Last night, the Jets and Rams completed a trade which sent disappointing and overpaid right tackle Wayne Hunter to the Rams for the arguably even more disappointing and overpaid right tackle Jason Smith.

Having reviewed several Rams games already this offseason for the Expendables series, Smith had been a guy who stood out as having had some struggles. Maybe a closer inspection of the film will reveal some promise, but we’ll get to that in due course. For the time being, I’ve been scratching my head over this one.

After the jump, I’ll be looking at salary cap issues associated with the move, weighing up some of the practical considerations that may have gone into the Jets’ though process in making this deal and providing detailed analysis of how Smith has played in the preseason, along with some numbers and analysis from his three years in the league so far.

Salary Cap Issues

Based on the information available about Smith’s contract (mostly from Brian McIntyre), we can determine the following about the two years remaining on the restructured monster contract he signed when he was drafted by the Rams with the second pick:

- His salary for 2012 is $4m, which is fully guaranteed

- He also has potential incentives of $1m based on playing time, wins and playoff success

- If he earns any of these incentives, they will count against the 2013 cap

- His contract will void if he plays over 31% of the snaps in 2012

- If his contract voids, the Jets could get a 2014 compensatory pick if anyone else signs him

- If his contract doesn’t void, he is set to earn $12m in 2013

- None of the money in 2013 is guaranteed, so he can be released with no cap implications

- His deal could also be restructured at that point

Since Wayne Hunter was due to earn $2.45m the Jets used up $1.55m of net 2012 cap room by making this move. The Jets also save $4m in 2013 and $3m in 2014, which have to be accounted for in their future cap charges, even though it was unlikely Hunter was ever going to earn these non-guaranteed sums. At the same time, this means we need to account for Smith’s $12m in next year’s cap calculation, although there’s no chance of him earning this. Ultimately, the Jets are $8m further over the 2013 cap than they already were, although their actual cap flexibility beyond 2013 is pretty much unaffected, other than the fact they have $1.55m less to potentially carry over. It might mean that more media members fall into the trap of believing the Jets are in cap hell, but they still should have the flexibility to keep the core together and retain flexibility.

Some questions arise. For example, some will be asking if using up this $1.55m leaves them with enough cap room to sign any other players. The Jets still have over $4m of cap room, but bear in mind that when you sign a player, you will also be removing another player from the roster. So, if you sign a guy for the minimum and remove a player from the roster who is also earning the minimum, then the cap cost is nothing. Minimum salaries do increase as players get older, but even if the Jets replaced an undrafted rookie with an older veteran, the net cap cost would only be a couple of hundred thousand dollars at most.

Also, the Jets have been pretty lucky with not having too many people land on injured reserve (which can eat into your cap room) so far this season, so perhaps they budgeted for a couple of million to cover them against that eventuality and now feel comfortable enough to spend that money and stay within budget.

Another question is why does Smith’s contract get voided when he reaches a certain playing time threshold? It looks like it’s been negotiated so that Smith had a chance to hit free agency in 2013, which would obviously give him all the leverage to get a contract extension from the Rams before the end of the 2012 season. If an injury had prevented him from reaching that threshold, then the fact his 2013 cap number is high would give him added protection and leverage. Obviously the expectation was that he’d be an elite player at that point of his career. Instead he’s been a disappointment and has already negotiated his salary down from $10m this year – receiving the guarantee in return.

Naturally, this means it is an effective contract year for Smith, which might have been one of the reasons the Jets made the deal.

Unless Smith proves to be an upgrade over Hunter, the deal doesn’t really make any sense from a contract perspective. One possible upside is that they could potentially get a compensatory pick in 2014 if Smith’s contract voids and then he gets picked up by another team (as suggested by Jason from NYJetsCap.com), but that wouldn’t be enough to justify making the deal.

