The Jets conclude their first preseason under new head coach Todd Bowles with their traditional final game against the Philadelphia Eagles. This is the last chance for a lot of fringe players to make a push to make the final 53. It’s also exciting, and I mean this, to see Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow versus Matt Flynn and Josh Johnson in the battle of ‘much traveled QBs’. Let’s get into six things you should watch for in tonight’s game…
1. Does Walt Powell secure a roster spot and the starting punt returner’s job?
Walt Powell had an electric punt return for a touchdown last week against the Giants, and he’s looking to conclude a very good summer. Powell has struggled with fumbles and lapses in concentration in the past, but with TJ Graham and Saalim Hakim both already cut he has the inside track to being the primary returner on a team that needs big plays and consistency from this spot. If Powell has a mistake free game, the spot is his. However, if he struggles that opens up the door for him to be cut in favor of a more reliable option.
For starters, it’s weird to me that the Jets haven’t tried Aboushi (a former left tackle) at left tackle considering their deficiencies and lack of depth at that position after D’Brickashaw Ferguson. With that said, the battle for Willie Colon’s backup is down to these two. Winters saw some reps at center this offseason so there’s a chance the Jets keep both especially with the release of Dalton Freeman, but if they only keep one this game will most likely be the determining factor. Being Colon’s backup is key because Colon has battled knee injuries in the past. My prediction is that Winters sticks because of his versatility and because he’s a former 3rd round pick.
3. Does Chris Owusu or Shaq Evans win the 6th wide receiver’s job?
Owosu was the leader in the clubhouse early in training camp, as he was actually getting the reps that were meant for Devin Smith in three wide receiver packages before his concussion. Then he got hurt and the Jets, we thought, began giving those reps to Quincy Enunwa. Well, it turns out Enunwa isn’t a WR in this offense either as he will essentially be the starting move TE or H-back. So with Jeremy Kerley firmly entrenched as the 4th WR, Devin Smith 3rd, and Enunwa’s roster spot locked up as a TE based off where he’ll play that leaves one spot for three WRs. I mentioned Walt Powell’s chances of making the team up above: if he locks up the PR job tonight, he’s the 6th WR. However, if he struggles the door opens for these two in house candidates. Owosu has more big play ability than Evans, but he also has the injury history. Owosu also provides return ability, and Evans does not. What Evans does have going for him, aside from being a better route runner right now, is that he’s a bigger receiver than Owosu. Aside from Jeremy Kerley, the Jets seem to be favoring bigger WRs in this offense. My prediction is that Evans has a big game tonight and sticks while Owusu is cut.
4. Which UDFA has the best chance to make the roster based off his game tonight?
I think it’s Taiwan Jones, the ILB from Michigan State. Wes Saxton is headed to the practice squad, as is Durell Eskridge. Deion Barnes won’t make the final 53 either. Jones’ ability, extended reps coupled with concerns about Demario Davis’s poor play this preseason gives the former Spartan a chance tonight. Right now he stands to be a victim of the numbers game, but a great showing tonight goes a long way to him sticking. I don’t think he does enough tonight though, unless Erin Henderson’s injury prevents him from suiting up Week 1.
5. Who puts on a show tonight, as a guy Jet fans will be talking about after and envisioning Victor Cruz/Danny Woodhead type scenarios when we do cut him?
Shaq Evans? Daryl Richardson?
Both. I said this week on the TOJ Podcast, presented by KFC Radio, that I think the Jets keep both on the 53 man roster until Geno Smith returns with Bryce Petty being inactive. This may seem like terrible roster management, but I don’t think the Jets want to be an injury or two away from having to play Bryce Petty that early. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a tendency to play a tad reckless and has gotten hurt in the past, so the likelihood of him getting hurt exists. I think both Flynn and Johnson do enough tonight to warrant making the 53, and the Jets will be better for it.