Now that the season is well underway, we’ve been breaking down some of the players who are signed to the Jets’ practice squad and could potentially be elevated or activated to play for the team at some point during this season. We continue today with offensive lineman Xavier Newman, who was thrust into action against the Giants on Sunday after Connor McGovern and Wes Schweitzer both got injured.
The 24-year old Newman is listed at 6’2” and 297 pounds and was undrafted out of Baylor in 2022. He has started one NFL game and played in four others.
Newman, who until recently went by the name Xavier Newman-Johnson, was a four star high school recruit and began his collegiate career with the Baylor Bears in 2017. He started eight games as a true freshman but was limited to three starts in 2018 due to injury.
In 2019, he started eight more games and was named as an all-Big XII honorable mention. However, he struggled in the 2020 season, which was shortened due to the pandemic and saw him start just four games. He bounced back well as he accepted a fifth year of eligibility in 2021 and started all 14 games to once again be named as an all-conference honorable mention.
Despite not attending the combine or the Senior Bowl, some draft analysts felt that Newman could be a late round pick. However, he was not selected in the 2022 draft and ended up signing with the Titans as an undrafted free agent.
As a rookie, he spent most of the season on the practice squad but was signed to the active roster and appeared in a late-season game, in which he played four offensive snaps.
This season, he made the 53-man roster out of camp and made his first career start early in the year. However, he had only played 12 offensive snaps when he was benched due to a couple of mistakes. He made two other appearances with the Titans on special teams but was released a few weeks ago.
The Jets signed him to their practice squad and elevated him as cover for Sunday’s game against the Giants. When McGovern got injured, he entered the game at guard, and then when Schweitzer got injured he moved to center for the rest of the game.
Now let’s take a look at what Newman brings to the table, divided into categories.
Newman is slightly undersized but has good length and his workout numbers are solid. He ran a 5.13 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day and posted 23 bench press reps. His explosiveness and agility numbers were a little underwhelming, but he is considered a good athlete.
Throughout his college and pro career, Newman has practiced at all three interior positions, although he has mostly played at guard. He started eight games at right guard in 2019 and one game at center in 2020, but the rest of his 37 starts in college were at left guard.
At the NFL level, he played left guard on all 16 of his offensive snaps with the Titans but played all three spots in preseason, including 76 snaps at center over the past two years.
Filling in at center therefore wasn’t completely alien to Newman when he was forced into that role on Sunday, and his ability to do that was part of the reason he was elevated according to Robert Saleh.
Newman developed into a solid pass blocker at Baylor and didn’t give up a single sack in three of his last four seasons. However, he struggled badly in 2020 as he gave up four sacks and had six penalties in just five games.
He’s solid in terms of his ability to move laterally and stay in front of his man and can anchor against a bull rush when he has time to set and bend his knees, but he can be pushed around when dealing with blitzers or reacting to stunting linemen.
At the NFL level, he got beaten on this rush where he failed to deal with the lineman’s quickness to get upfield.
In Sunday’s game, Newman gave up one sack and a handful of other pressures as Dexter Lawrence had a monster game.
In Sunday’s game the Jets had little success running the ball with Newman in the game and shied away from even attempting to convert via the run in short yardage situations. Clearly they acknowledged that Lawrence was a big mismatch for him, but he also hadn’t practiced with the first unit, so executing many of their runs correctly would have been a challenge.
In college, Newman was a key member of a Baylor running game that was top-10 in the nation in 2021. He shows a good ability to block on the move.
When operating in space, he can be inconsistent in terms of moving his feet to find and angle off a target. He does also have a tendency to lean into his opponent, enabling them to leverage off the block.
At the point of attack, Newman can give up penetration at times, but he works well in combination with the guard to drive his man off the line here.
Newman isn’t the kind of road grader you’d run behind in short yardage situations. In one preseason game, the Titans did eventually manage to score from a yard out at the third attempt on fourth down, but Newman was stood up by his man each time.
On this play, he connects well with his target on the pulling block to lead the way for a first down conversion.
Newman hasn’t had much success on screen passes and, as noted, is not always effective at finding his target in space. Here’s one play where he makes a block but doesn’t look altogether comfortable.
Newman told the media during Titans camp that he had worked hard on improving his technique since his rookie season.
As noted, Newman is capable of anchoring against a bull rush, but he can be knocked off balance if an opposing lineman comes off the line fast or at an angle to take him by surprise.
His hand placement is a bit of a work in progress but here’s an example of a play where he battles hard to maintain leverage and keep control of his man.
Snapping the ball may be something he needs to work on, but he settled down after a shaky start that featured a lost fumble under center and a high shotgun snap on Sunday.
Newman’s on-field discipline has been solid other than in 2020 when he had six penalties in five games. He only had nine in 42 games otherwise.
He has had one penalty at the NFL level, a false start in preseason.
Newman’s only special teams contributions have been as a blocker on the placekicking unit, both at the collegiate and NFL level. He hasn’t allowed any pressure or had any penalties in this role.
As noted, Newman practiced and learned all three interior positions, which he said really helped him to develop.
He often operates as the spare man in pass protection and keeps his head on a swivel to help out multiple teammates on a given play if required.
As a general rule, he shows an ability to deal with stunts well. However, in his lone NFL start he had some issues which led to him being benched early on.
He also had a mental error on this play where he allowed a player to run right past him for a sack.
Newman has established himself as a hard-worker with versatility, smarts and a team-first attitude. He developed into a leader at Baylor and was a two-time member of the Big XII Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
On this play, Newman hustles across and shows off a nasty side to help out his teammate and knock down his opponent.
This isn’t a one-off either, as his film shows plenty of examples of him hustling across to give quality help and looking for work.
Newman was limited to seven games in 2018 when he suffered a high ankle sprain and also missed time due to an undisclosed injury in 2020. He also suffered a hamstring injury during his pro day workout.
In all, though, his durability was pretty solid and he started 37 of his 47 games in his career.
Newman is an undersized lineman who might fit best within a wide zone system, but he has shown an ability to pull effectively and should suit a system like the one the Jets operate.
He was with the Titans last year with current Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter and passing game coordinator Todd Downing, so should have some scheme familiarity. He was also a teammate of current Jet Kalon Barnes at Baylor.
Newman was called into action as an emergency center, and although his best position might be at guard, an emergency utility lineman role could be his short-term future if he manages to hold his own when called upon.
He’s still only 24 and seems to be dedicated to continuing to improve, but it remains to be seen how much untapped potential he has. Clearly, he wasn’t expecting to get this opportunity and probably deserves credit for handling it as well as he did.
If he gets more opportunities, it will be interesting to see if he can maintain a level of consistency over a longer period of time, but he’s probably already done enough to at least earn himself a longer look and a camp invite next season.