Which New York Jets players will have the most to prove at Friday’s preseason opener?
It’s Wednesday, August 10, which means we are only two days away from the New York Jets‘ first football game in 215 days.
That game, of course, will be an exhibition contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. While the game does not matter in the standings, it matters immensely for the professional futures of many players on both teams.
Here are five New York Jets players who will have a lot to prove on Friday night.
OT Chuma Edoga
The Jets’ offensive tackle position is in dire straits. Right tackle Mekhi Becton is out for the season. Backup tackle Conor McDermott will miss 1-2 weeks with an ankle injury. Left tackle George Fant is practicing but is still working his way back to one-hundred percent. These injuries have caused fourth-round rookie Max Mitchell to be prematurely forced into taking first-team reps, which hasn’t gone well.
All of this chaos has created a golden opportunity for Chuma Edoga.
It is somewhat of a miracle that Edoga is still on the Jets roster. Edoga was selected by GM Joe Douglas’s predecessor, Mike Maccagnan, in the third round of the 2019 draft. He’s had three years to prove himself but has not done anything to inspire confidence in his potential.
Despite all of that, Edoga is being given one last shot to show the Jets that he can be a reliable backup swing tackle. Edoga just turned 25 years old in May, so perhaps his best is yet to come.
The Jets will likely add a veteran with mid-tier-starter talent to take Becton’s spot in the starting lineup – Duane Brown appears to be the top candidate – but they still have to address the backup tackle problem, which was already a glaring issue before Becton’s injury.
Edoga must seize the opportunity and stake his claim to this role. With his top competitor for the role (McDermott) set to miss at least one preseason game, the stars have aligned for him. It’s now or never.
WR Denzel Mims
Denzel Mims seems to be enjoying a respectable training camp, which is a huge step forward from where he was at this point one year ago.
Mims has stayed healthy while avoiding many big mistakes. His name has not been the subject of any drama. These are important accomplishments for a player who is loaded with physical talent but has struggled with some of the fundamentals of his position, which led to him falling out of favor with the coaching staff last year.
Things are going relatively smoothly for Mims in regards to his roster security. But if he wants to earn reps and targets in an offense that is stacked with playmakers who are above him on the depth chart, he must give the coaches no choice but to get him involved. This can be accomplished by racking up a bunch of splashy plays in the preseason.
FS Lamarcus Joyner
Lamarcus Joyner has the inside track to the Jets’ starting free safety role. He’s the most experienced free safety on the roster by a fairly wide margin. Since the Jets do not have any high-investment players in the competition (i.e. high draft picks or expensive free agents), it’s the veteran’s job to lose.
Joyner missed essentially the entire 2021 season and has not played a full season at free safety since 2018 (having played CB from 2019 to 2020). The 31-year-old is no sure thing. He’s got to prove that he is still capable of being the reliable backbone that the Jets signed him to be.
I’m not convinced there is a chance that Joyner’s Week 1 starting job can be stolen, but if he has a rough preseason, he could enter the regular season with a short leash.
QB Mike White
The Jets have often kept three quarterbacks throughout the years. However, with the 2022 roster appearing to be deeper than previous iterations, the Jets will have a tougher time justifying the decision to keep three quarterbacks.
Zach Wilson is the Jets’ QB1 and Joe Flacco is the Jets’ QB2. With these things set in stone, Mike White needs a red-hot preseason to show the Jets that he is worth keeping around as a third quarterback.
The good news for White is that he will probably get plenty of reps to showcase himself. Wilson and the first-team offense will not play much. Flacco probably won’t require many reps either due to his ample experience. White is set to receive a lot of opportunities.
White should also view the preseason as an audition for other teams. If he performs well, he will have a high likelihood of being claimed by another team on waivers even if the Jets decide to release him. This would allow him to have a roster spot in 2022 instead of clearing waivers and landing on the Jets’ practice squad (which would earn him significantly less money).
Plus, White is an impending unrestricted free agent, and as a backup/third-string QB, there is no guarantee he will get any extra opportunities to prove himself once the preseason concludes. These upcoming preseason games might be his only appearances of the 2022 season. If that is the case, it means teams will be using these games to decide what he is worth on the open market.
LB Jamien Sherwood
Jamien Sherwood was an opening-week starter for the Jets last season. Now, the second-year linebacker is buried on the depth chart of a position group that is widely considered to be one of the weakest on the team.
Following Jarrad Davis’s preseason injury last August, it was Sherwood who the Jets trusted to step into his place. The fifth-round pick out of Auburn, who was converting to linebacker after playing safety in college, seemed to be a favorite of the coaching staff.
Sherwood’s rookie year quickly went off the rails due to an ankle injury sustained only three snaps into the season opener. He returned two weeks later, but by then, Sherwood had already been usurped on the depth chart by Quincy Williams, who the Jets claimed on waivers earlier in the month.
Sherwood did not completely disappear from the field, as the Jets still gave him an average of 34.0 snaps per game over his next four appearances. The rookie largely struggled, however. Unfortunately, he did not get a chance to work through his rookie lumps as his season ended due to an Achilles injury after only five games.
Fast forward to today, and Sherwood is even further down the depth chart due to the addition of veteran linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Sherwood’s roster spot is safe. But the young linebacker needs a standout preseason to remind the Jets coaching staff that he can be a big part of the team’s future at the position. Only one year ago, he was a starter, and now, he’s somewhat of an afterthought.
Williams and Alexander are not untouchable players. They can be surpassed on the depth chart if a young, homegrown player shines brightly enough.
I do not think it is likely that Sherwood surpasses both players to start beside C.J. Mosley in Week 1, but if Sherwood excels this preseason, I can absolutely seeing him moving past one of those players into the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. This role would ensure he gets plenty of rotational snaps each week, while also putting him in position to move up into one of the two every-down spots later in the season if the opening-week starter struggles.
You could also include Hamsah Nasirildeen in this list. Nasirildeen is a fellow safety-turned-linebacker drafted by the Jets in 2021. Surely, the Jets would love it if either Sherwood or Nasirildeen enjoyed a breakout season this year.