Florham Park, N.J.– Week four of the preseason, the week the majority of people could care less about is upon us. The first couple of weeks everyone is just so excited to have football back that preseason games are enough to hold them over. Then week three gives us the most playing time for starters and gives the Jets a chance to play against their in-state (as well as in-stadium) rivals, so naturally everyone loves week three.
But week four, with no starters playing (except some rookies) and the regular season just a week away this is the least interesting preseason game of the year. That is unless you are one of the fringe players trying to find yourself employed this fall/winter. If you’re excited about this game because you want to see the Eagles Mike Vick in action then you will surely be disappointed, but if you’re excited about the game to see who plays themselves on or off the roster then this is the game for you.
So without further ado, these are the players to keep an eye on tonight. Some of these players have already had their names set in stone for the 53-man active roster as well as some likely set on the practice squad, but you as fans should still be interested in seeing what these players can offer. Many of these names however, will be fighting for a job tonight. Tonight is their chance to prove to Rex Ryan that they belong on this team and they can contribute to helping this team win.
LBs– Josh Mauga has easily done enough to solidify his spot on the roster as the first backup middle linebacker with his stellar play this offseason, but should still get plenty of playing time tonight. Same with Jamaal Westerman as an outside linebacker. But there are four other linebackers still fighting for a roster spot and not all of them will earn one.
Rookie Nick Bellore started off training camp strong, immediately catching Ryan’s eye in practice, but he got off to a slow start in games until he exploded on the scene with a big second half against the Giants. Bellore stands a good chance of making this roster, but tonight he’s going to have to show he definitely belongs if he wants to convince Ryan to keep him around. Garrett McIntyre is another player whose play impressed Ryan in practice and has also turned in some solid performances in games, but Brashton Satele and Aaron Maybin are also trying to prove their worth right now and tonight could be the difference between who stays and who goes. Satele has played very well this preseason so it’ll be interesting to see the decision the team makes on him, as for Maybin, Ryan already said he’s going to have to show a lot more to prove he is good enough for this team.
WRs– The Jets top four receivers are set (Santonio, Plaxico, Mason and Kerley) most likely leaving one active roster spot and one or two practice squad spots left. Tonight Dan DePalma, Patrick Turner, Michael Campbell and Scotty McKnight will all make their case that belong on the team. McKnight is likely to end up on the practice squad (a wonderful perk to being the QB’s best friend, but his great hands aren’t just a myth, the kid catches everything thrown his way). Campbell most likely played himself off the team with that dropped potential game-winning touchdown pass against Houston.
Depalma has been very good on special teams and turned in some solid receiving performances in practice, he has a good chance to make the squad because of his special teams contributions, but if he doesn’t he will likely end up on the practice squad. The player most likely to take that fifth receiver spot is Patrick Turner, with the exception of Burress the Jets have no size at the receiver spot. Turner brings them that size and has shown enough improvement this camp that he should be the number five.
OL– Vlad Ducasse, Robby Felix and Matt Kroul are all going to make the team, but with the Jets still having depth issues on the line, Ryan will be keeping a close watch on them to see which one steps up to state their case as being the most productive backup.
CBs– We all know how Ryan covets his cornerbacks so all three of these corners (Ellis Lankster, Marquice Cole and Donald Strickland) will likely make the team with one of them maybe finding themselves shifting back-and-forth from active roster to practice squad depending on each week’s matchup. Lankster is the one to keep your eye on though as he has turned in a solid performance this camp.
S– The two safeties to watch for tonight are Emmanuel Cook and rookie Byron Landor. With Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith, Brodney Pool and Dwight Lowery all set as a part of the safety rotation, one of these players will have to stand out tonight if they want to solidify a spot on the active roster.
RBs- There will be no ongoing battle taking place at the running back position, but with the starters not playing fans will get an extended look at Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Chris Jennings will get his share of carries as well, but the odds are heavily stacked against him for making this team. So he will likely be playing to convince someone else to take a flyer on him.
TE- Josh Baker is another young player who has had a good camp, but tonight he will be playing to convince Ryan that they need to carry four tight-ends with Keller, Mulligan and Cumberland all firmly planted in front of him.
This time next week we will be gearing up for the regular season, but tonight we get one last look at who is and who isn’t deserving of an active roster spot. For many of these players this is their chance to prove that they are a cut above, tonight we will see where all the pieces to this puzzle will fall.