This preseason, I'll be spotlighting an under-the-radar player who impressed me in each game and assessing that player's chances of making the team. Today, we'll look at one of the top performers in the Jets' 16-6 loss to the Lions, cornerback Dexter McDougle.
Who is he?
McDougle was a third round pick in 2014, with the Jets hoping he had flown under the radar due to some injury issues in college. Unfortunately, injuries have continued to plague him, as he missed his rookie year with a torn ACL and ended up on the practice squad in 2016 after missing more time in camp and preseason.
McDougle was activated towards the end of last season, but enters this year with just seven tackles and one pass defensed in 20 NFL appearances. He had been stuck on the third unit throughout the early weeks of camp and looked like a long-shot to make the roster after the Jets drafted two cornerbacks. However, he had three passes defensed in the first preseason game and reportedly followed that up with a good week of practice.
Lions Game Breakdown
Officially, McDougle was only credited with two tackles and one pass defensed in last night's game, but he also made contributions as a pass rusher and hardly had any negatives.
McDougle didn't play in the first half, but started the second half, playing exclusively in the slot. He made an immediate impact with a pass break-up on the outside on the second play, playing off-coverage in the left slot and trailing his receiver across the field to deflect the pass away at full extension.
On the next play, on 3rd-and-9, he played physical coverage on his man at the marker and was draped all over his back as he made the catch, securing the tackle short of the marker to force a punt. He later forced another punt when he was able to get off his block downfield to tackle a receiver short of the marker on a 3rd-and-12 screen pass, although he didn't get official credit for this tackle.
McDougle also contributed a couple of pressures as an unblocked blitzer off the edge. The first of these led to an intentional grounding penalty, while the other saw a completed third down pass end up short of the marker.
Later in the game, McDougle further displayed his versatility with a play against the run. Coming off the edge unblocked, he broke down in space to ensure the running back couldn't bounce to the outside and then closed to complete the tackle for a three-yard loss in the backfield.
It wasn't a flawless performance from McDougle, who got caught up on a block on a wide receiver screen and whiffed on a diving tackle attempt. However, that play only went for a short gain.
Penalties could be an issue for McDougle, who had two penalties, including one on special teams in the first preseason game. In this game, he perhaps got away with a jersey grab on one play and could easily have been flagged on one of his blitzes when his hand made inadvertent contact with the quarterback's facemask.
What are his roster chances?
McDougle has definitely improved his chances in these first two games. Todd Bowles has commended how well he is playing and commented that he is benefiting from being healthy and in great shape. It would be helpful if he could produce something on special teams over the last two games, because he hasn't shown much there so far.
There are not many spots up for grabs, but if sixth round pick Jeremy Clark remains on the non-football injury list, then that potentially creates room. If they opt to carry the other sixth-round pick, Derrick Jones, it seems likely that would be more of a stash pick, because he seems a little raw to contribute to the main rotation.
McDougle's ability to play in the slot helps him and that could entice the team to carry him as a potential alternative or injury cover for Buster Skrine. If McDougle continues to play well in the last two preseason games, then maybe he will even put Marcus Williams or Darryl Roberts' spot in jeopardy.