With another New York Jets preseason game in the books, Heavy is back with its five biggest winners from the Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons.
We’re going to do this column a bit differently this time, starting with the No. 1 riser and working our way down. The focus will still be on bubble candidates and players trying to secure a roster spot, however, so that part remains the same.
Before we get to it, you can check back on the Jets’ top five risers and fallers from last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
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Cager Dominates With Strong Performance Across the Board
It should come as no surprise that tight end convert Lawrence Cager won the night. The unique NYJ asset has really begun to make a serious push for this roster.
In fact, Heavy’s own Michael Obermuller tweeted that “Cager is making [this decision] really hard on the Jets coaching staff.” He reasoned: “If they cut him, [there is a] good chance he gets claimed based on his mismatch ability.” However, keeping him would mean keeping four tight ends this year — and it would also mean sending Kenny Yeboah and Trevon Wesco onto waivers.
The growing fan favorite helped lead the comeback versus Atlanta on August 22, but it wasn’t just the splashy plays that impressed. Cager’s knock has always been his blocking and his special teams acumen, especially after switching over from wide receiver.
In this one, Pro Football Focus credited him with a top-five special teams grade of 67.8 — higher than Yeboah and Wesco. His run-blocking could still use some work but with three capable blockers in front of him at tight end, it would be smarter to keep Cager as a TE/WR hybrid on passing downs.
His football intelligence and awareness were also on display against the Falcons. On Cager’s long 34-yard catch-and-run touchdown, team reporter Ethan Greenberg noted later that the playmaker told him he had a “choice route.” That usually means one of two options and clearly, Cager chose correctly as he was wide open bleeding across the heart of the field.
The Georgia product finished with three receptions for 65 yards on just 18 offensive snaps.
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Remaining 4 Risers vs. Falcons
2. Chris Streveler, quarterback.
Another obvious one but Streveler has gone from practice squad hopeful to Mike White challenger overnight. We discussed this in more detail earlier today but the former CFL star has quickly reignited this fanbase in a way that’s ironically reminiscent of White himself.
As midnight struck on the 2021 cult hero, Streveler took the place of the pumpkin in Jets fans’ hearts. During his second-straight comeback victory, the fourth-string QB threw for 119 yards with just three incompletions (one interception). He added a touchdown to Cager and 33 yards on the ground.
After the game, head coach Robert Saleh called Streveler a “warrior and a fighter.”
3. Bradlee Anae, defensive end.
It’s quite possible that Anae literally saved his job on Monday night. The Jets are deep at the edge rusher position and the former Utah prospect was at the bottom of the list.
Having said that, he seized the opportunity and dominated with the entire world watching. PFF gave Anae the highest defensive grade (74.8) outside of linebacker Jamien Sherwood. As a pass rusher, he registered two quarterback pressures — one of which was a strip-sack touchdown — with one defensive stop on run D.
Anae had a few impact pass-rushes on the game — even if they didn’t always count as pressures — and his 40 snaps were tied for third on the entire defense. By the way, that high snap count proves this could have been a final audition if things had gone poorly.
4. Will Parks, safety.
Parks was my biggest winner of the first half until the comeback. While most of the defensive starters (who were mostly second-teamers in actuality) continued to struggle with concepts like zone coverage and screen awareness, Parks was all over the ball.
His best play was a blown-up screen that The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt referred to as the “tackle of the night.”
Rosenblatt also warned fans: “Don’t sleep on Parks making it as the Jets’ fourth safety over Ashtyn Davis and Elijah Riley.” A theory we’ve heard before from Jets X-Factor media member Robby Sabo. (EDIT: Riley has since been cut).
PFF agreed with 74.6 overall marks for Parks, 73.0 in coverage. The journeyman safety logged two tackles — both of which went down as defensive stops — and allowed one catch for zero yards.
5. Jonathan Marshall, defensive tackle.
The final big-time winner was last year’s final draft pick, Jonathan Marshall. Some people inside the building have high hopes that the defensive tackle can take over for Foley Fatukasi as the athletic “nose” of this 4-3 front.
Against the Falcons, Marshall looked the part with a sack and five tackles (two for a loss). PFF credited him with four defensive stops and although the second-year player wasn’t perfect, his strong signs of improvement were encouraging.
At one point, Marshall chased down a screen from behind, stopping what could have been a massive gain. Another time, he did the same on a four-yard run that broke the first level. His best sequence came when he followed his sack with a huge tackle for a loss on a screen attempt.
Overall, Marshall’s scheme awareness was the best we’ve ever seen it. Rosenblatt noted that he’s continuously “outplayed” veteran DT Nathan Shepherd as the two vie for a roster spot.
Stay tuned for our top-five fallers from preseason Week 2.
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