With the preseason in the books, it's time to reflect on what we've seen. Some guys have made the case for a roster spot that might not have been available to them a few weeks ago. Others have made us question whether or not they belonged. I thought I'd take a look at the cumulative tape and decide which 3 players topped each list. Note: This doesn't include players like Erin Henderson. Henderson impressed in limited action, but was injured and didn't have 4 games of tape. It also doesn't include players with guaranteed roster spots like Leonard Williams or Darrelle Revis. This is all about the bubble players who shined over and over again.
Roster Spot Earned
1) Rontez Miles
After the first preseason game, I was calling for Miles' head. I have honestly never seen so many missed tackles by one player in a single game, never mind a preseason game with limited snaps. But what I did notice was that Miles was in on just about every play. Over the next 3 weeks, Miles continued to appear in just about every frame of defensive tape. The guy is everywhere. Miles just has the natural instincts that you can't teach. He also has great closing speed and is solid at diagnosing plays. The downside is that Miles' tackling technique appears to be something I call "The Torpedo." Miles throws his body at the target, typically at their legs or waist. Though this leads to a lot of missed tackles, it does appear correctable, and he showed better technique in the final preseason game. He actually had some really impressive stuffs. At 26, he probably won't see much more improvement in his NFL career, but he showed more than enough to warrant a roster spot after a rough outing in game 1. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Miles ended up earning considerable snaps during the season despite starting out far from a lock to make the roster. Miles' ability to fly to the ball on every single play this preseason won me over (sorry for my harsh criticism week 1, Miles!) I went from wanting to cut Miles in week 1 to wanting him to get some limited time as a starter by week 4. Preseason accomplished.
2) Walter Powell
Powell was a longshot to make this roster. He was a holdover of the former general manager who sniped him from the Cardinals when they attempted to stash him on their practice squad. He had never shown anything as a receiver and had mixed results as a returner in 2014. With Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, and Devin Smith all guaranteed roster spots, receiver spots were few and far between entering camp. With the injury to Amaro, Enunwa suddenly appeared to be a lock to make the roster as a H-back hybrid. Powell was on the outside looking in. How did he respond? Several very impressive returns, including a punt return for a touchdown, and an excellent showing as a receiver in the final preseason game. Powell started off slowly, but after the 3rd and 4th preseason games, I don't see how the Jets can let him go. Powell is a guy who really changed my mind with his effort this preseason.
3) Zac Stacy
Though Stacy was far from guaranteed to make the roster, I really thought that he could win a spot. He proved that my trust was warranted, impressing in every game he played in. Stacy's upside is limited, but the guy gives you 110% and always, always falls forward. If your blocking gets him 10 yards, he'll get 11. If your blocking gives him nothing, he'll get 1. To top it off, Stacy has the low center of gravity and thick-bodied frame that scream durability and reliability. He even flashed some hands and run after the catch ability with multiple touchdown receptions in the final 2 preseason games. Stacy has earned a roster spot, plain and simple.
Chris Owusu, Trevor Reilly, Jamari Lattimore
Roster Spot Jeopardized
1) Dexter McDougle
I actually expect McDougle still makes the roster. That said, this was an abysmal preseason for McDougle. After a so-so game against the Lions in which he flashed with a very impressive pass defensed after getting lit up like a tiki torch earlier in the game, McDougle showed very little to like. If anything, there was a pretty clear downward trajectory into failure. Mixed results degraded game by game until it all fell apart in game 4. McDougle was burnt repeatedly and victimized by substandard receivers and Tim freaking Tebow. He missed tackles. He ate dust. He gave up a touchdown on a play in which he had possibly the worst coverage I've ever seen at any level of football. This was a guy I was pulling for coming into camp and considered for my "breakout player of the year." Based on preseason games alone, I'm not even sure you could justify handing him a roster spot.
2) Kellen Davis
The Jets' clear starting TE is Jeff Cumberland. Let that sink in. Sorry, I shouldn't have ruined your day. The Jets probably have the weakest tight end group in the entire NFL. Davis entered camp as arguably the most experienced tight end and the most likely to win the #3 TE spot. Fast forward and Jace Amaro is on IR and Cumberland is the only known commodity at the position with last minute additions like Lynch and Maneri becoming the only competition at the position. Even Cumberland got blown up when blocking and had a drive murdering drop in the first preseason game. And yet, Davis looked the worst of the bunch to me. His blocking was atrocious. He repeatedly whiffed or got thrown back into the backfield, causing immediate TFLs. Meanwhile, he did nothing to impress as a receiving threat despite a totally bare cupboard at the position. How bad is it? Cumberland will probably be our blocking tight end while it seems as though an unproven receiver (who dropped multiple balls in preseason) converts into the H back role. Davis may well have played himself out of the easiest roster spot on the team this preseason. If he makes the roster, it certainly had nothing to do with his preseason tape.
3) Every Right Guard Candidate
I just couldn't decide who to pick. There were so many disappointments to choose from. This roster spot was open for the taking and heck, the starting RG position was open to anyone who could reach the lofty goal of below average. Yet Willie Colon won this competition for the 3rd consecutive year, despite being one of the lowest rated run blocking guards in the NFL last season (and the worst for penalties.) Aboushi, Winters, Qvale, Dozier, and about 9000 other prospects had every opportunity to prove themselves. Aboushi managed to fall from grace with a suspension and a poor offseason, though he didn't look too bad in limited preseason action. Winters continued to be Winters, probably the most noticeable guard I've ever seen (and not in a good way.) Winters had a decent final game against inferior competition, but he'd have to keep his fingers crossed to be a backup at this point. Qvale looked pretty bad and will likely be a practice squad candidate. Dozier looked so bad this preseason that I honestly can't see how he could be on any roster in the NFL after cuts. If any group of players disappointed this preseason, it was the interior offensive linemen. It's amazing to think that despite the number of draft picks used by Idzik to bolster the OL, Willie Colon is still the best man for the job.
Daryl Richardson, Shaq Evans
Owusu didn't make the cut because he missed a lot of time and actually had a decent shot at a roster spot coming into camp after a strong finish to 2014. He had an excellent preseason, though. Richardson was such a long shot to make the roster that he didn't really move the dial much, but his preseason was pretty disastrous. He closed out on a high note statistically (especially compared to his previous -0.3 YPC, 25% fumble rate outing), but I didn't see anything at all to like about the former practice squad back. Evans also narrowly missed the cut after a pretty uninspiring preseason. So there you have it. Those are my top and bottom 3 preseason performers. Who are yours?