What is clear is that Hunter’s confidence was so shot that his days with the Jets were numbered. Obviously the vitriol from the fans has been too much for him to take and the decision to allow him to remain on the team and collect a guaranteed salary for 2012 has come back to bite them. There were more than just financial considerations that went into that decision – principally a concern over how the locker room would react to him being cut or forced to reduce his pay and a desire to look like they do the right thing by their players, but also an assessment of the lack of potential replacements available. All those reasons made sense at the time and they obviously weren’t expecting things to go south so dramatically, but the end result is that that money was a sunk cost, because he was on his way out.

Had they cut Hunter, they’d be on the hook for all of his $2.45m anyway, so the net cost of finding a replacement, even if they got a minimum salary guy, wouldn’t have been far short of the $4m they are going to be paying Smith. Could they have found a replacement for less than the $1.55m they ultimately lose out on? Some people had been suggesting that Gosder Cherilus could be a possible trade option, but he earns $2.3m, so if they cut Hunter and signed Cherilus, the Jets would be almost $1m worse off and down a draft pick or player. Cherilus wasn’t particularly good in 2011, but played well in 2010, so the Jets would be gambling that he’d see a return to form, which – for a player coming from a zone blocking system – might have taken some time.

When you look at it like this, the financial/asset risk behind getting Smith instead perhaps makes more sense. EDIT: It's subsequently been revealed that the Rams paid Smith a pre-trade bonus so that his salary for the year is exactly the same as what Hunter was set to earn, so a lot of the above analysis is now redundant. Ultimately the Jets are $1.55m better off than previously thought. It’s going to come down to what Smith can provide the Jets, though, so let’s start to think about that.

Who is Jason Smith?

When the Rams drafted Smith with the second pick of the 2009 draft, he was expected to become one of the league’s elite tackles. Three seasons into his career, he has been limited to 29 games by concussions, although he is understood to be healthy at the moment. This has obviously slowed his progress. Obviously he’s been a disappointment as the second pick, but his numbers when he has played are not too bad. The bigger issue is how much he’s reportedly struggling at the moment.

As a rookie, he played just three full games and half of four others but otherwise looked pretty promising. 2010 was his only full season and he played every snap. This season was blighted by inconsistency as he had a few really good games but more really bad ones. Although he graded out well below average he wasn’t right near the bottom of the league like Hunter was last year. In 2011, he lasted just five and a half games and was struggling. However, his last couple of performances were positive and he did only give up two sacks and two QB hits. So, on the basis of his three years in the league, he has been below average, but not one of the league’s worst tackles – which should make him an upgrade over Hunter…right?

Unfortunately, his return to the field this year has not been encouraging. Barry Richardson – a tackle who graded out considerably worse than Hunter last year – has basically won the starting job by default because Smith has been performing so poorly in camp. That’s not a good sign and Smith hasn’t been getting good reviews for his play.

I spoke to an analyst (Khaled Elsayed) from ProFootballFocus to see if he had any thoughts on the move. He said that Smith did look pretty good when he was a rookie, so he does have talent. It was more mental issues that seemed to affect his play and you never knew whether he’d have a good game or a bad game from week to week. He said that was the opposite of Wayne Hunter, who would string together some bad performances, then seem to find himself and start playing reasonably well for several weeks in a row, before losing it again and finding himself back in a rut.

This leads you to wonder whether it is effort that is holding Smith back. Rams fans are reportedly less than impressed with his attitude and he has a reputation for not wanting to learn new things. However, Khaled made the point that the Rams didn’t exactly help him by constantly changing his position from left tackle to right tackle and back again. He also notes that a lot of linemen have gone to St. Louis in recent years and got worse, so maybe the Jets have some confidence they can tap into some of his potential better than the Rams were able to.

Another factor is that Smith comes to the Jets who have plenty of other good players on their line, whereas the whole line was struggling when Smith was with the Rams. So, the line wasn’t blocking well as a unit and the chances of him getting any help were perhaps slim. Khaled suggests that the Jets probably expect Austin Howard to falter at some point, so while paying a $4m salary to a swing tackle seems excessive, they probably expect him to be starting eventually.

