As we know, in sports, there are winners and there are losers.
Not every player on the Green & White roster was a success story, however, and just as we gave you our top five biggest winners of the first preseason game, below are our top five biggest losers.
ALL the latest Jets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Jets newsletter here!
Injuries & Defensive Miscues
Honorable Mention: Jabari Zuniga & Braxton Berrios
The 2020 third-round edge rusher, Zuniga, just can’t seem to catch a break with the injury bug. After missing the early stages of his rookie campaign with a quad injury, the Florida product has already had multiple injuries this summer including an ankle issue that kept him out of the intrasquad scrimmage and a knee injury against the Giants.
In an interview with Ethan Greenberg earlier this offseason, Zuniga called his first NFL season a “disappointment,” adding that it “taught [him] a lot” about staying on his body with conditioning and training. Whatever the sophomore’s been doing to fix the injury issues, it hasn’t worked, and now he’s beginning to get outshined by more and more rising stars like former UDFAs Bryce Huff and Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
Similarly, Berrios was outperformed by Vyncint Smith while being sidelined with a groin injury. Beat reporter Connor Hughes and I debated this battle over Twitter (see above/below), but I still feel recency bias has fans forgetting all the Smith dropped passes in camp. Berrios on the other hand has been a reliable connection for Zach Wilson since OTAs.
5. Trio of Roster Bubble Defensemen on Sandro Platzgummer Run
Who is Sandro Platzgummer, you might be wondering? He was the Austrian-born running back that took the ball 48 yards from the Giants’ very own one-yard line, negating a beautiful punt coverage pin by the aforementioned Smith. Take a look below.
This was easily the Jets’ worst play of the night, but they made up for it later when Jonathan Marshall forced a safety-sack at a similar starting point. Three defenders were largely at fault on this one, and I expect all three to be cut at some point before the regular season. Those three were defensive back Zane Lewis (#33), outside linebacker Noah Dawkins (#56), and safety Sharrod Neasman (#35).
If you look at the replay closely, you’ll see all three either overcommit off the edge or in Neasman’s case, take a clueless angle on the ball carrier in the secondary. Plays like this can get you cut when you’re trying out for a competitive roster like this one.
4. Lamar Jackson & Corey Ballentine
The Jets corners were mostly up-and-down in their first test against another franchise. I know the stats might say otherwise but keep in mind that Daniel Jones, Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney didn’t play, plus Sterling Shephard and Darius Slayton barely factored in.
Bryce Hall, Bless Austin and Javelin Guidry started, while Brandin Echols and Michael Carter II got a lot of burn with the second team. Jackson was also a part of that unit, but as usual, I noticed a time or two where the 2020 undrafted free agent was getting “beat like he stole something” (to quote Hayden Panettiere in Remember the Titans).
Ballentine, whose primary role is as a plus-kick returner, was also beat on a touchdown later in the game. The return-man had a couple of nice plays before this but when you’re on the bubble, you have to be perfect most times, and Ballentine wasn’t. The third cornerback loser was fifth-rounder Jason Pinnock, who was quietly out-snapped by Jackson and Echols. It’s unclear why the rookie “scheme fit” has fallen out of favor so quickly (P.S. UDFA Isaiah Dunn missed the game with injury for those that are wondering why I left him out).
Follow the Heavy On Jets Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest NYJ-related daily content, analysis, features and more!
‘Yikes’ Performances From Offensive Bubble Candidates
3. Austin Walter
If you thought those defensive blunders were bad, wait till you hear about the offensive ones. We’ll start with the running back, Walter, who actually made a really nice acrobatic first-down grab on a high James Morgan pass in the flats. Unfortunately, his rushing attempts didn’t go as well as his receiving ones.
Walter finished with four carries for negative three yards after receiving more snaps than Josh Adams. The slight move up the depth chart may be short-lived after Walter stumbled in the backfield taking a hand-off. This led to a fumble, which lineman Corey Levin fortunately recovered. The entire sequence was ugly and the RB didn’t do himself any favors on Saturday night in a competitive backfield.
2. Kenny Yeboah
The rookie tight end has had all the hype in the world since being signed as a priority UDFA back in April. He just hasn’t lived up to any of it yet. Against the Giants, Yeboah was only targeted once and the reception in the flats went horribly wrong as the rookie was flipped by T.J. Brunson of Big Blue (pictured under the headline). The ball immediately popped free — shades of Chris Herndon — and would have gone for a touchdown if not for an arm tackle by Morgan.
This entire tight-end core was a major ‘L’ for the Jets on Saturday night though, not just Yeboah (32.2 grade from Pro Football Focus). Tyler Kroft and Daniel Brown received pitiful PFF grades of 45.4 and 39.9 and hybrid-fullback Trevon Wesco wasn’t much better at 47.8. Even Herndon, who managed to avoid this negative list from PFF, was almost nonexistent with one catch for nine yards.
1. Chris Naggar
The kicker woes continue for Jets fans, as the current starter (UDFA Naggar) shanked a 53-yarder that never had a prayer of going through the uprights. Newcomer Matt Ammendola has outplayed Naggar since joining the squad, but you have to wonder how long it will be before he has his own bad miss. Remember, Naggar beat out Sam Ficken before Ammendola came into the picture.
In total, Naggar went one for two, but the first field goal was a chip-shot. Ammendola completed an extra point, his only kicking attempt of the evening. As I write this, it appears my assumptions about Naggar being the greatest loser were correct, being that I have just received breaking news.
The revolving door at kicker keeps on swinging, let’s see if the Jets bring in anyone to push Ammendola for the job.