In an occasional feature, we're going to briefly highlight any of the lesser-known players that make an unexpected impact during camp or in the season. Today, we focus on linebacker Bryce Hager.
What he did:
With Harvey Langi now on injured reserve the Jets are shorthanded at the inside linebacker position. They basically have two choices. Either they would need to play someone like Frankie Luvu out of position or play someone there who hadn't played a defensive snap all season.
Indications are that they'll do the latter:
Bryce Hager is expected to start at ILB. He will be the fifth different player to start next to Neville Hewitt there this season - Cashman, Ogletree, Williamson, Langi and now Hager. #nyj— Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) December 27, 2020
(They arguably had a third option and that would have been to hastily bring back Ogletree and start him alongside Hewitt instead but come on...)
Hager has been on the roster for the past few games, but contributing on special teams only. However, he does have five starts in his career including four last season.
Hager shouldn't be that much of a downgrade from Langi, who - despite praise from some quarters - had been grading out as one of the worst linebackers in the league this season, so clearly was involved in a lot of negative plays despite his energetic performances.
The 28-year old played two years in Gregg Williams' system - which is essentially unchanged despite his departure from the Jets coaching staff - so he'll know his role. He'd also been contributing well on special teams so he's obviously in good shape.
Hager is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season so this is a good opportunity to convince the Jets to bring him back. However, if he struggles, the Jets did bring up three other linebackers from the practice squad so they can throw someone else in there to see if they fare any better.
More on Hager:
Here's the in-depth scouting report on Hager.