Throughout the season, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Randy Lange, Ethan Greenberg and Olivia Landis will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: Which Jets starter has the most to gain vs. the Saints?
EA: I have narrowed it down to a pair on offense, C Ryan Kalil and TE Chris Herndon, and a trio of defenders: DL Leonard Williams, ILB Neville Hewitt and OLB Frankie Luvu.
After a short-lived retirement, Kalil agreed to terms with the Jets on Aug. 1. The 34-year-old will get his first start in green & white Saturday against a familiar NFC South foe in the Saints. Williams, still just a baby at 25, is eager to get his first summer game action after some hip irritation slowed him early in camp. Both Hewitt and Luvu could position themselves to be Week 1 starters after the Jets lost both starting weakside linebacker Avery Williamson (ACL) and outside 'backer Brandon Copeland (4-game suspension for violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.). And given the unlikelihood he lines up against the Eagles next Thursday, this will be Herndon's final contest until Week 5. The Jets would figure to play a lot of "11 personnel" throughout the season and I'm sure Herndon would like to leave opponents something to think about before he departs.
All good options, but I'll take Kalil. Jets head coach Adam Gase plans to play the 6'2", 300-pounder a quarter before Jonotthan Harrison takes over and gets some action with Sam Darnold and the first-team offense. The Jets want to continue to operate with pace and Kalil admittedly has been playing catch-up since he arrived. He is still trying to soak everything in, but he's begun to impress his teammates with some veteran savvy. Williams commented on how the former Panther snaps the ball and hits at the time and Darnold talked about how he identified the Mike 'backer after a safety rotation in practice. The more live reps, the better for Kalil-Darnold as the communication grows.
EG: I'm going with CB Tevaughn Campbell. Campbell has been starting on the outside in base formation with both Trumaine Johnson and rookie UDFA Kyron Brown nursing hamstring injuries and last week against the Falcons, the former Montreal Alouette led the defense with six total tackles and three pass defenses. But this week will be a big test for both the Jets defense and the 6'0", 200-pounder as the Saints, who finished third in the NFL last season in points per game (31.5), come to MetLife Stadium. Future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees is expected to play Saturday and the Saints have a number of premiere skill players on offense, which means Campbell will have a great opportunity to line up against one of the league's top offenses and stake his claim for a spot on the Green & White's 53-man roster.
OL: With a lot of movement and changes happening at the linebacker position (both inside and outside) this past week, I'm going to say anyone who starts in place of Brandon Copeland and Avery Williamson have the most to gain. At the moment, it's an open position battle to find who is capable of taking over for Copeland on the outside and Williamson on the inside. Neville Hewitt spent this past week taking first-team reps next to ILB C.J. Mosley, and the Jets also made a pair of transactions picking up LBs Stephone Anthony and Albert McClellan. With Gregg Williams constantly presenting different defensive schemes and packages on the field, it's hard to say who will be starting against the Saints, but keep a strong eye out for the LB position as it's undergone some serious changes within the past week.
RL: An obvious starter with a lot to gain vs. New Orleans is S Marcus Maye. He and Jamal Adams started all 16 games as rookies in 2017. Then after a variety of injuries, Maye made only six starts with Adams last year, none after Game 10, and spent the offseason rehabbing his shoulder injury, which included nerve damage. Many fans are of the opinion that Maye has to show he can stay on the field, so there's that. But the red jersey is off, HC Adam Gase says Maye is in great shape, and he's set to take snaps alongside Adams vs. the Saints. We expect everything to go well but Maye may gain immensely in the knowledge that in his last opportunity to play this preseason, he's back to full strength and ready to hit 2019 full-speed back alongside Jamal.