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Who Are 3 Players to Watch in Jets vs. Falcons?

Sam Darnold Enters Game with Hurt OL, CBs Have Opportunity to Step Up


Throughout the season, 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: Who Are 3 Players to Watch in Jets vs. Falcons?

EA: I'll go with QB Sam Darnold, OL Alex Lewis and CB Darryl Roberts.

Darnold could work behind an offensive line minus three players set to be opening-day starters: C Ryan Kalil, LG Kelechi Osemele and RG Brian Winters. The 34-year-old Kalil has yet to take part in team drills, so Darnold will continue to operate with Jonotthan Harrison in the pivot. Osemele's pec strain removed him from Monday's practice and Winters is week-to-week with a shoulder injury, so the aforementioned Lewis or Ben Braden and veteran Tom Compton could be with the first team in their respective places. The second-year signal-caller was sharp against the Giants and he's playing fast in terms of getting his unit to play with pace. And he's also playing fast with his feet and that means the timing is there in terms of his reads. He is in a good spot right now, but his line will be shuffled against the Falcons and we will soon find out if Le'Veon Bell misses his second consecutive preseason contest.

Lewis, acquired from the Ravens on Aug. 5, has a real nasty streak. We saw that when he and DT Nathan Shepherd exchanged haymakers in Monday's heated session. The 6'6", 305-pounder, who started 10 games for Baltimore last season, will help the depth up front. A son of a former NFL offensive lineman, Lewis has had some practice time with the Green & White to get settled and we'll have to monitor how he does on the road.

Former Falcons CB Brian Poole would make sense, but I wrote a piece on him Wednesday. So let's stick with the cornerback position but go outside to Darryl Roberts. The Jets don't have their No.1 corner Trumaine Johnson, who remains week-to-week with a hamstring injury, and Roberts will be the top guy in Atlanta. Falcons QB Matt Ryan will play Thursday night for at more than a series and the Birds (even without All-World wideout Julio Jones) are going to put the ball up at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Green & White's depth is being tested without Johnson and rookie Kyron Brown is also battling a tight hammy as well.

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EG: There are so many answers, but I'm going with CB Arthur Maulet, DL Folorunso Fatukasi and K Taylor Bertolet.

Maulet missed last game with a groin ailment and given all the injuries at cornerback, he'll likely receive a lot of playing time, including perhaps some with the starters. The third-year veteran received first-team reps both on the outside and at nickel before he injured his groin and after he returned to practice. Adam Gase said someone in the CBs room will have to step up and maybe the 5'10", 190-pound Maulet will do so. He could have a great opportunity to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

I was impressed with Fatukasi's performance in the preseason opener. The second-year defensive lineman totaled four tackles against the Giants and played in 40% of the team's defensive snaps, often showing a quick first step and good push off the ball. The 6'4", 318-pounder has also received first-team reps at times throughout training camp. The Jets have a talented group up front unit with Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson, Steve McLendon and Quinnen Williams. If Fatukasi continues to play well, perhaps he'll solidify his spot on the line and earn a role in the rotation.

Gase said the team is sticking with Bertolet for now and he can claim his spot over the coming weeks. The former AAF Salt Lake Stallion, Bertolet connected on all of his kicks in practice since signing with the Jets, including a pair at the end of a situational period. But special teams coordinator Brant Boyer always says the true special teams evaluation comes under the lights and the Texas A&M product will have ideal kicking conditions in Atlanta's dome.

OL: The three players I'm keeping an eye on Thursday are WR Jamison Crowder, rookie DL Quinnen Williams and K Taylor Bertolet.

Crowder shined in the Jets' first preseason game against the Giants, giving us a glimpse of what we'll see from him this season. He reeled in two receptions for 31 yards and one touchdown on the Green & White's first drive of the game. Head coach Adam Gase has already made it clear that Crowder will play a large role in the offense and we've seen that throughout training camp. I'm interested to see how he steps up in the second game of the preseason.

Williams made his preseason debut and had a solid first showing. On his first play of the game, the 6'3", 295-pounder drew a holding call, then continued to battle double teams and show solid technique as he played multiple positions along the line. "Solid effort from Quinnen Williams, but we're going to see more," said NFL Network's Brian Baldinger. "We're going to get more the more he plays." The rookie is just getting started.

Bertolet was with the Jets last summer during training camp, so he has some familiarity with special teams coordinator Brant Boyer. He's yet to play in a regular season NFL game, but he's shown promise in his first week back in green and white. Gase has mentioned not bringing in any competition for Bertolet yet, so as of now he'll be taking all of the reps this preseason. The Jets desperately need a reliable kicker, so I'll be paying close attention to the 26-year-old's performance in Atlanta.

RL: The three (or four) Jets I want to watch at the Falcons. Offense — Ty Montgomery/Jamison Crowder: Both excited in their brief exposure against the Giants. Both could have big roles to play in the '19 offense, Montgomery behind Le'Veon Bell and Crowder out of the slot for Sam Darnold. Defense — Jachai Polite: Jets fans need to see the rookie bring pass rush to the Matts, Falcons QBs Ryan, Schaub and Simms, the former Jet. Special teams — Taylor Bertolet: The new kicker did well for the Jets last summer, hit 60-yarders during a recent kicking camp in Philly, and it would be nice to see him stabilize the Green & White kicking position.

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