The waiting game has begun.
After completing their preseason with a comeback win over the Eagles, the Jets boarded buses and traveled north in the wee hours of the morning Friday for a ride that isn't actually bad at that time of day. And on the trip, some players may have taken time to contemplate their futures.
By Saturday, the Jets have to trim their roster from 75 to 53. Players have off today and coaches will huddle up at Weeb Ewbank Hall to review the video and make final evaluations. Some decisions will be more difficult than others.
Marques Tuiasosopo performed well in Thursday's second half, leading the Jets to 10 points. He scrambled for a fourth-quarter score and also engineered an impressive two-minute drive to set up Mike Nugent's game-winning field goal.
"Obviously I haven't been perfect, but hopefully I've showed that I learn from the mistakes and I don't make the same mistake twice," he said. "Hopefully I've shown that I can be a guy that can help this team win in whatever role that may be. I've done as best I can do. I've worked hard, and I put my heart and soul in it. And I love these guys, developed some great relationships, and I hope that it works out."
The Jets have options behind Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens. They could keep "Tui" as a traditional third QB or they could stick with the top duo. The wild card here is Brad Smith, who can line up all over the field for the Green & White. His position flexibility may open up another roster spot somewhere else and there is precedent here.
"We have a history with the Jets," said GM Mike Tannenbaum. "Back in 1999, Tom Tupa was our punter and backup quarterback. He goes in on opening day and throws two touchdown passes against New England in the first three quarters. Then Rick Mirer goes in in the fourth quarter."
The Jets figure to have one of the more dynamic running back combinations in the NFL with Thomas Jones, who missed the past several weeks with a leg injury and is expected to be ready for the opener, and home run threat Leon Washington. But will the club keep a third back and will Danny Ware be that guy?
"I think I went out there during the games and really put a good foot forward," Ware said after finishing with 183 preseason rushing yards, fourth in the NFL heading into tonight's final two games. "I think the offensive line really blocked well for me. I think the coaches had a lot of plays for me that just seemed to work and I hope that it was enough."
With the Jets' added depth on the defensive line, the spotlight now shines on veterans Bobby Hamilton and Kimo von Oelhoffen. At 36, both men have played many downs in the NFL and bring intangibles to the table.
"I put in the work. The games went very well, but it is what it is," said von Oelhoffen. "It's a young boys' game now. We'll see what happens."
Two players who probably don't have to sweat out the weekend are DT C.J. Mosley and WR Chansi Stuckey.
The 6'2", 312-pound Mosley, acquired in a trade with Minnesota last summer in exchange for QB Brooks Bollinger, gave the Eagles' reserves fits on an amazing drive. He racked up an astonishing three sacks and two forced fumbles on one series.
"I'm sure he'd love to figure it out and bottle it — that was a pretty good series for him," said head coach Eric Mangini. "He's done some nice things throughout the preseason. He had that sack last year against Minnesota where we were in a three-man rush. It's just continuing to work your pass-rush plan and get those opportunities in the rush defense or even in the regular defense. He's getting more and more time in the system and that's good."
Stuckey, a Clemson product who is a former quarterback, was instrumental in the Jets' third preseason win. He caught three of Tuiasosopo's passes for 41 yards on the game's final drive, a 15-play possession before Nugent's game-winner. His 38-yard punt return set up Nugent's first field goal and he also averaged 27 yards on three kickoff returns.
"My goal was to go out there and just make plays and see what happens. I wanted to do my job, whether it was on special teams or on offense, and do what was asked of me," Stuckey said. "I had confidence in myself and I know the organization had confidence in me as well and that's why they drafted me."
We'll soon find out what other players the organization has confidence in. The cuts have to be announced by Saturday, but the Jets are always searching for ways to improve and even after that deadline roster will remain fluid.