As the calendar turns the page to August, we have hit week four of our New York Jets expert roundtable segment where our writers Paul ‘Boy Green’ Esden Jr and Michael Obermuller discuss all the hot topics that are on the minds of NYJ fans.
Before we dive in, feel free to catch up on our previous weeks:
- Week 1: What to watch in training camp, Joe Douglas’ next moves.
- Week 2: Predicting every major training camp battle.
- Week 3: What Jet would you bet your career on? Love one, hate one, steal one.
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Past Meets Present
1. Name one 2020 Jets player that you are rooting for to make the 53-man roster in 2021.
I could go with Chris Herndon, but I’ve beaten that like a dead horse the last few weeks. Instead, I’ll transition to the other side of the ball: Bryce Huff. The talented EDGE rusher out of Memphis was an undrafted free agent that defied the odds and not only made the roster last year in the middle of a world pandemic but also became a key cog in the machine.
I’ll talk about it later — why he has a huge opportunity over the next few weeks — but Huff has a shot to carve out a role. Everyone is talking about the other star talent on this defense from Quinnen Williams to Carl Lawson, but it’s the guy no one is talking about that’ll have the chance to win one-on-one matchups and become a star in 2021.
This is actually a tougher prompt than it appears to be because of the sheer amount of roster turnover the Jets have experienced this offseason. I’m definitely rooting for the 2020 rookies that underperformed, like Jabari Zuniga or La’Mical Perine, but if they didn’t make cuts it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me. The player I’m pulling for most is Braxton Berrios.
Maybe it’s because the backup slot receiver is only 5-foot-9 like me, or maybe it’s because he reminds me of Danny Woodhead — a last-second cut turned New England Patriots star. The only difference is that this time, the roles have reversed. The Pats drafted Berrios with a sixth-round pick in 2018, before cutting him at the end of training camp the following season.
Now the slot-threat has become an unexpected fan favorite in New York after ranking second in total Jets receptions behind Jamison Crowder a year ago (third in receiving yards). He should make the 53 based on his special teams’ role and his strong rapport with Zach Wilson in OTAs, but Berrios is also no guarantee.
2. You can only choose one quarterback from any era, who does Zach Wilson remind you of most so far (based on any qualifications on or off the field)?
I’m going to hone in on a certain quality that has stood out from our limited opportunities watching him thus far: release. Wilson gets the ball out of his hands so quickly. When I go to the film room it reminds me of Dan Marino. The Miami Dolphins legend just had a lightning-quick release that stood out during his time in college at Pittsburgh and in the NFL en route to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career.
Obviously, Wilson isn’t Marino, but it’ll be interesting to see how that translates when live bullets are flying around. How will he look in joint practices? Preseason games? And obviously, the regular season once we get there? That is the one trait that has stood out so far but there’s still a long way to go.
Patrick Mahomes? Nope. Aaron Rodgers? Nah. No matter how much I try and shake it, the longer I study and report on Wilson, the more he’s a dead ringer for Tom Brady. This comparison has NOTHING to do with Wilson’s physical traits or his skill set on the field and EVERYTHING to do with the BYU product’s personality off the field.
As a Jets fan that has despised Brady for nearly my entire lifetime, I eventually learned to respect him. No one works harder, few are better teammates, and if any quarterback has a higher football IQ, I’d love to see them prove it. The seven-time Super Bowl champion always seems to say the right thing in interviews and most of all, his deadliest characteristic is his ambition.
Brady’s life is football, and so is Wilson’s. Follow any of the links above if you don’t believe me, or just watch the rookie speak in interviews about how money doesn’t buy championships. The two NFL-poster boys are also both hated by outsiders, but it’s all love when they’re quarterbacking your franchise. They’re intelligent, gritty, people-oriented leaders and film junkies that crave to be the best. All these qualities have me convinced of this comp, but the anchor comes down to one word; dedication.
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Rookies We Love, Veterans We Don’t
3. We talked about undrafted free agents in the past, but which DRAFTED 2021 rookie are you most excited to see on the field in preseason, outside of Wilson?
Fascinating question. Luckily, there are an endless amount of options. You could go with one of the intriguing defenders from day three of the 2021 NFL draft, but I’m going to go with the obvious here. Elijah Freaking Moore! This kid has been absolutely electric since being taken with the No. 34 overall pick in the second round.
