Top 5 most surprising preseason cuts of the Jets
By Justin Fried
The preseason has come and gone and a few unexpected players have been left off the 53-man roster of the New York Jets. Who were the biggest surprise snubs and why were they cut?
The preseason, although it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, is personally one of my favorite times of the year. Even when it comes to the New York Jets.
Perhaps that’s because being a Jets fan I’m not used to a POST-season…but I digress. The preseason is a time where players on the roster bubble duke it out with others in similar positions for a precious spot on the final 53-man roster.
There are always preseason studs that earn a spot on the roster with their stellar performances before the start of the season. And then there are those who disappoint in training camp and fail to make the team despite initial expectations.
In this piece, let’s take a look at the top five most surprising cuts by the Jets following the preseason.
Next: 5. Lawrence Thomas
5. Defensive End Lawrence Thomas
Despite the Jets abundance of talent along the defensive line, defensive end Lawrence Thomas seemed to make a strong enough case to earn a final roster spot on the team as a reserve lineman. Unfortunately for Thomas, this wasn’t the case.
The former Michigan State Spartan impressed enough in camp last year to make the initial 53-man roster and even looked to be a part of the normal defensive line rotation. He played in just three games, including one start, before injuring his shoulder and subsequently being placed on the injured reserve.
After another strong preseason, it appeared as though Thomas was well on his way to earning another spot on the Jets roster. However, the team opted to go with the young Claude Pelon instead. This surprised many as Pelon was seen as a long shot to make the team, but a strong showing in the preseason proved to be enough to push him past Thomas on the depth chart.
This likely won’t be the last we see of Lawrence Thomas as a Jet as, despite his release, he was later signed to the practice squad and he will look to continue his development there.
Next: 4. Julian Howsare/Anthony Firkser
4. Fullback Julian Howsare/Anthony Firkser
What are you talking about? Of course, I could do double entries!
In this case, we’re not necessarily talking about one specific player, but rather a particular position that the Jets decided to cut out of their game plan. While it’s certainly not a necessity to carry a fullback in today’s NFL (only 14 teams carried one last year), the Jets made it very clear that under new offensive coordinator John Morton the team would not only carry a fullback during the 2017 season but feature one prominently in the offense.
In fact, running backs coach Stump Mitchell was quoted saying in a June interview via an article written by James Parks for 247Sports, “We will have a fullback, and he will be productive in this offense”.
Fast forward just a few months and the Jets are heading into the regular season once again without a fullback on the roster. Now again, it isn’t imperative in the current NFL landscape to carry a fullback, but some teams have had success in recent years with the position (the Falcons and Packers come to mind).
It certainly isn’t the end of the world, but it’s surprising nonetheless that the team opted to change their minds so quickly about the significance of a fullback on their team. If anything, Anthony Firkser would’ve likely been the best fit as he possesses the receiving and athletic ability necessary to be successful in the team’s new West Coast style offense under Morton.
But alas, it appears that Jets fans will have to settle for another year without a fullback and another broken promise from management.
Next: 3. Chris Harper
3. Wide Receiver Chris Harper
With the severe lack of talent and/or experience in the Jets wide receiver core, it was certainly promising to see Chris Harper excel this past preseason. This is why it was such a surprise to see him cut loose when the Jets trimmed their roster down to 53.
The former New England Patriot and San Francisco 49er had probably the best preseason showing out of every wide receiver on the Jets roster, but still found himself receiving his walking papers when all was said and done.
Some might point to the recent acquisitions of veterans Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Kerley as the reason Harper didn’t ultimately make the squad, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Harper managed to outplay players such as last year’s 7th round pick Charone Peake who showed little-to-nothing this preseason. However, the Jets opted to not only keep Peake but also bring in two other receivers (Kalif Raymond and Damore’ea Stringfellow) who offer more special teams appeal than Harper.
Still, it seems somewhat surprising that perhaps the Jets top preseason performer was unceremoniously released in favor of players he had not only outperformed but surpasses in terms of experience. And in this case, experience does not equal age. In fact, Harper (23) is actually a year younger than Peake (24).
When all of this is considered, it is certainly a head-scratcher as to why the Jets chose to let Harper go.
Next: 2. Ross Martin
2. Kicker Ross Martin
This entry might be most puzzling of all. And honestly, when I heard about this it made me legitimately upset.
Let’s take a look at this equitably, shall we?
A young, rebuilding team takes a flier on a veteran kicker who’s coming off a bad season. Said veteran gets outperformed by a young, cheaper kicker throughout training camp and into the preseason. So the team, in a clear sign of confidence in the young kicker, trades for said kicker’s college long snapper and real life good friend to seemingly reunite the two in not only a feel good story but a move that would make total sense.
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Here’s where it gets confusing.
Instead of making the logical decision to not only save money but retain the BETTER PLAYER, the Jets…I mean this anonymous team…decides to keep the veteran kicker over the youngster in a baffling decision.
What’s more? The team opted to save money by cutting their ultra reliable veteran long snapper (who also happened to be the longest tenured player on the team) in favor of the young one they had traded for. This left the odd couple pairing of the veteran kicker and the young long snapper.
So, after all of that, the team decided to save minimal money by keeping a younger, unproven long snapper and for some reason chose to release the young kicker in favor of the older kicker (WHO WAS OUTPERFORMED) in a move that cost them more money than cutting their veteran long snapper saved.
I have a confession to make. That young kicker was actually Ross Martin. And that veteran kicker was really Chandler Catanzaro. And that long snapper….well you could fill in the rest.
Next: 1. Deon Simon
1. Nose Tackle Deon Simon
Perhaps the surprise cut that caught the most people off guard was that of big nose tackle Deon Simon. There was a time when Simon was looked at as the future starter at the nose tackle position and the successor to veteran Steve McLendon.
That time was as recent as this summer.
Apparently, plans changed and Simon was ultimately handed his walking papers when the rosters were trimmed to 53. This isn’t only surprising given his position on the Jets depth chart going into training camp this summer, but his preseason play, although unspectacular, seemed to be good enough to not put his roster spot in jeopardy.
Simon, a former 7th round draft choice of general manager Mike Maccagnan out of Northwestern State, is a solid run-stopper who showed a good amount of growth towards the end of last season and proved to be a reliable rotational defender.
The Jets opted to keep former Green Bay Packer Mike Pennel in Simon’s place in a move that likely surprised many. Pennel is a player who’s similar in strength to Simon. He has a large frame (6’4″, 332 lbs.) that makes him suitable for the prototypical run-stuffing nose tackle role. Paul Newbold did an excellent job of covering Pennel much more thoroughly right here on The Jet Press if you’d like to check it out.
All that being said, Pennel has twice been suspended for PED’s, both during the course of the 2016 season. He also has a history of off the field problems as he was suspended indefinitely from Arizona State University during his time in college and subsequently transferred the following year.
While Simon and Pennel may both have similar skill sets and on the outside, this doesn’t seem all too shocking, it is ultimately a modest surprise that the Jets were willing to give up on a player that had shown such promise and that the organization seemed to be high on.
Must Read: Top 25 bold predictions for the Jets in 2017
Perhaps we will see Simon on the Jets roster before long regardless as shortly after his release he was signed to the team’s practice squad, but it just goes to show that nothing is a certainty in football.
Who knows? Maybe the Jets could produce a winning season this year!
Anything is possible.