New York Jets: 3 players that must shine vs Detroit Lions


Jun 17, 2014; Florham Parl, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (43) during minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets are looking to put a hectic training camp behind them in Detroit as they take on the Lions for the second time in three years to kickoff the preseason. Gang Green’s last visit to the Motor City began horribly when ex-Jet Mark Sanchez was picked on his first pass of the year by Ezekiel Ansah who returned it for a touchdown. Thankfully, it was only the preseason, but that’s never the way you want to start things off. However, this season, New York’s quarterback woes have started before a game has even been played.

On Tuesday, quarterback Geno Smith was punched in the face by former teammate IK Enemkpali in a locker room fight over money. Smith broke his jaw in two different places and as a result, he’ll be sidelined for 6-10 weeks until he can fully recover. This leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick the starting job by default with only Bryce Petty and Jake Heaps to back him up. If anything were to happen to one of these three, the Jets would be in quite the predicament from a depth standpoint at the position.

No pressure will be on any of the quarterbacks heading into tonight’s action, but the unit nonetheless is taking a hit with Smith out for practically two months. Although, other players throughout the roster will feel a lot of weight on their shoulders given the fact that some of their days are numbered. Here are three players that must stand out against the Lions to keep themselves in good shape on the depth chart.

Next: 3. Shaq Evans

Jul 24, 2014; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Shaq Evans (81) runs with the ball during drills at training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

3. Shaq Evans

Evans has had one of the hottest training camps out of all the players on the roster. After season-ending shoulder surgery in his rookie year, the 2014 fourth-rounder seems to have gotten off on the right foot in 2015. In camp, he’s beaten cornerback Antonio Cromartie several times down the field and made great plays on the ball. With Devin Smith’s rib injury that will keep him out for at least another month, Evans has earned himself a decent shot at making the final 53-man roster.

The guys he must edge out to make the team are T.J. Graham, Saalim Hakim and DeVier PoseyChris Owusu seems to be ahead of him on the depth chart while Walter Powell, Quincy Enunwa, and Jonathon Rumph are trailing from behind as of now.

Gang Green will air it out in the 2nd half tonight with Petty and Heaps under center, so expect Evans to be targeted big time in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s spread approach. If he wants to squeeze his way onto the team, he must play in the preseason like he did in camp.

Next: 2. Lorenzo Mauldin

Jul 30, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Julian Howsare (59 )and Daryl Richardson (35) defend against outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (55) during first day of training camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

2. Lorenzo Mauldin

Mauldin is another guy having a great camp thus far. It seems as if new head coach Todd Bowles has figured out how to use the Louisville alumn in different looks and packages to bring out his full potential.

Mauldin strung together a solid four-year career as a Cardinal picking up over 20 sacks in just 3 years where he played a reasonable about of snaps. What makes him very special for the Jets’ outside linebacker corps is his youth that very few players in the unit can provide. With the exception of Quinton Coples, New York is very old when it comes to their pass rush. Calvin Pace is going to be 35 in October, Jason Babin is already 35, and Trevor Reilly actually turns 28 in January despite being one of last year’s 12 draft picks.

Mauldin is your vintage edge-rusher and he brings effort to the table each and every play. If he can perform well throughout the preseason, starting tonight, he can perhaps take the starting job away from Pace in his rookie campaign earlier than expected.

Next: 1. Dexter McDougle

Jun 9, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dashaun Phillips (32) and New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (23) talk during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

1. Dexter McDougle

The former 2014 third-rounder may not be having the best camp, but there’s a tremendous opportunity that lies in front of him before the regular season starts. Since Dee Milliner is out 6-8 weeks recovering from wrist surgery, the door has opened for McDougle in the sense that he can earn himself a good deal of playing time early on. Before tearing his ACL after Week 1 of the preseason, McDougle was in line to handle the role as the nickel corner as a rookie. Now, it’s his turn to be the next man up.

As one of the fastest corners on the team with plenty of experience playing nickel and dime, he without a doubt has what it takes to step up as the team’s No. 4 corner on the depth chart. The guys realistically competing with him for the spot are sophomore Marcus Williams and four-year veteran Darrin Walls.

What helps McDougle is that Walls is getting reps at safety, however, Williams is no easy man to beat out for this job. Williams was one of last year’s few gems, therefore it will be tough to turn away from him to a guy coming off an ACL tear. Regardless, Bowles has quite the secondary and McDougle can be an even bigger part of it by stepping up in tonight’s match-up.

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