Jets stock report following preseason Week 2
By Justin Fried
The New York Jets fell to the Washington Redskins by a final score of 15-13 in a sluggish second preseason game. Which players helped their cause with encouraging performances and which players may have done more harm than good?
There were no fist fights, no fireworks, and most definitely no team brawls.
Thursday’s meeting between the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins was about as highly anticipated as any preseason matchup could be simply due to the bad blood that had been built up over the past week of joint practices between the two squads.
But instead of a benches-clearing free-for-all, we were treated to a back-and-forth contest filled with field goal after field goal coupled with poor offensive execution and bend-but-don’t-break defensive play.
In other words, a typical preseason affair.
In all seriousness, while the game might not have been the most exciting to watch at times, there were still a number of encouraging takeaways with certain players shining under the lights. On the other hand, some players helped contribute to the mundane gameplay with poor showings of their own.
The following slides will detail an overall stock report of the Jets team complete with players who find their stock trending up and those who’ve seen their stock take a hit.
Offensive Players Stock Up
Teddy Bridgewater: Teddy Bridgewater may not have a future with the Jets, but if Thursday’s game is any indication he has a bright future with some NFL franchise. The former Minnesota Viking looks more and more comfortable every time he takes the field and his most recent performance was no different.
Bridgewater completed 10-of-15 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown looking poised and strong throwing from the pocket. His mobility was also on display as his legs showed no signs of rust or wear even after taking multiple hits in the game.
Based solely on preseason play, Bridgewater has been the best quarterback on the team and has earned the right to get some snaps with the first stringers in the next couple of games. However, as much as many fans would like to see him as the starting quarterback come Week 1, reality must set in.
Bridgewater is not long for this team. This doesn’t mean that he is not an asset while he’s still here in the locker room and as a trade piece. But the sooner fans accept the inevitable the better.
That being said, Thursday’s performance only helped to improve his trade value and that’s a good thing for both Bridgewater and the Jets organization.
Tre McBride: McBride continues to get opportunities with the first team and he continues to make the most of them. The former Chicago Bear has been a reliable target in the passing game showing good hands on top of running crisp routes.
In his latest game, McBride caught two passes for 24 yards with both receptions coming on third down to move the chains on the team’s second possession. The William & Mary product has clearly impressed coaches in training camp and capitalized on the opportunities he’s been given.
At the moment, he’s ahead of players like ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen (more on the latter later) on the depth chart and it’s getting to the point where you have to start wondering if that will play a role when roster cuts begin to take place.
At one point, McBride was considered a longshot to make the roster. Now, not only has he shed that longshot label, but he’s earned a roster spot.
Charone Peake: Peake has been somewhat of a forgotten man among the Jets many receivers but the former 7th round pick did his best to be remembered following his breakout game on Thursday. The Clemson product was quiet for most of the day but came through with back-to-back receptions in the fourth quarter, including one phenomenal snag in the corner of the end zone for a highlight reel touchdown.
Peake finished the day with 29 receiving yards but the seldom noteworthy receiver made his case to occupy one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. He will still face an uphill battle with a myriad of receiver talent still ahead of him on the depth chart but his special team’s prowess could save him a roster spot much like it might have last year.
If Peake continues to impress, some very difficult cuts will have to be made in the receiver room when the time to trim the roster down to 53 comes.
Next: Offensive Players Stock Down
Offensive Players Stock Down
Chad Hansen: Hansen finds himself on this list for the second consecutive week, this time alone without his positional partner ArDarius Stewart who was saved an entry after hauling in a 17-yard reception in Thursday’s game.
Hansen, unfortunately, can’t claim the same.
The California product was essentially invisible for another week hauling in just one pass this time on a broken play that netted zero total yards. Hansen was the star standout of OTA’s and expectations were relatively high for the second-year receiver after he showed some promise towards the latter portion of last year.
Things, however, haven’t gone to plan for Hansen and he may very well find himself on the roster bubble if he doesn’t pick things up in the coming weeks. Ultimately, general manager Mike Maccagnan is notorious for holding on to his draft picks so Hansen likely has an edge over his competition there.
Still, if roster spots were strictly merit-based, it would be hard to argue that Hansen has deserved one to this point.
Jordan Leggett: Leggett was finally able to find his way back on to the gridiron but unfortunately failed to do anything with his opportunity. Last year’s 5th round draft choice was not only given the chance to play but was even slotted in with the starters. However, he failed to receive even a single target in an ultimately forgettable performance.
This came with tight ends Chris Herndon and Neal Sterling both out with injuries leaving just veterans Eric Tomlinson and Clive Walford to compete with Leggett for snaps. Despite earning equal, if not more playing time than those two, Leggett failed to outperform either and might’ve hurt his stock more than if he hadn’t played at all.
With both Herndon and Sterling likely to return next week, it’s difficult to see Leggett getting nearly the same amount of snaps as he received in this outing. Which means that he will have even less of a chance to make an impact and earn a role with the team.
Unfortunately, Leggett’s Jets career could wind up being cut short before he ever suits up for a regular season game.
Jonotthan Harrison: With right guard Brian Winters out with an injury, the versatile Harrison was tasked with starting in his place and he didn’t fare too well. The veteran backup was bullied in the run game and allowed an ugly sack to Redskins rookie Da’Ron Payne on a third down early in the first quarter.
Harrison is a well-rounded reserve lineman who can play both center and guard which should make his roster spot relatively secure. That being said, Thursday’s game was confirmation that he isn’t and should never be considered a starting caliber player.
With the state of offensive linemen in the league today, Harrison is actually around average in terms of backup quality. Regardless, his recent play should silence any calls for him to be taken seriously as a starting candidate and have Jets fans worried if one of their interior linemen goes down mid-season.
