BGA: The Expendables Part Three
Bent , TheJetsBlog.com
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. If you missed part one and two, you can read them here and here.
We’re doing the Expendables post before the Jets game this weekend, because there are two Jets games in five nights coming up. Everybody on the list has played their week three game, other than Broncos safety Jim Leonhard, who has just been activated and should play tomorrow afternoon against the 49ers. Obviously, we’ll review his week three and four performances in next week’s Expendables post.
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…
Colin Baxter – Center, Chargers
A slight change for Baxter this week, as he got some reps at center, rather than left guard where he had played in the first two games. It can’t be too positive for his roster hopes that he didn’t get into the game until there were six minutes left in the third, even though three starters were missing. However, the backup center Tony Moll didn’t have a great game, so perhaps his spot isn’t secure.
For the third straight game, the Chargers won the game and had some success with Baxter in the game at the end, although for the third straight week, Baxter didn’t have a lot to do with that success. Early on, his man drove him off the line and shed his block to stuff a run, but from that point on he didn’t make any critical mistakes in the running game, although he was driven backwards initially quite a few times. He also just about managed to sustain his block long enough to allow his running back to get to the edge for a big first down run. In pass protection, his assignment was usually to double team with one of the guards and be ready to pick up any delayed blitzes or stunting linemen. On two occasions, he did a bad job of this and allowed the quarterback to be hit by pressure coming up the middle. The Chargers got the ball at their own 20 with 1:50 to go and drove into field goal range for a 12-10 win, but Baxter didn’t play a major role in any of the plays that moved the ball downfield.
Robert Turner, Center, St. Louis
With Scott Wells making his return from injury, Turner moved back to the bench – despite the fact he had played well starting for Wells – even though another guard (Harvey Dahl) was out injured. Turner came into the game at center with 11:37 to go in the second quarter. While he was in the game, Wells was regularly driven into the backfield although he usually managed to stay in front of his man. The left guard, Quinn Ojinnaka, was badly beaten for a sack, so maybe there’s a chance Turner could get some reps ahead of him at guard, but right now, despite how well he has played, it looks like they just view him as the backup center.
Turner wasn’t as impressive in this one and had his hands full with Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher, who stayed in the game until halftime. However, he wasn’t directly responsible for any pressure, although there was plenty with the second unit in there. The second string offense did fare better than the starters did, though. Turner was okay in the running game, not giving up any ground at the point of attack. There were a couple of plays where his assignment was to slow down the defensive tackle (long enough for the guard to make a reach block) and then move onto the second level, but the guard was unable to make his block and his man blew up the play. Turner might have done a better job of slowing up the tackle on those plays before going on to the second level. He left the game halfway through the third.
Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Co-ordinator, St. Louis
Schotty’s offense looked good last week, but looked lifeless without Steven Jackson in the lineup. A familiar pattern emerged with first half drives stalling due to individual errors and only good special teams play keeping the team in the game in the first half. Their best drive of the first half was only sustained after a fake punt and ended when the Rams failed to convert on fourth and goal from the five. They trailed 17-6 at the time and ended up down 20-6 at the half after the defense gave up a field goal in the two-minute drill. To their credit, the third stringers regrouped in the second half to pull within one point (and could have tied the game if they’d have gone for two, but nobody wanted overtime, so they just kicked it).
Matt Mulligan, Tight End, St. Louis
Mulligan got the start this week and played into the second half, but didn’t have a massive impact, although he did make two good blocks on special teams. On offense, he was involved in strange play that Jets fans will recognize where the QB fakes to the fullback and then makes a backhanded pitch to the running back running outside…but unfortunately the back went the wrong way. Bradford improvized, throwing an overhand lateral to the back. This meant that Mulligan was required to set the edge when he wasn’t expecting to have to and he lost the battle at the point of attack badly, but the back still managed to hit the line hard enough to make the third and short conversion. His best moment saw him sustain a block well on the edge to set up a short yardage conversion to the outside.
Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver, Seattle
The media is suggesting that Edwards is battling with Terrell Owens for a roster spot and he has probably looked better than Owens in the three preseason games. However, Owens has received more playing time and more targets, so I’m not convinced that Edwards will definitely beat him out. This week, Owens had a spectacular 40 yard catch as he was falling backwards, but Edwards was just as impressive going deep down the sideline and leaping up for a 32 yard catch of his own. Owens did have one other catch on his three targets, but just for a one yard gain. Edwards was targeted one other time and got his fingertips to a deep throw at the goal line, although the defender had good position and there was a lot of contact (possibly offensive pass interference).
