New York Jets: 4 bubble players to watch out for in Preseason Week 4
By James Cunningham
Week 4 of the preseason wins and loses jobs every year in the NFL. Here are 4 New York Jets players who will be fighting for their lives on Thursday night.
As a New York Jets fan or any football fan, Week 4 of the preseason is without question one of the most boring games to watch in football. Starters see very little, if any playing time. It’s all about letting guys fight it out for the final spots on the 53-man roster, which will be filled by August 31st.
So, even though watching it on TV could feel boring and meaningless, jobs are on the line for some players. This game could get one player a spot in the final 53, and lose a spot for another. Players will give it all that they have to show their worth to the coaches and front office.
The Jets have several players fighting for the remaining open spots on the final roster, some fighting to push themselves in, while some are fighting to keep themselves from falling out of the group.
Who are they? Here are four players on the roster bubble to watch for in Gang Green’s preseason finale:
Next: An early 2018 draft pick
If the roster was finalized before Thursday’s game, Nathan Shepherd would be on the roster. He’s currently listed as a second-string defensive end behind Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson. However, his spot isn’t locked up.
Shepherd’s done very little to prove his worth in New York since being drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. In 2018, Shepherd started five games, posting only 15 tackles and one tackle for loss. He failed to sack the quarterback and hasn’t done so yet this preseason either.
Unlike most prospects, Shepherd came into the league as a 24-year-old. To put that into perspective, Leonard Williams is the same age as him, and Jamal Adams is two years younger. Shepherd came into the league at a late age, meaning he’ll have fewer years to mark as developmental.
Shepherd also wasn’t drafted by the new regime. Mike Maccagnan is gone, and if he saw something in Shepherd that Joe Douglas hasn’t, Shepherd could be in trouble. Douglas has already gotten rid of a few Maccagnan draft picks, and it’s more than likely that a few more will hit the road as well.
Shepherd needs to show the coaches something against the Philadelphia Eagles before someone else does and potentially takes his spot. A quiet game this week could potentially cost him a spot on the roster. He’ll get plenty of reps with the starters out, and he needs to prove his worth.
Next: A once starting running back
Last year, Elijah McGuire played a key depth role in the Jets’ running back room and even got a few starts in the absences of Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell. This year, he may not even find himself on the Jets’ final 53-man roster.
New York completely reshaped its running back group in the offseason, letting Crowell go and signing Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery. With those two and Powell on the team, and Trenton Cannon thriving on special teams, McGuire could be in trouble during the two cut days.
McGuire is a very likely cut candidate unless Thursday’s game really changes something. He’s been consistently outplayed by Cannon in the rushing and special teams game, and he’s shown very little to be kept over a proven veteran like Powell.
Former Jets running back coach Stump Mitchell believed McGuire was in line for a featured role in the team’s offense someday. He had some extremely high praise when talking about McGuire during last years training camp, even comparing his abilities to NFL Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
McGuire is yet another Maccagnan draft pick that could be headed out. With a rebuilt running back room, there just isn’t much room for McGuire. He’ll be one of the better players that the Jets get rid of if he’s cut, but there just isn’t much room for him in a loaded running back room.
Next: A special teamer with something to prove
Believe it or not, the Jets still haven’t signed another kicker since bringing in Taylor Bertolet. There are veterans available but the Jets haven’t budged on any of them. That being said, Bertolet has a real opportunity to win the job on Thursday.
He had a very strong outing against the Saints, reassuring fans that he can indeed be a solid kicker for the Jets. He went 2-for-2 on field goals, including a 56-yarder, and hit his only extra point. That’s a good day for any kicker in the NFL.
However, he needs to continue this strong performance on Thursday to keep his job. He’s likely a missed kick or two away from losing his job. Bertolet may have the most pressure among everyone on the entire Jets roster to play well against the Eagles in the preseason finale.
Players like Matt Bryant loom the Jets’ practice field as they gear up for their final preseason outing. If Bertolet has another good outing, the Jets may not see a reason to sign another kicker. And if he could nail 56-yarders the way he did against the Saints, why should they?
Next: Secondary depth
The Jets cornerback depth is extremely thin. Nevertheless, there’s probably little to no locked roster spots at the backup cornerback position. Alex Brown has had a strong preseason so far and could seal a spot on the roster for himself with another strong outing on Thursday.
With the Jets acquiring veterans Nate Hairston and Marcus Cooper during the preseason, young players really have to shine to take spots from them. So far, the only player I’ve seen even come close to out battling them is Alex Brown.
Kyron Brown, Tevaughn Campbell, and Alex Brown are the three most likely candidates to make the 53-man roster. Hopefully one of them shines during the finale to push for a spot on the final roster. Who will it be?
Alex Brown has had the strongest preseason out of the three coverage wise and is a big play or two away from potentially stealing a spot on the roster. However, Campbell and Kyron Brown are just as close. Only time will tell who steps up and possibly makes their way onto the 53-man roster.