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Jets on roster bubble wait for final cuts

Matt Flynn of the New York Jets reacts

Matt Flynn of the New York Jets reacts after his first-quarter touchdown pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on Thursday, Sep. 3, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Roster-bubble guys are no strangers to disappointment.

They've been down the road of uncertainty before, and Thursday night was no different.

In the wake of the Jets' 24-18 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason finale, fringe guys were forced to confront the reality.

NFL teams have until 4 p.m. Saturday to cut down their rosters from 75 players to 53. And there are plenty of Jets backups competing for spots on the active roster.

But the worry one might have expected to see in the home team's locker room wasn't at all present.

"I think I put my best foot forward. That's all I can ask," said Matt Flynn, who is vying for the backup job behind starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. "I can rest my head on my pillow and sleep good tonight."

Flynn's performance in his sole preseason game with the Jets --10-for-14 for 136 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the first half -- might have been enough to edge fellow NFL journeyman Josh Johnson for the No. 2 role. But nothing's guaranteed in the NFL, and Flynn, of all people, knows it.

"I didn't look at it as 'I've gotta go play well to make the team.' I just went out there and had fun,'' said the 30-year-old. "I hadn't been out on the field in a long time. I tried to soak it all in and enjoy it."

Johnson, 29, was equally easygoing about the roster cutdown process.

"It's the same as it's been every year for me, man," said the former 2008 fifth-round pick, who has spent time with six NFL teams since 2008, including two stints with the Cincinnati Bengals. "There's only been two years out of my career where I obviously knew I was going to be on the team before cuts, so I've been in this situation going on eight years now.''

The past week has been a whirlwind for Flynn and Johnson, who were signed on Aug. 19 and Aug. 27, respectively. Neither veteran had seen preseason action with the Jets before Thursday night's game.

"This was my first week to kind of full-on practice, and it was a short week, so it wasn't like there was a ton of reps," said Flynn, who was nursing a hamstring injury when he signed. " . . . There were a lot of plays that I ran today that I never ran before and a lot of guys I was throwing routes to that I had never seen run routes. It was interesting. But it was fun."

Asked if a week and one preseason game was enough to accurately showcase his talent, Johnson said: "Realistically, no. But you've got to do what you've got to do. That's pretty much how the NFL is. It can be Week 15 and you can get signed off the street and play that Sunday in an important game. When you're in this business, you know the importance of preparation. It's your job, as a player, to prepare as much as you can."

Even young guys, such as undrafted safety Rontez Miles, expressed feelings of gratefulness rather than fear.

"I've been through enough not to worry about cuts," said the fan favorite, who has worked his way up from the practice squad since 2013 and has persevered despite being released multiple times and suffering a serious leg injury in December 2014.

"I've been down this road plenty of times before. I'm at peace right now. Whatever happens, I just thank the Jets and the coaching staff for even letting me play. [I had the] second-most reps this preseason. In the previous two years, I barely got half of that. So the fact that I got this many reps, I'm comfortable. I've got tape and I know I can play."

Chris Owusu, who is in a fierce competition for the third receiver spot with Jeremy Kerley, Walter Powell and Shaq Evans, caught five passes for 72 yards and an 18-yard touchdown against the Eagles. "I just wanted to go out there and give it my best . . . for an organization like the Jets,'' Owusu said. "So we'll see what happens."

Like the rest of them, whether he stays or goes, Johnson will take the news in stride. After all, the hard part's over.

"You play the game and you just chill, man. Honestly," he said, smiling.

" . . . I stopped getting nervous, I would say, after my rookie year because I realized how much of a blessing it is to be in this opportunity. So many people want the opportunity just to put on a jersey and walk out of this locker room. So when you look at it that way, that takes a lot of nervousness out."

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