Can the starting units keep it going?
Over the small amount of time we’ve seen them on the field thus far, both the starting offense and the starting defense have looked good under the lights.
Against the Giants, the Jets’ first-team offense scored a touchdown on its only drive. The defense forced a three-and-out in its first and only appearance.
In Atlanta, the starting offense scored on its opening drive yet again, while the first-team defensive unit kept the Falcons off the scoreboard.
Results do not matter in the preseason, but it is nice to see the process look good. The Jets offense has appeared to be in sync thus far. The defense has had no issue stifling two veteran starting quarterbacks.
Many of the things we’ve heard about in practice have translated to the field. Sam Darnold has looked like a much improved player, while showcasing chemistry with his receiving core.
On the flip side, the defensive unit that has been dominated in practice has looked strong against other teams’ offenses.
It seems we will see a full half of the Jets starters this Saturday. To see them play well against another team’s starters yet again would be promising — even if only slightly, under the “it’s only preseason!” disclaimer.
How will the recent linebacker losses affect the defense?
The Jets are already down two starting linebackers, as Avery Williamson is done for the year and Brandon Copeland is set to miss the first four games of the year due to a PED violation.
It will be interesting to see the ripple effect these losses have on the unit.
Williamson’s injury should lead to more playing time for Neville Hewitt and Blake Cashman.
Cashman in particular is going to have the limelight squarely on him in his rookie season. The fifth-round pick is likely to going to assume a lot of coverage responsibilities. He could hit the ground running and make a huge positive impact, giving the Jets a better output in coverage they likely would have gotten from Williamson. Or, he could perform like the typical fifth-round rookie, and find himself exposed regularly.
While Cashman has had a nice offseason that put him in position to have an important role right away, the Jets certainly were not planning to rely on him this much to start the year. Injuries happen, though, and now Cashman is one of the most crucial players on the Jets defense.
Copeland’s suspension should lock up a roster spot for Tarell Basham. He may have been on the bubble before, but now seems to have a near-perfect chance at making the team due to the loss of an outside linebacker. Basham has had a tremendous preseason thus far, leading the Jets with seven pressures.
Basham and Frankie Luvu could be the major beneficiaries of Copeland’s absence. Jachai Polite may also see more opportunities as well, but based on his struggles so far, it seems likely that Basham will jump him on the depth chart.
Harvey Langi is another name to keep an eye on. He was taking reps with the starters today.
With the starting defense getting a full half (and potentially more) of action against the Saints’ high-octane offense, we should learn quite a bit about how Gregg Williams plans to account for the losses of Williamson and Copeland.
What will the new guys bring?
Joe Douglas has been very busy recently. Since the Falcons game, he has made a trio of additions — bringing in safety Derrick Kindred and a pair of special teams contributors in Albert McClellan and Stephone Anthony.
There have been reports that Gregg Williams has been running more three-safety looks in practice. The addition of Kindred, who played under Williams in Cleveland, could support that. It will be interesting to see where Kindred fits into the team’s plans. I think he is competing with Doug Middleton for the final spot at safety behind Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, and Rontez Miles. Kindred’s connection with Williams could give him an edge there.
McClellan and Anthony are linebackers who have primarily contributed on special teams.
McClellan is considered one of the better special teams players in the league. He has consistently graded out among the elite special teamers at PFF, and he has the playmaking numbers to back it up. Over his eight-year career, the 33-year old McClellan has notched three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and two blocked kicks on special teams. Both of the blocked kicks were in one game last season against Adam Gase’s Dolphins.
Since 2015, McClellan boasts a highly impressive ratio of 33 tackles to only three missed tackles on special teams. He is the only player on the Jets roster with two Super Bowl rings, claiming one with the Ravens (XLVII) and one with the Patriots last season.
Anthony does not carry as decorated a special teams background as McClellan, but he did play for Adam Gase over the last two years in Miami.
Especially now that more roster spots have opened up due to Avery Williamson’s injury and Brandon Copeland’s suspension, I think one of these two special teams aces will make the team. I’m leaning towards McClellan due to his strong reputation, but don’t count out the Gase connection getting Anthony in.
In addition to those three, Douglas also recently added cornerback Marcus Cooper, although that was prior to the Falcons game. Cooper did not appear in that contest, but he has worked his way up the depth chart, reportedly taking second-team reps in practice this week. He has a lot more experience than any of the other players competing for a roster spot at cornerback, so a solid last couple of preseason games could get him on the team.
Can everybody stay in one piece?
Injuries are just the worst. Nobody likes them. But they are part of life, and part of football.
Adam Gase is holding out Le’Veon Bell throughout the entirety of the preseason, but he did give us an estimate of how long the rest of the starters will be playing — one half plus another series.
Playing starters an extended period of time in the third preseason game is tradition. Most coaches still abide, but some, like Colts head coach Frank Reich, are starting to buck that trend.
Nevertheless, it appears we will be seeing plenty of the Jets starters this Saturday. All anybody can do is hope for the best.