With more roster cuts due in a few days, the battle for starting jobs and roster spots is heating up, and every snap could be the one that raises a player’s stock or plunges it into the toilet. Here I’ll give you five players to keep an eye on against Atlanta who could be fighting for their place on the Jets for 2022.
Espresso Shot: Jets Dominate Joint Practices
In a turnaround from recent years Jets fans were treated to nothing but positive vibes coming out of the joint practice with Atlanta on Friday. On day one we got lots of tweet worthy highlights from the offence, with Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore all showing up with big plays. The rookies on the defence showed out as well; Sauce Gardner picked off his former Cincinnati teammate Desmond Ridder, and Jermaine Johnson closed off the Falcons final drive of the day with a sack on Marcus Mariota.
The team glowed all over and Jets fans should feel incredibly good about this one. Injuries-wise the team came out relatively unscathed with the only notable news that Vinny Curry needed to be helped off the field with a hamstring injury.
An honorable mention has to go out to all the Jets fans in attendance at training camp this offseason for the videos and updates being posted on Twitter. We often say that this fan base is the best in the NFL, and the camp coverage by fans is certainly second to none.
Pre-Season Game 2: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons will stick around New Jersey and come to Metlife this Monday night (or Tuesday morning for us poor souls on the wrong side of the Atlantic ocean) to play the last of the 2nd pre-season games against the New York Jets.
We won’t get to see Zach Wilson for any snaps this time around as he continues to rehab following his successful knee surgery, but there’s still plenty of interesting things for fans to be watching for, and here’s five players who fit that bill.
1. Will Parks
The Safety position is one that was given minimal attention by Joe Douglas and the front office these last two years as they continue to patch the many holes that they inherited in this roster. The addition of Jordan Whitehead is something I’m personally quite excited about, but this is not a strong or particularly deep position.
Maybe that’s why I find myself writing about Will Parks as an exciting prospect for a competitor for the starting free safety spot across from Whitehead. Parks had a solid game against Philadelphia and he’s flashed at times in camp. At the moment Lamarcus Joyner is making the starting roster almost by default. If Parks plays well against the Falcons and the Giants it will put some much needed pressure on Joyner to up his game to keep his spot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Parks manages to edge him out as the season goes on.
2. Micheal Clemons
Not fighting for a roster spot by any means, but where Clemons sit on the depth chart is certainly up for discussion. Clemons had a fantastic outing against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first pre-season game where he had a sack and seven pressures.
He’s also just damn fun to watch. The energy and violence he brings to the line against both the run and the pass is something the Jets need in this D-Line that will see a heavy rotation. Clemons could play himself into a higher portion of those snaps if he has another big game against Atlanta, especially if he continues to show versatility in where he can play along the line.
3. Isaiah Dunn
This corner back room is busy. Including the guys listed at Nickel there’s eight players on the depth chart. Comments from Saleh aside the starters on the outside, when healthy, will be Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed. Echols and Hall are both coming off impressive seasons in 2021 and look like solid 2nd string players. Does that leave any space for Dunn?
Dunn was a UDFA in 2021 and didn’t wow anyone with his play in coverage when he did see the field, but he’s looked to turn that around this off-season and has looked improved so far and earned praise from head coach Robert Saleh:
” … he has been sticky in coverage throughout training camp. Obviously, he got to play last year he made the team as an undrafted free agent. He is having a really nice camp and [Dunn] is bigger and stronger than he was a year ago. He is much more comfortable in the system. This wasn’t his only good day, he has been stacking up a lot of good days together.”
Dunn’s main competition comes from special-teams ace Justin Hardee, and Javelin Guidry, who will be trying to make the roster as the backup slot corner behind Michael Carter II. He had some good pass break ups in joint practices with the Falcons, and if he can carry that into the game on Monday he could give the coaches something to think about.
4. Jeremy Ruckert
Ruckert isn’t in danger of not making this roster. Drafted in the 4th round in 2022 and a made-for-tv hometown hero story walking Ruckert will be on the 53 man roster come the end of August. Ruckert’s role though could have interesting consequences for some other players, so I’ll be watching how the Jets use him over the next two games.
If he looks like a fit for the TE/FB hybrid role we could be waving goodbye to Trevon Wesco and Nick Bawden, and there’s then a real chance Lawrence Cager has a spot to play for. If Ruckert doesn’t look like he’s getting used in this way, or not quite performing, Cager is unlikely to make the cut and Bawden/Wesco have a two-way battle for the FB role.
5. Calvin Jackson
WR6 is truly up for grabs on this roster. I don’t believe for a second that the Jets will only carry five wide receivers into the season, unless they decide to bring an additional TE, and Calvin Jackson is someone who can break through to that spot. The only person he’s really in competition with at the moment is Denzel Mims who, despite having some good moments in camp, showed up to the Eagles game looking like 2021 Mims with drops and penalties still not cleaned up.
Calvin Jackson grabs the game winning TD in the Jets-Eagles pre-season game – image courtesy of USA Today
If Jackson has another good game on Monday against Atlanta he could go into the final game against the Giants with a real chance to make the final 53.
If the joint practices are anything to go by it should be a good night for these players, as well as the rest of the roster, to put some good film on tape. The Jets simply have so much more talent than the Falcons; which is a nice thing to be able to say. With the Jets being the primetime game of the second week of pre-season games we should get treated to some competent commentary for a change as well.