How Jets rookies are progressing after fourth preseason game

Aug 19, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Xavier Gipson (82) runs with the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at MetLife Stadium.
Aug 19, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Xavier Gipson (82) runs with the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at MetLife Stadium. / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been tracking the progress of the seven players the Jets selected in the 2023 NFL Draft and some of the more promising undrafted free agents.

With the preseason now completed, let’s review how each of the key rookies is progressing and consider the outlook for their potential role in the 2023 season.

Defensive End Will McDonald 

McDonald has had an impressive preseason campaign overall and might have a bigger than expected role in the season opener with Carl Lawson’s availability still to be determined due to his back injury.

In this game, McDonald was credited with one tackle and helped bottle up a run. He also beat his man impressively on a play where Bryce Huff recorded a sack.

Center Joe Tippmann 

It was encouraging to see Tippmann out there after he had been pulled from last week’s game due to a knee injury. At the start of the week, head coach Robert Saleh said that he would be out for a few weeks, but he had returned to practice and got plenty of reps once starter Connor McGovern left the game.

The Jets didn’t have much success running the ball, but Tippmann still had a few good blocks and wasn’t troubled in pass protection. It looks like McGovern will start but the Jets seem to feel good about Tippmann as the heir apparent.

Offensive Tackle Carter Warren 

Warren has been out since the first preseason game and probably wasn’t going to figure in the offensive line rotation this year unless the team suffered a series of injury issues like last year.

They won’t want to expose him to waivers because of his potential so he’ll probably spend most of the season on the 53-man roster while being on the inactive list most Sundays. Short-term injured reserve could also be a convenient option.

Running Back Israel Abanikanda

Abanikanda might find himself in a similar situation to Warren, despite showing some nice flashes in preseason. Saleh said at the start of the week that he’s out for a couple of weeks with a thigh contusion.

While he’s potentially going to be healthy in time for the opener, and probably has more chance than Warren of being called upon to contribute during the season, Abanikanda will probably be inactive when the season gets underway.

Linebacker Zaire Barnes 

Barnes had impressive production in this game with a team-high eight tackles, all of which were in the first half. These included a few plays near the line of scrimmage. However, he had a bad missed tackle in space and was occasionally a beat slow to get to the ball.

As Barnes’ comfort level improves, he may have the potential to be a productive linebacker at the NFL level, but he looks most likely to just be a special teamer in the early part of his career.

Defensive Back Jarrick Bernard-Converse

Bernard-Converse remains on the PUP list. Even if he’s close to being ready to return, it would make little sense to activate him now because then they’d either have to expose him to waivers or find a roster spot for him on cutdown day.

Instead, they can avoid that by simply keeping him on the PUP list. He could, in theory, be activated in the middle of the season if they need him to contribute but ultimately this could just be a redshirt year.

Tight End Zack Kuntz 

The Jets made no real effort to get Kuntz involved in this game as he wasn’t targeted. He’s been inconsistent with his blocking in preseason and his athleticism hasn’t translated to much on-field production in the passing game. With all the competition for roster spots, it would be a luxury to carry a player as green as Kuntz and the Jets may not have the room available for him.

Undrafted Rookie Recap

The Corey Davis retirement creates a vacancy in the wide receiver room and Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson may both end up making the team after their performances on Saturday night.

Gipson led all receivers with seven catches for 79 yards, displaying some good abilities after the catch, and also had a 20-yard punt return to make a strong case for himself. Although Brownlee wasn’t as productive as Gipson, he had two first down catches and a diving grab for a two-point conversion.