New York Jets' Roster Preview: Defense & Special Teams

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Nov 3, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) pitches the ball as he is pressured by New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets report to training camp in just 8 days so now is the time to start evaluating the roster to predict who makes it and who doesn’t. Today we’ll focus on defense and special teams, Thursday we’ll do the offense then I’ll have the season preview with a prediction of the team’s record next Monday. Football is almost here so now the fun begins.


DL – Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis, Leger Douzable, IK Enemkpali (Practice Squad), LaKendrick Ross

Wilkerson, Richardson and Harrison were a top 5 defensive line in the league last year with Wilkerson netting 10.5 sacks and Richardson and Harrison stopping the run with reckless abandon. Kenrick Ellis would have been the starter but got Wally Pipp’d by Harrison after a knee injury late in training camp. By season’s end Ellis was playing very well and the snaps might be a bit more evenly distributed this year. Leger Douzable was a multi-faceted player that not only rushed the passer well but also was adept at stopping the run as well. IK Enemkpali is a situational pass rusher that is listed at defensive end but could rush from the rush linebacker position as well. He is 261 lbs. so he is a bit heavy for outside linebacker but undersized for defensive end. Enemkpali had 11 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions in his final season at Louisiana Tech so he has a nose for the backfield. His role will be a special teamer who gets some pass rush reps toward the end of the year as he progresses. LaKendrick Ross isn’t even on the team yet. He was a player the Jets were interested in when the Supplemental Draft took place last week but ultimately did not use a draft pick on him. Ross is a free agent currently. He is 6’5″ 365 lbs. and bench pressed 225 lbs. 47 times. 47 times, let that sink in. He got 80 calls from 28 teams after his workout. He is a Rex Ryan kind of guy. Ross would be an excellent backup to Harrison or Ellis that could possibly see time in certain run stuffing formations. With Antwan Barnes back and playing defensive end in certain pass rush situations as well as Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace‘s ability to do the same the Jets should have enough depth to get Wilkerson and Richardson some rest and keep them fresh for later in the season as both faded down the stretch.

OLB – Quinton Coples, Antwan Barnes, Calvin Pace, Jermaine Cunningham, Garrett McIntyre, Trevor Reilly (Practice Squad), Steele Devito (Practice Squad)

The success of this unit is going to be judged by the maturation of Quinton Coples. Is he the guy that lived in the backfield the last five games of the season, with all of his 4.5 sacks coming during that timeframe? Or is he the guy that had trouble adjusting to the position after missing time due to an ankle fracture late in training camp? Does his effort still ebb and flow or is this the year he puts it all together?  Coples has lost weight this offseason in order to improve his quickness and his ability to play in space. If he lives up to his potential he is a 10 sack player if not then he might be in his last year here. Antwan Barnes added an extra dimension to the pass rush when he played early last season. He was quicker to the quarterback than anyone on the roster and demanded attention which made Wilkerson and Pace’s lives a lot easier. Once he went down for the season the pass rush was good not great. If he stays healthy he is a difference maker. Calvin Pace had 10 sacks last year. A lot of that was finishing plays after Richardson, Wilkerson or another player would flush the quarterback to him but give him credit for doing it. Pace also doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being a very smart player who sets the edge well against the run. Jermaine Cunningham, formerly of the Patriots, looks to finally being putting the pieces together of who he is as a player. He was a 2nd round pick of New England in 2010 out of Florida and found his way in Belichick’s doghouse after his 1st season. A suspension for performance enhancing drugs in 2012 sealed his fate in New England. After a brief stint in San Francisco the Jets picked him up last season and have been working with him. He has had a good set of OTAs and will be a player to watch in training camp. Garrett McIntyre is a versatile backup that has some pass rush ability. He is not very athletic and his roster spot will be challenged by rookies Trevor Reilly and Steele Devito. Both play special teams and hit hard. Reilly is an intriguing prospect that has pass rush upside but is 26 and coming off of a knee injury.

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