Jun 9, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali (51) and New York Jets inside linebacker Demario Davis (56) during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Training camp is nearly upon us for the New York Jets and it is all going to start coming together over the next several weeks. But who is going to win a job for the green and white and who is going to just miss the cut? This is one of the most talented 90-man rosters the Jets have assembled in the last several years.
Final roster cut downs are never easy and this year will be no different. Every year there is usually an athlete or two that turns into a dark horse that not only makes the final roster but contributes heavily during the regular season.
Without any further ado, let’s breakdown the top 5 dark horse candidates who could sneak their way on the final-53 and then some.
Next: 5. Chris Owusu
Dec 7, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Chris Owusu (14) makes a catch in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson (21) during the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
5. Chris Owusu
First dark horse candidate on the list is Chris Owusu, he’s athletic, rangy, and a bit of a wildcard in the race for the last two possible wide receiver spots on the team. I also think he is versatile and when you’re vying for one of the last spots on the team, that could be the difference between making the team or not.
Apparently the Owusu bandwagon is pretty thin at the moment; Rich Cimini Jets reporter for ESPN, didn’t even have Owusu making it past the first two rounds of cuts. Here was Cimini’s projected depth chart at wide receiver:
Which then begs the question, who is our kick returner if Cimini is right? Graham had one good play last year against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was invisible the rest of the time especially on special teams. I think Owusu showed more in that last game against the Dolphins than any of the Jets’ holdovers showed the entire season. He caught a pass for 36 yards, he ran in a 23-yard reverse and he had an 87-yard return that nearly went for another touchdown.
If it was up to me to decide between Hakim, Enunwa, Evans, Powell, Rumph, Posey, and Owusu, I know where my money would be. The locks are Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Kerley, and rookie Devin Smith. Which leaves possibly one or two spots maximum. The Jets have a very deep receiver group this year so it’s going to be a stiff competition. Let the best man win.
Next: 4. Taiwan Jones
Oct 25, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Taiwan Jones (34) celebrates defense stop during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 35-11. Mandatory Credit:Mike Carter
-USA TODAY Sports
4. Taiwan Jones
Taiwan Jones was one of my favorite players in college football last season. I gave him a low 4th-high 5th round grade on his draft status. He ended up going undrafted and the Jets were the beneficiary. The Jets have their two starting inside linebackers, but their is an opportunity for backup spots.
He’s durable, has prototypical size for the position, and he’s a thumper. He never missed a start during his 4-year career at Michigan State. According to his NFL.com draft profile, analysts had a lot of good things to say about Jones.
“Physically imposing “Hulk smash” linebacker with outstanding power and toughness but a lack of instincts essential to the position. Jones’ coverage limitations could be mitigated by his ability to thump and blitz as a 3-4 inside linebacker next to a more instinctive chaser. At worst, Jones is a backup linebacker and core special-teams player.”
The folks over at NFL.com do a masterful job and shared in my draft analysis of him going in the 4th or 5th round. I’m not sure why he ended up going undrafted, but as a Jets fan I’m not complaining. Like I said with Owusu, for these guys to have the best possible chance at making the roster, they have to be versatile since the more things you can do the better.
Special teams is a third of the game, though some people marginalize its importance, a team with a horrible special teams unit won’t get very far. Forever ‘the guy’ on special teams for the Jets was Nick Bellore, who ended up leaving the Jets and signed with the 49ers this off season. Which leaves an opening for one of these 90 guys on the roster to claim it.
Next: 3. Erin Henderson
Dec 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coachLeslie Frazier
gives Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Erin Henderson (50) a defensive play in the fourth quarter of the game at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals beat the Minnesota Vikings by the score of 42-14. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Sports
Two inside linebackers on this list? Yes, I looked at the roster as a whole and thought which of these talented players could make a case for staying. Erin Henderson is certainly one of those guys. He’s as talented as any inside linebacker in the league, but the question has never been about his talent. It’s been the off the field issues; the Jets decided to kick the tires and give this guy a second chance.
Typically on an NFL roster, teams keep four inside linebackers. Obviously every defense is different, but for the Jets who plan on playing out of a base 3-4 defense, we could see Demario Davis and David Harris manning the starting positions. With Jones and Henderson as the backups and key special teamers.
Henderson has high expectations for himself and he wants to be a role model for other players around the league. Rich Cimini documented Henderson’s goals for the upcoming season, here is a quote about his story so far:
“I have it in my mind to become one of the comeback players or at least be in the conversation,” Henderson said. “I think it’s an interesting story and I think there are a lot of people out there who are suffering from similar things and maybe I can be an inspiration to them.”
Next: 2. Durell Eskridge
Nov 8, 2014; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange safety Durell Eskridge (3) tries for a interception in front of Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Max McCaffrey (87) that would fall incomplete during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
2. Durell Eskridge
There may be some bias here because I’m a Syracuse football season ticket holder but I think Durell Eskridge is the real deal. Another fantastic undrafted free agent signing by the Jets’ brass. He’s got good height, a stalking Bob Sanders like stance at safety, and he’s well balanced between the run game and the passing game.
Let’s hop back over to NFL.com to see what the folks had to say about Eskridge on his draft profile.
“Tall safety with average instincts and average speed to chase throws over the top and range from hash to sideline. Eskridge plays with enough desire as a tackler to warrant a draft pick, but he’s got to prove that he has a bankable skill in the box or in coverage to go along with his size.”
What I like about Eskridge is that he’s a very intelligent player. Though I respect the opinions of the NFL.com draft analysts, Eskridge tends to always be around the ball and I don’t think you can attribute that to simply luck.
Next: 1. Rontez Miles
Jun 9, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Rontez Miles (45) catches the ball during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
1. Rontez Miles
And finally the last dark horse candidate to make the roster is Rontez Miles. Another player whose faced his fair share of adversity. He nearly lost his leg year in a freak accident but now after a rigorous rehab he’s back on the field ready to make the team and make some noise.
He’s been a fringe final roster guy for the last several years floating between the active roster and the practice squad. He’s a bit of a smaller guy in terms of height but he certainly packs a punch as he’s one of the hardest hitters on the roster. Here is what ESPN’s Rich Cimini said on Miles and his chances of making the team:
“The Jets have a crowded safety position, with Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Antonio Allen.”Miles, a physical player with a non-stop motor, won’t have an easy time making the team.”
I know that this kid has the heart, the desire and the mentality to make the final cut. It won’t be easy, but nothing has come easy in Miles’ life. And he’ll be a guy a lot of Jets fans are going to be rooting for throughout training camp.