Replaced Jets Draft Pick ‘Scorching Hot’ at Training Camp

Robert Saleh

Getty New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has his eye on all 90 players at training camp.

We all know the narrative by now, the 2020 New York Jets draft class has failed.

Embarking on his first true offseason alongside ex-head coach Adam Gase, general manager Joe Douglas had his worst batch of selections to this point. There were plenty of potential reasons why — the pandemic limiting scouting, lack of experience, drafting for a different coaching staff, or just poor luck in the case of a prospect like Cameron Clark.

The results have improved under the Robert Saleh regime, however, and it feels like the Jets leadership pairing is finally thinking as one. Having said that, what do we make of this 2020 class that has mostly been discarded or replaced?

For now, Saleh is urging them to do the only thing they can do — compete.

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Zuniga Is Answering the Bell

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One 2020 prospect has undoubtedly shown up at training camp this summer, former third-round defensive end Jabari Zuniga. To the surprise of fans and media members alike, the pass rusher has been getting to the quarterback often despite limited opportunities.

Zuniga had two sacks on August 8, bulking his current camp numbers to four sacks in August. ESPN’s Rich Cimini and The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt detailed each of the four big moments so far, which have come against all three quarterbacks (two against Joe Flacco).

Associated Press beat reporter Dennis Waszak Jr. also named the Florida product as an “under-the-radar” Jet that has “flashed” throughout the first couple of weeks of practices.

The unexpected “scorching hot” stretch from Zuniga has created a “good problem” according to Rosenblatt, but is it too little too late for the failed draft pick that has already been cut in 2021 and replaced in 2022?

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Does Zuniga Have Any Shot at Making the Roster?

A year ago, Zuniga might have made the 53-man roster if he had shown this type of promise. Now the odds of him doing so are slim after Douglas and Saleh stacked up depth at the edge rusher position.

The Jets just cut once-promising UDFA Hamilcar Rashed Jr. on August 9 for the same reason and it’s very difficult to see where Zuniga fits into this crowded room. Here are the other contenders:

  • Carl Lawson (roster lock).
  • John Franklin-Myers (roster lock).
  • Jermaine Johnson II (roster lock).
  • Micheal Clemons (near-roster lock).
  • Jacob Martin (also has four sacks in camp and was brought in during free agency, good chance of making the roster).
  • Bryce Huff (went undrafted in 2020 but has outplayed Zuniga at every turn, not a lock to make the roster, however).
  • Vinny Curry (staff favorite that has been sidelined with injury, roster spot in doubt).
  • Tim Ward (on a similar level as Zuniga but has done less in camp).
  • Bradlee Anae (unlikely to make the roster, practice squad candidate).

Including Zuniga, that’s 10 solid pass rushers and a max of maybe six 53-man roles, if even. Barring injury, that means the former third-rounder would probably have to beat out players like Huff and Curry for the final roster spot.

During a 90-man breakdown on The Athletic, Rosenblatt did list Zuniga as “on the bubble” with Curry, while putting Ward and Anae as “longshots.” He also concluded that if cut, the former Florida Gator could be claimed off waivers this time around:

The Jets are deep at defensive end, so one or both of these players will likely be cut — and likely claimed or picked up by another team. Curry was off to a nice start before hurting his hamstring and missing a handful of practices, it’s unclear when he’ll return. Zuniga had a practice-ending sack one day in 11-on-11, and another sack a few days later. Curry would be the favorite here if one of them makes the team.

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