I’d also note that Smith’s struggles this preseason can perhaps be tempered by the fact that he is playing in a brand new scheme with an offensive coordinator (our old friend Brian Schottenheimer) whose system is notoriously difficult to pick up. That’s perhaps not the best thing for a player who apparently was already making mental mistakes. These mental errors and the fact that he suffered from changing positions remind me of Vladimir Ducasse’s struggles so far and Ducasse is responding really well to Sparano’s more straightforward scheme. That being the case, perhaps Smith is a better fit than we realized.

2012 Preseason

So, let’s look at Jason Smith’s three appearances so far this preseason. Remember, he hasn’t received positive reviews for these displays, but perhaps we’ve rationalized some of the possible reasons for this above. We might even see some positive signs. Mostly, I’ll be looking for differences between Smith and Hunter, as well as any obvious weaknesses in his game.

Week One – Indianapolis

Smith entered the game late in the first quarter. He didn’t look too bad in run blocking early on, although he did allow the DE to spin away from this block on the edge and assist on a tackle in the backfield. He bounced back from that to pull to the outside and make a good block to set up a nine yard run over the right side. His worst moment saw his man (Jerry Hughes) blow by him completely untouched for an easy sack on third down in the red zone. Hughes almost jumped offsides and this might have factored into how slowly Smith got into his stance. On the last series, Smith moved his feet well as he tried to make a reach block going to the left, but ended up knocked onto his back because he lost his balance. He was also beaten easily by an outside speed rush, but the pass rusher took too wide of an angle and the quarterback was able to get off a quick throw.

On the whole, Smith didn’t look too bad in this one, although the sack was particularly embarrassing. He definitely performed better than Richardson, who got destroyed on a couple of plays. You can see the athleticism and technically he doesn’t look as bad as advertised – definitely more polished than Howard. His footwork seems pretty good and he was able to counter some pass rushing moves well. I would note that – despite the fact Brian Schottenheimer is not renowned for doing so – he did get some help in the form of double teams and chip blocks.

Week Two – Kansas City

The offense didn’t look as good with the second unit in, but that wasn’t necessarily Smith’s fault. He had a couple of minor issues in the running game - a missed cut block, letting his man get off his block to get in on the tackle – but overall didn’t do too badly. They ran behind him for a short touchdown and he held his block well on another touchdown run. His worst moment saw another old friend, Ropati Pitoitua, beat him cleanly on the inside, although Potty missed the tackle and the runner bounced to the outside and picked up a first down. In pass protection, the nearest he came to giving up a pressure was when he was driven back into the quarterback, who took off and scrambled for a first down. Pressure was also coming from the other side on the play, otherwise he’d have had time to step up and throw.

Once again, Smith didn’t fare too badly in this one, although you might expect him to flash more dominance against backups. They did give him some help on the inside in pass protection, but the fact he didn’t give up any pressure is encouraging.

Week Three – Dallas

One thing I noticed from this game was a play where Smith took his man and drove him well out of the play, but the runner got stuffed in the backfield because someone else screwed up. Something like this happened a handful of times over the course of the three games. This is where you can start to wonder whether pairing him with some more talented and consistent players could turn that kind of play into a key block that sparks a successful run – or where if he does make a mistake, there might still be room for the runner to get back to the line of scrimmage rather than being swarmed under.

Smith did have some issues in this one. He reacted to an inside move, but then the pass rusher span to the outside and got away from him for what should have been a sack (but he missed the tackle). Also, he was tossed aside by Marcus Spears who stuffed a running play up the middle. His best moment was probably a driving run block, where he initially double teamed a defensive lineman and then drove him to the second level.

Overall Observations

While Smith didn’t play well enough against backups to stand out as someone who should definitely be a starter, at no point in any the three games was he overmatched like Hunter was against the Giants starters. In fact, he was also more consistent and did more positive things than Howard has this preseason.

