Jets Veteran Derailed by New Injury Amid Roster Battle

Marcell Harris

Getty New York Jets linebacker Marcell Harris looks on with the San Francisco 49ers in 2019.

Joint practices are helpful for NFL coaching staffs but sometimes they come with a price — the potential for preseason injuries.

During the first practice between the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons, injuries sprouted up for edge rushers Bryce Huff and Vinny Curry. Both are now questionable for Monday’s night second preseason outing.

Two more injuries occurred today on August 20, although one was later determined to be a false alarm — a rib injury to rookie defensive lineman Micheal Clemons. The second new ailment will sideline a veteran acquisition, however, and the setback could impact roster cuts.

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Marcell Harris out for ‘a Week or Two’

Slipped into today’s press conference was an injury to linebacker Marcell Harris. After yesterday’s joint practice, the ex-49ers free agent signing spent the afternoon in the rehab area without a jersey on.

The lack of identification caused this new development to fly under the radar until veteran beat reporter Brian Costello alertly inquired about Harris while Saleh was at the podium.

“Yeah, he’s dealing with a hammy,” Saleh answered reluctantly, “should be another week or two.”

The Jets HC also confirmed that star defensive end Carl Lawson was not practicing because of a typical “vet day,” not some sort of injury.

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5th Linebacker Spot Could Be up for Grabs

Last year it was the Achilles but this summer, hamstrings have plagued a few Jets players. Fortunately, none of these nagging hammys have been all that serious so far — although Harris’ issue could cause a ripple effect.

There’s a depth battle going on at the linebacker position in training camp behind C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, Kwon Alexander and Jamien Sherwood. The Jets have infused experience with youth in an effort to build the LB core that general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh envisioned.

One with speed and athleticism — hence all the safety hybrids — but also one with intelligence and savvy. In San Francisco, Saleh’s linebackers played a massive role in his NFC champion defense. The leader of that unit was a former defensive back convert by the name of Fred Warner.

Saleh’s first attempts to recreate Warner — Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen — have come with some growing pains. To accelerate the process and bridge the gap, the Jets brought in players like Harris and Alexander.

The current results have yielded some tough decisions. It doesn’t really make sense for the Jets to keep more than five linebackers but do you go with a developmental project and recent draft pick like Nasirildeen or a free-agent acquisition like Harris.

Special teams aces Del’Shawn Phillips and Kai Nacua are also in the mix, although both Nasirildeen and Harris have proven to be plus-special teamers in their own right.

For what it’s worth, Harris and Nacua outplayed Nasirildeen and Phillips during the first preseason audition according to both Pro Football Focus and the eye test. Nacua is just learning the position though, and is much more of a longshot to make the roster.

Douglas and Saleh want to build for the future but they remain very aware that a poor 2022 campaign could end all of those plans before they ever come to fruition. That’s why you’ve seen more of a hesitancy to blindly trust in the development of the youth this offseason.

Most recent draft picks will stay, don’t get me wrong, but the borderline NFL producers like Nasirildeen will have to earn their keep this time around. By most accounts, Harris had the lead on him to this point but this new injury could derail the veteran’s progress.

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