While there was a good deal of Gang Green players that seized the day during the spring sessions, a portion faltered. Those players must change that narrative during training camp and preseason, otherwise they’ll likely see their locker cleared out and their nametag removed.
The NFL is a tough, coldhearted business for the average athlete. Rosters are required to shrink down from somewhere in the mid-80s to a strict 53-man group, plus a practice squad which could be 16 players again in 2021 due to Covid protocols.
There are rules for which players may join the practice squad though, and generally, those spots are reserved for younger developmental pieces.
The Jets appear to have one of their most competitive rosters in years, which means many players may not make the cut. Here are five that have to pick up the pace after a slow start in spring.
5 Jets That Could Be Cut Before Week 1
5. Kyle Phillips, Edge Rusher
The undrafted free agent out of Tennessee was actually one of Mike Maccagnan’s last moves on the job. He had an encouraging rookie campaign with 1.5 sacks and nine pressures, as well as 39 total tackles with seven for a loss.
Unfortunately, Phillips was outshined by prospects like Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers the following season, and now he may just be a victim of circumstance after a 2020 injury. The Jets brought in multiple free agents on the edge this season including Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry and Ronald Blair. 2021 undrafted free agent Hamilcar Rashed Jr. is also competing for a spot on the 53 or the practice squad.
Phillips is too small to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 and too big to play linebacker, so the defensive end role is really the only place he fits. After a quiet OTAs for the third-year pro — especially with players like Jabari Zuniga making plays in the new 4-3 scheme — it may be tough for Phillips to make this roster.
4. Vyncint Smith, Wide Receiver
We already listed Smith as a longshot to make the roster back in May, but the speedy wide-out’s chances could be even more in doubt now after a mistake-heavy spring.
Of course, Smith still has a lot of raw intangibles that could make him irresistible for a coordinator like Mike LaFleur that loves a diverse blend of talent in his wide receiver room. The former Division II undrafted free agent out of Limestone College ran a 4.36 40-yard dash with a 39.5-inch vertical and a 130-inch broad jump.
He’s a frustrating talent who’s always a threat for a monster play or a killer drop at any given moment. Here’s Smith’s best catch from minicamp, connecting with James Morgan on a deep shot.
3. Lamar Jackson, Cornerback
There’s a growing trend on this list, lots of former undrafted free agents and Jackson actually isn’t the last. That’s just the way of the league though, a lot of these guys get an opportunity for a season or two and then move on to the next franchise that will give them a shot. At the end of the day, no draft capital was spent on these players, which makes it easier for general managers to move on from them.
The lesser-known Lamar Jackson got a huge chance to prove himself in 2020 after Pierre Desir was released. The rookie had mixed results but unfortunately, he may end up being remembered for the really bad more so than the surprisingly good.
Jackson registered a 60.9 completion percentage against with an ugly five touchdowns allowed in year one. He was credited with two passes defended and a 50.4 grade on Pro Football Focus. The cornerback will face stiff competition in training camp after Joe Douglas loaded up on young CBs in the draft.
2. Lawrence Cager, Wide Receiver
The final undrafted prospect on this list, I promise. Like Smith, Cager finds himself in a very crowded wide receiver room, except the Miami-Georgia product has less about his game that makes him stand out.
His best attribute is his size, at 6-foot-5 and 220-pounds. His worst is his catch percentage, a miserable 33.3%. Cager is probably most similar to Denzel Mims in this Jets’ wide receiving core, and some believe the Baylor product may not fit LaFleur’s offense as well as other players on the roster. What does that say for Cager’s chances?
1. Chuma Edoga, Offensive Tackle
I’m becoming more and more convinced that if the Jets do indeed sign Morgan Moses, George Fant will turn into an expensive swing tackle/insurance policy that is also utilized in jumbo sets. I do not expect either of the right tackles to make the transition to guard, especially since Greg Van Roten is supposedly picking up the new scheme well after an encouraging spring.
The Jets also brought in three developmental tackles as a part of the 2021 UDFA class. That means either Edoga or Conor McDermott could see their roster spot being in jeopardy. Edoga has the higher draft status over McDermott, a former Maccagnan third-round pick in 2019, but he’s been unreliable and injury-prone during his short tenure with the team.
McDermott has also seen reps at OTAs with Mekhi Becton and Edoga sidelined. The USC product has committed nine penalties in 12 starts, with no GM-ties to Douglas’ regime.
Backup Quarterback Situation
The Jets have elected to stick with Morgan and Mike White as the backup QBs behind Zach Wilson for now. The pair had a better minicamp than their OTA performance but this could still change late if Douglas decides to bring in a veteran like Nick Foles.
Excess Wide Receivers & Special Teamers
Wide-outs like Josh Malone, Matt Cole and D.J. Montgomery may have a hard time making this roster. It will probably come down to whichever players win the special teams roles. Defensive backs like Corey Ballentine, Zane Lewis, Elijah Campbell, Bennett Jackson and tight end Daniel Brown could factor in this conversation too.
Extra Running Back?
LaFleur likes to use a rotation of running backs, but the Jets probably have one or two more than they need. Josh Adams, La’Mical Perine and Austin Walter are the guys on the bubble, but Douglas may try and sneak the extra back onto his practice squad.