Moore has an elite change of direction, solid hands, and versatility in the offense. In spring practices he wowed during media availability. So far in Jets training camp? He has continued that same momentum.
Gang Green has an array of weapons and initially, it seems hard to envision how everyone will get on the field. Fortunately, that’s Mike LaFleur’s job, not mine, but there’s no way you can keep Moore off the field. He’s too talented, and I’m ready to see Wilson make some magic with his fellow rookie.
I’ve always been a defense guy, I just can’t get enough of it, so I’ll look at some of those day-three picks that Boy Green mentioned. The young cornerbacks don’t scare me, they excite me. I love the idea of developing some new blood. The freakishly athletic Jonathan Marshall also deserves some attention but nagging injuries and a possible developmental need may damper that for now.
The player I’m waiting to see is honestly Jamien Sherwood. Jets beat reporters have mentioned that Hamsah Nasirildeen is working with the first-team linebackers of late but I’m still more confident in Sherwood for Week 1. His pro-ready tackling and scheme intelligence have both impressed me since his first practice.
Honorable mention goes to running back Michael Carter (more on him below).
4. Looking specifically at the veteran free-agent additions in 2021, is there a world where any of them don’t make the roster? If so, which players may find themselves back on the market before Week 1?
Interesting question. The only one that really stands out to me is pass-rusher, Vinny Curry. For years he has been a rumored piece to join the Jets, but one way or another it never materialized. While there was a world where he could’ve started opposite of Lawson this fall, his latest undisclosed injury that’ll keep him out through a portion of the regular season complicates matters.
Curry being out for all of camp opens up an opportunity for the youngsters to steal his spot. In a perfect world, a bunch of the youth impresses, forcing the Jets to ditch the pass rusher. He’s really the only veteran that was signed this offseason that jumps to mind as a potential cap casualty.
I actually see two possibilities here and Curry might even make three. I have my partner’s selection joining the PUP reserve list at the start of the season, so that’ll save him from cuts but also keep him out the first six weeks.
Another veteran edge rusher that could just be outclassed by hungry up-and-comers like Huff, Zuniga, John Franklin-Myers and more is Ronald Blair. The former San Francisco 49ers defensive end is a scheme-fit run-game specialist, not to mention Robert Saleh loves him. He’s also coming off a torn ACL. I think he’ll make it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if others beat him out.
My second choice gets Boy Green’s blood boiling so it’s time I finally explain myself. Tevin Coleman is no lock to make this roster. He’s been thoroughly outplayed by Carter in camp and the rookie is already lining up with the starters according to Rich Cimini and others. I’ve also heard great things about Perine so far and if Ty Johnson can find his groove, a vet like Coleman could freefall on this depth chart in a hurry. He doesn’t cost much but is also injury-prone. Still, a cut is unlikely unless Josh Adams gives Douglas a reason to go with the fresher legs.
How Do the Jets Change the Narrative?
5. What is the most important thing you MUST see from the Jets in training camp and preseason to prove to you that they will become a playoff contender again in 2021 or 2022?
Oh, this is an easy answer but not an easy reality. Let me explain. For the Jets to be a true playoff contender, Coach Saleh’s bet has to pay off in a big way. Gang Green added a ton of talent to the roster this offseason, but the cornerback group wasn’t one of them. They didn’t invest a premium pick or any significant cap space into the position.
If these unproven youngsters show in camp and the preseason that they’re better than their track records indicate, then this Jets team can be as good as they want to be. My expectations are relatively low because I don’t see that happening. Bryce Hall is a favorite of mine, but the rest of the group leaves much to be desired.
Boy Green is definitely justified in his answer but I’ll go a different direction entirely. As a fan and an analyst, I must see fire, passion and effort. The 2020 Jets had none. That team came out totally flat in Week 1 under Adam Gase and everything snowballed from there.
This roster has the talent to surprise a ton of unsuspecting opponents in 2021, but it lacks the experience. That means they have to dominate a third facet — hard work. I’m talking about that All Gas No Brake 110% mentality that Saleh preaches. The Jets HC said this team will form its identity once it encounters adversity. I need to see that reaction. I need to see them get punched in the mouth and bounce back.