Can anybody in the defensive backfield give a sign of life?
The Jets are currently dealing with a crisis at the cornerback position. A group that was already among the most questionable on the team has become even more worrisome after a wave of injuries and a night of porous play in the preseason opener.
Trumaine Johnson suffered a hamstring injury in practice and is considered “week-to-week” by Adam Gase. If Johnson can’t go in Week 1, that would leave the Jets scary thin at the position. Darryl Roberts would take over the #1 spot, and opposite him would be. . . . . well, that’s anybody’s guess. And it brings us to Preseason Week 2.
Joe Douglas’ squad desperately needs somebody to step up at this position. The new general manager probably does not want to part with premium picks ahead of his first draft with the team, but his hand may be forced if things don’t change quickly at the cornerback position.
At the moment, this is a group bad enough to potentially sink the entire defense. Of course, the Jets likely want to maintain future flexibility, but they want to win in 2019, too. That is going to be difficult if Arthur Maulet and Darryl Roberts are covering Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry on every play. (It could also be difficult with Trumaine Johnson out there, as he has his own questions to answer. But at least Johnson has the upside to potentially perform well based on his track record, and even 2018 Johnson is likely better than the players the Jets currently have taking his place.)
So, any signs of hope from the cornerback room over the next three preseason games would be very much welcomed by the Jets. A couple of good preseason games cannot declare a player the answer to all of the team’s problems, but a few good performances can definitely help the front office and coaching staff feel a little more comfortable with where they’re at.
That #3 spot at outside corner is fair game for anybody who wants it. Kyron Brown was the first man to take Trumaine Johnson’s starting spot in practice. Shortly after, Brown went down with an injury, and then Arthur Maulet was the next man up.
Montrel Meander, Tevaughn Campbell, Alex Brown, and Dee Delaney are also in the mix. Second-year Jet Parry Nickerson could also use a rebound game after a rough preseason opener; he is currently in line to start the season as Brian Poole’s backup in the slot.
The Falcons have a deep group at wide receiver, so they should give the Jets defense a good challenge.
Just one Jets cornerback standing out would be a refreshing positive.
Is Folorunso Fatukasi making the leap? And what does that mean for Nathan Shepherd?
Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi, the Jets’ second-year defensive tackle out of Connecticut, was arguably the best player on the field for the Jets in their preseason opener. In only 25 snaps, he was in on a whopping total of six run stuffs. Even more impressive, four of those stops were tackles for no gain.
Just how good is four stops for no gain in a single game? In 2018, the NFL leaders in run tackles for no gain or less were Calais Campbell and Luke Kuechly, averaging 1.7 per game. Fatukasi more than doubled that in less than half a game’s worth of snaps.
His snap timing was tremendous throughout the game, consistently getting incredibly good jumps off the ball leading to disruptive penetration.
On Monday, Fatukasi was getting reps with the first team defense.
The Far Rockaway, New York native, a sixth round pick of the Jets in 2018, could be making a huge jump in his second season. He seems close to locking up a roster spot, and perhaps a key role as a rotational piece of the defensive line.
Fatukasi was not the only defensive lineman the Jets drafted in 2018. Three rounds earlier, they selected Nathan Shepherd out of Fort Hays State.
Shepherd was already 24 years old entering his rookie season, but his advanced age did not seem to help him much. His rookie year was very unproductive, and his role diminished down the stretch.
The Jets have four defensive linemen who seem to be locks to make the team — Leonard Williams, Quinnen Williams, Henry Anderson, and Steve McLendon. There should be enough room for Fatukasi and Shepherd on the 53-man roster, but it seems Fatukasi is quickly overtaking Shepherd on the depth chart. Perhaps that would explain the fire that has been lit inside of Shepherd over the past few days.
It will be interesting to see how both progress throughout the preseason, and where both end up falling. Shepherd needs to start flashing, or he could be in trouble despite his draft status. Fatukasi set the bar high in game one, and can all but lock up his roster spot with another performance as good as the one he put in against the Giants.
Can Chuma Edoga keep it going?
Rookie offensive tackle Chuma Edoga had himself an impressive debut, standing out as one of the best players on the Jets offense as he looked smooth and fluid in pass protection. He graded out as one of the best tackles in the first week of the preseason, and received rave reviews from the film community.
Edoga’s run blocking and overall strength can still improve, but his debut was very promising. If Edoga can consistently maintain the performance he put forth in Week 1 over the next few games, the Jets can go into September feeling very confident they have a solid backup with a starting role in his future.
Will Trevon Wesco unleash the beast?
Last week I wrote about how excited I was to watch Trevon Wesco. Unfortunately, the mauling Mountaineer disappointed. He only played seven snaps, struggling with his blocking and getting flagged for holding in that limited playing time.
Wesco is buried on the tight end depth chart. A few bulldozing blocks could definitely help him start gaining some ground.
The Taylor Bertolet show
The city of Atlanta will play host to the majestic return of Taylor Bertolet.
Following the retirement of Chandler Catanzaro, the Jets turned back to Bertolet, who spent time with the team in the 2018 preseason before losing the kicking job to Jason Myers.
In 2018, Bertolet was solid throughout most of training camp and the preseason, but he struggled during his brief stint in the AAF.
Just like they do at cornerback, the Jets need somebody to show them some competence at kicker. Could Bertolet be the man for the job?