BGA: The Expendables – Update #1

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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. During preseason, I kept track of the progress on the guys who left so we could at least start to form some views on whether letting any of these guys loose was a mistake or a smart move. Now we’re into the regular season, let’s see how those guys are getting on.

This is the first update of the year and also acts as a primer in case you want to check on the progress of some of these guys yourselves with the Jets not playing today. It’s particularly interesting in the light of the fact that the Jets’ depth is under scrunity with all the injuries they’ve suffered so far. We’ll be back with an update during the bye week and on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

After the jump, all of the details from the season so far for each of the ex-Jets contributing elsewhere.

In no particular order…

Jim Leonhard – Safety, Broncos

Leonhard has played in all four games for the Broncos, but has only been in on 25 snaps in total, playing as a deep safety in sub-packages. He has two tackles and hasn’t been targeted in coverage. He has been returning punts too, with a longest of 16 yards, but an average below seven yards per return.

Robert Turner, Center, St. Louis

After a solid preseason, Turner was deservedly given the starting left guard job, but moved to center when Scott Wells was injured. He’s been particularly good in pass protection, where he has only given up one pressure and ranks as the fourth best pass blocking center in the NFL per PFF. He’s been good in the running game too, apart from in the Seattle game, where he had his hands full with the fast-emerging Brandon Mebane. I always felt Turner could be an NFL starter, but he wouldn’t have been able to play guard in the Jets’ system, so – with Mangold entrenched at the center spot – he was always going to sign for a team where he had a chance to start. He does have three penalties, including two against Mebane.

Wayne Hunter, Right Tackle, St. Louis

The original intention for Hunter in St. Louis was to play a similar role to that which the player he was traded for – Jason Smith – has with the Jets. In other words, he was expected to play as an extra tight end in certain packages. However, an injury to Roger Saffold has made him the starter at left tackle and he has responded well so far. In 250 snaps, he’s given up just one sack and two hits so far, despite the fact the Rams haven’t been giving him any help. Last year with the Jets, he was beaten for a sack or half-sack 11 times and gave up 11 hits. He did have his hands full with Julius Peppers, surrendering pressure eight times, but was able to limit that to just one sack and one hit. In total, he’s only given up 14 total pressures in five games. As a run blocker, he’s been up and down, but seems to be more of a focal point of the running attack than he ever was last year. Anyone who watched the Arizona game on Thursday will have seen him moving guys around more successfully than he ever did with the Jets, as the Rams running game took control in the second half against the unbeaten Cardinals.

It’s early in the year and we know better than Rams fans do just how inconsistent Hunter can be, but he seems to be playing with confidence right now, something which never seemed possible during preseason. Much like the Turner move, this seems to have been a move that is best for the player.

Bonus link: Here’s a good article from Ben Stockwell of PFF on Hunter’s rise to mediocrity.

Brian Schottenheimer, Offensive Co-ordinator, St. Louis

The numbers are not that good so far for Schottenheimer’s offense. Despite playing one more game than every other team apart from the Cardinals, they’re only in 15th place in the league in scoring. They’re also 29th in yards per game, 25th in time of possession, 30th in red zone percentage and, if you like advanced stats, were in 32nd place in offensive DVOA after week four.

However, the Rams are exceeding expectations at 3-2 and although that has much to do with their defense and special teams, Schottenheimer’s offense has a +2 turnover differential (12th best in the league) and they aren’t regarded as having very good offensive personnel, having posted similar numbers in many cateogories last year. So far, Schottenheimer’s offense has coped despite all the injuries on the offensive line, but they will be challenged now that Danny Amendola has broken his collarbone. They had been leaning on him for a lot of their yardage.

Matt Mulligan, Tight End, St. Louis

Mulligan made headlines by blocking a punt and then catching the winning touchdown pass – the first of his career -against the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. However, the bigger story has been the consistency of his play. He has not committed a penalty all year and has only been beaten once in pass protection (although that was for a sack). He’s even caught all three passes thrown his way, for 26 yards. By virtue of his run blocking, he actually grades out as the 5th best overall tight end in the NFL by PFF right now. Mulligan was always a guy that had games where he posted positive run blocking grades with the Jets, but these were overshadowed by the disastrous errors he had a tendency of making at the worst possible times. Even with his struggles last year, he was rated as the 9th best run blocker in the NFL. I suggested that Mulligan could be a productive player if he could cut out the bad errors, but wasn’t convinced that was possible. So far, he has managed to do so, perhaps benefiting from being under less pressure like Hunter and gaining some confidence from that. It remains to be seen whether he can keep that up though.

Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver, Seattle

Edwards started and played over 75% of the snaps in week one, catching five passes for 43 yards. However, he dropped a potential game winning touchdown pass and has only played a total of 18 snaps in the three games since then. He has not been targeted in those three games and seems to be very much on the periphery in Seattle right now. In that first game, he was targeted eight times in total and had a total of just six yards after the catch. He is grading out positively as a run blocker.

Marquice Cole, DB, New England

Cole is currently in the 5th cornerback role for the Patriots, having been used exclusively in the slot in preseason. So far, that means he’s only played 13 snaps. He’s been targeted just once – an incompletion – but did have a missed tackle. He’s been playing on special teams, but hasn’t made a major impact yet, with one penalty, one tackle and one missed tackle. If New England get any injuries, I’d expect the Patriots to trust Cole to be able to take on more reps.

Ropati Pitoitua, DE, Kansas City

Potty got his first start of the year on Sunday due to injury and made some headlines with two sacks and four stops. However, it wasn’t all positive, as he was taken out of several plays by Jared Gaither. Prior to that game, his grades had been negative for pass rush (one hit, one pressure) and run defense (four tackles), but not too bad. Pitioitua is another guy I felt had the potential to start, but that probably wouldn’t have got that opportunity with the Jets once they’d drafted Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. It will be interesting to see if he can build on his performance this week.

Terrance Ganaway, RB, St. Louis

Ganaway was picked up off waivers by the Rams on the day after cutdown day. He was active for the first time in week four, but did not play any snaps on offense and was inactive again for week five. I’m sure they’re aware that if they tried to sneak him back onto the practice squad, the Jets would probably pounce.

Jamaal Westerman, DE, Arizona

Westerman was picked up off waivers but has only played two snaps on defense this year (in week three). He has been active for special teams duty over the last two weeks, but isn’t making any impact so far on the Cardinals defense.

Unless I’m missing someone obvious, I think that’s it. Guys like Donald Strickland and Plaxico Burress are still free agents. We’ll be back at the bye week to check on the progress of these guys.