I noticed the athleticism and strength that made Smith an elite prospect in the first place and he played extremely hard. He finishes his blocks and plays to the whistle, on several occasions doing the sort of thing you’d never normally notice like driving a pass rusher well out of the play once the pass had already been released so he had no chance to chase down the receiver. I did notice he ended up on the floor quite a lot, suggesting his technique wasn’t always perfect and also the concentration lapses he is known for were also apparent.

It’s very difficult to fairly evaluate backups playing against backups when comparing them with starters playing against starters. Richardson had more negative issues than Smith did, for example, but if their roles were reversed, I’m sure Smith would have struggled more and Richardson might have been more dominant. He definitely performed considerably better than Stephon Heyer, Robert Griffin and Hunter did as the second string tackle across from Howard in each of the last three games.

Howard’s confidence is high at the moment and he looks set to start the opener. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smith challenging for the starting role, especially if Howard has some struggles. That is practically inevitable with the pass rushers they are facing early on in the year.

Conclusions

I went to bed last night really scratching my head over this move. Normally when you make one of these deals where both players will probably benefit from a change of scenery, you don’t really have anything to lose, but in this case the Jets have surrendered some cap flexibility. Clearly the Jets must feel comfortable with this, but we’ll have to hope it doesn’t come back to bite them. EDIT: As noted above, the Jets didn't surrender any cap flexibility after all and this was a cap-neutral swap of two guys needing a change of scenery.

I was concerned that Smith does not represent any kind of upgrade over Hunter based on the reports of his preseason play, but a look back to his record when he has played suggests he has it in him to be better and a closer look at his performance in preseason suggests he isn’t playing that badly. If he can respond well to a simpler system and benefit from being surrounded by better players in a contract year, then this is a move that could pay off. I’m not sure what the plan is for 2013, but for now, I don’t think the Jets have planned that far ahead.

After Austin Howard’s performance last week, I feel a lot more comfortable about the Jets’ ability to scheme around any perceived weakness at the right tackle position. After reviewing the film, I’m not completely confident in Smith’s ability to live up to his salary, but some of the factors involved in his struggles with the Rams give me a small amount of hope. With any luck, he could provide solid cover for Howard and the Jets will not be in trouble if he ends up starting. Consider me cautiously pessimistic but by no means completely resigned to failure.

Welcome aboard, Jason. Let’s see you earn your salary.

Bonus Link: When the Jets signed Aaron Maybin back in 2011, I scouted him for BGA here and found myself rationalizing the move in much the same way. Go back and read what I wrote at the time because (ignoring the financial side of things) I feel much the same way after reviewing the film on Smith.

Tags: BGA, Editorial Aside, Bent Double

 (Kirby Lee)
(Kirby Lee)

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan ignored speculation to draft Saints RB Alvin Kamara as he didn't want to take the risk, reports NY Daily News' Manish Mehta

Kamara is turning heads as the rookie has shown out in his two preseason games with the Saints so far this year. Mehta says the Jets wanted to make a push to draft Kamara this year, but Maccagnan decided to stay where they were on the draft board as he viewed Kamara as too much of a risk.

The Jets drafted WR ArDarius Stewart at No. 79 overall in the third round, but now they are seeing what they could have possibly gotten with Kamara in their backfield. The 5-foot-10, 194 pound back has totaled 118 yards and a touchdown on just 10 touches in two preseason games. 

Kamara is shaping up to be a difference maker if he can continue the pace he is on, and the Jets could certainly have used his talents. However, head coach Todd Bowles believes there are playmakers already on his roster...

Tags: ArDarius Stewart
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 (Brad Penner)
(Brad Penner)

Jets head coach Todd Bowles believes his team will perform better than anyone is expecting them to this season, per ESPN's Rich Cimini

Bowles spoke to Mike Francesa on WFAN radio at camp Monday, and gave the Jets' fan base an encouraging message. 

"I would tell them that we're not going to be a terrible team," Bowles said. "We're going to come out there and fight, and blood, sweat and tears will go out to the city and our fans, and we're going to win more games than everybody ever expected."

