As we continue to work our way through the final moments of the NFL offseason we get to the tough part of the business.
Once again it’s time for all 32 teams, including the New York Jets, to cut their rosters down from 85 to 80 by Tuesday, August 24 at 4 pm. Next Tuesday, August 31 teams will have to cut their rosters to the final 53.
On top of that, we’re 66 percent of the way through the new preseason schedule and there are a lot of sizzling takeaways to break down and work through.
Our two experts, Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden Jr and Michael Obermuller, share their takes on the hottest questions on every Jets fans’ mind.
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Carl Lawson Ripple Effects Are Aplenty
1. How big of a loss is Carl Lawson to the Jets defense?
Unfortunately, I’m afraid that it’s catastrophic. This whole defense is centered around a pass-rusher of Lawson’s magnitude. He was the crutch for the young cornerbacks and the safety net that allowed the linebackers to drop back in coverage. He was the anchor, the straw and the secret sauce all in one.
Having said that, do I believe Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich have what it takes to make this unit competent in 2021? 100%. Saleh was able to do alright in 2020 without Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. It’s one of the main reasons he landed the Jets job. They also finished 6-10 after a Super Bowl appearance the season before.
Whatever the potential of this Gang Green defense was before Lawson’s injury, it just got knocked down five pegs, maybe more. The worst part is that fans never got to see the full crew on the field at one time, we’ll always wonder what could have been.
I’m not sure I can say anything that will properly speak to how critical this loss was. Outside of Zach Wilson, this was the most devastating injury this roster could’ve suffered.
The ability of Lawson to get after the passer made it okay for the Jets to have a cornerback room that is as inexperienced as it is. It opened up one-on-one opportunities for his fellow teammates on the defensive line.
Losing Lawson just sucks, to put it bluntly. Watching the hype videos this offseason and falling in love with the infectious personality set us up for what we hoped was an amazing year in 2021 and we were robbed of it.
The Jets still have a ton of talent on defense and they can be serviceable, but how good can they be without him? That’s a major question mark.
2. What do you think the New York Jets are going to do and what SHOULD the Jets do to try and replace Lawson?
There are two options, right? Number one, you can punt on the playoffs this season and see what you have in the youth. That means Bryce Huff, John Franklin-Myers, Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Jabari Zuniga, and maybe even Kyle Phillips get long ‘sink-or-swim’ type looks. It becomes an evaluation year as you plan for 2021.
I do trust a few of these players in an every-down role with Vinny Curry and Ronald Blair aiding them on rushing downs, but most of these guys can’t handle a role like Lawson’s. Huff and Rashed may not hold up in the run game after what I witnessed against the Green Bay Packers, and nobody can assault the pocket like Lawson could.
I’ll take option B. Choose to be the best that you can be in 2021. Go out and acquire Chandler Jones from the Arizona Cardinals and make a statement that you aren’t just going to lie down after one injury. Honestly, I do believe Joe Douglas will make a move here.
What they will do and what they should do are exactly the same, go replace Lawson with the best possible talent you can.
Now I’m not suggesting for Joe Douglas to be reckless and execute a poorly thought-out move, but if they can get Chandler Jones or heck a comparable talent via trade, he owes it to the team to pursue it.
The talent on the roster is interesting, but they were going to be here no matter what, with or without Lawson. You have to try and replace that because of its’ importance to the rest of the defense.
Personally, I think there’s a great option that would only cost-free agent dollars for a Super Bowl champion pass rusher. Although according to Adam Schefter the Jets are working the trade lines behind the scenes for a potential move ahead of the season.
Several Preseason and Roster Questions Remain
3. Coming off of the second preseason game vs the Green Bay Packers, who impressed you the most?
It’s definitely the obvious answer but it was Zach Wilson. No matter how much any of us fans love the BYU product as a prospect, it’s hard to trust any Jets quarterback based on what we’ve all been through in the past. The more I see Wilson in action, the more I believe.
The timing was also PERFECT. We were all feeling a little low after the Lawson injury and Wilson allowed us to dream again. It wasn’t just the touchdowns or the stat-line, it was that the quarterback stepped up and played big when he needed to. He made the checks at the line of scrimmage, put the ball where only his pass-catchers could get them, and looked like he was the man to operate this Mike LaFleur offense like a maestro with his orchestra.
