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5 New York Jets Dark Horse Players Who Will Make the 53-Man Roster

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5 New York Jets Dark Horse Players Who Will Make the 53-Man Roster

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Every team in the NFL uses training camp as an opportunity to study and test new players in the hopes of finding a few that could become solid contributors. This season, the New York Jets are investing heavily in that approach, and their training camp is filled with undrafted free agents and late-round draft picks from recent seasons, many of whom have spent time on other teams’ practice squads.

The Jets are hoping that a few of these players will separate themselves from the pack and prove that they are worthy of being named to the final 53-man roster. It is a difficult task for these unproven athletes, as they must outplay higher draft picks and higher-paid veterans.

The NFL is filled with the success stories of late-round draft picks, undrafted free agents, or players who didn’t make it big until their third or fourth team. Players such as Tom Brady, Arian Foster and Cameron Wake are recent examples of achieving the journey from unknown to star. While finding a superstar is the dream, most teams settle for being able to pull a couple players out of the pile who will become solid contributors.

That is all the Jets will be looking for as the preseason continues, and they have several candidates on the roster who could become important players for the team. These players are not well known, and a few of them have bounced around the league quite a bit in their young careers.

However, they have all displayed their talent in training camp, and some have shown flashes of the potential to be a starter. These players are not going to grab anyone’s attention right now, but keep these names in mind as the season progresses because, some of them will turn out to be key figures for the Jets.

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DT Leger Douzable

Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive lineman Leger Douzable is the old man of this list as he heads into his fifth NFL season. He has spent time on both the active roster and practice squad of several teams in his career, and he is hoping to find a permanent home with the Jets.

Douzable has the flexibility to play multiple positions in the Jets' 3-4 front, which is a huge asset for his chances of making the team. The fact that he has experience will also separate him from some of the other contenders in training camp.

The Jets gave Douzable quite a bit of playing time in their first preseason game, demonstrating that the coaching staff is very interested in what he could become. The Jets are not looking for starters on the D-line, but with his versatility, Douzable could become an important backup.

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OT J.B. Shugarts

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J.B. Shugarts was a very solid player at Ohio State, where he was a three-year starter. He went undrafted and bounced around practice squads last year, but the Jets are going to give him every opportunity to make the team as a backup.

Shugarts is very big and shows good ability in both the run and passing games. He has the ability to play both left and right tackle, which is a huge boost for his chances. He had injury and penalty issues in college, but if he can avoid those, there is a very good chance that he makes the team.

Shugarts is in a battle with fifth-round pick Oday Aboushi for the swing tackle position, which is the player who will backup both tackle spots. Shugarts is fighting a bit of an uphill battle because the Jets just drafted Aboushi in April, but Shugarts was clearly the better player in the first preseason game. If he continues to perform, Shugarts will be on the final roster.

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WR Ryan Spadola

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie wide receiver Ryan Spadola has been the breakout star of training camp, impressing coaches with his hands and route running. It looks more and more like he will be a key player for the Jets every day. In fact, he worked with the first-team offense during the Jets' first preseason game.

Spadola is a very good athlete and has good size, and he could prove to be another outside target for Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. Spadola is the classic productive, small school receiver who was overlooked on draft day but proved his worth in camp.

Spadola’s rise to prominence has pushed veterans Braylon Edwards and Ben Obomanu out of the picture to the extent that at least one of them won’t even make the team. Of all the unknowns in camp, Spadola is the best chance the Jets have of finding a quality player, and they will be hoping he develops into a starting-caliber receiver.

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RB Chad Spann

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have been having all kinds of problems with their running backs in terms of production, injury and legal issues. With all of the issues around the bigger name backs, there are several young players with a chance to emerge.

The best bet of those is Chad Spann, who was an extremely productive runner in college (22 TDs his senior year) who could translate those abilities to the professional level. Spann has bounced around a few practice squads the previous two years, but this could be a huge opportunity for him.

The Jets are looking for a back who can be a receiving threat, and Spann showed that ability both in college and in the Jets’ first preseason game, where he had a 23 yard reception. If he can continue to play like that, there is a good chance that he beats out Mike Goodson or Joe McKnight for a roster spot.

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CB Darrin Walls

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Cornerback Darrin Walls spent six games with the Jets last season, and he has shown the potential to develop into a solid cover corner in sub packages. The Jets have three first-round picks ahead of him on the depth chart, so Walls is not going to get a crack at one of those top spots.

However, teams need as many solid coverage players as they can get, and Walls looks like a good bet to make the team and contribute in sub packages. He got a ton of work in the first preseason game and had mixed results, but the team will continue to work on developing him.

Like many players, Walls will need an injury in order to get major playing time outside of special teams. However, it is crucial that teams have the best backups they can, because injuries happen and force unknown players into major roles. Walls is the type of player that any team will want to fill its bench with, and he could end up as an important player in New York this season.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google