The New York Jets still have a lot to sort out in preseason finale vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The New York Jets may have completed two-thirds of their preseason schedule already, but they have hardly been able to find many concrete answers to their various questions. Numerous positional battles still have to be settled after weeks of tightly contested competition.
Here are a few of the duels that will enter their final round tonight.
Right tackle: George Fant vs. Morgan Moses
In the Jets’ preseason opener against the Giants, Morgan Moses got the start at right tackle and played 22 snaps while George Fant relieved him and played 14.
Fant started at right tackle against the Packers while Moses sat out for personal reasons (Moses returned to practice during the following week). The Jets kept Fant in the game after the first-team offense came off the field, moving him to left tackle with the backup units. He played a team-high 53 snaps, giving him 67 preseason snaps to Moses’ 22.
From a Pro Football Focus grading standpoint, Fant has outplayed Moses thus far. Fant owns an overall PFF grade of 64.1 (61st percentile among 136 qualified tackles) while Moses has a grade of 55.2 (31st percentile).
The sample sizes here are way too small for those numbers to matter all that much, though.
One game remains for Fant and Moses to make their cases for the starting right tackle job.
Kicker: Matt Ammendola vs. the field
Matt Ammendola has played well enough to kick Sam Ficken and Chris Naggar to the curb and take sole possession of the Jets’ kicking job – for now.
Ammendola is 3 for 3 on field goals and 3 for 3 on extra points this preseason. He has been great in training camp practices as well.
If Ammendola can have one more flawless game to close out the preseason in perfect fashion, his roster spot will likely be sealed.
On the flip side, if Ammendola struggles, he may leave the door open for the Jets to explore outside options at the position with 53-man cuts looming in the coming days. Intriguing options like Tampa Bay’s Jose Borregales could shake free from teams who have two good kickers on their hands, and the Jets are placed second in the waiver order.
Just one miss can change everything for Ammendola. He needs to be perfect once more.
Slot cornerback: Javelin Guidry vs. Michael Carter II
The battle between Javelin Guidry and Michael Carter II – who combine for two NFL starts and just one more year of age than Tom Brady – has been one of the most intense on the roster. These two young defensive backs have both been playing at a high level on the practice field and under the lights of the preseason.
Guidry got the start at slot corner in Week 1 while Carter II started in Week 2. Throughout the two games, they have gotten a similar amount of playing time – 32 snaps for Carter II and 25 for Guidry.
Both players have been among the Jets’ most consistent performers. Guidry has allowed one catch for three yards over three targets. Carter II has been targeted just once, a pass that fell incomplete.
Combined, the duo has given up one catch for three yards and zero first downs over 42 snaps in coverage.
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Will Carter II or Guidry be able to create some separation in the preseason finale?
Defensive tackle: Nathan Shepherd vs. Jonathan Marshall vs. Tanzel Smart
Tanzel Smart has been one of the Jets’ best players in the preseason (as highlighted by Joe Blewett). He has showcased remarkable snap timing, get-off, and explosiveness.
Through two weeks, Smart ranks third on the Jets defense in pressures (3) and second in stops (4). He has also contributed a handful of off-the-stat-sheet plays, such as a couple of reps in which his penetration forced a Packers offensive lineman to trip quarterback Kurt Benkert.
Smart could force the Jets to make a tough decision at the bottom of the defensive tackle depth chart. Would they go seven-deep to keep him along with Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, John Franklin-Myers, Foley Fatukasi, Nathan Shepherd, and Jonathan Marshall?
Marshall, a sixth-round pick this year, had a great debut as a pass rusher (2 sacks) but is struggling massively against the run. He has the worst PFF run-defense grade among qualified interior defensive linemen in the preseason so far (28.2).
Shepherd has been similarly brutal in the run game with a grade of 29.9. Both players have been pushed around quite a bit, playing a huge role in the Jets’ inability to stop the run.
With Franklin-Myers potentially moving to a full-time EDGE role, the Jets may be able to squeeze in Smart as a sixth defensive tackle. However, that would still make for a crowded defensive front considering the logjam that would be created at EDGE with Franklin-Myers moving there.
Smart needs another great outing to give the Jets no choice but to keep him on the 53-man roster. Marshall and Shepherd should be safe regardless of Smart’s performance, but both players need to show more resistance against the run to avoid becoming surprise cut candidates.
Backup quarterback: Mike White vs. James Morgan
Mike White has been the Jets’ second-team quarterback while James Morgan has been running with the third-team offense.
White has not played well, but he has been significantly less brutal than Morgan. White is averaging 5.9 yards per attempt with an adjusted completion percentage (accounts for drops, throwaways, etc.) of 74.1%. Morgan is averaging 4.2 yards per attempt with an adjusted completion percentage of 58.3%.
After suffering a rib injury against the Packers, White’s status for the Eagles game is unclear. Should White miss the game, Morgan would be presented with a golden opportunity to make his final case to stick on the 53-man roster.
Morgan has been bad over his limited reps in the preseason, but he has not gotten much time to get into a rhythm. He has dropped back only 12 times to White’s 30.
Running the second-team offense for the majority of the Eagles game would be the perfect chance for Morgan to showcase the full extent of his arsenal.