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Jeane Coakley on Jets camp 00:01:55
Jeane Coakley reports from Jets training camp where Todd Bowles wants more consistency and hopes to name a starting quarterback soon.

 

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Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Jets head coach Todd Bowles said he will "probably" name a starting quarterback next Monday.

Bowles said on Monday that he wants to first watch film of Saturday's game against the Giants before making an announcement. The Jets will conclude their preseason schedule with a matchup against the Eagles at home on August 31.

Tags: Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, Josh McCown
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Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson on the field before a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

Jets owner Woody Johnson has passed on the duties of team chairman and CEO to his brother, Christopher Johnson, the team announced on Monday.

The anticipated move came after Woody Johnson was sworn in as US Ambassador to the UK and Northern Ireland on Monday.  

Earlier this month, Woody Johnson was confirmed by the Senate to serve in the role.

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 (Jim O'Connor)
(Jim O'Connor)

Jets fans took to Twitter after Sunday night's episode of HBO's Game of Thrones to jokingly suggest the Night King should be their quarterback.

Warning: Episode spoilers below!

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December 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) and outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) celebrate after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports (Kyle Terada)
December 11, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Leonard Williams (92) and outside linebacker Darron Lee (50) celebrate after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports (Kyle Terada)

The NFL has cleared Jets players Darron Lee and Leonard Williams of any violations of league rules after an investigation into an incident at a New York music festival in June turned up a lack of evidence.

The incident involved Williams dragging Lee away from what Jets coach Todd Bowles later described as "an argument with his girlfriend" during the Governors Ball on Randalls Island. The argument and the aftermath were caught on video and posted to social media.

The Twitter user who posted the video said the woman was "shaken and in tears" after the incident. The user also described Lee as "aggressive" and claimed the Jets linebacker "started to manhandle" the woman, "grabbed" her, and "started dragging her away."

Upon announcing that the league's investigation was closed, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email "Following a review, we concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that there was a violation of the personal conduct policy."

Tags: Darron Lee, Leonard Williams, Ralph Vacchiano
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (right) poses for a photo with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith prior to Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (right) poses for a photo with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith prior to Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is close to getting a five-year contract extension to remain in his position atop the league, according to multiple reports.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Goodell will earn close to what he is during his current contract, which is set to end in 2019. Goodell has presided over the NFL since 2006 since he took over for Paul Tagliabue. The extension would keep him on as commissioner until 2024.

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 (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

After losing some veterans on the offensive line, the Jets are looking for some answers and reliability in the trenches as they march toward the regular season. 

The offense struggled as a whole in Saturday's loss at the Lions, producing just 85 rushing yards and six total points. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg only went 2-of-6 for 14 yards in the first half. Head coach Todd Bowles attributes that to some issues on the line. 

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In the latest episode of The Jet Stream, Jonas Schwartz and Willie Colon look back at the eight sacks the Jets' D laid on the Tennessee Titans, as well as Christian Hackenberg's performance. Later, the guys discuss the wide receivers, offensive line, and their expectations for this week's matchup with the Detroit Lions.

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Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (23) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Darius Jennings (15) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)
Aug 12, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (23) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Darius Jennings (15) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports (Dennis Schneidler)

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?

Tags: Dexter McDougle
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Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)
Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)

Ralph Vacchiano | Facebook | Twitter | Archive

Remember all that progress that Christian Hackenberg appeared to make in the Jets' preseason opener? Well, by Week 2 it was gone.

Hackenberg, getting a surprise start over veteran Josh McCown, gave an ugly and unproductive performance in the Jets 16-6 loss to the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. He was a miserable 2 of 6 for 14 yards, with both completions coming on dump-offs to running back Bilal Powell. In a full half of action he led the Jets to just two first downs and a total of 43 yards.

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Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass to running back Bilal Powell (29) during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)
Aug 19, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) drops back to pass to running back Bilal Powell (29) during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports (Tim Fuller)

Christian Hackenberg could only complete two passes, the Jets' defense failed to contain Matthew Stafford, and the Lions beat the Jets, 16-6, in the second preseason game.

