Which New York Jets practice squad players have the best long-term potential?
The New York Jets‘ practice squad currently sits at 14 players. They have room for two more players before they hit the limit of 16 players, but the nucleus of the unit is mostly set.
Which players on the Jets’ practice squad have the best chance of making an impact in the future?
Let’s rank all 14 players based on their potential long-term value to the franchise.
14. OL Isaiah Williams
Isaiah Williams was signed by the Jets on Aug. 23 and only lasted eight days with the team, playing in one preseason game.
Williams is already 28 years old and has yet to earn a regular-season snap over five seasons in the league since signing with Washington as an undrafted free agent out of Akron in 2016. There is not much of any upside here.
13. WR D.J. Montgomery
D.J. Montgomery got a decent number of preseason snaps but failed to impress. Over 32 routes run throughout three games, he caught 3-of-6 targets for 33 yards and one first down, also dropping one pass.
The 24-year-old Montgomery was an undrafted free agent out of Austin Peay in 2019.
12. LB Del’Shawn Phillips
Del’Shawn Phillips has familiarity with Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. He signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2019 and spent the majority of the offseason with the team, being released in August as part of final roster cuts.
Still just 24 years old, Phillips may have some upside, but he struggled for the Jets in his lone preseason appearance. He missed two tackles over just 20 defensive snaps.
11. OL Jimmy Murray
Jimmy Murray seemed like he had an outside chance of making the Jets’ roster thanks to his versatility on the interior offensive line. In the preseason, he played 72 snaps at right guard, 51 snaps at left guard, and 24 snaps at center.
Murray, 26, played 147 offensive snaps over three preseason games, ranking second on the team behind now-Titan Corey Levin (160).
Not all experience is positive experience, though. Murray allowed a team-high six pressures in pass protection. His allowed pressure rate of 7.8% would be significantly worse than the league average for both guards (4.5%) and centers (3.1%).
Due to the Jets’ lack of offensive line depth, Murray may be one of the names on this list with the best chance of getting called up to the active roster, but his long-term upside is not intriguing.
10. OL Grant Hermanns
Undrafted rookie Grant Hermanns was arguably the Jets’ best backup offensive lineman of the preseason. The Purdue product notched some great run blocks at right tackle, earning an 85.5 run-blocking grade at Pro Football Focus that ranked fourth-best in the preseason among qualified right tackles.
Hermanns struggled a bit in pass protection, giving up four pressures over 59 snaps in protection (6.8% rate – 2020 OT average was 5.3%).
The 23-year-old played 115 snaps over three games, all coming at right tackle.
9. QB Josh Johnson
Josh Johnson‘s long-term upside is limited at 35 years old, but he could end up being an important cog in 2021 if all hell breaks loose.
Johnson was the Jets’ second-best quarterback in the preseason behind Zach Wilson. With James Morgan in Carolina and Mike White situated as the only quarterback behind Wilson on the active roster, Johnson is the next man up if Wilson or White go down.
8. EDGE Ronald Blair
Ronald Blair appeared poised to be a key part of the Jets’ edge-rushing rotation prior to his somewhat surprising release. He offers a track record of solid run defense that most edge rushers on the Jets’ active roster do not.
Blair is already 28 years old. However, he is a Robert Saleh favorite and is situated behind a muddy EDGE depth chart that lacks certainty. His name could be called sooner rather than later if the Jets fail to get adequate production off the edge, especially in the run game.
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7. CB Lamar Jackson
As this list is predicated upon long-term value, six of the seven players in the top half are 25 years old or younger. The oldest is 26 years old.
Lamar Jackson ranks at the bottom amongst the Jets’ stashed youngsters. He is only 23 and boasts desirable physical traits (6-foot-3, 215 pounds, 32.25-inch arms), but his production in the NFL has been poor. Jackson was roasted in his 2020 rookie season (140.0 passer rating) and then allowed a team-high four first downs in the 2021 preseason.
6. EDGE Hamilcar Rashed
Undrafted rookie Hamilcar Rashed showed some upside throughout training camp and flashed with 1.5 sacks in the preseason opener against the Giants. Overall, though, his three-game preseason run was unimpressive.
