The running back battle
There is still plenty of settling to be done at the running back position for the Jets. Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery are locks, but Trenton Cannon and Elijah McGuire are battling it out for a spot. In addition, Bilal Powell and Valentine Holmes are in interesting positions regarding their roster statuses.
In the Cannon vs. McGuire battle, it was Cannon coming out on top last week. He made a couple of tackles on special teams, and also had one of his best rushing performances as a Jet, picking up a career high 51 yards on the ground. McGuire ran for only 21 yards on five carries, and was the fourth running back to enter the game – not a promising indictment.
Powell seems to be a heavy favorite to make the team due to his experience, versatility, and reliability. However, some reporters have suggested his age may be a detriment to his roster chances. We should learn a lot about Powell’s roster status based on the way he is used against Philadelphia in the preseason finale. The fourth game of the preseason is generally reserved for backups, with starters usually seeing zero action at all. If Powell does not appear in the game, it tells us that he is undoubtedly making the team. If he does play extended time, then that suggests he may be on the roster bubble.
Valentine Holmes, the Australian rugby star who has taken his shot in the NFL with the Jets this summer, has no shot of making the Week 1 roster. However, the NFL’s International Player Pathway program makes him eligible for a practice squad exemption. This means that the Jets can keep him as an 11th player on their practice squad, as he would not count against the team’s allotment of 10 non-active players who could be a part of the practice squad during the regular season. However, Holmes would not be able to join the team’s active roster during the 2019 regular season.
Because of this special advantage, there is zero downside to the Jets stashing Holmes on their practice squad and allowing him to develop throughout the year.
While Holmes has a lot of growing to do as a football player, he has tons of athletic talent to work with. In time, he could become a surprise contributor in the league, perhaps for the Jets. He should get plenty of opportunities to show what he’s got against the Eagles this Thursday night.
What is going on at cornerback?
The cornerback conundrum has gone on and on for the Jets throughout this offseason.
Luckily, they are starting to get healthy up top. Number one corner Trumaine Johnson recently returned to practice, meaning the first-team trio of Johnson, Darryl Roberts, and Brian Poole will be ready to go for Week 1 action.
In the meantime, the Jets need to work on bolstering their depth in the defensive backfield. One man who has provided them with some hope in this endeavor has been Alex Brown. The undrafted cornerback out of South Carolina State spent some time with the 49ers and Eagles earlier in this offseason before being scooped up by Jets general manager Joe Douglas, making him one of the new GM’s first additions as the head honcho in Florham Park.
Brown is a feisty corner who is capable of laying some crushing hits and making some aggressive plays on the ball. He has been far from perfect, committing a few penalties and blowing a couple of coverage assignments, but he has been competent. And that is something no other Jets reserve cornerback has been thus far.
The Jets surely have their eyes squarely on the waiver wire, awaiting their chance to pounce the moment an intriguing cornerback is cut loose by another team. There seems to be a good shot the Jets will add multiple corners before the start of the regular season.
In fact, they’ve already added one new cornerback since the previous game, as Joe Douglas traded a 2020 sixth round selection to the Colts for Nate Hairston. The draft compensation suggests he will most likely make the team. Week 4 could be an opportunity for both the coaching staff and the fans to see what Hairston brings to the table.
Thursday night will be the last chance for the fringe players in the defensive backfield to show Douglas why they are worth keeping around. Can Alex Brown seal the deal with a third consecutive strong performance? Can guys like Marcus Cooper, Parry Nickerson, Tevaughn Campbell, and Arthur Maulet show anything positive? It’s gut check time.
Has Lachlan Edwards defeated Matt Darr?
Last Saturday night, the Jets punting battle seemed to take a major turn in the direction of Aussie product Lachlan Edwards. Matt Darr saw one of his punts returned for a touchdown, missing a tackle along the way. He now ranks 29th out of 30 qualified punters in net punting average throughout the preseason thus far. On the other hand, Edwards finds himself ranked third in the same category.
Additionally, Edwards was the first punter to take the field for the Jets, handling the punting duties throughout the first half. That was a change of pace from the previous game, as Darr was the first punter to trot out onto the field in Atlanta. It is debatable just how much it matters who starts a preseason game in a punting battle, but a change from the previous game is worth nothing.
Another sign pointing in Edwards’ direction was the fact that he handled the holding duties throughout the entirety of the Saints game. Edwards held all three of Taylor Bertolet’s placekick attempts, and Bertolet was good on all three. That included one attempt in the second half – which is notable because in the previous game, Edwards and Darr split the holding duties between each half. Against New Orleans, Edwards handled the job throughout both halves.
One last game remains. Who will claim the punting job? Will Australian phenom Lachlan Edwards keep what’s his? Or will Adam Gase favorite Matt Darr steal the throne?