On Friday, wide receiver Santonio Holmes was moved from the PUP list to the Active Roster. The addition of the Super Bowl XLIII MVP, however, means one less roster spot for another receiver, making the preseason performance of all other Jets hopefuls even that much more important.
Veteran Ben Obomanu and undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Spadola are two wideouts scratching and clawing their way up the depth chart, each with high hopes of becoming one of 53. We signed both receivers in May, with Obomanu coming off of seven NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and Spadola coming from four seasons at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
"The preseason's about getting opportunities," Obomanu said, "and not just getting them, but utilizing them, too."
So far, both men have certainly taken advantage of their chances. After each put up a strong performance in Saturday night's MetLife Bowl victory over the Giants, they are tied for the team lead with seven receptions. With three preseason games down and one to go, Ryan's 169 receiving yards and Ben's 115 make them one and two on the team.
Obomanu often talks about not just being in the game but making an impact on the game, and he's 2-for-3 thus far in the preseason. His four receptions for 59 yards were game highs in the Week 1 loss to Detroit, and after not having one pass targeted for him against the Jaguars, the veteran WR bounced back Saturday with three receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Following a three-and-out and David Wilson's 84-yard touchdown run, the Jets were down, 7-0, with just over one minute off of the game clock. But QB Geno Smith and the offense bounced back with an eight-play, 86-yard drive, capped with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Obomanu. He caught the ball on the 15-yard line, turned and sprinted toward the goal line, lowering his shoulder into a Giants defender before crossing the plane for the score.
"It's one of those things where you kind of assume that somebody should be close," he said. "The first thing you do is catch the ball and then it's kind of should you go left? Should you go right? Should you go straight? Once I realized I was wide open, I just saw the end zone and tried to go for it."
With each stride, he scanned the field and ultimately made a split-second decision to try to make contact with the Giants' defender right at the goal line.
"You don't want to get that close and get tackled on the one and bring in the goal line package. So you always want to score," he said. "I saw the end zone, tried to lower my shoulder and just hoped that if they did hit me, they hit me into the end zone."
Whereas Obomanu's biggest impact on the game came early, Spadola emerged as one of the heroes later in the night.
Trailing by four points with 2:12 left in regulation, QB Matt Simms fired a bullet into the middle of the end zone and connected with Spadola for a 22-yarder as the Jets took a 21-18 lead.
"The touchdown was basically a post-to-corner, kind of a rub route," the rookie explained. "The corner collapsed and Matt was able to find me in the second window there. He put the ball in a great spot and I was able to make the play on it, which was really fortunate."
"Technically I wasn't really supposed to throw that, but Ryan did a great job catching in the back window like that," Simms said. "That was one of those things, it was either going to be a great throw or a really bad decision. So I'm happy it worked out well."
After the Giants kicked a field goal to force overtime, the Jets needed to keep the offense coming.
Spadola talked with WRs coach Sanjay Lal on the sideline about a play that could be called. Lal told him to be patient with the route, and sell the out before planting his foot and bursting across the field.
"I did exactly that," he said, and it worked for 70 yards, helping to set up Billy Cundiff's game-winning field goal. "Matt did a very good job of putting the ball in a spot where I was able to make a play with it and I said whatever I had left in the tank, run down the field as fast as I could and get us in field goal range."
As a Howell, N.J., native, Spadola was excited to play in front of a plethora of family and friends who turned out to support the rookie at MetLife Stadium.
"Every time I looked up I heard my name being shouted from a different direction," he said. "Wherever I was looking, I felt like I saw a face that I recognized. It was really nice to see."
With just one more preseason game remaining, Obomanu and Spadola will continue to fight, and hope, for their chance to continue contributing when the regular season commences.
"I think I'm heading in the right direction, finding ways to make plays, which is needed in this offense," Spadola said, "and I'm just trying to do whatever I can when my number's called."