The second week of the NFL preseason concluded Monday in the Meadowlands. The New York Jets hosted the Atlanta Falcons after spending the week battling in joint practices.
With Zach Wilson sidelined and Joe Flacco taking the night off, Mike White and Chris Streveler handled the QB duties for the Jets. On the opposite side, starting QB Marcus Mariota and third-round pick Desmond Ridder led the charge on offense.
Falcons vs. Jets Stock Report: Who helped and hurt themselves the most on Monday night?
As with any preseason game, there were players who stood out and faltered during the Jets’ 24-16 win over the Falcons.
Below are eight players who saw their stock rise or fall with their performances in primetime.
Falcons QB Desmond Ridder
Following a strong first-quarter performance from Mariota, Desmond Ridder took over the offense in the early second quarter. Ridder was effective and efficient as he carved up the Jets’ Cover-3 defense. Ridder made throws on the run, managed the pocket well, and showed excellent touch on downfield shots.
Ridder led the Falcons on back-to-back field-goal-scoring drives to start the game, and a Jalen Mayfield “false start” likely cost the QB a 1-yard touchdown on a sneak. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 143 yards against the Jets.
Jets TE Lawrence Cager
Cager, a wideout-turned-tight end, was among the few standouts for the Jets on offense on Monday. Cager is battling for the Jets’ fourth tight end spot, and against the Falcons, he looked like a legitimate playmaker. At 6’5″ and 220 pounds, Cager is big enough to block and fast enough to break away from defenders.
During a series in the third quarter, Cager made a pair of big catch-and-run plays. He produced two catches for 57 yards and a touchdown on the drive. He finished with three catches for 65 yards, including the aforementioned touchdown.
Falcons WR Jared Bernhardt
The undrafted rookie wideout has made big plays in back-to-back preseason games. After catching the game-winning touchdown pass against Detroit last week, Bernhardt returned with a couple of impressive catches against the Jets. Regularly beating zone coverage, Bernhardt caught three passes for 67 yards.
Bernhardt made a key 34-yard catch late in the second quarter to spark a scoring drive. He also made an impressive 12-yard catch earlier in the quarter.
Bernhardt, a Ferris State alum, has put himself in great position to make the roster with one week left in the preseason.
Jets S Will Parks
The veteran journeyman safety had a nice showing against the Falcons. During the same second-quarter series, Parks made an impressive run stop on a 1-yard gain and then shut down a screen pass for no gain. Parks is battling for playing time in a deep secondary, and his versatility and tenacity should help him make the roster.
Parks has bounced around quite a bit over the past two years, and now he’s positioned to find a long-term home as a utility backup in the secondary.
Jets CB Bryce Hall
Hall was a highlight-reel regular for the Falcons on Monday. The problem for Hall was that he plays for the Jets.
Hall was bested by tight end Kyle Pitts on a downfield jump ball for a massive gain on the opening drive. On the second drive, Hall was beat on a crossing route by Olamide Zaccheaus for a touchdown. He also allowed another catch to KhaDarel Hodge on the same series. The Falcons targeted Hall throughout the first half to positive results.
Hall is clearly a better fit as a backup behind D.J. Reed and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner on the outside.
Falcons G Jalen Mayfield
Yikes! With the Falcons set up on the Jets’ 1-yard line on fourth down, Mayfield had a false start and probably cost Atlanta points. The Falcons settled for a field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Following the penalty, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith ripped into the offense. Mayfield was the one with the penalty, though.
Mayfield was later called for a holding penalty as the Falcons were driving again. The holding penalty took the wind out of the Falcons’ sails and was followed by another holding penalty by offensive tackle Rick Leonard.
Mayfield is coming off a mediocre rookie year as the Falcons’ starting left guard. While false starts and holding penalties happen all the time, those blunders are going to stick out because of Smith’s reaction and where the Falcons were at on the field.
Jets TE Trevon Wesco
The Jets have a lot of talent at tight end this year. The team added C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in free agency and drafted Jeremy Ruckert in the third round in April. With those three at the top of the depth chart, Wesco is competing to force the Jets to keep four tight ends, along with Cager and Kenny Yeboah, who have played well throughout the summer.
Wesco had a couple of early blunders against the Falcons. He was whistled for false start and holding penalties in the first half. With little margin for error, Wesco couldn’t afford any mishaps. He caught one pass for seven yards, but he was otherwise forgettable in the passing game.
Falcons QB Feleipe Franks
So, um … the Falcons really wanted to let the NFL know that Franks can run with the football. Franks carried the ball five times for 45 yards and only threw the ball six times for two completions and eight yards. His desire to run so frequently ended up costing him a fumble in the pocket on a third-and-long play. The fumble was returned for a touchdown by the Jets’ defense. He also airmailed a quartet of passes in the red zone during a relatively promising run-heavy drive.
Franks is an impressive athlete, to the point where the Falcons have considered moving him to tight end. But he simply isn’t an NFL QB, and his performance against the Jets further illustrated that point.