Who were some of the winners and losers in roster and position battles from last night’s preseason opening win?
Sam Darnold: Winner
If you look solely at the box score, 96 passing yards in 18 attempts is unimpressive. It’s actually a Hackenbergian level of efficiency.
You can’t only use stats to evaluate quarterback play, though. On each play you have to judge what a quarterback did against what a quarterback could have potentially done. On almost every snap last night, I thought Darnold did everything he could to maximize the potential of a play. He made all of the correct reads and created opportunities for others. In some instances his teammates failed to take advantage.
Darnold took another step toward earning the Week 1 starting job.
Teddy Bridgewater: Winner
The first preseason game could not have gone better for the Jets at the quarterback position. While Darnold’s stats undersold his performance, Bridgewater was every bit as good as his 7 for 8, 85 yards, 1 TD line in the box score.
Teddy is looking for another chance in this league. With each step Darnold takes toward earning the starting job, it becomes proportionally less likely for Bridgewater that chance will come with the Jets. But he still is getting an opportunity to put together a video resume for the other 31 teams this preseason.
To the extent Bridgewater could increase his trade value, a game where he both played well and showed he could take a few hits will do just that.
Nathan Shepherd: Winner
The first string did not get much playing time on either side, but Shepherd looked comfortable with the starting defense and recorded a pair of run stops. He is putting together a strong camp that has earned him first team reps. If he continues to make the most of those first team reps, Shepherd might end up playing a bigger role as a rookie than many of us expected.
Neal Sterling: Winner
The Jets have zero in the way of proven commodities at the tight end position. This is a wide open camp battle. Sterling won round one of the battle, putting together a 4 catch, 38 yard night that would have been bigger had Bridgewater not overthrown him on a seam route in the first quarter. Sterling did leave the game injured so there is some concern. If he can bounce back quickly, he probably has taken an early lead for the starting job.
Andre Roberts: Winner
The odds of Roberts making the roster went up considerably in this game. He returned one punt for 10 yards while Trenton Cannon muffed a pair of punts. I wouldn’t call Cannon a loser in this game. He flashed some ability that suggested he might be a part of the offense. He also might even win the kickoff return role. But Roberts might have earned a spot simply for punt returns as a result of this game.
Neville Hewitt: Winner
The Jets have plenty of established inside linebackers in camp so there is some competition for roster spots. Hewitt led the Jets with 8 tackles, had an interception, and nearly had another, making his case to stay.
ArDarius Stewart: Loser
For almost every other player who made an error, I can find at least one redeeming play in this game. No such thing exists for Stewart.
Sam Darnold threw a near interception in the second half. Many interceptions are the quarterback’s fault alone. On many, the quarterback and the receiver share blame. Very few are solely the fault of the receiver. Had the Falcons picked off the pass, it would have been one of those rare case. The terrible route Stewart ran was the only reason the pass was dangerous.
In the fourth quarter, Stewart had a chance to redeem himself as Darnold threw him a strike down the left sideline, but the receiver was outfought for the football. Stewart is not a lock to make the team in a crowded receiver room, and he did himself no favors against Atlanta.