Wilson dazzled me, and I feel like we’re just scratching the surface with how good he can be.
In these weekly QnA conversations, normally we go with different answers to provide fans unique perspectives. I think this is a unique exception.
It’s Zach freaking Wilson!
The stats look great, but to me, it was about the former BYU stud letting loose and displaying the talent that the Jets’ front office fell in love with on tape. He took a snap, rolled around the pocket, and then dropped a beautiful rainbow touch pass to Corey Davis. It was chef’s kiss.
On top of that, he finally threw his first couple of touchdown passes of his career, albeit in the preseason. With that I’ll add one more additional nugget, Tyler Kroft really impressed me.
That’s something I definitely didn’t see coming but I am pleasantly surprised with the result.
4. Same question, but on the other side, what was your biggest negative takeaway coming off of the second preseason game?
The big negative was our run defense without Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, and Lawson. Sure, those are three heavy-hitters, but this unit folded like a cheap deck of cards without them. I was disappointed by players like Nathan Shepherd, ‘JFM’ and the substitute edge rushers in particular, as well as some backups like Jonathan Marshall.
This unit is supposed to be the deepest one on the roster and the Green Bay front basically steamrolled it. The eye test wasn’t pretty but the grades were even worse.
Pro Football Focus gave run defense grades of 27.8, 39.5, 42.1, 45.4, 49.5, 51.9, and 52.5 to seven Jets D-linemen. In order, those players were Marshall, Shepherd, Rashed, Franklin-Myers, Tanzel Smart, Jeremiah Valoaga, and Huff.
If you can’t stop the run, it makes everything else harder including pass-rushing and coverage. The Jets struggled with all three against the Packers.
The Jets run defense left a lot to be desired, can’t argue that.
Another thing that bothered me? Did the Jets really punt on 4th and 1 from midfield? I mean what the heck?
I get it, this is preseason, but that’s the point. The games and scores don’t count and people don’t really pay attention, which should provide a perfect opportunity to test out situational football opportunities for later in the year.
I hated the call and hopefully that was just Saleh getting it out of his system ahead of the regular season. We can only hope, right?
The injuries, in general, were a total negative from the Carl Lawson news to Jarrad Davis being carted off the field to Denzel Mims getting banged up and so many others. Let’s bubble wrap the rest of the team heading into Week 1 vs the Carolina Panthers and get ready to go.
Random nugget I looked up that I found fascinating:
What does it mean? Absolutley nothing, but I thought it was really cool.
5. The Jets must cut five players on August 24, going from an 85-man roster down to 80, predict the five cuts with BRIEF explanations for each.
A minor transactional update for fans: Austin Walter and Michael Dwumfour both cleared waivers and were reverted to the Jets injured reserve. Both showed promise at times, so it’s good to see they’re still with the franchise. The Jets also brought back Bennett Jackson in place of Zane Lewis (who hit the IR), but I don’t believe they signed anyone to fill Lawson’s roster spot. That means only four cuts this week.
Bennett Jackson (S): This is cruel, but the NFL is a harsh business and I don’t think the veteran did enough to solidify a spot after getting cut last week.
Del’Shawn Phillips (LB): I’m sticking with this one and saying that Phillips will either hit the injured reserve or get cut. He has barely played this summer and as a bubble candidate, that spells trouble.
Daniel Brown (TE): Another player that I pegged as a cut last week. The tight end/special teamer did nothing to prove his worth in Green Bay with a 46.1 grade from PFF.
Conor McDermott (OT): Last week we saw Douglas revert Cameron Clark to the injured reserve to clear a roster spot. I believe he’ll do the same this week and it could be McDermott that’s the latest casualty. The depth offensive tackle was carted off the field on Saturday.
Conor McDermott (OT): Agreed he was another injury from the game against the Packers and he’ll be waived with an injury designation likely.
Edmond Robinson (LB): A late add for the Jets and I just don’t see him sticking around for long. The injuries in the linebacking corps could keep him around another week.
Manasseh Bailey (WR): The wide receiver room is just too deep and the Jets are going to have to start trimming the fat at the position. Bailey simply hasn’t done enough to impress.
Josh Adams (RB): I think the Jets do Adams a solid and release him early to give him a chance to stick on someone else’s roster. He’s more than talented enough to last another week and maybe he does and ends up on the Gang Green practice squad, but I have a weird feeling about this one.
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