Rashed collected three pressures over 47 pass-rush snaps, a poor pressure rate of 6.4% (the 2020 EDGE average was 9.7%). He also was bullied at times against the run, posting a 44.6 run defense grade at PFF.
Only 23 years old, Rashed offers upside at one of the Jets’ greatest positions of need, but he needs to rediscover the exciting potential that he showed as a redshirt junior in 2019. Since posting 14 sacks that year, Rashed had a zero-sack season in 2020 (over 7 games) and a mediocre rookie-year preseason.
5. EDGE Jabari Zuniga
Jabari Zuniga has shown less on-field promise in the NFL than every other player on this list (yes, every single one), but he ranks this high thanks to his draft pedigree. The man was a third-round pick just one year ago. That does have some value even if you would never guess he was a third-rounder based on his performance.
Regardless, Zuniga simply has not done anything on the field to invigorate confidence in his potential. He failed to crack the roster at a position where the Jets were ravaged by injuries and then watched as 31 teams passed on the chance to claim him off waivers.
Zuniga has not made a single signature play over 10 games (9 regular season and 1 preseason) and 115 defensive snaps. He has one pressure, one run stop, one penalty, and two missed tackles.
Injuries have also been a recurring issue for Zuniga, who has missed seven regular-season games and two preseason games.
4. DT Tanzel Smart
In terms of consistency over all three games, Tanzel Smart had a comparable or better preseason to the three players listed above him. His age (turning 27 in November) and his position – playing the deepest position on the Jets’ roster – hold him back on this list.
Nevertheless, Smart’s strong preseason should have him in the mix to stick around with the Jets throughout this season and into the next. A small and athletic defensive tackle at 6-foot-1 and 295 pounds, Smart’s explosive burst and pristine snap timing make him an ideal fit for Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich’s attacking 4-3 front.
Smart had four stops (tackles that constitute a failed play for the offense) and four pressures in the preseason. His penetration also resulted in the demolition of a few other plays in which he did not receive statistical credit for his effort.
3. WR Vyncint Smith
Vyncint Smith was a somewhat surprising cut, as he was arguably the Jets’ second-best wide receiver of the preseason behind Corey Davis and got some first-team reps with Elijah Moore out of action.
Smith, 25, led the Jets with six receiving first downs. He also provides high-end potential as a kickoff returner. Back in 2019, Smith averaged an impressive 29.9 yards per kickoff return, ranking second-best among players with at least 10 returns.
2. TE Kenny Yeboah
Kenny Yeboah is the youngest player on the practice squad at 22 years old (he will be 23 in October). Couple that with the fact that he plays the Jets’ weakest offensive position, and his potential to become a long-term piece is fairly solid.
Yeboah captured the hearts of Jets fans with his marvelous preseason finale. He grabbed 4-of-6 targets for 100 yards, two touchdowns, and one first down.
That outing was great, but Yeboah needs to prove it was no fluke, as he was not having an impressive offseason prior to that. He did not stand out too often in training camp, and over the first two preseason games, he had caught only two passes for six yards – fumbling one of them away for a Giants touchdown.
On the bright side, Yeboah answered some questions about his blocking in the preseason. Yeboah’s blocking was a primary concern in his game coming out of college, but in the preseason, he earned an excellent run-blocking grade of 74.8 at PFF.
1. RB Josh Adams
Josh Adams may not be a homegrown rookie like the three players below him, but he is far and away the best player on this practice squad at the current moment and is still only 24 years old (set to turn 25 in October).
Adams is the only offensive player in this group who has played good football in the regular season. He has averaged 4.3 yards per carry over 157 career attempts and has just one fumble over 170 career touches.
In the preseason, Adams’ performance in the finale against Philadelphia was arguably the best outing by a Jets skill position player over the three-game exhibition campaign. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry without picking up a single rush for 10-plus yards, gaining 62 yards on 12 carries.
All Adams has done is run the ball efficiently over his limited time with the Jets. The former Eagle averaged 5.4 yards per carry over 29 totes with the Jets in 2020.
The running-back-by-committee approach appears set to be a trademark of this Jets offense. In that case, if one of the Jets’ four active running backs goes down, Adams’ number will likely be dialed immediately.
If Adams gets an opportunity to play in the regular season and continues to run as well as he did in the preseason and near the end of last season, it will be hard for the Jets to warrant sending him back down.
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