Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
After three preseason games, now is a good time to assess who has played well enough to improve their chances of a role during the regular season, and whose struggles have put their spot in jeopardy.
We've identified five winners and five losers from the first three games...
Trenton Cannon - Running Back
Entering camp, Cannon was earmarked for a return role, but that hasn't worked out due to his ball security issues. However, with Elijah McGuire out, Cannon has established himself as a dynamic threat, and the Jets will be tempted to keep him on the roster to develop him into an offensive weapon. While his preseason stats have been modest, he leads the team with a 3.9 yards per carry average and seven pass receptions.
Neal Sterling - Tight End
Sterling was considered a long-shot to earn a roster spot, but has given himself a chance by leading all tight ends with five catches in two games. Recent draft choices Jordan Leggett and Chris Herndon have yet to register a catch, with each missing plenty of time.
Sam Darnold - Quarterback
The Jets' rookie sensation is the biggest winner from preseason so far, as he seems to have locked down the starting quarterback role. Despite the fact his statistics have been inferior to Teddy Bridgewater's and he hasn't thrown down the field much, Darnold's command, composure, and decision-making in the first three games seems to have convinced the coaching staff that it's not too early to kickstart his career.
Neville Hewitt - Linebacker
Hewitt has made the most of Kevin Pierre-Louis' absence to lead the Jets with 21 tackles in the first three games, and looks to have the inside track on a reserve role. He also showcased his playmaking ability by intercepting a pass, and has been a regular contributor on every special teams unit.
Doug Middleton - Safety
After missing last season, Middleton has impressed the coaches by holding his own while filling in for the injured Marcus Maye with the first unit during training camp and preseason. Middleton has seven tackles and an interception in the first three games and, even if he doesn't get a chance to start, looks set to have a role in three and four-safety subpackages in 2018.
Lawrence Thomas - Fullback
Despite his main competion, undrafted rookie Dimitri Flowers, missing plenty of time, Thomas has failed to establish himself as a consistent enough blocker so far to warrant a role. The team seems to be leaning towards running two and three-tight end packages instead, with one of the tight ends in the backfield where necessary.
Chad Hansen - Wide Receiver
Heading into training camp, Hansen had been one of the standouts and was expected to have a breakout campaign. However, since the pads have gone on, he's been stuck on the third unit and hasn't had many chances to produce. His only catch in preseason so far went for no gain and his only other target was dropped as he had a step on his man down the seam. Hansen has been outperformed by players like Charles Johnson and Tre McBride.
Rashard Robinson - Cornerback
On defense, players like Lorenzo Mauldin, Juston Burris and Pierre-Louis are looking like longshots, having missed time due to injury. Of the players who have been playing, Robinson - who is already facing a suspension - is one who has been struggling. He's made a few nice plays, but has two defensive penalties and had two costly mistakes in each of the Jets' losses. He gave up the catch that set up the game-winning field goal in Washington, and lost contain on a big run that enabled the Giants to run out the clock.
Brent Qvale - Offensive Lineman
Qvale has been getting a chance to start at the left tackle position but this has been a tough assignment for him. With Ben Ijalana out for the year, the Jets will be concerned about their depth behind Kelvin Beachum. Qvale, who has also played some right tackle reps with the second unit, has given up two sacks, committed two penalties and been an inconsistent run blocker in the Jets' new system.
Eric Tomlinson - Tight End
Tomlinson is regarded as one of the league's best blocking specialists at the tight end position, but he's had a poor preseason with two offensive penalties, a dropped pass and uncharacteristically inconsistent blocking both on offense and special teams. He has just one catch for two yards and got embarrassingly blown up in pass protection against Olivier Vernon in Friday night's game. Tomlinson could perhaps be viewed as a bad fit for the new blocking scheme, but the Jets will hope he plays better once the real games begin.