Mike White, NY Jets, Stats
Mike White, New York Jets, Getty Images

New York Jets’ win over Falcons featured some noticeable movement in multiple roster battles

The New York Jets recorded their second consecutive comeback win of the 2022 preseason with their 24-16 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons under the Monday Night Football spotlight.

Although the game featured very few reps from New York’s starters, there were still plenty of important things that took place throughout the night. Multiple roster battles took interesting turns.

Here are three big winners from the game, each accompanied by a loser who is the most affected by the winner’s progress.

Winner: Jonathan Marshall / Loser: Nathan Shepherd

Few Jets players were facing more pressure entering this game than second-year defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall, and he rose to the occasion as he delivered the best performance of his young career. Marshall was very active in both phases as he recorded 5 total tackles, including a sack and a tackle-for-loss that occurred on back-to-back plays.

A couple of players are affected by Marshall’s standout performance. One of them is Tanzel Smart, a roster-bubble player who might be competing against Marshall for one roster spot. Marshall playing well is probably not great for Smart’s chances of making the team.

However, Smart did enjoy another good game as he was consistently in the Atlanta backfield as both a run defender and pass rusher. He recorded 3 tackles with one tackle for a loss. In addition, he nearly recorded a sack on a designed handoff, blowing up the play as he immediately burst into the backfield and brought the QB down while he was handing the ball off. On the downside, Smart had a neutral zone infraction penalty.

Smart is not necessarily a huge loser from this game since he handled his own business and played fairly well. But one defensive tackle who did not do that is Nathan Shepherd. He played 27 snaps and failed to stand out, making only 2 tackles and also being called for a defensive holding penalty.

Just the fact that Shepherd played that many snaps is worth noting. Shepherd has been considered a near-lock to make the roster throughout most of this offseason, but the Jets rested the majority of their starters in this game. So… what does it say about Shepherd that the Jets gave him a lot of playing time against Atlanta?

At the defensive tackle position, the Jets rested Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, and Sheldon Rankins while Solomon Thomas played only 17 snaps compared to Shepherd’s 27 snaps. It’s generally been assumed that Shepherd would join those four players as one of the Jets’ five locked-in defensive tackles, but now, it seems that Shepherd might be separated from those guys in terms of his roster chances.

Shepherd is one of those players who seems to be regarded more highly by the coaching staff than his performance warrants. Last year, he played 495 snaps over 17 games and recorded zero sacks while providing very poor run defense. Why should he be considered a lock to make the team? It’s not even as if he’s young – Shepherd will be 29 in October.

The Jets might finally be knocking Shepherd down a peg, forcing him to win a roster spot fair-and-square against Marshall and Smart. Right now, Marshall and Smart are way ahead of him in terms of preseason production.

Time will tell if the Jets make their final roster decisions at the DT position based on performance or pedigree. If they do the right thing and value the former, Shepherd could be gone.

Jets X-Factor Membership

Winner: Chris Streveler / Loser: Mike White

Chris Streveler severely outplayed Mike White for the second consecutive game.

White played for the entire first half and one series in the second half, looking listless for most of the night. He completed 12 of 17 passes for a measly 90 yards (5.3 per attempt) with no touchdowns or interceptions. The Jets only scored 3 points under White’s leadership.

Once Streveler entered the game, the Jets immediately looked rejuvenated. Streveler led the Jets to 14 points as he completed 8 of 11 passes for 119 yards (10.8 per attempt), 1 touchdown, and 1 interception while recording 6 carries for 33 yards.

Here’s a look at White and Streveler’s numbers through two preseason games:

  • White: 22/37 (59.5%) for 188 yards (5.1 Y/A), 0 TD, 0 INT. 2 rushes for -2 yards. Led offense to 13 points in 12 drives (1.1 pts/drive)
  • Streveler: 14/20 (70.0%) for 181 yards (9.1 Y/A), 3 TD, 1 INT. 8 rushes for 64 yards. Led offense to 28 points in 7 drives (4.0 pts/drive)

Is it time to start talking about the possibility of Streveler overtaking White for the Jets’ QB3 spot?

Considering how much more experience White has in this offense – he was around for all of 2021 while Streveler just started taking team reps in practice one week ago – it seems unlikely that the Jets would pivot from White to Streveler so quickly. But with Streveler outplaying White to such a great degree in two straight games, it’s no longer unfathomable to think about.

Winner: Lawrence Cager / Loser: Trevon Wesco

Going into this game, I listed the Jets’ TE4 battle as one of the most interesting storylines to watch. It was definitely an eventful night for that battle.

