Jets fans, remember the name Blake Cashman. You should be seeing a lot of him this season.
As the team's fifth-round draft pick this year, that wasn't supposed to be the case. But Avery Williamson's torn ACL is forcing the linebacker to step up in his rookie season.
On the depth chart, Neville Hewitt is the other first-team inside linebacker that will stand next to C.J. Mosley to start Week 1 against the Bills at home. But Cashman should see his reps as the game goes along, and he's certainly earned them.
Cashman was great for the Jets this preseason, where he collected 13 combined tackles and one forced fumble in four games. His latest against the Eagles in Week 4, where he saw the most time out on the gridiron, Cashman produced six tackles and that forced fumble to solidify his spot on the 53-man roster.
In impacting the Jets during the regular season, Cashman's skillset makes him very valuable to Gregg Williams' defense, especially when it comes to coverage. Speaking with The Athletic's Connor Hughes, Cashman explained how he was a defensive back through high school and he came in as a safety during his freshman season at Minnesota, where he walked on.
Being able to cover speedy running backs and tight ends in the passing game is a skill coaches look for in linebackers. Cashman had to match up with receivers, so being able to lock down his opponent is something that hasn't been lost by Cashman after his transition to the second tier.
"All of those things that I learned when I was a safety translated when I had to cover as a linebacker," Cashman said. "It actually made it easier. When you're used to going against receivers then you go against a tight end or running back, they aren't as good at route-running. That's what has helped me a lot."
It's in these pass situations that Williams may favor Cashman over Hewitt, but in general, Cashman has been solid no matter the play. Jets linebackers coach Frank Bush has applauded Cashman's work ethic from the get-go -- something that has been instilled in him since college, where he earned a scholarship after walking on.
"He's done a good job grasping our system," Bush said. "He's made some plays on the ball. He's shown some man coverage skills. He's giving himself a chance to show his athleticism."
He should be showing that athleticisim off this Sunday and many more to come -- no matter if it's on special teams or a red zone stand. Cashman has worked hard to get to this point in his football career, and now he has an even greater opportunity to impact his new club.