Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Over the last week or so, we've been taking an in-depth look at the rookie season for each of the Jets' 2019 rookie class. We continue with a look at linebacker Blake Cashman, who was selected in the fifth round out of Minnesota.
Cashman took advantage of the Jets' injury issues at inside linebacker as he got the opportunity to start five games and he was productive in those games, racking up 33 tackles, three quarterback hits, a pass defended and a fumble recovery. He ended the season with 40 tackles in seven games. However, he suffered a season-ending injury in the Jacksonville game and missed the second half of the year.
When Cashman was drafted, it seemed most likely that he'd primarily be a core special-teamer and perhaps work toward getting some reps as a situational coverage linebacker. However, when Avery Williamson was lost for the year in the preseason, Cashman suddenly became the primary backup at inside linebacker and was thrust into a full-time role due to CJ Mosley's opening day injury.
Initially, it was thought that Mosley wouldn't be out too long, and that Cashman would just have to hold the fort for a few weeks until he returned. However, the Jets instead had to rely on him even more as Mosley suffered setback after setback and Neville Hewitt also got injured.
To his credit, Cashman did not look completely out of his depth despite being somewhat thrown into the fire, but the Jets had plenty of defensive communication issues during the first half of the season and only won one of the games in which Cashman saw any action.
Over the second half of the season, the Jets won six of eight games and several young players stepped up and made a case for themselves to be contributors going forward. Cashman unfortunately missed that part of the season but was arguably one of the few bright spots in the first half.
There were plenty of examples of Cashman making positive contributions and flashing play-making ability. While some draft scouting reports had suggested Cashman was limited athletically, this clearly wasn't accurate as he impressed with his range and closing speed.
As you may recall, one concern about Cashman was that his short arms might make it difficult for him to get off blocks, but his good instincts and quickness to the ball generally rendered this a non-factor for the most part and enabled him to blow up plenty of runs and short passes.
However, there were usually one or two plays a game where the defense was able to take advantage of him. He was taken out of the play by a second level block on Nick Chubb's touchdown run in the Browns game and out of position in coverage on key touchdowns against the Patriots and Jaguars. He also had a handful of missed tackles.
One other issue with Cashman being forced into a starting role was that the Jets had to reduce his special teams workload because he was too important defensively. As a result, he didn't register any special teams tackles having been one of the most productive players in kick coverage in the nation over the course of his college career. That was after he showed flashes as a blocker and in kick coverage during preseason that suggested he could be a core special teams contributor.
It's difficult to judge Cashman fairly because he was thrust into a role where he probably had a little too much on his plate. Had he been able to play alongside Mosley, the veteran could have helped him along and Cashman could have been employed situationally to optimize his strengths. However, when exposed to an every-down role with Hewitt or James Burgess forced to wear the headset alongside him, Cashman was in at the deep end.
The injury unfortunately overshadows everything else when projecting Cashman's future. He suffered a torn labrum and fractured shoulder, which is a major concern given the fact that he had already undergone multiple shoulder surgeries in college. While that provides comfort that he's returned from such injuries before, these could shorten his career and the Jets will be concerned about his in-season durability. Hopefully he can return in time for training camp.
If he can steer clear of further injuries, then perhaps being thrown into the mix prematurely as a rookie will prove to be a positive for Cashman's future development. The Jets will hope to be healthier generally, so that he can add to their defensive flexibility and develop into a more suitable role in which he can thrive.