Hackenberg was sacked twice and completed two of his six passes. During the Jets' opening drive, Hackenberg fumbled after he was hit by Detroit's Cornelius Washington, but the Jets recovered. Bryce Petty completed 15 of his 24 passes for 160 yards and threw an interception for the Jets, who were 4-for-13 on third down.

Myles White led the Jets in receiving with three catches for 43 yards, while Jordan Leggett hauled in two catches for 40 yards. Bilil Powell carried the ball nine times for 32 yards as the Jets were unable to get much going in the running game.

Darron Lee and Morris Clairbone had five tackles to lead the Jets on defense, while Demario Davis, Josh Martin, and Corey Lemonier each had a sack. >> Box score

Tags: Christian Hackenberg
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 (William Hauser)
(William Hauser)

Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson has become more of a vocal leader this season as he has taken it upon himself to fill that void in the locker room.

Linebacker David Harris was the voice in the Jets' locker room for years. Now that he is gone, Wilkerson is the next man in line and he is embracing the new role. 

"I've been here for a long time now," Wilkerson told The Post's Brian Costello, "I always looked up to older guys who are no longer here. I stepped into the footsteps into being a leader. I wasn't vocal [before], but I've always been a leader on this team. David Harris isn't here anymore, so I took it upon myself to speak up more and get out of my comfort zone." 

Tags: Muhammad Wilkerson
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 (Dennis Schneidler)
(Dennis Schneidler)

The Jets are undefeated, which at the moment is insignificant. But really, given all the predictions of doom and gloom, some people probably thought they wouldn't even end up with one preseason win.

They did, but it wasn't pretty (7-3 over the Tennessee Titans at home last Saturday), and they barely answered any of the many, many major question marks surrounding their season and long-term future. Maybe their game in Detroit against the Lions on Saturday night will provide a few more clues about the direction they're headed.

In the meantime, here are five things worth watching at Ford Field tonight:

Tags: Bilal Powell, Christian Hackenberg, Dylan Donahue, Robby Anderson, Ralph Vacchiano
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Daily News Live: Hack Attack 00:02:52
As the Jets get ready for their second preseason game, the panel discusses if a good game from Hackenberg can win him the starting job.

 

Tags: Christian Hackenberg
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JRSportBrief: NFL work stoppage? 00:01:54
In the latest installment of JRSportBrief on SNY.tv, JR talks about the idea of an NFL work stoppage in a few years.

In the latest installment of JRSportBrief on SNY.tv, JR talks about the idea of an NFL work stoppage in a few years.

 

 

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New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown watches as quarterback Christian Hackenberg warms up before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown watches as quarterback Christian Hackenberg warms up before a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)

While New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles did name a starting quarterback for Saturday's preseason game against the Detroit Lions, he is expected to give Josh McCown more playing time.

McCown, who did not get receive any reps at Thursday's practice when the Jets did game-plan prep, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini, played the opening drive last week in New York's 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans, but Christian Hackenberg then played the following eight possessions.

Bowles said he didn't anticipate any lineup changes, but left the door open to it by saying, "we'll discuss it."

Tags: Christian Hackenberg, Detroit Lions, Josh McCown
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New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the preseason game at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the preseason game at MetLife Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports)

New York Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin tweaked his back and sat out practice Thursday, leaving him uncertain for the preseason game at Detroit on Saturday night.

Mauldin had been dealing with a back issue earlier during training camp, but returned to the field Wednesday. Coach Todd Bowles said the third-year linebacker was inside receiving treatment during practice Thursday.

Bowles added that he was unsure how long Mauldin would be sidelined, but said that he would likely not play against the Lions.

Tags: Bilal Powell, Detroit Lions, Lorenzo Mauldin, Matt Forte, Quincy Enunwa
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GEICO SportsNite: Jets camp 00:03:01
Jeane Coakley talks to Muhammad Wilkerson about being one of the older, vocal leaders in the locker room at Jets camp.

