BGA: The Expendables – Part One

Bent ,

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’ll be 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.

After the jump, all of the details from the first preseason game for each of the guys the Jets let go from last year’s team, including some good, some bad and some ugly.

In no particular order…

Colin Baxter – Center, Chargers

Word out of Chargers minicamp was that Baxter (who was on the active roster at the end of last year) was in the mix for a starting job, but it seems training camp hasn’t been going quite so well for him. He appears to have been overtaken by seventh round pick David Molk and found himself on the third unit for this week’s game against Green Bay. He didn’t get into the game until there were 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter – but surely, playing against third stringers, he would have looked good? Well…

On his very first snap, Baxter – who was playing left guard, not center, got beaten badly in pass protection. However, the QB had already been sacked. Later on they tried to run behind him on a short yardage play but it got stuffed. After that poor start, Baxter did have one good run block and got a surge as they ran behind him for a short touchdown to clinch their win. A mixed bag, but not the kind of impression he’d have wanted to make having just lost his spot on the second unit.

Robert Turner, Center, St. Louis

With free agent signing Scott Wells out, Turner has been working as the first team center. Wells is going to return soon, but Turner is considered a lock to be on the roster and even a possible starter at guard. I make no attempt to hide the fact that I was a big fan of Turner and have been calling him a potential starter since he was a rookie, but I’ll try and give an honest opinion…

Turner looked great! He was constantly driving his man back and had a couple of dominant run blocks on the first drive. There were a couple of pressures up the middle while he was in, but neither of these were his fault (unless he was partially to blame for the protection). In fact, he looked comfortable in pass protection. I’d go so far as to say that Turner would have graded out better than Nick Mangold did in the Jets game. Of course, the Bengals defensive line is more formidable than that of the Colts, but it was still an impressive performance. It’s probably as good as I’ve ever seen Turner look. He was in for just two drives, though, so he’ll have to show he can sustain that level of play.

Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Co-ordinator, St. Louis

I had no intention whatsoever of including Schottenheimer in this feature, but since I was watching the Rams anyway, I thought I’d pass on the following:

1. You’ll be surprised to note that the Rams didn’t go three and out with their first unit, actually moving the chains to the tune of five first downs in two series. They even opened the game with three straight runs! Of course, they didn’t score though – ultimately losing 38-3.

2. You won’t be surprised to note that there were multiple pre-snap penalties, a failed pass attempt on fourth and short and a third down play where the receiver caught the ball a yard short of the first down marker.

Matt Mulligan, Tight End, St. Louis

Apparently there are six tight ends fighting for one spot and Mulligan is currently considered to be comfortably in bronze medal position. (Sorry, I’m still in London 2012 mode). You can’t read too much into this game, because he didn’t make any glaring mistakes and wasn’t thrown at, but he did get plenty of reps with the first and second units. Mulligan usually graded out pretty well when he wasn’t making silly mistakes, so he could be a useful pickup. Can he play in a Schottenheimer offense and not make silly mistakes though?

Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver, Seattle

I’m going to break the rules here and include Braylon Edwards, even though he wasn’t actually on last year’s team. Since Braylon didn’t get much of a season last year AND there was plenty of talk about him coming back to the Jets, it seems fair to give him a mulligan and treat last year as a redshirt for Expendables purposes. As you’ll no doubt have heard, Edwards caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. This was a deep throw down the left sideline, but he didn’t really get open – it was more of a jump ball – but he easily went up to get it over Tommie Campbell, despite the fact Campbell is 6-3 and 205 pounds. Campbell was a 7th round pick last year, but only played on special teams (including one game where he had four penalties, which must be some kind of record).

His other catch was perhaps more impressive, as he stopped and broke sharply back towards the ball, made the catch and turned upfield to dive for 12 yards on 2nd and 15. Edwards did also have a penalty for an illegal block. He is probably #4 or #5 on the depth chart right now, but he did get a handful of first half reps.

Michael Campbell, Wide Receiver, St. Louis

Campbell – who you might remember for dropping a potential game-winning Greg McElroy pass in last year’s preseason opener – wasn’t on the Jets roster last year either. However, he was on the practice squad for much of the year, so it’s worth checking on his progress. Right now, he looks a long shot to make the Rams team because he’s on the third unit and didn’t get into the game on offense until the fourth quarter. They did look for him three times and he caught two passes. The first saw him juggle the ball on the outside and end up being tackled short of the marker on third and seven. On the second he made a nice adjustment to catch a pass behind him for 12 yards. The third one was tipped and intercepted and I’m not even sure it was intended for him.

Jamaal Westerman, DE/OLB, Miami

Hunting around some Dolphins blogs, I saw that Westerman was described as a “pleasant surprise”, but at the same time seems to have fallen behind Derrick Shelby on the depth chart. Westerman got some work on the goal line package and as a situational pass rusher in the first half and also got some work as a DE in the second half. He actually rushed the passer well, gathering a couple of pressures, but – other than on one play where he kept contain well on the edge – the team seemed noticeably stronger against the run when he was out. Westerman also dropped into coverage a couple of times, including one where he didn’t get his head turned around and got lucky when his teammate batted the pass down at the line.

Marquice Cole, DB, New England

Cole is another guy I used to like. Emphasis on “used to”. Still, he’s not a lock to make the Pats roster, as there are about five guys fighting for the 5th CB slot, so maybe he could even end up back with the Jets. However, Patriots beat writers have been predicting Cole to win the spot because (a) he is versatile and (b) he is good on special teams, which are traits that Belichick looks for when filling those final spots. Cole got plenty of reps, all at slot corner, despite the fact he’s been practicing on the outside and at safety too. He had a special teams penalty and gave up two first downs – one on 2nd and 16 where he lost his man behind him in zone coverage over the middle and one on 3rd and seven where the receiver made a good move to get a step on him to the outside.

Ropati Pitoitua, DE, Kansas City

Another favorite of mine – especially in preseason where he often dominates against backups due to his superior size and strength – Potty has moved up to second string with the Chiefs and looked good this weekend. While he – like Westerman – didn’t record any stats, he did do a good job rushing the quarterback, picking up a couple of pressures. He should have had a sack in the second quarter, but missed the tackle on Kevin Kolb. Against the run, there was one big play where he struggled to get off his block at the point of attack and the runner cut back across the field for 67 yards. However, he was also in on a run stuff near the goal line. There was one play where he was double teamed and driven back off the line, but on the play after, he responded by really going after the guy blocking him.

Logan Payne, WR, Baltimore

Payne spent part of last year on the active roster, but was then placed on injured reserve after failing to overcome an injured wrist. He’s apparently doing pretty well in Baltimore, despite dealing with a hip injury and did get into the game against Atlanta in the first half. He was only targeted, once, catching a short pass over the middle, but getting tackled immediately.

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. Also, LaDainian Tomlinson retired and Brodney Pool was released by the Cowboys before their first game. Kevin O’Connell is on the Chargers roster and safety Tracy Wilson just joined the Titans, but both did not play in week one. Finally, Jim Leonhard was picked up by Denver and although the NFL gamebook says he did play against the Bears, I couldn’t find him.