The Jets are set to take on the Washington Redskins in Landover tonight for their second outing of the preseason. Which Jets are in the most need of a huge performance to stay in the race for the 53-man roster?
The tight end competition has been surprisingly fierce throughout the offseason. Rookie Chris Herndon has stood out, in addition to veterans Clive Walford and Neal Sterling. Herndon missed last week’s game, while Walford and Sterling flashed with a combined 6 catches for 65 yards.
The odd man out has been the Jets’ fifth round pick in the 2017 draft, Jordan Leggett. Leggett has cycled on and off the practice field with a myriad of injuries, and missed the opener as well. Fortunately, it seems he is finally primed to take the field against the Redskins. With Herndon missing the game and needing to stand out against the performances put forth by Walford and Sterling last week, this is a very important game for Leggett. He really needs to start showing something tangible on a competitive field or his Jets career could end up being a short one. Reports were that he stood out against the Redskins in practice this week. That’s nice, but can he translate it to the real thing?
Cannon hurt his roster prospects with his 2 muffed punts last week (both recovered by the Jets). That performance in the returning phase all but eliminated his chances of making the roster in that role. With the Jets already having 2 apparent locks at running back in Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell, in addition to the eventually-returning Elijah McGuire, Cannon is not exactly a lock for a roster spot once upon McGuire’s return just yet.
On the positive side, he did show some very promising change-of-direction ability and quickness against Atlanta. Cannon needs a standout game to show the Jets that he is worth keeping around as a 4th running back (once McGuire returns). Or, perhaps the Jets will throw some more punt returning opportunities his way. If they do, he’ll need some huge returns to make up for his struggles last week and make himself a viable option at the punt returner spot. Cannon will probably also see kick returning duties again and has a chance to seal a roster spot if he can make something happen there.
I think Cannon ultimately does stick on the roster, as there is little competition behind him, but a reassuring performance would do a lot for his prospects of sticking around in a stacked position group - and he does still have an opportunity to turn some heads on his return game ability.
ARDARIUS STEWART AND CHAD HANSEN
These two just need to start showing up. Period. Both have seen hot-and-cold stretches of camp buzz throughout the offseason, but on Friday, each laid an egg. Hansen did not earn a single target, but it was Stewart who stood out in the wrong way. He had a poorly run route that nearly resulted in a Sam Darnold interception, a drop on a well-thrown Darnold pass, and another poorly run underneath route that nearly impeded a Neal Sterling first down. He was terrible.
Hansen essentially redshirted the first half or so of last season before seeing his role expand down the stretch. He rarely saw the ball come his way but stood out with a nice collection of clutch catches. Hansen didn’t produce enough to learn much from but at least showed you an inkling of potential.
Stewart started the year out with 38 snaps in Buffalo but never reached that number again, as he was phased out until late in the year. The Jets tried to get him some manufactured touches (handoffs, screens, kick returns) but he did very little with them. His 9 kick returns averaged 19.2 yards, 41st of 43 players with at least as many returns. Only 15.4% (2 of 13) of his targets resulted in first downs - that rate ranked 158th of 161 wide receivers with at least as many targets.
All in all, the Jets need to start seeing something from their sophomore mid-round wideouts. The top four of this wide receiver depth chart is all but cemented until one of these two can starting doing something.
Anyone who follows the Jets knows how lacking they are in edge rushing talent. One of the names that has generated the most surprise throughout the offseason is Frankie Luvu, the undrafted rookie out of Washington State.
Lorenzo Mauldin will be sidelined once again, and his roster chances are fading quickly. Though he impressed against the Falcons last week, Dylan Donahue is poised to miss some portion of the season from the start due to his multiple arrests.
If the hype on Luvu is for real, now is the time to strike. The door to a roster spot is wide open for anybody in this group that can show something. With the lack of any proven talent among the room (David Bass is the team’s most proven edge rusher), Luvu’s rawness and potential (he’s only 21, soon to be 22 in September) should already give him an edge over his less promising competitors if he produces comparatively. All of the other outside linebacker competitors are at least 25. If Luvu can start separating himself from the middle of the pack on the game field, the Jets will have a hard time parting with an untapped rookie at their thinnest position.