In an occasional feature, we're going to briefly highlight any of the lesser-known players that make an unexpected impact during the season. Today, we focus on Nate Hairston.
What he did:
Having not played on defense in the first preseason game, Hairston was a surprise starter on Monday night and remained in the game until he cramped up late in the fourth quarter.
The Jets traded a late-round pick for Hairston amidst an injury crisis back in late August. Since then, a couple of the injured players have returned, but Hairston has quickly climbed the depth chart anyway.
It's not known whether Monday's insertion of Hairston into the lineup was a temporary benching of big-money starter Trumaine Johnson or just a strategic move, but Hairston seemed to play well enough to warrant continuing to get defensive reps going forward.
Based on his film, Hairston's coverage skills are good, but he has issues with blown assignments at times. That may have been exacerbated by a scheme change in Indianapolis, who benched him halfway through last season. Hairston was the Colts' fifth round pick in 2017.
Nevertheless, the Jets opted to use him in a gameplan that was zone-heavy and he avoided any obvious positional mistakes. Odell Beckham beat him for a long catch, but that was a one-handed grab with Hairston draped all over him in blanket coverage. He did, however, give up two other plays of over 20 yards to Damion Ratley, including one where he had a bad missed tackle.
More on Hairston:
Here's the in-depth scouting report on Hairston.