Here’s some of the positions we’ll be watching closely in tonight’s game to see who might be making cases for roster or practice squad spots in the coming year.
Players: Chaz Schilens, Patrick Turner, Dexter Jackson, Jordan White
Analysis: With Holmes and Kerley injured, the backups will see a lot of time tonight. Kerley for some reason has gotten out of favor of Rex Ryan, who claimed to have traded Derrick Mason last year because of his progress as a rookie. Kerley was such a competent slot receiver at the end of last season and Schilens looked good so far in camp … so … who shows up tonight, could they reach up and steal a spot as high as Kerley’s? It seems highly unlikely, and it would look like quite a fall from grace if Kerley was to not make the Jets squad in 2012, but stranger things have happened. White was waylaid early in camp due to his injury and while Jackson has shown some flash, Turner has been steady. The Jets might really struggle to keep six receivers on the roster during cutdowns, so the sixth spot feels like a luxury right now and the fifth spot could be key.
Backup Tight Ends
Players: Jeff Cumberland, Josh Baker, Hayden Smith
Analysis: This is the role the Jets wanted for Cumberland, but gave to Matthew Mulligan last year. Mulligan didn’t play well enough to merit a return, while Cumberland the converted WR has taken time to become a better blocker. See how he sustains his blocks in the game tonight, it will be critical to his holding onto the TE2 spot this season. If he doesn’t the Jets could look around the league like they did a few years ago when they brought in Ben Hartsock after he was cut. Josh Baker showed the Jets promise last season and is designated as a F tight end or fullback, a useful double role for Sparano’s offense. Can Baker look as good in-game as he has so far in camp? Smith is probably a year away, but where does he factor into the offense during the second half of the game?
Players: Stephon Heyer, Austin Howard, Vlad Ducasse, Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: The backup line depth is grim. Hunter is out and that could make room to get an extended look at the team’s backup tackles to see if they’re mustard. The fear is they’re more yellow than course grain. Dennis Landolt earned himself the backup LT spot, but due to an injury to his knee, third teamer Austin Howard will likely earn time in his place tonight. Schlad looked terrible in replacement of Nick Mangold while the team’s starter was in London supporting his sister’s bid at the Olympics. We’re told that Vlad is earning more time, yet he’s been relegated to an interior player on the second team. The team’s depth at the line could again be their Achilles’ heel … look to see if they don’t step up in the preseason. SPOILER ALERT: They probably won’t. (See how I Tom Jackson’ed the line there?)
Players: (S) Josh Bush, (S) Antonio Allen, (CB) Ellis Lankster, (CB) Julian Posey, (CB) Ryan Steed, (CB) Donnie Fletcher
Analysis: Bush and Allen’s skillsets are so complementary it’s plain that the Jets are looking to see if these two can become the Jets starting safeties in time. The last time the Jets drafted two safeties in one draft was Andre Maddox and Kerry Rhodes. Could the Jets go .500 again on this class? Bush has the skillset (coverage) the team more immediately needs, so look to see how early he sees time in the game and how he fares against a surging Bengals passing game. Behind the safeties, Lankster has likely cemented his spot as the team’s fourth corner with his play so far in camp, but Rex loves to keep as many corners as possible on his roster. Steed was a player that garnered high draft consideration early in the process before some bad timed speed, but his movement and ball skills seem to be adequate to make up for a lack of timed speed. Donnie Fletcher has made the most of his opportunity with the Jets and will likely get an extended chance in the second half tonight to prove that he at least merits practice squad consideration.
Players: (MLB) Nick Bellore, (MLB) Josh Mauga, (MLB) Demario Davis, (MLB) Marcus Dowtin, (OLB) Garrett McIntyre, (OLB) Ricky Sapp
Analysis: This might be one of the most interesting battles/logjams on the roster. The Jets top five linebackers look pretty secure between Pace, Thomas, Harris, Scott and Maybin. Generally the Jets carry eight or nine linebackers on their roster, but if they anticipate using more four man fronts this season, they might be pressed to keep eight. At present, Demario Davis would be the ninth linebacker … so something is going to give on the roster ahead of him. While Bellore, Mauga and McIntyre have been serviceable backups, they’ve really shone on special teams. If the Jets are going to use Maybin as a gunner in 2012, it might remove the need for at least one linebacker to play specials, which in turn would let them keep a project player on the roster they like but might not activate much this year. McIntyre or Mauga seem the likely candidates to have at least one get the chop. McIntyre is a solid run stuffer, but might not offer enough in pass rush or coverage and would be a role minimized with more four man and 46 fronts. Sapp seems like the player that could stand an outside chance to make the roster, and while Dowtin has a nice pedigree from his SEC days, seems like he could be a great candidate for the team’s 2012 practice squad.
Players: Greg McElroy, Matt Simms
Analysis: Simms looks destined for the practice squad this season, but a third quarterback is always fighting for his spot. Look to see how Simms and McElroy look tonight as it might help settle the matter for the rest of the preseason.
Players: Nick Folk, Josh Brown, TJ Conley, Travis Baltz
Analysis: Josh Brown has disappointed so far in the training camp “battle” the Jets set up for Folk, though it looks like a soup can so far for the incumbet. Brown hasn’t fared well kicking on grass in Cortland in the summer … how’s it going to go in cold weather in December? Conley was booming punts at the start of camp, but we’re hearing more about both battles lately than at the start. See if Folk or Conley has a real setback tonight.