By Ryan Alfieri, Editor
While tonight’s game will most certainly be the least-watched game of the 2012 season (unless things get really ugly), this is a make-or-break 60 minutes for a handful of players. A good performance tonight could be the difference between a career in the NFL or looking forward to a lifetime in insurance sales.
Here are seven rookies who could win themselves a job with a solid 60 minutes of football.
QB Matt Simms
Greg McElroy is assumed to handle the number three quarterback duties, which leaves no room on the final roster for Simms. However, he does have a talented, strong arm. With Sanchez and Tebow sitting this one out, he should get a healthy amount of reps, which could put him on the practice squad.
DT Damon Harrison
In my final 53-man roster projections, leaving Harrison off the list was perhaps the most difficult cut I had to make. Harrison has had a strong camp and has all of the physical tools to compete in the NFL, but he will have to beat out veteran Martin Teveseu and hope the Jets plan on carrying a few extra defensive lineman to make the final 53.
Still, as long as he has a good showing tonight, he is one of the early candidates to make the practice squad.
TE Dedrick Epps
Sunday’s game completely changed Epps’ chances to make the team, in a good way. As unfortunate as Josh Baker’s injury is, it allows the Jets to carry another tight end, which appears to be Epps. He took some reps with the first team, where he dropped a pass. However, he came through in the fourth quarter with a spectacular catch to give the Jets a chance to win the game (which they ultimately did not do).
TE Hayden Smith
Rex has repeatedly said in his press conferences that Smith is making strides, but since he is just starting to play football for the first time, it is impossible to gauge where he stands right now in terms of being able to play NFL football. I mean, of course he is going to make strides: he has nowhere to go but up.
Because of Epps’ raise in playing time, Smith looks like a practice squad favorite, as long as he does not fall flat on his face tonight.
LB Nick Bellore
Because of the Jets’ depth at inside linebacker, Bellore is being tested on the offensive side of the ball as a fullback (which does not speak well for John Conner). The fact that the Jets are trying Bellore at a new position indicates that they are trying to figure out some kind of way to fit him onto the team.
It is unclear as to where exactly Bellore will play tonight, but he needs to make a mark somewhere. As solid of a special teams player as he is, it simply does not make sense for a team to carry as many as five inside linebackers.
CB Julian Posey/Isiah Trufant
Because of the Jets incredible depth at safety, they are likely to carry one or two fewer cornerbacks as a result. Therefore, guys like Julian Posey and Isiah Trufant are going to have to slug it out to get one final spot on the roster.
Posey’s play on the field has been up-and-down, but he has better size and upside than the miniature Trufant. Expect both players to play a ton during this game and duke it out for the final corner spot.