If it comes down to a tie-breaker and the Seahawks coaches take blocking into account, then Edwards might have the edge. He had a good downfield block at the 10 yard line on a 25 yard touchdown run. Edwards still was only in the game for about 10-15 snaps, although the Seahawks had three consecutive defensive possessions in the third quarter due to defensive and special teams scores, so that may have eaten into his playing time.
Jamaal Westerman, DE/OLB, Miami
Westerman didn’t play much early on but saw plenty of playing time in the second half. He didn’t have an enormous impact but was credited with one tackle for a loss and added one pressure and one missed tackle. His best play saw him shed the left guard’s block and chase down the running back in the backfield for a five yard loss, but that came with two minutes remaining, against third stringers.
Overall, he played hard and whenever he was blocked, he made an effort to get off the block and chase the play down. There were also a few runs at him that went nowhere, although he didn’t make the stop himself. The only time he was able to hit the quarterback was when he fell on the pile after a Cameron Wake sack. He did beat the left tackle once, but the left guard came back to save his QB and enable him to step up in the pocket. There definitely seems to be several players ahead of him, so he could yet be available.
Marquice Cole, DB, New England
Cole didn’t really play in the first quarter, but was the slot cornerback for the rest of the game. He was targeted quite often and led the team with five solo tackles, but overall his numbers were pretty good. In direct coverage, he was thrown at seven times and five were incomplete. Of those five, he almost (and perhaps should have) intercepted the ball twice. On the other three, a better throw would have gone for a first down, but they were low, high and wide respectively. The two times he got beaten were on a deep crossing pattern for 10 and a whip route on a 3rd and nine conversion. He also came off his man to get in on two tackles in the flat on short dump-offs.
Cole continues to hold the vice/gunner role on special teams, so his place on the team looks secure. He did have one great special teams tackle on a punt.
Ropati Pitoitua, DE, Kansas City
Potty remains locked into the backup DE/DT role with the Chiefs, but this week wasn’t one of his better preseason performances – perhaps because he was facing first teamers a lot of the time. He did stuff two runs for short gains, drew some double teams and set the edge well for the most part, but he didn’t get any pressure in the pass rush and was driven off the line a couple of times. His only other tackle was on a nine yard run up the middle, but he did help out on a tackle for in the flat. On the whole it was still not a bad performance, but I’m accustomed to seeing him be more dominant during August.
Logan Payne, WR, Baltimore
Payne got a good opportunity this week, as he was getting reps ahead of draftee Tommy Streeter. He saw reps late in the third and throughout the fourth quarter as the Ravens blew out the Jags. Tyrod Taylor threw to him three times, on consecutive plays early in the fourth. The first was an out pattern with the ball thrown too high. The next one saw him make a leaping catch for a 20-yard gain over the deep safety as Taylor threw off his back foot and the last one was thrown on a crossing pattern but the timing was off and he was tackled for a three yard gain. When Logan was a Jet, I noted that I was impressed with his blocking and that was on display here as he had two good downfield blocks (one of which was inside the ten yard line and allowed Chris Rainey to get to the end zone on a 48-yard catch and run). He also had another good one where he got inside leverage on the slot corner and blocked him to the outside to set up a good off tackle run.
Looking at some Ravens blogs, their fans like Payne and mostly seem excited about the wide receiver talent but are resigned to the fact that they’re going to have to let someone talented go. We know the Jets were high on Payne last year, because they kept him on the active roster while his wrist was injured and it did seem likely he was going to have a role because he was getting second team reps and had a key role on special teams in the preseason. So, with some questions over their receiving depth and Payne reportedly playing well enough to earn a shot somewhere, maybe there’s an outside chance he ends up back with the Jets.
Tracy Wilson, S, Tennessee
Wilson didn’t get into the game until late in the fourth quarter, but it was an “important” series with Tennessee just having taken a 32-27 lead over the Cardinals. He initially missed a tackle on the kickoff and then moved to the deep safety role. He made two tackles on completions of 20 to the outside and 14 over the middle (which was a nice hit). It’s a bit difficult to learn too much from Wilson’s performance but in that prevent defense situation, he did his job of keeping everything in front of him and the Titans did manage to keep the Cards from scoring, helped by Bobby Massie’s second and third penalties of the half.
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 was on the Chargers roster but was cut after the first game. Ex-practice squadder Michael Campbell hardly saw any action on offense for the Rams. As noted, Jim Leonhard has yet to play for Denver.
In other ex-Jets news, Vernon Gholston saw action in the fourth quarter for the Rams but was only in on nine plays so he didn’t have much chance to make an impact. He was blown off the line on one running play and handled (albeit mostly by double teams) in pass protection.