Lawrence Cager stood out in the box score for the second consecutive game. After catching 2-of-2 targets for 40 yards against Philadelphia, Cager grabbed 3-of-4 targets for 65 yards against Atlanta, highlighted by a 34-yard touchdown.

Meanwhile, Trevon Wesco got hit with two penalties (one false start and one holding). Wesco’s case to make the roster is based entirely around his blocking, so he cannot afford to commit multiple penalties.

A lot of Cager’s receiving yards over these two games have come on wide-open catches due to busted coverages, so he has been somewhat lucky. With that being said, it’s undeniable that he has looked very fast with the ball in his hands for a tight end. Since this is a Jets offense that relies heavily on YAC, the coaches have to be intrigued by the after-the-catch explosiveness that Cager is showing.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania
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9 months ago

Does the size of Cager remind anybody of Rich Caster?

9 months ago
Reply to  greenblood

Ole #88…he kind of does. I remember Rich being a little more “stout” tho

9 months ago

One thing I’ll say about Streveler, the man looks and plays like a football player! That’s a description Bill Parcells was fond of using, and it fits Streveler. He looks and plays tough. For example, when he runs, he runs hard, but slides when he’s about to get hit, and he has a technique of sliding hard to get more yardage. He knows he’s on a football field and he’s playing QB, so he can’t afford to get clobbered by bigger guys with a clean shot at him. You watch a guy like Wilson, making one too many moves in the open field, and you have to wonder whether he fully understands the game of football. Hopefully, he’ll learn with experience.

Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
9 months ago

I say this admitting I do not understand what I see very well, but I was disappointed in Marshall again (while being more disappointed in Shepherd, whom I barely noticed). The sack looked like a blown assignment, and he just seems to get turned so easily. I have no trouble finding Marshall because his back is facing the sideline camera A LOT.

Tanzel Smart is my guy here.

Cager has been lucky, and while the touchdown play was a blown coverage, the stem on that route and the cut he made looked really, really good to me. He helped that coverage become blown by running a stem that drew those two defenders into each other. I think I understand what they mean be a mismatch nightmare. Also, didn’t I see him make a couple of nice blocks, including climbing to the second level?

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
9 months ago

Thanks for the Facts Mike. Good Read.

9 months ago

I like your takes, and I wrote this at halftime, although I know some people out there don’t agree but I do think it’s time to face reality…Bryce Hall is not good. I’ve seen enough of him to know if he’s playing there’s a problem. He doesn’t know where the ball is and his instincts are spotty. I think he’s reached his ceiling.

Mike White is also not good, that one game was a once in a lifetime performance. I like the guy sure, but he’s just not a good QB. I don’t think Streveler has overtaken him, just because of White’s time with the team. I would say however there’s no need to keep White and pay him that salary, unless Zach is hurt.

I was hoping one of the DT’s would outplay Nate Shepherd and they may just have done it. I don’t see a huge difference in the 3 so why keep a guy who’s basically at his ceiling (who makes a lot of less than smart plays) over a younger guy who may still be improving?

Wesco is another guy who I think hung around purely because of lack of talent on the roster. If they are keeping 4 TE’s I think Cager actually “won” that spot. I know his blocking is suspect but the top 3 guys are all good blockers, does it hurt to keep a guy who can do some damage in the passing game? If they are keeping 4. ‘

I brought him up yesterday, but what did you think of Parks? I didn’t see much but he did make a nice play, on a good read. I wonder if he was responsible for some of the breakdowns in pass coverage? Any thoughts on him? I’m sure you’ll watch the replays.

9 months ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Joyner didn’t look great, I know he’s been out so we’ll see but obviously he’s got to be better. Is too much being made about the OL not getting time together at this point? I think there is plenty of time for them to get it together considering, the interior guys have been there all camp and Brown is a legit pro. It’s not like Fant has zero time at RT. I know they are key but I’m not overly concerned…yet.

And don’t get me wrong I’m not hoping Hall isn’t good haha. I just call it like I see it, which isn’t the way everybody sees it I know.

9 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

Hall doesn’t strike me as a naturally instinctive player. He seems completely overmatched in man coverage and his confidence is likely lowered by the off-season additions. He’s a back up type player. Michael’s analysis on Wesco is spot on. He remained on this team previously due to a gross lack of talent at the position. White has been mostly mediocre in his tenure. If Zach is healthy enough to play by week 1, I would cut White.

9 months ago
Reply to  Michael Nania

Thanks for the insights and research.
While I know Hall had a miserable performance, I am more concerned about our coaching staff (DC and Secondary Coach) not making an adjustment w/ our personnel to cover the same “flood” play at least three times. Even the ESPN guys pointed it out multiple times. This better be fixed by opening day.
Keep Smart, best of the bunch against the run.