulled left and then threw his man to the ground to help create a huge cutback lane. Had that not been called, it would have been considered a great block.

Turner was considered too small for the Jets’ system (unless he was to play center) and wanted to go somewhere he could start, so although I definitely believe the Jets let a good player go, he wasn’t going to accept a backup role. Therefore, the move made sense for both parties. Turner was very impressive in preseason and I actually can’t believe there’s any question over who should start.

Wayne Hunter, Right Tackle, St. Louis

Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: Wayne Hunter made his Rams debut late in the second quarter and was only in the game for one series. Much like Jason Smith, Hunter didn’t really have time to learn the playbook. On that drive, the Rams moved into the red zone but then another ex-Jet Kellen Clemens (who was cut but apparently told to “keep his phone on”) threw an interception. Given a presumably straightforward role, Hunter looked like a different player. He didn’t make any mistakes and even made a minor impact with some aggressive run blocking. It’s difficult to read too much into it because it’s such a small sample size and by then he was facing backups, but it seemed like the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders. I’m okay with that. Good luck to him.

Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Co-ordinator, St. Louis

You can’t argue with the results here, as the starting offense drove for three touchdowns and a 21-0 lead over the depleted Ravens. There were a couple of Schotty specials – one gadget play that went nowhere and one delay of game penalty in the red zone, but the starting offense had to be pleased with their day’s work (and Bill Callahan’s Cowboys had six pre-snap penalties in the opener, so maybe we were blaming the wrong person for that). The third touchdown drive was a bit labored – they kept going backwards only to convert on third and long. Maybe the weight of the world was lifted off Schotty’s shoulders too.

Matt Mulligan, Tight End, St. Louis

Mulligan was his usual self, as he played the first half and mostly provided basic run blocking. There was one play where he let his guy into the backfield to blow up a run and two where they threw to him – one was out of his reach and the other was a bad drop. He made the team though, as predicted, so maybe the Jets will benefit from one or two “Mully Muddles” when they meet the Rams later in the year.

Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver, Seattle

Once the Seahawks cut Terrell Owens, it was clear that Edwards had won a job with the Seahawks and there’s some talk that he’s going to start on Sunday. It’s a bit difficult to read too much into this game because he was only thrown to once and that was a miscommunication – a back shoulder throw where he kept running.

Jamaal Westerman, DE/OLB, Miami (cut, claimed by Arizona)

Miami had a few guys ahead of Westerman on the depth chart, so he must have seen the writing on the wall. He lands in a good spot with the Cardinals and will hope to get some playing time with them. In this game he was credited with just one tackle and a cheap half sack (after the quarterback rolled out and then just ate the ball after several seconds). However, he did record several pressures, including two on one series as he was giving the Cowboys’ backup left tackle problems on the bull-rush. He did get owned on a couple of running plays though.

Marquice Cole, DB, New England

Cole did not play in the last game, but – as expected – made the team as the 5th CB and, presumably, a key special teamer.

Ropati Pitoitua, DE, Kansas City

Potty seemed pretty comfortable in his backup role until a late charge by nose tackle Anthony Toribio had some questioning whether there was room for both of them on the roster. However, he got second unit reps throughout preseason. In this game, he made a handful of good plays against the run, including one where he shed his block at the line of scrimmage and wrapped up the runner for no gain. He didn’t manage to generate any pressure in this one, although he was double teamed a lot.

Logan Payne, WR, Baltimore (cut)

Payne didn’t make the team, although the Ravens have good depth at the position and Logan showed some stuff that might have teams considering him as a potential midseason injury replacement. In this game, he caught five passes for 58 yards, including two diving catches over the middle and one catch where he span out of a tackle and ran for some extra yards.

Tracy Wilson, S, Tennessee (cut, signed to practice squad)

Wilson got some late reps as a deep safety, with the Saints running out of time on their last drive and losing 10-6. Wilson didn’t play any significant part in this, though. He was credited with a special teams tackle, but over the course of preseason didn’t get much time and a place on the practice squad was perhaps the best he could have hoped for.

Vernon Gholston, DE, St. Louis (cut)

I paid attention to Gholston this week, although he doesn’t officially meet the “guys they got rid of last year” requirement. He made one great play against the run, shedding his block to wrap up the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage, but then he and another player threw the runner to the ground in the backfield and got flagged for unnecessary roughness. (This was called on the other guy, but easily could have been Gholston because he did the same thing). As a pass rusher, Gholston half-beat his man on four or five occasions as he played most of the second half. He only got to the quarterback once, hitting him on a rush up the middle. Ultimately, he didn’t have enough time to make an impact, but he looks at worst like the same guy who didn’t do a bad job in the 2010 rotation so maybe he will catch on somewhere if there are injuries.

The Rest

There were several guys that did not return who have not yet found themselves a team: Plaxico Burress, Gerald Alexander, Donald Strickland and Mark Brunell. Strickland worked out for the Dolphins last week. Also, LaDainian Tomlinson retired and Brodney Pool was released by the Cowboys before their first game. Kevin O’Connell was on the Chargers roster but was cut after the first game. Ex-practice squadder Michael Campbell was cut by the Rams.