In my opinion, preseason games are more about evaluating individual players than the team as a whole. The end result doesn’t matter. Teams typically aren’t game-planning or optimizing their lineups. However, players may show signs of future success or troubling signs.
There are many reasons an exhibition game can be important to a player. Before today’s game against the Falcons, I want to give you some Jets to watch and assign them a preseason cliché role.
Top pick looking like a budding star: Gardner Sauce
Robert Saleh was non-committal at a recent press conference on whether his starters will take the field tonight. One would imagine that Zach Wilson’s injury in a non-contact game in the preseason opener and a forecast of possible inclement weather at the Meadowlands could make the coach inclined to cut the starting line.
If the starters play, Gardner will be a player worth watching. He had a strong preseason debut against the Eagles and has all the tools to be a game-changer on defenses. We’ll only get glimpses of him through week one, but any glimpse could be worth remembering.
Young player looking to take the next step: Quincy Williams
By any measure, Williams was a wildly successful waiver claim last year. You don’t expect a player waived by the Jaguars to provide any kind of value. Williams played in the starting lineup and had some strong games.
However, he was quite unstable. The aggressiveness that led to the bone-rattling shots also got him out of position.
For their part, the Jets have expressed high hopes for the former Alabama linebacker. The question is whether he can channel his aggression better. The first game of the preseason was disappointing on that front, as Quincy committed a bad penalty on a late snap and took a bad corner on another play that led to a botched onside attempt.
Again it depends on the rookies who see the field, but it would be nice to see a more controlled but still aggressive Quincy Williams tonight.
Middle pick that looks like it could be a player: Micheal Clemons
Clemons appeared in his preseason debut living in the Eagles’ backfield. Now this is to be expected on some level. Clemons is old for a rookie and has an advantage over fringe roster players.
That said, he had some quality snaps early in the game when the Eagles had players higher up the depth chart on the field.
It’s easy to get carried away with expectations for Clemons, but at least he looked like a player who could provide value in a rotation. We’ll see if that continues tonight.
The rookie likely to get his only meaningful playing time in the preseason: Jeremy Ruckert
An injury or two to a tight end could certainly change things, but it seems the plan for Ruckert this year is to learn on the practice field and develop there. The Jets have bigger plans for him in the future, but he is a developing player.
That makes these preseason reps especially valuable for Ruckert. He has a chance to get live game footage to help his development.
His first game was strong as he scored a touchdown. Can he build on it?
Disappointing early pick who may be on his last chance: Denzel Mims
A lot of digital ink has been spilled on Mims in the last couple of years, so I’ll try to be brief.
Things look ominous for him now. Clearly, the coaching staff has been less than enamored with him since taking over a year ago. His game against the Eagles got off to a good start as he produced a pair of long saves. However, a decline followed.
It’s also worth noting that Mims was the seventh Jets receiver to take the field in the game. This is possibly a sign of where he stands.
This low on the depth chart, Mims may need to play both offense and special teams to move up. He is running out of time to influence.
Potential odd man out in a numbers game: Jabari Zuniga
To be honest, you could probably give Zuniga the same title of early disappointment as Mims. After all, he’s already been cut and dropped to the practice squad.
However, he has made his case for a roster spot with a strong training camp and a sack in the preseason opener.
The problem is that the Jets have a crowd on the defensive end. There may not be room for Zuniga, no matter how well he plays. Drafting Clemons as the new tight end may have guaranteed Zuniga’s demise.
All he can do is produce and make the decision as difficult as possible for the Jets.
The fourth-string quarterback who gets a lot of love from the fan base: Chris Streveler
There is an old saying that the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback. Like Matt Simms before him, Streveler’s work late in the preseason against practice squad talent shows that the true most popular player resides further down the depth chart.
For his part, Streveler was the quarterback of record in a game-winning drive last week. He has shown ability as a running back both with the Jets and in the CFL.
But as a bystander?
It looks like a great work in progress. Going through his efforts last week, I’m not sure there was anything particularly impressive about what he did. Most of the shots he made are the types of shots that even a practicing quarterback going against fourth baseman should be expected to hit.
Ultimately, I don’t think Streveler has much of a chance to make the roster. Maybe he can show enough to earn a practice squad spot, though.