 

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Daily News Live: Bowles' future 00:04:48
The Daily News Live panel discusses what Todd Bowles can do to save his job and if he is the right coach to lead a rebuilding effort.

 

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 (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Looking to gain a physical edge on the field, Jets linebacker Darron Lee gained nine pounds heading into training camp. 

Lee, who was 227 pounds after minicamp ended, is now 236 at training camp. 

"On my conditioning test, everybody was like, 'You look noticeably bigger,'" Lee said, according to the New York Daily News. "Hey, I put in that work."

Tags: Darron Lee
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Bowles rewards team during camp 00:02:29
Jeane Coakley and Ralph Vacchiano report from Florham Park where Todd Bowles allowed his team to remove pads during practice on Wednesday.

 

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 (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
(Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Jets linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin showed up to a Manhattan court on Wednesday for his alleged assault of a Queens man, but the case has been delayed because prosecution wasn't ready to file paper work, according to multiple reports

Mauldin had turned himself in to authorities in late June for his alleged role in the nightclub attack that took place on April 2. The New York Post reported on June 21 that Mauldin had been charged with misdemeanor assault, which carries a maximum sentence of year in jail.

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New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles answers questions from media at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles answers questions from media at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: (Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano, SNY.TV:

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - In the wake of the ugly riots in Charlottesville, Va., there's a possibility that more NFL players will decline to stand for the national anthem during preseason games this weekend, joining a protest started by Colin Kaepernick last year. So far there's no indication any Jets players will join them.

But if they do, their coach will have their back.

"We don't have a rule book on what's right to protest and not protest," Bowles said at Jets training camp on Wednesday. "You don't know those things until the course of time, whether it's sitting for the anthem, whether it's raising your fist, wither it's speaking out, a walk to Washington -- who's to say whose protest is good or bad?"

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New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports)

Ralph Vacchiano, SNY.TV:

John Morton seemed to like everything he saw with Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg on Saturday night. He liked his poise, his decisiveness, the decisions he made. It was clearly a step in the right direction.

But was it a big step toward Hackenberg getting the starting job?

That's a question that Morton, the Jets new offensive coordinator, wasn't willing to answer on Tuesday. In fact, Morton made it sound like Hackenberg still has a long ways to go.

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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead (13) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cowboys won 35-10. (Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead (13) during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cowboys won 35-10. (Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Jets WR Lucky Whitehead, who suffered a broken foot during Monday's practice, will have surgery for the injury, head coach Todd Bowles said on Wednesday.

Prior to deciding on surgery, Whitehead was expected to miss four-to-six weeks, SNY's Ralph Vacchiano confirmed.

Whitehead joined the Jets after he was released by the Cowboys on July 24. He returend two punts and a kickoff in the Jets' preseason opener. Serving primarily as a returner, he caught three passes for 48 yards for the Cowboys in 2016.

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GEICO SportsNite: Jets camp 00:01:46
Jeane Coakley reports from Jets camp, where Todd Bowles was pleased with his team's response to his criticism.

 

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Jets Training Camp report 00:01:37
SNY's Jeane Coakley reports from Jets training camp where head coach Todd Bowles was not pleased with the team's most recent practice.

 

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New York Jets running back Matt Forte is tackled by Miami Dolphins corner back Tony Lippett during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)
New York Jets running back Matt Forte is tackled by Miami Dolphins corner back Tony Lippett during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports Images)

Jets running back Matt Forte is missing time in the preseason and training camp due to a hamstring injury for the second year in a row, but told NJ.com's JJ Conrad he feels he is close to returning to the field.

"I'm feeling good, but not good enough to be in full practice yet," Forte said to Conrad on Monday. "I'm just going through what the trainers tell me, easing back in. I don't want to go back out there immediately and get injured again."

Forte, who did not play in Saturday's 7-3 win over the Tennessee Titans in the Jets' preseason opener, said he the trainers are being cautious with him given the nature of hamstring injuries and the fact the veteran running back underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus at the end of last season.

Tags: Matt Forte
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