Quarterback: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Matt Simms – The starting quarterback battle will rage on through preseason Week 3 most likely before a starter is named. The third quarterback competition has seen Simms’ reps increase during OTAs making the likelihood of him beating out McElroy greater.
Running Back: Chris Ivory, Mike Goodson, Bilal Powell, Tommy Bohanon – The Jets will run a running back by committee approach this year as Ivory and Goodson both have an injury history. Ivory and Goodson are a good inside/outside tandem with Powell there to spell them. Bohanon is a jack of all trades fullback who should beat out Lex Hilliard who played poorly last season.
Wide Receiver: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Jason Avant, Ben Obamanu, Jordan White, Zach Rogers – The X-Factor is Holmes who has had a difficult recovery from his Lisfranc injury which may prompt the Jets to carry 7 wide receivers. An upgrade from the waiver wire is a necessity and Avant could be the odd man out in Philly due to his contract and lack of breakaway speed. He did very well in Mornhinweg’s offense and would fit in very nicely. Obomanu showed flashes during his days with Idzik’s Seahawks, teammates last year thought Jordan White was talented enough to deserve more playing time but he needs to be healthy and Rogers has a knack for getting open and would be a good backup for Kerley in the slot.
Tight End – Kellen Winslow Jr, Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland – If Winslow stays healthy this is a good group. Cumberland is a receiving tight end who is better off as a number 2 option and Reuland is a better blocker than the other two. If Brent Celek is available from the Eagles this equation may change.
Offensive Line: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Willie Colon, Nick Mangold, Brian Winters, Austin Howard, Steven Peterman, Oday Aboushi, Dalton Freeman, Caleb Schlauderaff – Ferguson and Mangold are the lynchpins of the line, Howard came on as the year went along and is an excellent run blocker who needs to work on his pass blocking and Colon, Winters and Peterman will compete for the two guard spots. A healthy Colon will elevate the line to elite status. If Freeman can show he can play some guard as well as center it should spell the end of the Vladimir Ducasse era.
Dec 9, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) celebrates sacking Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne (not pictured) in the third quarter of their game at EverBank Field. The New York Jets beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Line: Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, Antonio Garay, Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, Sione Po’uha – The lines are blurred as many of the defensive lineman play multiple positions and some of the linebackers will lineup here as well. With the injury history of Ellis and Garay as well as the unproven nature of Harrison I believe that the Jets will bring back Po’uha for a vet minimum deal if he is healthy to split snaps and improve the run defense.
Linebackers – Antwan Barnes, Quinton Coples, Demario Davis, Calvin Pace, Josh Mauga, David Harris, Garrett McIntyre – Speed is the name of the game for a linebacking core that didn’t have a lot of it last year. Coples converts to the rush backer position this year. He will play some linebacker, some defensive end and even some defensive tackle and his goal on each play is to get the quarterback. Antwan Barnes will also rush from both the defensive end and linebacker positions as he looks to regain his form when he had 12 sacks with the Chargers. Demario Davis takes over for Bart Scott full-time now and will upgrade the speed and coverage ability of the linebacking core. David Harris needs to reverse his downward trend or this will be his final season with the Jets he needs to be leaner and faster this year. Calvin Pace returns to play a limited number of snaps mostly setting the edge against the run. Mauga and McIntyre are reserves who will see the majority of their time on special teams although McIntyre has shown some pass rush ability if schemed correctly.
Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Aaron Berry, Darrin Walls, Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant – This is certainly the Jets position of strength as all 7 players should see the field consistently. Cromartie comes off a very strong season and seems more comfortable with his role as number 1 corner. He will shadow opposing number 1 receivers all over the field like his predecessor who currently plays in Tampa. Milliner was drafted to eventually start opposite Cromartie and he is almost as athletic as well. Wilson will play the slot to start the year but he will be pushed by Berry and Walls. Lankster and Trufant will play as matchups dictate.
Safety: Dawan Landry, Dwight Lowery, Josh Bush, Antonio Allen – The Jets like their young safety tandem of Bush and Allen but they will be better served letting Bush matchup vs opposing tight ends and Allen playing a hybrid linebacker role to stop the run and blitz. The availability of Dwight Lowery fills a need for a ball hawking free safety to play alongside Dawan Landry at strong safety.
Special Teams: Nick Folk, Robert Malone, Tanner Purdum – Malone had an excellent season last year and should continue to be solid. Folk has been good and always does just enough to win the yearly kicker competition and Purdum is one of the best long snappers in the league. The coverage teams need to do a much better job as well as the returners. McKnight will return kickoffs as long as he is healthy while the punt return job is wide open but it should not be Jeremy Kerley who set a fair catch record as well as dropping a few for good measure.