Brent Qvale: Much like Harrison, Qvale was a backup lineman forced into a starting role with left tackle Kelvin Beachum nursing a foot injury.
And much like Harrison, Qvale struggled mightily.
The Nebraska product put together a dreadful performance getting tormented and pushed around in the run game on seemingly every possession on top of his struggles in pass protection. Qvale was the culprit who allowed a sack from Redskins edge rusher Preston Smith and was also the victim of a false start penalty in the red zone on the team’s second possession.
Contrary to Harrison, Qvale didn’t even look like a backup caliber player even struggling when he was flipped to the right side of the offensive line with the second team.
With swing tackle Ben Ijalana recently having been placed on the injured reserve and Patriots castoff Antonio Garcia struggling more than Qvale, the Jets are in a difficult position at backup offensive tackle. Offensive guard Dakota Dozier has played a little tackle in his career and was even put there at points in the game but he didn’t fare too much better.
Qvale was expected to be the team’s primary backup tackle providing solid depth at an imperative offensive position. As it stands now, the Jets may have to search for external options if they aren’t satisfied with what they’re working with at the moment.
Either that or pray to the football gods that an offensive tackle doesn’t sustain an injury.
Next: Defensive Players Stock Up
Defensive Players Stock Up
Nathan Shepherd: Shepherd once again put together a very solid, under-the-radar performance showing that he is making the transition to the NFL from Division II at a quicker pace than most had expected.
The big 315-pound defensive lineman was a force in the middle of the defense plugging up running lanes and shedding blocks swiftly and consistently. Pro Football Focus even gave him a spectacular 90.7 grade which was the highest among all defensive players for the team in Thursday’s game.
Shepherd’s production is a far cry from the effort the team received last year with Muhammad Wilkerson starting opposite Leonard Williams and the team is hoping that this bump in production will also help free Williams from some double teams and aid his play in the process.
At the very least, Shepherd is proving to be a force against the run even if he’s only currently being used as a two-down lineman.
Jordan Jenkins: While it may not be saying much at all, Jenkins has looked like (and is) the Jets best edge rusher at the moment.
Unfortunately, this bears resemblance to the ancient proverb that reads “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
That being said, Jenkins put together a solid performance on Thursday totaling four tackles, two QB hits, and a sack. The sack was the only semblance of a pass rush that the team was able to muster up but it came at an important time as Jenkins was able to stop Washington on third down early in the first quarter allowing the Jets to hold the Redskins to a field goal.
While Jenkins may never be a star edge rusher, the Georgia product is a very capable starter who can set the edge effectively and play well against the run. He is an all-around solid contributor and an even more important part of this defense when you consider the level of edge talent around him.
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If anything, Thursday’s performance just solidified Jenkins even more as the team’s top edge rusher, as shameful as that might seem.
Kevin Minter and Neville Hewitt: Both Minter and Hewitt played well on Thursday as the duo received the majority of the snaps at inside linebacker in the second half and made the most of their opportunity.
The pair of veterans were in on a number of run stops with the latter once again leading the team in tackles with eight. Both players are fighting for roster spots but could see their roles increase even further if starting inside linebacker Darron Lee (more on him later) continues to struggle.
While Hewitt has made more plays thus far in the preseason, the player to watch out for here is Minter who has plenty of starting experience dating back to his time with the Todd Bowles-led Arizona Cardinals defensive unit. It’s also worth noting that Minter was playing the MIKE role and calling out plays for the second string defense so it would appear that the Jets do have faith in him as a player.
Hewitt will likely continue to be a strong special teamer if he makes the roster and based off of his impressive preseason showings, the former Miami Dolphin should find his way on to the 53-man roster one way or another.
Next: Defensive Players Stock Down
Defensive Players Stock Down
Frankie Luvu: Luvu has been turning some heads in training camp and has been given ample opportunity to play at the barren wasteland that is the Jets edge rusher position but his performance on Thursday may have landed him in the temporary dog house.
Luvu was given reps with the second team opposite Brandon Copeland before he was flagged for two bonehead personal fouls which could only be described by the slapstick 1994 comedy, “Dumb and Dumber.”
The effort is appreciated and it’s understandable that a young player such as Luvu will be looking to make an impact when he can but two personal fouls within a quarter of play are unacceptable from an undrafted rookie trying to make a roster. The Washington State product was soon replaced in the game by second-year man Dylan Donahue who fared better by simply not getting penalized.
While this performance alone shouldn’t be enough to warrant keeping him off the final 53-man roster, it certainly wasn’t a good look. Luvu will have to work extra hard to make up for it in the final two preseason games as he attempts to make the final roster or at least the team’s practice squad.
Darron Lee: 2018 is going to be a make or break year for Lee and the young Ohio native isn’t off to a great start. Many of the problems that have plagued Lee throughout his NFL career still appear to be of concern which is not an encouraging sign for the man that will be calling the defensive plays for the Jets this year.
Lee was once again out of position on a number of running plays including on Redskins running back Samaje Perine‘s 30-yard rush where Lee overpursued and was blocked completely out of the play.
The Ohio State product has a tendency to overpursue ball carriers as his speed oftentimes gets the best of him like a runaway train. Lee still struggles to stay disciplined in zone coverage as well which only serves to hamper the overall defensive production even more.
Altogether, Lee is the same flawed player he entered the league as in 2016 and one has to wonder when the Jets will look to other options for the sake of the team. If Lee doesn’t turn it around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a player like Kevin Minter take snaps away from or even fully overtake Lee if his issues become too overwhelming.
It’s best not to overreact after just two preseason games, but time is beginning to run out for the once promising young defender.