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New York Jets running back Michael Carter during the 2023 preseason.
Continuing the New York Jets bubble candidate stock update series after the Carolina Panthers outing, a few potential cuts strengthened their case to make the Week 1 roster on August 12.
With a look back at the top risers and fallers versus the Cleveland Browns, a brief reminder that these articles will only focus on players who are battling for a roster spot in 2023. For example, pass rushers Jermaine Johnson II and Bryce Huff were ferocious on Saturday but both are sure things to make this team.
Without further ado, here are the top three bubble candidates on the rise after preseason game two.
3 Top NYJ Risers During Jets vs. Panthers
3. Cornerbacks Jimmy Moreland & Brandin Echols.
Echols should be there Week 2 after his one-game suspension, but he and Moreland were tremendous to start the game, and both had major bounce backs after a rough outing against the Browns.
The bigger question mark is obviously Moreland. With Echols out for one game, it’ll be interesting to see who the Jets keep in his place. Bryce Hall could easily be the answer, but Hall missed the second preseason outing with an undisclosed injury.
Javelin Guidry is another option. He played better during the Hall of Fame game but Moreland is the big winner at cornerback on August 12. His open field tackling against the Panthers was strong, and the pass coverage was solid all around as the Jets defense pitched a shutout.
Moreland finished with four total tackles (three solo), two passes defended and an interception on the final Hail Mary attempt by Matt Corral.
2. The Fourth Tight End Role (Zack Kuntz, Kenny Yeboah & E.J. Jenkins).
It was an odd day for the TE4 battle because each member of the competition scored a touchdown that was nearly identical to the others — so none of the three really gained much ground. Having said that, it is becoming apparent that the Jets should at least roster a fourth tight end.
Seventh rounder Zack Kuntz, UDFA E.J. Jenkins and former UDFA Kenny Yeboah are all too talented to cut in one summer. It feels like at least one or two of these players could get claimed by another franchise and the Jets must hold onto their favorite for dear life.
Kuntz and Jenkins have the higher ceiling as massive receiving weapons that could turn into something special, but Yeboah is the best all-around contributor at this stage. He’s become a reliable blocker and special teamer, and Yeboah has also proven himself as a pass-catcher.
It’s hard to say who has the edge at this very moment. Yeboah appears to be the highest on the depth chart, but Kuntz is a 2023 draft pick. Speaking of tight ends, Jeremy Ruckert looked great in Carolina too, with a couple of snags and a nice block downfield.
1. Michael Carter & the RB Room.
Ahead of this game, we discussed how Michael Carter could be the odd man out if the Jets sign a veteran at the running back position. Saturday’s film may persuade Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh against adding experience to this room, however.
Carter and Zonovan Knight started things off as a good one-two punch of power (Knight) and elusiveness (Carter). “MC” also led the team in receiving yards with two catches for 34 yards — serving as a major safety outlet for Zach Wilson in the early phases of the game.
The renaissance effort included a 4.8-yards per carry clip for Carter, and rookie Israel Abanikanda was just behind him at 4.7 YPC and 31 receiving yards — not to mention a nasty spin move that got him a yard short of a touchdown.
Throw UDFA Travis Dye’s late-game production into the mix and the Jets young RB unit not only boosted their stock, but also proved that the NYJ front office doesn’t need to reach for a former star like Dalvin Cook or Ezekiel Elliott.
Honorable Mentions Include Offensive Line & Defensive Newcomers
It’s always hard to judge specific offensive linemen at first glance, but the overall play of the Jets OL was much better against the Panthers. Part of that is a credit to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who called a QB-friendly playbook for Wilson and third stringer Tim Boyle, but the blockers deserve a mention here too.
Not only did the run game set the tone for the entire outing, but the pass protection was cleaner and the Jets dominated Carolina on screens. It is difficult to point out one specific offensive lineman in a such a group effort though.
Newcomers Bruce Hector (DT) and Nick Vigil (LB) also hit the ground running. The former forced a strip sack fumble on Corral, which he recovered himself. Later, Hector tripped up Corral, leading to a sack credited to UDFA Deslin Alexandre.
Considering Hector’s only registered one half-sack for his entire NFL career, the Panthers performance was an encouraging start.
Vigil, on the other hand, had a couple of really impressive stops including a fourth-down stinger where he rocked the pass-catcher just before the marker, forcing a turnover on downs. The veteran linebacker finished tied for second on the team in tackles (four total, three solo) behind rookie Zaire Barnes (eight total, seven solo), with one tackle for a loss.