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New York Jets: Top 3 most surprising players who survived final roster cuts

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 30: Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets reacts before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 30: Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets reacts before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /
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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 30: Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets reacts before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New York Jets (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 30: Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets reacts before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. New York Jets (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

The New York Jets’ final 53-man roster has been finalized and while there aren’t too many stunners, these three players were definitely surprises to survive final roster cuts.

The New York Jets are just a couple of days from kicking off their 2019 season against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

There is a sense of optimism surrounding a franchise that has been void of such positivity for far too long. However, the roster that the team has assembled is looking promising, giving way to plenty of hope.

But to arrive at the 53 men who currently make up the active roster, the Jets had to first go through a series of roster adjustments before they could finalize the team.

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Waiver claims were made and there were plenty of cuts to go around — thus is the reality of the business. And there were a few players who managed to survive roster cuts that many fans likely didn’t see coming.

Let’s take a look at the three most surprising players to make the Jets’ initial 53-man roster.

Next: 3. Kyle Phillips

KNOXVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 3: Evan Shirreffs #16 of the Charlotte 49ers is tackled on a play by Defensive lineman Kyle Phillips #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers and Defensive back Theo Jackson #26 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Charlotte 49ers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. New York Jets (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 3: Evan Shirreffs #16 of the Charlotte 49ers is tackled on a play by Defensive lineman Kyle Phillips #5 of the Tennessee Volunteers and Defensive back Theo Jackson #26 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the Charlotte 49ers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. New York Jets (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images) /

3. Kyle Phillips, DL

Kyle Phillips was the lone undrafted free agent to secure a spot on the active roster, which in and of itself makes his inclusion on the roster a surprise.

Phillips quietly put together a very impressive preseason capping it off with a two-sack performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. But with an abundance of defensive line depth, his path to the 53-man seemed unlikely.

But the 22-year-old showed enough promise this summer to warrant a roster spot as the Jets went deep carrying nine defensive linemen when all was set and done.

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Retaining Phillips likely meant that some player at a different position didn’t make the cut — possibly at cornerback or wide receiver. That means that Phillips impressed so much that the team was willing to hurt their depth at another position just to keep him on the roster.

That’s some pretty spectacular praise.

Phillips finished his four-year career at Tennessee with 15.5 sacks, including 7.5 in his senior season. At 6-foot-4 and 277 pounds, Phillips is big enough to play as an interior lineman but could also even be used as a stand-up pass rusher.

It’s always a surprise when an undrafted rookie makes the roster, but it’s even more of a surprise when it comes at a position not lacking in depth.

But Phillips clearly made a lasting impression on the Jets’ coaching staff.

Next: 2. Arthur Maulet

NEW ORLEANS, LA – DECEMBER 24: Arthur Maulet #37 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New York Jets (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA – DECEMBER 24: Arthur Maulet #37 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. New York Jets (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

2. Arthur Maulet, CB

There is perhaps no weaker unit on the Jets roster at the moment than the cornerbacks. Instead of upgrading what was already a weakness in 2018, the Jets sat on their hands and arguably got worse at the position going into 2019.

But with the team’s severe lack of depth came an opportunity for some of the younger corners on the team to make their case to secure a roster spot.

We saw players such as Alex Brown and Kyron Brown step up in the preseason and impress when given the chance. Even someone like Tevaughn Campbell was given looks with the starters once the two aforementioned Brown’s went down with injuries.

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But at the end of the day, it was former New Orleans Saints defensive back Arthur Maulet who made the team as the fifth cornerback on the depth chart behind Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts, Brian Poole, and Nate Hairston.

Maulet was the only one of the bunch to have prior NFL experience having played in 12 games over the past two seasons with the Saints and Indianapolis Colts. But his play was certainly no better than the aforementioned players and his status on the depth chart appeared to be lower.

However, Maulet evidently showed the Jets enough to warrant a roster spot. Perhaps it was his NFL experience that convinced them. Or perhaps he simply stood out more behind the scenes.

But Maulet was undoubtedly a surprising player to survive roster cuts.

Next: 1. Nathan Shepherd

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 14: Running back Marlon Mack #25 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball against defensive end Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 14, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York Jets (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 14: Running back Marlon Mack #25 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball against defensive end Nathan Shepherd #97 of the New York Jets during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 14, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York Jets (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) /

1. Nathan Shepherd, DL

Neither Phillips nor Maulet was a particularly notable player to most Jets fans entering the preseason. And for that reason, the fact that each of them made the team is surprising, but not as surprising as someone like Nathan Shepherd making the cut.

Typically, teams don’t cut their third-round draft picks after just one season — for the sake of this point, we’ll forget that Jachai Polite ever existed. But Shepherd found himself on the outside looking in this summer.

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After a disappointing rookie season that saw him finish with just 15 tackles in 16 games — five starts — Shepherd was fighting for a roster spot in the preseason.

Matters were made worse when fellow second-year defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi seemingly passed him on the depth chart after a solid summer.

And once Shepherd was playing meaningless snaps in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game, the writing appeared to be on the wall.

But somehow, Shepherd survived.

The old regime that had drafted and coached him throughout his first year was no longer present. And his play had hardly warranted a roster spot. Not to mention that despite his limited experience, he’ll be turning 26-years-old in just a few days.

Yet despite all of this, Shepherd made the team — in perhaps the deepest position group on the entire roster of all things.

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Perhaps Shepherd could get his career back on track as his story is truly one worth admiring. But that doesn’t make his inclusion on the final 53-man roster any less surprising.

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