The Jets open their preseason tonight in Philadelphia. The game has varying levels of importance for players across the roster.
Some players will likely generate a lot more scrutiny than others. Here are six players on the offensive side of the ball I will be watching particularly closely (in alphabetical order).
Lawrence Cager: The last two years, Cager has impressed in training camp. In 2020 he actually earned some early season playing time while the Jets dealt with injuries at the wide receiver position. Still it never felt like he had the speed to last there. The Jets converted him to tight end during the offseason, a spot that seems like a better fit. He reportedly impressed during the offseason program. Three tight end roster spots are already locks, CJ Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, and Jeremy Rockert. It might be down to Cager and Kenny Yeboah for the developmental receiving tight end role.
George Fant: Fant is still recovering from injury so he might not play. If he does suit up, it will be interesting to see whether he goes to left tackle or right tackle. It could be an indication on how the alignment of the offensive line will be impacted by the signing of Duane Brown.
Zonovan Knight: Nicknamed “Bam,” Knight has flown under the radar. The Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent from NC State. It is easy to see why he has escaped much attention. The team used a second round pick on Breece Hall and has another talented young running back returning in Michael Carter. Still Knight has reportedly had a strong training camp, and could earn himself a look as a depth player in case of injury with a strong preseason.
Denzel Mims: After a disaster second season, Mims’ roster spot seems precarious. As I discussed last week, recent history doesn’t give us much precedent for a player who has struggled like Mims to develop into an impact receiver. Still, a handful of early round disappointments have developed into quality depth players. At this point, the Jets are looking for a number five receiver behind Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Garrett Wilson, and Braxton Berrios. Could Mims fill that role? He might need to contribute on special teams. Any production he gets there could be as important as a reception.
Max Mitchell: Admittedly I had WAY more interest in Mitchell two days ago. At that point he seemed to be in the mix for a starting job. The signing of Duane Brown changes that. There was a plausible scenario where Mitchell was impressing enough for the Jets to forego an outside addition. That obviously isn’t the case, but tackle depth remains thin. Mitchell is the only backup with plausible upside. This game might be a good barometer of his current level of play. Expectations for the season can be set accordingly.
Zach Wilson: Let’s be clear. Wilson’s performance in this game will be overanalyzed to an absurd degree. He will likely only have a few passing attempts. Making sweeping extrapolations from this game will be ridiculous, but it will happen. Still I would like to see Wilson get off on the right foot. That means showing comfort moving within the pocket, making the correct reads, throwing accurate passes, and avoiding mistakes. Let’s just not declare him the quarterback of the next decade if he completes all of his passes or declare him unredeemable if he throws an interception.