Which New York Jets players need to stand out against the Falcons?
The New York Jets will take on the Atlanta Falcons tonight in their second preseason game (8 p.m. ET). It’s a big night for many players on the roster bubble.
Here are three players in particular who have the most to prove tonight.
DT Jonathan Marshall
Selected 207th overall in the 2021 draft, Arkansas defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall was seen as an unusually high-ceiling player for a sixth-round pick thanks to his historically great athleticism. Marshall posted incredible testing numbers and earned a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.99 out of 10, which is the second-best score all-time for a defensive tackle.
However, Marshall has yet to translate that athleticism into on-field production.
Marshall played four games in his rookie season, recording only one pressure and two tackles over 77 defensive snaps. He played 21 snaps in this year’s preseason opener but only made one tackle while failing to record any pressures.
Despite being a sixth-round pick who is entering the second year of his rookie contract, Marshall’s roster spot might not be entirely safe. Fellow defensive tackle Tanzel Smart is making a strong case for a roster spot after enjoying an excellent preseason opener. How long can the Jets justify keeping Marshall solely based on his potential when other players are outplaying him?
Marshall needs to show that he can use his athletic gifts to make an impact on the field. His upside will only take him so far – he’s got to back it up with production at some point, or his Jets career could come to a surprisingly early end.
QB Mike White
Mike White took the world by storm with his 405-yard debut against the Bengals last Halloween. But outside of that one game, White hasn’t done much of anything in his career.
Excluding the Bengals game, White has made 15 other appearances in his career (11 preseason and 4 regular season). In those games, he has completed 161 of 273 passes (58.9%) for 1,531 yards (5.6 per attempt), 3 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. That’s a passer rating of 66.1.
White played a lot of reps against the Eagles last week and mostly struggled. He completed 10 of 20 passes for only 98 yards (4.9 per attempt), showing major inconsistency on downfield throws as he went 3-for-9 on passes that traveled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Chris Streveler had a strong game in Philly, putting pressure on White to defend his position as New York’s QB3 and temporary QB2. If White does not step it up over the next two games, it’s not inconceivable to picture Streveler usurping White.
The magic of White’s Bengals game is wearing off. That one game cannot carry him forever. He must add more to his resume.
LB Quincy Williams
It remains unclear if the Jets will play their starters tonight, but if Quincy Williams takes the field, it will be a big night for him.
Williams had a brutal preseason opener. He committed an inexcusable unnecessary roughness penalty when he hit Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts long after he had gone out of bounds on a scramble. Not only was the play dangerous and irresponsible, but it negated a third-down stop that would have forced a field goal attempt, allowing Philadelphia to keep driving and eventually score a touchdown.
Head coach Robert Saleh ripped into Williams after the game, calling the play “egregiously awful” when speaking to the media.
It’s not often that a coach publicly criticizes one of his own players to that degree. When it happens, it is something that absolutely has to be noted.
This public callout is especially notable since it was directed at a player whose position on the depth chart is not entirely set in stone. While Williams is listed as a starter for the Jets at the moment, Kwon Alexander is making a strong push to surpass him. Alexander has impressed the team since his arrival and is a substantially more proven player than Williams.
Even before Alexander’s arrival or the Hurts penalty, Williams already had a lot to prove going into this season. He showed flashes of exciting talent in 2021, convincing the Jets to give him a shot to fulfill his potential in 2022, but considering how hot-and-cold he was last season, he still had to show that he could remove the costly mistakes from his game so his highlight-reel plays could truly shine.
This Hurts penalty is the polar opposite of what the Jets need to see from Williams this year. It’s the exact kind of reckless mistake that he has frequently made throughout his career as a side effect of his hyper-aggression, which sometimes leads to those big hits that he is known for, but ultimately causes more harm than good. Williams needs to show better discipline in his game. This was not a way to do it.
The Jets have shown an exorbitant amount of faith in Williams, a third-round disappointment who could not make it to a third season with his original team and then had an inconsistent year as one of the culprits for the league’s 32nd-ranked defense. He is still young (soon to be 26) and his peak moments are undoubtedly tantalizing, so I understand that the Jets want to give him a chance to put everything together and develop into a long-term contributor – especially considering Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich‘s successful track records at developing linebackers.
But until Williams shows the improvements that are necessary for him to reach his ceiling, he is a decently below-average starter, and the Jets would be doing themselves a disservice by playing him over Alexander.
Williams is fortunate to have a coaching staff that strongly believes in him despite the lumps he has taken thus far. He must seize this opportunity and put a stranglehold on his starting job by playing disciplined, sound football. If he keeps making the same mistakes, the Jets might run out of patience and hand the job over to the more accomplished Alexander.