To quote Phil Rizzuto, “Holy Cow!”
That was truly the only way to describe the end of the New York Jets’ third and final preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Fourth-string quarterback James Morgan dropped back to pass, rolled out of the pocket to his right, and heaved up a 49-yard Hail Mary downfield.
The bodies crowded in the end zone under the approaching football, but one player leaped above all the others and came down with a clean touchdown grab to save the game. Rookie tight end Kenny Yeboah! In case you missed it, here’s the live look below.
The undrafted prospect out of Ole Miss had his best game as a Jet, even before the ridiculous catch that turned a lackluster preseason bout into a memorable night. It also gave general manager Joe Douglas a crucial decision to make.
But first, one more Hail Mary angle.
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Is There Room for Yeboah on Jets’ Roster?
It had been a quiet training camp for the hyped-up priority UDFA until August 27. Yeboah had a terrible game against the New York Giants, which included a rough fumble turnover, and followed it up with a nonexistent performance against the Green Bay Packers.
Last night the rookie came to play.
The tight end was Morgan’s go-to receiver in the second half, with four catches for 100 yards off five total targets. Oh, by the way, two of those receptions went for six — the first was a pretty seam route from Yeboah that he took for 21 yards.
The first-year tight end also had a nice sideline grab earlier in the drive, where he got his feet inbounds on a smooth 17-yard connection.
Yeboah had the reputation of being a boom-or-bust talent in college, but it’s hard to pass on a ceiling this high at a position of need. Douglas will probably only keep four tight ends, including Trevon Wesco who has transitioned to fullback.
Tyler Kroft is one, he solidified his starting role last weekend in Green Bay, and head coach Robert Saleh admitted as much when he chose to rest the former Cincinnati Bengals tight end against the Eagles. If Wesco is in, that leaves four players and two roster spots.
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3 Clear Options for Douglas, Jets
It goes without saying but the fourth man in this conversation will be cut, and his name is Daniel Brown. The special teamer had the same opportunity to win a role last night and was sorely outplayed by Yeboah. To make matters worse, he had a late fumble that went for a touchdown.
It practically sunk the Jets, until Yeboah seized the moment and gave the franchise life again.
Brown is done, it’s only a matter of time. Let’s move on to the three others, which present some intriguing options for Douglas.
3. Cut Yeboah and risk that he is claimed.
This looked to be a done deal on Friday afternoon, with a 5% chance that the rookie saved his job. To my surprise, he may have gotten it done. Kroft is not the future at tight end, he’s on a one-year prove-it contract. Herndon has done very little to turn his career around, so at this point, you have to assume that he’s not the future either.
Yeboah could be. He has that sort of potential, but he needs to develop and maybe Mike LaFleur is the coach to do it. Based on his performance last night, I’m confident that he will get claimed by one of the other 31 NFL franchises if the Jets attempt to sneak him on the practice squad.
We’ve seen Douglas take risks in the past, sometimes they’ve worked out and other times they haven’t. Will he take the risk now with Yeboah?
2. Cut Griffin or Herndon instead of Yeboah.
I don’t think Herndon gets released straight up, but it is possible. He’s been that unimpressive. On a better team, he would be gone. On the Jets, he may survive. The more likely scenario is that Douglas cuts Griffin.
Kroft has replaced Griffin’s role as the top in-line blocker on this roster, and Wesco could act as the backup in a pinch — with the added versatility as a fullback. That makes Griffin expendable, and his preseason injury throws gasoline on the fire.
With a nagging hamstring injury heading towards Week 1, would it really be a wise move to keep the unspectacular blocking tight end over the high-ceiling prospect?
1. Trade Herndon for a low-round draft pick.
There is one other option for the Griffin fans out there. Trade Herndon and allow Yeboah to step into his role as the pass-catching tight end that can block well out in space. This is Herndon’s final season of his rookie contract and he has shown enough talent to warrant a late-round conditional draft pick from a team that’s hurting at the position.
One obvious candidate that comes to mind is the Jacksonville Jaguars. They experimented with Tim Tebow at TE this summer and have plenty of draft capital to burn. Urban Meyer needs a tight end for Trevor Lawrence, and he may be willing to take a shot on Herndon.
If the organization can find a trade partner, Griffin and Yeboah end up staying alongside Kroft and Wesco. This could be the option that makes the most sense if Douglas can get something done.