New York Jets’ 53 Man Roster: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The cuts down to the last 53 were made on Saturday then the waiver awards and subsequent cuts were made yesterday leaving a roster that will be close to the opening day roster. How does it look? Where are the strengths? Can the weaknesses still be addressed? Let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
1) Defensive line – This year the Jets have an excellent group of defensive lineman both in quality and quantity. The group starts with Muhammad Wilkerson, the anchor of the group, who plays 3-4 defensive end, 4-3 defensive tackle, some 3-4 nose tackle and 4-3 defensive tackle. Wilkerson is strong versus both the run and pass. Sheldon Richardson is versatile as well playing a few positions along the line. Kenrick Ellis is a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle, Damon Harrison has improved against the run to add to his quick upfield burst in the passing game, Leger Douzable has been a nice surprise as he has made a living in the opponent’s backfield this preseason, Quinton Coples is a rush linebacker but he will spend more than his share of time as a defensive end and even a defensive tackle whatever it takes to exploit a mismatch and Antwan Barnes will rush with his hand down also.
2) Running backs – The Jets have a solid group of running backs that will only improve as the year goes on. Chris Ivory is a power back that runs violently but also has deceptive speed and quickness. He can hit the hole hard and the knock on him was that he couldn’t catch out of the backfield, but he had a nice gain on a well-executed screen pass in the last preseason game. Bilal Powell has improved as an all-around back. He has added a few more moves to his repertoire as a runner, can catch out of the backfield as well as pass block. Powell is a good 3rd down back that can also get some time as a change of pace guy to spell Ivory. Alex Green was picked up off of waivers from the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. He is a West Coast offense kind of a back in that he has good hands and can pass block. He led the Packers in rushing last year and had 18 catches out of the backfield as well as he came back from a torn ACL in 2011. Mike Goodson will return after a four game substance abuse suspension. Since he allegedly spent training camp in rehab he will use the time to get his conditioning back to where he should be. Goodson will add outside running and pass catching ability to the offense and will be the home run hitter in the offense.
3) Cornerback – Despite losing Revis the Jets are still deep and talented at cornerback. Antonio Cromartie leads the way as the number 1 corner who will be assigned to the opponent’s best wideout. Opposite him on the outside will be Dee Milliner, the talented corner from Alabama, who is recovering from a calf/achillies injury but the Jets are deep enough to be able to slide in Darrin Walls, a second year player from Notre Dame, to replace him while he recovers and learns how to excel at the pro level. Inside is former first round pick Kyle Wilson who while not able to cover good receivers on the outside is more than serviceable on the inside and has gotten looks as a hybrid safety where he would be better served because he can keep the play in front of him. Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant have both played well in the preseason, especially Trufant and are good depth that can help against teams that look to spread the Jets out.
4) Nice surprises – It is always nice to see some underdog players earn a roster spot and the Jets had a couple do just that this year. The most obvious one is Ryan Spadola, the undrafted wide receiver from Lehigh, who has a great mix of good hands, solid route running and speed. He excelled both in camp and in the preseason games and hopefully that will carry over to the regular season. Matt Simms, a 2012 undrafted free agent and practice squad member, had a terrific last two games against backups and beat out Greg McElroy for the 3rd QB position. Tommy Bohanon was the team’s 7th round draft pick and his play was good enough to unseat Lex Hilliard even before Hilliard was injured. Bohanon can be a lead blocker, he can catch passes out of the backfield, he can play H-Back and he can run the ball too.
5) Practice squad – The Jets put together a nice practice squad with players from camp that have potential and can grow into a roster spot in the coming years. Dalton Freeman was well on his way to a roster spot as a backup center when he suffered a lingering ankle injury, Michael Campbell had 90 yards in the last preseason game and flashed some nice moves as well as good hands, Rontez Miles is a hard-hitting safety with good potential that contributed on special teams, Chris Pantale was an undrafted tight end that flashed some ability, Troy Davis at linebacker made some plays with the 3rd team as did defensive tackle Tevita Finau and to a lesser degree tackle J.B. Shugarts. There is one spot remaining on the practice squad and most expect Sunday’s late cut Danny Lansanah to occupy that spot. Lansanah played very well and will probably be promoted to the active roster during the season.
1) The Quarterback situation – It is becoming more and more apparent that Mark Sanchez’s shoulder bruise is going to keep him out for at least the 1st couple of weeks of the season. That means that the job has been ceded to Geno Smith. Smith looks like he needs a few weeks on the bench to watch the game at full speed and take additional coaching before he is ready to take the reins permanently. That puts the Jets in a quandary because Genoa will start Week 1 barring a miraculous recovery by Sanchez and unless Smith is absolutely awful over multiple weeks of the season you can’t pull him without hurting his development. It would be much easier to go to Smith after Sanchez starts the year than the reverse. That being said I believe Geno Smith has talent and will improve as the year goes along. His development will set the direction of the franchise going forward. If he shows his talent they will build around him if he doesn’t they will draft another signal caller in 2014.
2) Safety – Dawan Landry has solidified one safety position but neither Jaiquawn Jarrett nor Antonio Allen have done enough in coverage to lock down the other safety position. After leading the competition in the spring Josh Bush disappeared and accepted a backup role behind Dawan Landry. Bush is the best of the three in coverage. Rex Ryan said he will mix and match the safety based on opponent but not having a good coverage safety further exposes your linebackers in coverage which is not what the Jets need to do. I don’t know if he has anything left physically but Jim Leonhard was cut on Saturday and I’m sure the Jets will kick the tires on him.
3) Left Guard – Vladimir Ducasse starts over Brian Winters for now and both of those men are good run blockers. Pass blocking is another story and with the cupboard so bare at guard that converted defensive tackle William Campbell made the active roster as a reserve guard. Stephen Peterman was so poor that he was cut early. If Ducasse and Winters falter early the Jets will be forced to make a move. Hopefully Winters improves and takes the job sooner rather than later.
4) Punt returner – Jeremy Kerley is a fair catch machine. All he does is raise his hands in the air and attempt to catch the ball, he is absolutely no threat to take a return for a touchdown or even to have a long return. Leon Washington was cut by the Patriots Sunday. A reunion would make sense even as a 4 week trial until Goodson gets back.
1) Cruel cuts – To me there is nothing more excruciating to a football player to be cut the day after you thought you made the team. Every year it happens and this year’s unlucky recipients are Khalil Bell and Danny Lansanah. Lansanah would have been on the nice surprise list had he stuck on the roster but he was cut Sunday, however, his disappointment should be short-lived as he should fill the last practice squad spot after he clears waivers tomorrow. If he doesn’t clear waivers then he makes someone else’s roster so either way he will be fine. Bell will have to hope that his good play will net him a job in the league if an injury occurs.