New York Jets Top Five – Preseason Week 1 Edition

Joe Belic with his weekly New York Jets top five…looking at players who need a big preseason opener

The annual Snoopy Bowl is upon us.  Bragging rights—over friends and family—makes this one of the more entertaining preseason games of the year.  In addition, it’s an opportunity to evaluate players and get a good feel for the depth of our respective teams.  For some fans, the game is a frivolous part of the schedule, but for many players, it’s their only chance to shine, and possibly cement themselves a role.  In this week’s “Joe Jet 5,” I take a look at prospects and a position group I’m most interested in watching Thursday night. 

Jachai Polite (2019 Third Round Pick, Florida):

It’s no secret the Jets might have some issues with their defensive backs: Maye can’t seem to find the field, Trumaine Johnson had an off-year, and Darryl Roberts is still developing. The obvious resolution entails individuals improving their play; however, the Jets’ ability to disrupt the pocket could be another way to alleviate the weakness in the secondary.   

I fully expect our interior defensive line to be dominant: Leo, Quinnen, and Anderson will do their part, but a huge question mark remains coming off the edge.  As a result, I’ll have my eyes fixed on Jachai Polite whenever he graces us with his presence against our in-house rival.  

Out of all the prospects I studied this offseason, Polite had some of the most exciting film.  If not for a subpar showing at the NFL combine, and a questionable interview process, Polite would have been a first-round pick. His plethora of pass rush moves, solid technique, superior burst, and relentless motor jumped off the screen.  The thought of matching up a pro-bowl level edge rusher with our stout defensive linemen leaves me euphoric. Just imagine, for one second, how good this defense would be with a bona fide pass rusher? Where would quarterbacks go when “Big Cat” and company collapse the pocket and Polite comes off the edge to finish the job?  

As of right now, fans shouldn’t be concerned with Polite predominantly working with the third team. There are a lot of moving parts in Gregg Williams’ defense, and it’ll take time to grasp the scheme. Nevertheless, Polite has shown some promise in camp: a sack against Eric Smith and Edoga—who was working with the first team—is a positive sign. 

I hope to get a healthy dose of Polite in this first preseason game—reps and experience can only help his maturation—and I’m intrigued as to how Williams utilizes him within the scheme.  Will he drop into coverage? Will he lineup mostly with his hand in the dirt or a two-point stance? We’ll get a glimpse of Williams’ plan for Polite this Thursday against the Giants, and I’ll be watching with eyes wide open. 

Chuma Edoga (2019 Third Round Pick, USC):  

Much like Polite, Edoga has had some character-related issues that resulted in his draft stock falling; however, his talent level is undeniable. Edoga was a five-star recruit and former teammate of Sam Darnold. He’s already taken first team reps—with Beachum sidelined—and performed admirably. Edoga had some missteps—which is expected—but overall, he’s shown the ability to play with the starters. Regardless, it’s barely been two weeks, and many questions remain. Can he be trusted long term with a more significant role? Has his work ethic improved?  

While all these questions can’t/won’t be answered in one preseason game; it’s still crucial for Edoga to showcase his strengths.  In a perfect world, Chuma would get time to develop before having to take on the part of a starter, but—as we recently witnessed in camp—the Jets are one play away from having Edoga thrust into a major role.

I’ll be watching Chuma closely.  If for some reason he takes a step back, the Jets should consider making another trade.  I’d rather hold onto valuable draft stock and find a replacement inhouse, but protecting Sam is of the utmost importance, and I would fully support a big move to ensure his safety. Trent Williams anyone?  

Trevon Wesco (2019 Fourth Round Pick, WVU): 

I’ve been pretty vocal about my affinity for Trevon Wesco.  In a recent “Joe Jet 5,” I predicted Wesco would eventually become a fan favorite and mainstay in the lineup.  Since the draft, Wesco has received several other endorsements. Brian Baldinger (NFL Network) went on to call Wesco “Baby Gronk” and said, “When you watch him play, he could be your tight end. He could be your fullback, your h-back. He could be your receiver. He could play special teams for ya. He’s 270 pounds. He moves bodies. If I’m a coach, I tell my (general manager) that I’m not coming out of this draft without Trevon Wesco.” 

Wesco has already impressed in camp and was awarded several opportunities to work with the first team—in two tight end sets. While Ryan Griffin remains ahead of him—at the moment—on the depth chart, I foresee that changing quickly. Wesco is a relentless blocker, an underrated pass catcher and extremely hard to bring down—he fights for every inch.  Wesco executed a monster block—while playing fullback—that sprung Le’ Veon Bell for the touchdown, and he’ll flash more big play ability as he becomes familiar with the system. 

Nobody knows how long potential starters will play in the first preseason game, but I anticipate we’ll see enough of Wesco to get a good feel for how he’ll be utilized.  Herndon and Wesco’s skill sets complement each other perfectly, and I’m excited to see them on the field together, but until then—with Hendon’s 4 game suspension—the tight end position will belong to Trevon. 

Wesco is the kind of player that can make an impact even when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. Make sure you pay close attention to him when on the field—I know I will—and whenever he makes a big play—or decleats an opposing player—don’t be afraid to cheer…WEEEEEEESCO!  You’re going to love this guy!  

Nathan Shepherd (2018 Third Round Pick, Fort Hays St.)

It’s unlikely Shepherd will see the field regularly this season with Leo, McLendon, Quinnen, and Anderson dominating snaps, but I’m still very intrigued by his potential growth.  Depth is vital at every level and our defensive line—even with a plethora of playmakers—is no exception.  Regardless, Nathan isn’t exactly a spring chicken, and if he has the talent to be a starter, maybe it should be elsewhere.

I hope Shepherd is a central component in this upcoming game—and for the rest of the preseason for that matter. If Shepherd demonstrates the skill set that made him a Senior Bowl favorite in 2018, the Jets could have a chance to parlay him into another player at a more needed position. CB anybody? Douglas remains busy making trades and scouring through the waiver wire, but I’d love to see the Jets bring in a CB with some name recognition. I’m going to be rooting for “Nathanos” to make some QBs disappear and hope that another team notices.  

Backup Quarterbacks: 

If everything goes perfectly, we won’t have to worry about Trevor Siemian—or any backup QB for that matter. Nevertheless, if Sam misses some time—like last season—it’s important to gauge who’s next in line.

While Trevor Siemian looks to be the most logical backup, I’m hoping Davis Webb or Luke Falk outplay him this preseason. We already know who Siemian is based on his time with Denver. Trevor is a reliable backup, but I doubt his presence under center would make anybody feel good about the team’s chances going forward.  Whether or not Webb or Falk hold the goods to be starters, nobody knows for sure.  

Do any of the quarterbacks (Webb or Falk) have the “it” factor? I can’t wait to find out.