FLORHAM PARK, NJ — It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the Jets closed out their preseason with a home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. However, last night was more about the individual performances than how the team as a whole performed, as Rex Ryan said in this post-game press conference last night.
So sure, the rushing attack averaged below 2 yards per carry. And OK, the offense might not have posted more than 200 total yards. And who cares the defense made third string Eagles running back Dion Lewis look like a potential first round pick in most people’s fantasy football drafts. I know the Official JetsInsider.com Morning After Report is usually reserved for grading the team’s performance, but today we will look at who stood out on each side of the ball — making a case for them to make the 53-man roster by the time the Dallas Cowboys come to MetLife Stadium to open the season on what will be a memorable night on September 11th.
- Robby Felix, Offensive Line — Outside of the starting offensive lineman, who combine to build one of the best starting units in the NFL, their depth is one of their most glaring weak points on this team. Felix has been a standout, if only by default, due to the downright awful play by second-year lineman Vlad Ducasse and the injury sustained by utility lineman Rob Turner.
- Matt Kroul, Offensive Line — A former defensive lineman turned right guard, Kroul — like Felix — just might retain a spot by default. A thin second unit coupled with the selfless act of making the transition from defense to offense makes Kroul standout against others. He’s definitely a work in progress, but his team-first attitude is something that rubs off on younger guys and Ryan has got to love that in a player.
- Jeff Cumberland, Tight End — A big, athletic target in the red zone and he has the benefit of working with twin TE guru Tom Moore (see Clark, Dallas & Tamme, Jacob). As he showed last night he has the versatility to play fullback/H-back in a pinch, which is promising if starting fullback John Conner can’t stay healthy this year.
- Scotty McKnight, Wide Receiver — The all-time leader in receptions for the University of Colorado and childhood best bud of Mark Sanchez has too much luck on his for him not to make this team. I know, the receiving core is loaded with talent (P. Burress, S. Holmes, D. Mason, J. Kerley, P. Turner), but he showed off his soft hands last night, coming in cold and catching his first touchdown pass of his professional career. And keeping Sanchez happy doesn’t hurt either.
- Nick Bellore, Middle Linebacker — This rookie out of Central Michigan has caught the eye of his coaches early on, but has sparked the attention of Jets fans within the past week — posting a nice breakout game in Monday’s MetLife Bowl against the New York Giants. And last night against the Eagles he proved it was no fluke. He showed get instincts and knack for having a nose for the ball, seemingly getting in on every play. He’ll learn a great deal from David Harris about the position and in the mean time his ball-hawking skills could help Mike Westhoff and the special teams unit while sparingly seeing time on the defensive side of the ball.
- Aaron Maybin, Outside Linebacker — A first round pick cast aside as a bust by the Buffalo Bills (?!), Maybin was plucked from the scrap heap and given new life with the Jets. He was at a disadvantage than the rest of the borderline players given his late arrival to camp, but his pure pass rush ability has been enough to get him by so far — as he led the team in sacks this preseason with two and half. Ryan brushed aside the question of whether Maybin has done enough to make the team, but you have to think his raw talent is enough to give him a shot to get to know the defense and really be turned loose.
- Eric Lankster, Cornerback — He definitely helped his cause, returning a tipped interception 67-yards for a score — probably the most exciting play in an otherwise dreadful game. Ryan has always put an emphasis on the cornerback and edge rusher positions in his complex 3-4 defensive scheme and having someone with his type of speed and play-making ability is a great tool to keep in his tool box.
- Josh Mauga/Eddie Jones/Garrett McIntyre/Matthias Berning, Linebackers — Someone has to be cut or put on the practice squad from this linebacking core, and it’s too bad because all have impressed in some way or another. Mauga, the veteran of the group having spent last year with the team, has experience on his side. Jones has become a local celebrity, of sorts, among Jets fans for his under-the-radar above average play. McIntyre caught the eye of Ryan from day one of training camp, but will that be enough to secure him a spot on the 53-man roster? And Berning offers an intimidating presence in the middle of the defense, laying hits on the Eagles that were felt up in the press box. That man has some power.
Cuts That Have Already Been Anounced: QB Drew Willy (intended to be signed to practice squad), RB Chris Jennings, OT Pete Clifford, S Byron Landor, TE Keith Zinger, S Davon Morgan, DL Lorenzo Washington, OLB Eddie Jones, WR Dan DePalma, WR Michael Campbell, LB Joey Larocque, OL Nevin McCaskill, OL Dennis Landolt.
Unfortunately for the Jets, and as Ryan has stated before, the Jets trash will for sure be some other team’s treasure before the season starts. Does Danny Woodhead ring a bell? He’s the shining example of the amount of talent that this team has from top to bottom. This year’s Danny Woodhead? He could OLB Eddie Jones. As stated before he was a fan favorite, much like Woodhead, and is a beast of a player.
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