The NY Jets have been all over the place in the 2023 preseason, as they followed up a choke in the Hall of Fame game against the Cleveland Browns with a terrific 27-0 domination of the Carolina Panthers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to squeak out a win in the Jets' home preseason opener.
Tampa took home a win in a 13-6 slobber knocker that featured multiple missed field goals, a Zonovan Knight fumble, and a Tim Boyle interception. A fast start orchestrated by Zach Wilson and a solid defensive performance was eventually wasted by poor situational play.
As is always the case, however, the results of this game are immaterial in the grand scheme of things. Figuring out which players can make the roster as quality backups is the main goal that Robert Saleh and the rest of the coaching staff have tried to achieve in this series of exhibitions.
These three players stood out against the Bucs and have impressed with their entire postseason body of work. While nothing is guaranteed until cut day comes, these three players might need to start looking for permanent apartments in New Jersey after impressing coaches and fans alike.
3 NY Jets who locked down roster spots in preseason loss vs. Buccaneers
3. LB Zaire Barnes
Barnes was by no means a lock to make the final roster for the Jets. Not only was he coming off a somewhat average collegiate career at Western Michigan, but he has to compete with a host of young linebackers who were also vying for the role of CJ Mosley and Quincy Williams' top backup.
Barnes was hoovering up tackles early in the Jets' first two preseason games, and he continued to play a big part in shutting down Tampa's running game. Barnes clearly has the edge over a former third-round pick in Chazz Surratt, which should not be overlooked.
Zaire Barnes should make the NY Jets roster.
Barnes' meal ticket was always going to be his speed and range at the linebacker position, which is precisely what Saleh seems to value at that position. Barnes, if nothing else, will be a valued special teams member who ends up eventually carving out a long-term role on one of the coverage teams.
In order to make good on his potential and hold his own when called into service as a linebacker, Barnes will need to add on a few pounds and prove that he can handle the physicality of the professional game in between the tackles. If he can do that, Barnes could be a genuine late-round steal.