Packers Primer: Top Storylines & Jets Bubble Players to Watch

James Morgan

Getty New York Jets quarterback James Morgan executes a hand-off during training camp on July 28, 2021.

At 4:25 p.m. eastern time today, the New York Jets will embark on their second preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

There are obvious things to watch out for in this game, especially during the first quarter when the starters are on the field.

I think that last bullet point is still at the hearts of most fans right now. Without the fearsome edge rusher, who will miss the entire 2021 season with a torn Achilles, can this scheme hold up?

Unfortunately, we probably won’t find that out today. Aaron Rodgers has already noted that he does not plan to play in any preseason games this summer, and former first-round backup Jordan Love is expected to miss today’s battle with a shoulder injury.

What does this all mean for the Jets? It means this secondary likely won’t be tested all that much by the likes of Kurt Benkert and Jake Dolegala. That all-important question will have to be answered another day.

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Bubble Candidates to Watch in Green Bay

James Morgan (QB)

The Green Bay native will have his homecoming on August 21, and ironically, it could be Morgan’s make-or-break game with this franchise. I recently outlined a plan to replace the 2020 fourth-rounder with free agent Josh Rosen, based on a better scheme fit and a higher ceiling.

Morgan looked shaky against the Giants missing open receivers often throughout the second half. He was also drafted to play in Adam Gase’s stretch the field offense. If the second-year quarterback doesn’t show something soon, he may find himself looking for a job.

Kenny Yeboah (TE)

The undrafted rookie was one of my biggest losers of preseason week one. He was only targeted once and it did not turn out well for the tight end. Yeboah was flipped by two tacklers in the flats, causing him to fumble the football for a near-touchdown.

The priority UDFA has had a ton of hype this summer but he’s yet to prove himself on the field. That needs to start tonight in Green Bay. Fellow-tight end Daniel Brown is also on the hot seat with another round of cuts looming.

Depth in the Secondary

One name that immediately comes to mind is veteran Bennett Jackson. The safety was a victim of the first round of cuts last week, only to find his way back on the roster after Zane Lewis was lost for the rest of 2021. The NFL is a cruel business, but did general manager Joe Douglas bring Jackson back just to release him again a few days later? It’s certainly possible if the special teamer/DB doesn’t put together some good tape.

Another name to watch in this area is Corey Ballentine, the Jets’ main kick returner in 2020. He also plays cornerback but finds himself behind plenty of recent Douglas draft picks on the depth chart along with 2020 UDFA Lamar Jackson.

Sharrod Neasman and J.T. Hassell have also had up and down camps. The former intercepted Rodgers in practice on August 19 but was also involved in a horrible defensive miscue against Big Blue. Don’t forget nickel corner Elijah Campbell, who needs to keep pace with Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry for a roster spot.

Wide Receiver Depth

Switching to the other side of the ball, there are just way too many wide receivers on this roster. Only six or seven of the current 12 players will make the initial 53, but there should be a few practice squad spots up for grabs if guys clear waivers.

The Jets that find themselves most on the bubble are Josh Malone, Lawrence Cager, Manasseh Bailey, Jeff Smith and D.J. Montgomery. All have shown flashes this summer and this has been the franchise’s most competitive positional group outside of the defensive line.

Backup Linebackers

I expect that five or six linebackers will make this roster and there are currently nine that are still on it. The starters, as well as Jamien Sherwood and Blake Cashman, should be safe for now. That leaves players like Noah Dawkins, Del’Shawn Phillips, Edmond Robinson and UDFA Camilo Eifler. Might be time to trim some fat here.

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Areas That Should Be Safe, Headliners for Week Two

With all the injuries to the offensive line, I do anticipate that Douglas will hoard as much talent as possible in this area until the final cutdown barring some sort of horrendous performance.

That means players like Conor McDermott, Grant Hermanns, Chuma Edoga, Tristen Hoge, Jimmy Murray and David Moore probably won’t be in any danger.

Similarly, the Lawson injury opens the door for other edge rushers. A UDFA like Hamilcar Rashed Jr. may have been on the bubble if the pass-rusher was still a factor but after a strong showing and a need to replace the star, he should receive a longer look to make the 53.

Jeremiah Valoaga, Jabari Zuniga and veteran Ronald Blair will have the same opportunity. On the interior, if Sheldon Rankins misses today’s game that could mean extra snaps for rookie Jonathan Marshall and veteran Tanzel Smart among others.

Another interesting storyline is the final wide receiver spots. Aside from all the names we listed above, there are a few more established players that have to make the most of every snap. Denzel Mims is a near-lock to make the team, but some within the media and the fanbase still seem intent on trading the 2020 second-rounder who may no longer fit the offense.

Braxton Berrios and Vyncint Smith have also seemingly entered a head-to-head competition for the sixth wide receiver role. Both offer a lot on special teams, but their skill sets are almost opposite on offense. Berrios is the nifty slot-man that has forged a strong bond with Wilson since OTAs. He has reliable hands and crafty route running.

Smith is the speed demon that can stretch the field. You can’t teach what he offers, which makes him a valuable weapon for offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. The downside is that the deep-threat has been very inconsistent throughout his career.

One final area that we barely touched on? The rookie cornerbacks. We have not seen much of Jason Pinnock and Isaiah Dunn lately. The two have been battling injuries and the latter actually missed week one against the Giants. Hopefully, both play a role in today’s contest.

Another featured player in this regard is Brandin Echols. The sixth-rounder has seized the day and claimed the most snaps out of the three, but he’s also had mixed results with a couple of defensive pass interference flags versus the G-Men and Packers combined.

Green Bay is another opportunity for these youngsters, and many others, to separate themselves from the pack.

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