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Under-the-radar things to watch for from the Jets in the preseason opener

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NFL: JUN 03 New York Jets Portraits Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Trevon Wesco’s blocking

I may be the only fan with this feeling, but I’m not lying when I state that there may not be anything I’m more excited to watch this Thursday night than Trevon Wesco in the blocking game.

Wesco was taken in the fourth round primarily due to his talents as a blocker. He’s huge for the position, ranking in the 88th percentile among tight ends in weight (267 pounds) and the 95th percentile in arm length (34.75”). To boot, he combines those physical tools with tremendous skill as a blocker. He knows where to be, when to be there, and how to get there. He tops it off with a nonstop motor and a little bit of nastiness, altogether making himself into one tremendous blocker as a West Virginia Mountaineer.

Skill position blocking tends to be one of the most underrated facets of football. Blocking performance from skill players is extremely important, especially at the tight end position. For much of the game, they’re essentially the sixth offensive lineman on the field, and I think Wesco was drafted to be exactly that.

I’m intrigued to see how much of his blocking ability Wesco can carry over to the NFL right off the bat. When a team drafts a player like him, you can’t help but get the sense that they do it with the idea he is the type of prospect who has a low ceiling, but a high floor, and the ability to contribute right away.

Wesco’s skillset seems to line him up perfectly with that description. I think his abilities can be quickly transferred to the NFL and make a positive impact this season.

Eric Tomlinson has been the primary “blocking tight end” for the Jets over the last two years, a role he has been thoroughly mediocre in. I would love to see Wesco seize that role and become a truly valuable asset there.

I don’t want to sleep on Wesco’s receiving ability, either. He will never be a monster pass-catching tight end, but I like what he showed with the ball in his hands. His wiggle and open field skills were impressive for a man his size. I’m intrigued by his YAC potential. Tomlinson has received a lot of “surprise” screen touches for the Jets, with mixed results. I think Wesco has the upside to be even more productive with those touches than Tomlinson was.

Can Wesco make an impact in 2019? Just how much of a positive impact can his blocking have? These are questions that will be at the forefront of my mind when I turn on the game this Thursday night. My eyes will be dead on #47 — whether he’s pass protecting, leading a screen play, pulling for a backside block, or just getting into it with a defender, I’m excited to see the ferocity of Wesco under the lights for the first time.

Blake Cashman’s role

Fifth round pick Blake Cashman has arguably been making the most noise on defense throughout training camp thus far.

Cashman has been taking a lot of first-team reps. Especially with the Jets defense led by a veteran coordinator in Gregg Williams, that says a lot about what Cashman has been able to prove thus far, both on the field and in the film room.

I’m curious to see what kind of role the Jets have in mind for Cashman. C.J. Mosley and Avery Williamson seem locked in to play just about every down, but Cashman could be a useful cog in certain sub packages. I think he has the potential to provide some pass game value. Could he be a situational pass rusher? Take on 1-on-1 matchups in the slot against tight ends?

Whenever the Jets defense is on the field, spotting #53 is without a doubt going to be the first thing I do.

Chandler Catanzaro’s reliability

The Jets’ decision thus far to roll with only Catanzaro at kicker has been a curious one. He’s been one of the league’s worst kickers over the past three seasons. Since 2016, he ranks 29th in field goal percentage (79.5%) and 25th in extra point percentage (91.9%) among the top 30 kickers in attempts for both categories. Over that span, Catanzaro has the second-most missed field goals (16) and is tied for the most missed extra points (9).

That is not the description of a kicker who doesn’t need camp competition. Catanzaro has reportedly been struggling in camp, often missing kicks in the 40-yard range. That is the exact part of the field where he has struggled in the real games. Over the last two seasons, Catanzaro has made 12 of 20 kicks from 40-49 yards out (60%). That’s the worst conversion rate among all kickers with 15+ attempts in that range over that span.

On a separate note, I was OK with the Jets not bringing back Jason Myers. I feel like our current nervousness level as fans wouldn’t be much different if Myers were retained, as his 2018 season was a major outlier that he is unlikely to replicate.

Over his first three seasons in the league prior to joining the Jets, Myers’ numbers were similar in poorness to Catanzaro’s recent history at the present time. He had already shown signs of regression at the end of 2018, missing two field goals in a one-score loss to Houston and an extra point in an overtime loss to Green Bay.

So, that was a move I was fine with. What has not been fine is the contingency plan. Catanzaro has been one of the worst-performing players at his position in the entire league recently. Why should he be a shoe-in to earn the role?

Hopefully, Joe Douglas makes a move to give Catanzaro some competition. Whether it’s the veteran route or the unknown tryout route, the Jets would be best served adding a fresh pair of legs into the mix.

At only 44 years young, Matt Bryant remains on the market coming off of a season in which he posted a career-best field goal percentage of 95.2% for the Falcons.

With only two days to go until the game against the Giants, and no new competition added yet, Catanzaro is set up to have the kicking duties to himself for at least one game. Given his struggles over the past few seasons and in camp thus far, I’m hoping to see perfection out of him in order to at least momentarily alleviate the concerns I have at the moment.

No matter who ends up kicking for the Jets this year, I’m going to sleep a little bit better at night knowing the great Lachlan Edwards will be holding the ball for him.