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With the Jets on their bye week, we're going to review some of the Jets players, looking in detail at their season so far and what to expect from them coming out of the bye week. We'll look at some players who've exceeded expectations and others that have been disappointing so far. We begin with a look at rookie linebacker Blake Cashman.
Expectations prior to the season
When Cashman was drafted in the fifth round back in April, the Jets still had both Darron Lee and Avery Williamson in addition to new addition CJ Mosley, so Cashman wasn't expected to have a major role on defense. Nevertheless, it seemed like a shrewd pick to draft the promising former Minnesota Golden Gopher, who had outstanding special teams production in college and the potential to be a future starter.
Cashman was reportedly impressive during offseason practices, which may have factored into the Jets being content to trade away their top coverage linebacker in Lee. The buzz surrounding Cashman lasted into preseason but then he missed some time due to a calf/hamstring injury. He moved up the depth chart when Williamson suffered a season-ending injury though.
Once he finally got back onto the field, he got better with each game, looking like a potential contributor as he displayed some playmaking ability on this play in the final game:
Stats over the first three weeks
Three games played (two starts)
One pass defensed
Three tackles for loss
One quarterback hit
As you can see from the above numbers, Cashman has produced well in games so far. However, it wasn't until Mosley got injured at the end of the third quarter of the season opener that he even got into the action on defense.
His introduction to NFL action wasn't great, as the Jets proceeded to throw away a 16-3 fourth quarter lead by giving up two long touchdown drives with Cashman in the game for Mosley. Cashman wasn't necessarily to blame for the success of those two drives, although he had a couple of negative plays, missing a tackle in space and getting blocked off the line on a third down keeper by Josh Allen.
However, he also had some positive flashes, with a good open field tackle underneath and a tackle for a loss on a pass out to the flat.
With Mosley still sidelined, Cashman made his first NFL start against the Browns, playing every snap in the Jets' 23-3 loss. He had six tackles, including one for a loss, and was also credited with half a sack. He also batted down a pass on a blitz up the middle.
Two of Cashman's other tackles were on run stops close to the line of scrimmage as he held up quite well against the run. Cashman has particularly short arms which some experts believe could impact his ability to get off blocks. That was an issue on a couple of plays, including Nick Chubb's touchdown run, but otherwise he did a good job of playing in space.
Cashman had another six tackles, again including one tackle for a loss, in Sunday's loss to New England. His overall performance was pretty good, especially against the run. However, he was arguably at fault on Phillip Dorsett's 25-yard touchdown reception on which he appeared to be responsible for the area behind him in which Dorsett caught the pass. Otherwise, he's been stellar in coverage, as he's only given up 23 yards on seven other targets this year.
The Jets will hope that Mosley's return will improve pre-snap communication so that plays like the Dorsett touchdown become less commonplace after the bye week.
Expectations after the bye
With Mosley "trending in the right direction" to make his return in the game after the bye according to Adam Gase, Cashman may need to drop back to the bench. However, he played well enough that there's a good chance the team will now try to work him into the rotation. He'll probably go back to being a core contributor on every unit of special teams too.
Until he had that injury setback in training camp, we had speculated that the Jets could use Neville Hewitt in base packages and Cashman on passing downs and in sub-packages because of his superior coverage abilities. Now Cashman has been thrown into the fire and managed to hold his own, they should have confidence in him to step up and handle that role.
It would be disappointing to see Cashman's progress stunted because he saw less playing time over the remainder of the season, but the potential he has shown so far is encouraging in terms of his longer-term potential.