It feels like yesterday that we were covering the first day of New York Jets OTAs, and now here we are approaching the final preseason game tonight at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.
The visiting Philadelphia Eagles have been in town since Tuesday when Gang Green hosted the first of two joint practices with the franchise. This was a better week for the Jets, with productive learning experiences throughout and best of all, no major injuries like in Green Bay.
Following the theme of the entire preseason, head coach Robert Saleh will play his starters anywhere from a couple of drives to the entire first half of game three, but the Eagles may not. Sources from our colleagues at Heavy On Eagles doubt that head coach Nick Sirianni deploys the starters for long — if they even play at all.
The Jets have yet to face an entire offensive or defensive front in preseason, which has made it tougher to judge their progress. The New York Giants did play their starting offensive line and a few others, while the Green Bay Packers rested just about everyone.
At the forefront of this game will be roster cuts, and they’ll come fast and furiously as each NFL franchise must drop down from 80 players to 53 by Tuesday, August 31. There will also be a 16-man practice squad that players will be available to join upon clearing waivers.
Let the madness begin! But first…
ALL the latest Jets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Jets newsletter here!
Top Storylines & How to Watch Eagles at Jets
Here are some of the general storylines to keep in mind while you’re locked into Jets-Eagles.
- Zach Wilson; the rookie quarterback has shown composure against the Giants, brilliance over the Packers and a level of maturity throughout the preseason. What else can he prove to Jets fans in week three?
- Can the defensive line battle back after a tough week and lead this team again? They were dominant in the win over Big Blue, but poor in Green Bay after a litany of injuries. An edge rusher has to step up soon, otherwise, GM Joe Douglas should make a move. Gang Green needs this unit to be a strength.
- These young cornerbacks were embarrassed by third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert for the most part last weekend. They need to show the world that they can live up to Coach Saleh’s challenge.
- Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen, who have transformed from college safeties into starting NFL linebackers in a short amount of time. Their continued development will be paramount for the team’s chances in 2021.
- The first-team offensive line, which has yet to give up a sack during a game, even if practice has been another story altogether. Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker are unlikely to play, so expect George Fant, Morgan Moses and Dan Feeney to start alongside Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten.
- Rotations at the skill positions. There are still a few key depth competitions going on at running back, wide receiver and tight end. More on that below.
Before we get into the bubble candidates, a summary on how to watch the game. For those watching on Cable inside the New York market, coverage begins on CBS at 7:00 p.m. Ian Eagle will be handling the play-by-play like in game two, with Charles Davis and Otis Livingston joining him as analysts.
Listening to the game in the NYC area? Flip that dial to WEPN-FM, ESPN New York 98.7 or follow online at tunein.com. Bob Wischusen and Marty Lyons have the coverage. Here are the other available Jets radio transmissions; Ocean, NJ (WCHR, 105.7 FM), Rochester, NY (WHTK, 107.3 FM/1280 AM), Albany, NY (WTMM, 104.5 FM).
Follow the Heavy On Jets Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest NYJ-related daily content, analysis, features and more!
Jets’ Offensive Bubble Candidates to Watch
James Morgan & Josh Johnson
Second-string quarterback Mike White injured his ribs during the Packers game. It’s unclear whether or not he’s going to play on August 27. That leaves the door wide open for Morgan and Johnson to get some reps behind Wilson.
We’ve yet to see the 13-year veteran take a preseason snap, and what we’ve seen from the 2020 fourth-rounder has not been pretty. This is the last opportunity for each to prove that they deserve a spot on this roster, or at least the practice squad in Morgan’s case.
La’Mical Perine could miss the franchise’s third contest after a foot injury, which could mean more chances for Adams. It’s very unlikely that the fifth-string rusher makes this roster either way, but some positive carries could keep him around on the practice squad once again.
The real battle at RB is for playing time, with Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, Michael Carter and Perine all sharing snaps in training camp.
Wide Receiver: 2 Gone, 3 or 4 More to Go
After the news that Josh Malone and Manasseh Bailey were cut this week, that leaves 10 receivers on the roster. It’s assumed that six or seven will make the 53-man squad. That means at least three wide-outs will be cut come Tuesday, possibly more.
It will be really challenging for players like D.J. Montgomery and Lawrence Cager to separate themselves in this final week, but they’ll still attempt to showcase their abilities for the practice squad, or another franchise. The more important trio includes Braxton Berrios and both Vyncint and Jeff Smith. All three have earned extra work with Wilson, but there’s no way they can all make the roster unless something unexpected occurs — like a Jamison Crowder trade.
Kenny Yeboah & Daniel Brown
Tyler Kroft may have taken over the starting tight end role with two touchdowns in Green Bay, and Chris Herndon will make the roster no matter how lackluster he’s played. That leaves Ryan Griffin (who missed last week with a hamstring injury), Trevon Wesco who’s expected to make the roster as a fullback, special teamer Brown and undrafted rookie Yeboah.
Clearly, the latter two are at the low end of the totem pole, and the Jets will probably only keep four out of these six. Time to step up and win a role.
Bruised & Battered on the Offensive Line
Expect Douglas to make a few waiver claims at O-line next week. Aside from the starters we listed above, the depth is non-existent against the Eagles. As far as health is concerned, Corey Levin, David Moore, UDFA Grant Hermanns and the recently signed guard Isaiah Williams may be all that’s currently left for backup the roles tonight.
Jets’ Defensive Bubble Candidates to Watch
Who’s Left to Compete at D-line?
A number of the defensive linemen are shoo-ins to make the roster after the recent injuries, but a few may remain on the bubble. At DT, Nathan Shepherd may see competition from Tanzel Smart or Jonathan Marshall after getting run over in Green Bay. I only expect one of the three to make the team, barring any more injuries.
On the edge, there’s even more opportunity after the loss of Vinny Curry for the season. Undrafted prospect Hamilcar Rashed Jr., 2020 draft pick Jabari Zuniga, veteran Ronald Blair, and pickups like Jeremiah Valoaga and Aaron Adeoye are all fighting for their lives.
Blake Cashman & Del’Shawn Phillips
Cashman has made his living on special teams in training camp, but Phillips has yet to play. Both may find themselves looking for a job on August 31 as they have been outplayed by the rookies. UDFA Camilo Eifler is also on the bubble, but I have a feeling he could end up making this team.
Who Can Win on Third Down at CB?
This group is still very undecided. A few players like Brandin Echols and Lamar Jackson saw their stock rise against the Packers, while Isaiah Dunn and Jason Pinnock saw theirs fall. Elijah Campbell is probably the man with the lowest odds of making the roster, simply because the nickel position has been so competitive. Check out our full cornerback breakdown for more info.
Slim Pickings at Safety
There’s not much left at safety behind Marcus Maye and Lamarcus Joyner. The two determining factors with cuts will be if 2020 draft pick Ashtyn Davis starts the season on the Inactive/PUP list, and whether or not the Jets keep a fourth safety. J.T. Hassell, Sharrod Neasman and Bennett Jackson are the three depth players remaining. One should make the team because of the Davis injury, but will it only be one? Hassell has been the best of the three so far.