3 Jets That Deserve to Be Released Before the End of the Season

Nathan Shepherd

Getty New York Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd (#97) enters the field on October 24, 2021.

The New York Jets have had a couple of incredible upsets this season but they’ve also had a few trainwreck defeats.

Head coach Robert Saleh warned us that 2021 would be a roller coaster ride and it has been, only there have been more freefalls than peaks. Some of that has been due to undeniably poor luck — injuries like Carl Lawson or Marcus Maye among others — but this regime has also allowed some inexcusable play to go unpunished.

Rarely have we seen a starter get benched due to underperformance, and the cuts have only been fill-ins that yo-yo on and off the roster. Where is the accountability after an embarrassment like Week 7, or a steamroll like Week 9?

There are several Jets that deserve to be replaced but realistically, there must be a reason for a general manager to make a move like that at this point in the season with the trade deadline already behind us. These three members of the Green & White actually make sense as late-season releases, I detail why.

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3 Players That Have to Go

3. Blake Cashman, linebacker.

This is the only person on my list that isn’t pressing, being that Cashman just hit the injured reserve once again. Even when the linebacker did display potential, he could never stay healthy. Now he’s consistently one of the worst performers when he’s on the field and that still isn’t very often.

Joe Douglas has no ties to Cashman since he’s a Mike Maccagnan draft pick and there’s no reason he should steal someone’s roster spot when he eventually returns from his latest stint on IR. In 33 defensive snaps this season, the weakside LB has a 29.1 grade on Pro Football Focus with a 29.4 in coverage.

The linebackers in Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s 4-3 scheme need to be able to guard the pass and Cashman no longer can. On the rare chance he’s healthy again, he’s just wasting a roster spot for someone like Noah Dawkins that’s done more to earn it.

2. Matt Ammendola, kicker. 

Through nine weeks, Ammendola has not been the answer at kicker. I’ve suggested that the franchise sign Josh Lambo in the past for insurance and things have only gotten worse since.

The first-year kicker did go perfect on attempts in Week 9 but he missed a 54-yarder by a mile in Week 8 and a 48-yarder wide right the game before. Douglas experimented with Ammendola to start the season, a strong-legged 25-year old that won the job with zero NFL experience.

Now, it might be time to continue the search. The Jets young kicker hasn’t even been close from 50-plus yards and his closer makes have looked as shaky as the misses half the time. There are more trustworthy kickers available and there’s no reason to risk it every time you need to knock one through the uprights on Sunday.

1. Nathan Shepherd, defensive tackle.

‘Shep’ comes up routinely in the negative section of my weekly Jets defensive PFF recap on Twitter and he’s legitimately hard to watch during games. No surprise but the depth D-tackle is another Maccagnan draft pick that has overstayed his welcome.

The former 2018 third-round pick is becoming unplayable against the rush, with a 34.4 grade on run defense in 2021 and a 32.5 as a tackler (197 snaps). Shepherd is mildly better as a pass rusher but not enough to account for his admirable efforts as the resident turnstile of this Jets D-line.

When you rotate as often as Saleh does in the front four, you’re only as bad as your weakest man. Right now that’s Shep and I see no reason that Douglas should consider re-signing the defensive tackle in 2022 with his replacement already on the roster.

I know he may not be ready but it’s time to cut Shepherd and play rookie Jonathan Marshall in his place. The reps will help the physical specimen learn the game and he can’t be much worse than his predecessor. If for some reason he’s not ready for the moment, I would also take practice squad veteran Tanzel Smart over Shep. The former Los Angeles Ram outplayed him in training camp.

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Honorable Mentions: No GVR??

Some fans may be surprised that right guard Greg Van Roten didn’t make this ranking, especially after Douglas went out and acquired Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from the Kansas City Chiefs — causing the starter to feel the pressure.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘GVR’ definitely deserves to be benched but it wouldn’t make sense to release him at this point. The Jets have plenty of cap space and cutting him wouldn’t really do anything from a financial perspective, so you might as well keep him for interior depth should ‘LDT’ eventually win the right guard job. If Cameron Clark was healthy then this might not be the case, but right now Gang Green is thin at interior O-line.

Another consideration might have been Ryan Griffin or Trevon Wesco before the latest Tyler Kroft injury. Both tight ends have been atrocious this season according to PFF. The former has a 46.9 overall (worst offensive grade in 2021) and the latter has earned a 54.2 during his first attempt at fullback.

After Daniel Brown was traded to KC and Kroft was announced to be “out multiple weeks” with a lung laceration, Griffin and Wesco are two of three TEs left on the roster. That means both are safe for now but either way, the Jets coaches should try and find creative ways to work rookie Kenny Yeboah onto the field more often just to see what they have in him heading into 2022.

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