In the annual reprisal of the least meaningful game of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the NY Jets backups 37-7. This capped off a preseason which saw the Jets compile a 2-2 record, clearly presaging February football for Gang Green.
The battle for the final spots on the 53 man roster and the newly expanded 10 man practice squad is traditionally what the final preseason game is all about. Final scores and records are meaningless. What really counts here are personal battles for NFL survival. So rather than engage in a boring recap of the ebb and flow of the game, it is probably more helpful for the final preseason recap to simply skip right to the chase and discuss who helped themselves, who hurt themselves, and who had mixed results in their personal quests to obtain a seat when the music stops.
Players Who Helped Their Chances
It is tempting after watching that travesty, that fraudulent impersonation of a football game by the Jets backups, to just say every player on the field for New York hurt their chances last night. It wouldn't be too far from the truth. But there were a few decent performances for Gang Green. Leading the way was tight end Chris Pantale, who caught 3 passes for 74 yards, including a long catch and run when the Eagles coverage lost track of him. There doesn't appear to be a roster spot available for Pantale, but he may have helped his chances of catching on elsewhere or making the practice squad. A solid game for the Wayne, NJ native.
Also helping himself was RB Daryl Richardson. Richardson didn't wow anybody with his running stats, carrying the ball 11 times for just 29 yards. But he showed a decent burst and did his best work in the passing game. Marty Mornhinweg likes to get his backs heavily involved in the passing game, and last year he just didn't have the backs to do it. This year the Jets have Chris Johnson to fill that role, but if Johnson goes down it looks like Richardson could be a nice backup to catch passes out of the backfield. Richardson showed good hands, nice vision and very good speed as he picked up 32 yards on his two catches and had another long catch and run called back by penalty. If this team keeps five backs Richardson probably sewed up the 5th spot last night.
A. J. Edds once again was always around the ball and made some nice plays on special teams. Edds should have earned a spot on the 53 man roster with a very solid preseason.
Jeremiah George chose an opportune time to show up. He had some big hits, finished with 7 tackles, and didn't appear to blow his assignments. George looked the part of an NFL linebacker last night. Whether it was enough to make the 53 man roster remains to be seen.
T. J. Barnes did some nice work in the middle and had a couple of big plays in the Eagles backfield. Barnes deserves to stick, but it's unclear whether there will be a 3rd nose tackle spot on the team. If he is cut he is probably the least likely Jet to make it onto the practice squad, as I suspect another team will sign him.
Players Who Hurt Their Chances
I am very tempted to just say everyone who wasn't mentioned above and played last night hurt their chances, it was that bad out there. But there are degrees of bad. Let's start with Stephen Hill. One catch, one brutal drop. 13 yards of offense, pulled from the game before halftime. Almost no impact, invisible against 3rd stringers. Stephen Hill probably needed a very big game to earn a roster spot. Last night he wasn't even close to putting one up. Hill looks to be added to the long, sad history of Jets second round busts.
Matt Simms also disappointed. A strong performance probably would have wrapped up a roster spot for Simms. That is not what the Jets got. Instead we saw a shaky Simms regress from what was a surprisingly polished performance a week earlier. Simms fell back into all his bad old habits. He lacked touch on the ball, did not seem to exhibit any grasp of the offense, did not effectively go through his progressions. It was the same Simms we've seen the last two years. I had thought that last week may have represented something of a turning point for Simms, as he looked the part of a real NFL QB. Alas it may have been a mirage. Last night he was bad. Not awful, just his usual flavor of bad. He may have lost that roster spot he was so close to claiming.
Also hurting themselves were the following:
Jaiquawn Jarrett, who failed in run support, failed in pass coverage, and just looked lost out there much of the time. Jarrett was one of the Jets leading tacklers with 9 last night. Don't let that fool you. He played poorly. Jarrett seemed safe going into the game. Coming out of it, I'm not so sure.
Alex Green lost a fumble and was just OK running the football. He looks like a soon to be ex-Jet to me.
Going into the game Greg Salas seemed on the verge of sewing up a roster spot. One quiet night later, with a brutal drop mixed in, and he certainly didn't help state his case. Salas' best attribute last night was that his last named isn't spelled H-I-L-L.
Josh Bush seemed on the bubble before last night. Beaten in coverage, ineffective against the run, Bush did nothing to suggest that his bubble wasn't about to burst.
The Jets were destroyed by the Eagles' outside running game all night. The Jets repeatedly lost containment and failed to set the edge. Trevor Reilly and Zach Thompson were two of the prime culprits here. It was a long night for these two.Players Who Were A Mixed Bag
On a normal night every one of the following players would probably be listed in the Players That Hurt Their Chances category. But last night there was so much bad to go around that just a few glimmers of hope were enough to earn you some damning with faint praise here.
What to say about LaQuan Lewis? He was burned badly on the Benn TD catch. He didn't look especially good in coverage throughout the night. But he also got an interception and made several fine plays on special teams.
Ellis Lankster did a few nice things in coverage, nearly came up with an INT but also got flagged multiple times and got beat a few times. Not terrible, not good.
Rontez Miles made a ton of tackles. But his pass coverage was poor and his run support was suspect. He never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. A for effort, D for execution.
Clyde Gates caught a TD pass on a deflected pass from Tajh Boyd. He should probably be in the Players Who Helped Their Chances category, except he has already set such a high bar it's nearly impossible to further help his chances at this point. Legends are measured only against their own lofty standards.
Jalen Saunders could easily be in the Players Who Hurt Their Chances category. He seems not to understand which goal line to run towards after catching a punt. He also Hilled a pass early in his time on the field. After that Hillacious moment, however, he seemed to settle in, making some tough catches over the middle, getting his bell rung and hanging in there. His grit and toughness were on display. Unfortunately his speed and quickness were not as evident. Playing against third and fourth stringers he did not particularly impress with his ability to create separation.
Tajh Boyd. What do we say about him? On any other night, with any other QB, this would not have qualified as a mixed bag performance. Boyd threw a TD pass that had more hang time than Ryan Quigley's punts and allowed a safety to come from all the way across the field and deflect the pass. Fortunately for the Jets this played right into the hands of Legend Gates. Playing it exactly as the Jets drew it up on the chalkboard Mr. Gates, superhuman, calmly plucked the deflected pass into his glue like hands and waltzed into the end zone, writing another chapter in his legenditude. So Boyd led the Jets on their only scoring drive. That's good. He also looked mostly lost most of the time. He threw some really ugly passes. He made a few decent runs. He never resembled an NFL QB. For most, a bad night. For Boyd, an improvement.
One final note on the offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line played reasonably well in pass protection. The Eagles got 2 sacks and some other limited pressure, but overall the Jets QBs seemed to have enough time to throw most of the night. The defensive line, outside of Barnes, was terrible. Following suit with their starter counterparts this preseason, the defensive line got no pressure at all on the QB and got repeatedly pushed around on running plays. For all the talk about how great the Jets defensive line talent is, the entire unit, starters and backups, outside of Wilkerson and the nose tackles, largely failed to show up all preseason. Let's hope they haven't already begun to believe their own press clippings and gotten complacent.
Well, that about sums it up. That's what I saw and how I think players helped or hurt themselves last night. What about you? What did you see, and who do you think may have gained or lost a spot with their final performance before cutdown day? Who will see their NFL dreams live another day and who will be Tebowed? Tell us what you think in your comments.