May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets have a while to go before the start of training camp as an early final roster prediction has them fielding another quality team.
The New York Jets had themselves another successful spring with the exception of the ongoing Ryan Fitzpatrick drama. General manager Mike Maccagnan hauled in a new wave of talent and organized team activities were free of significant injuries that seem to occur annually. Tight end Zach Sudfeld tore his ACL early last year and offensive tackle Ryan Clady did in Denver as well. Thankfully, it’s a new slate and things are looking good thus far (knock on wood).
Gang Green has an extremely unique roster to say the least. It currently consists of; 21 rookies, 12 wide receivers, 10 players who are 30+ years of age, and 90 guys in total. It’s only June, but following the third preseason game, teams must bring their 90-man rosters down to 75. After the final preseason game, 75 must become 53. Before you know it, the Jets will be at that stage in the offseason.
With that being said, Maccagnan and the coaching staff need to start thinking about what they’ll do when that time comes. New York’s schedule is one of the toughest in the league, so making the right moves in August will be crucial. Who stays, who goes and who ends up on the practice squad?
Here’s an early prediction of what the team’s 53-man roster may look like.
May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty (9) during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterbacks (3): Geno Smith, Christian Hackenberg, Bryce Petty
Unless Fitzpatrick makes a return, the Jets have no other choice but to roll with these three. Smith is the starter without question, although it’s unrealistic to say he’ll put up a year like ‘Fitz’ did in 2015.
Over the course of his career, the West Virginia product has racked up 5,836 yards to go along with 27 touchdowns. His track record of 638 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground isn’t too shabby either. The main issue with him is taking care of the football and it’ll always be that way.
Smith has thrown 35 interceptions in his two seasons as a starter which adds up to over one per game. That’s a number that certainly has to go down, especially when you have a Pro Bowler in wide receiver Brandon Marshall to throw to.
On the other hand, Hackenberg and Petty both have what it takes to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. The Jets should feel happy and secure with two promising gunslingers behind the veteran they place under center in 2016.
Next: Running Backs
May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) watches Matt Forte run with the ball during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Running Backs (4): Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Khiry Robinson, Tommy Bohanon
The backfield is hands down one of the strongest units on the team. Forte, Powell and Robinson have the potential to be a great three-headed monster that the offense can desperately use.
Last year, the Jets had plenty of inconsistency at the position with running back Chris Ivory receiving a low number of carries in certain games and Powell getting off to a slow start. This summer, productive players in Zac Stacy and Dominique Williams might get cut due to how stacked New York is.
You could say that Stacy brings more to the table than Robinson, however the ex-Saint is a powerful guy. I’d bet that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey would rather use Robinson than Stacy who’s a lot like Forte and Powell.
Bohanon will of course start at fullback. Julian Howsare can also play the position, but he’s more of a linebacker and he’ll probably end up on the practice squad.
Next: Wide Receivers
May 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) catches a pass during organized team activities at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Wide Receivers (6): Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Kenbrell Thompkins, Quincy Enunwa, Charone Peake, Jalin Marshall
Assuming wide receiver Devin Smith begins the new campaign on the PUP list, the six receivers who should make the roster are fairly easy to pick out. You have two studs in Marshall and Decker along with Thompkins and Enunwa who can make big plays downfield.
The spots up for grabs are Nos. 5 and 6 on the depth chart. For now, you have to pencil in Peake and Marshall.
Both made a huge impact in college by doing most of their damage after the catch. Marshall is essentially a running back playing wide receiver because of his shiftiness while Peake in some expert mock drafts cracked the third round.
Nonetheless, expect the two to battle it out until Smith returns from his ACL injury. The loser of the battle will more likely than not fall to the practice squad.
Next: Tight Ends
Aug 4, 2014; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets tight end Jace Amaro (88) makes a catch during training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Tight Ends (3): Jace Amaro, Kellen Davis, Zach Sudfeld
A good portion of teams in the NFL keep four tight ends on their 53-man roster, although the Jets go about things a bit differently. Since Gailey runs a spread offense, the tight end position isn’t utilized often.
On top of that, the unit isn’t exactly a strong one for Gang Green. Amaro is a reliable redzone threat, but his blocking ability is suspect. Davis and Sudfeld are pretty much the exact opposite of the 2014 second-rounder.
Brandon Bostick, Wes Saxton, and Jason Vander Laan round out the other tight ends on the roster. Bostick and Saxton provide upside as blockers, however they haven’t been with the team long enough to be sure bets to make the final 53.
Since Vander Laan is on the outside looking in, expect Bostick and Saxton to push Sudfeld for the No. 3 spot. If Davis shows signs from his shaky 2015 season, then his job could be in jeopardy as well.
Next: Offensive Line
Jul 24, 2014; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets offensive guard Brian Winters (67) walks out to the field prior to the start of training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Offensive Line (9): Ryan Clady, James Carpenter, Nick Mangold, Brian Winters, Breno Giacomini, Brent Qvale, Wesley Johnson, Jarvis Harrison, Brandon Shell
New York’s offensive line should be the most intriguing group to watch in training camp and the preseason. Winters and Giacomini will definitely be tested due to their sub-par performance over the past few seasons.
Harrison was drafted in 2015 out of Texas A&M as a guard with a high ceiling while Shell is a 6’6, 325 monster who can play right tackle. Qvale and Johnson are the other two backups that can make the roster for the second straight year.
Qvale can play either tackle position and Johnson has experience at guard as well as center. Maccagnan hasn’t made any drastic changes to the line other than trading for Clady, so you have to imagine that he feels pretty confident in what’s already in place.
The left tackle does have a grocery list of injuries to be concerned about, but he’s without a doubt a tremendous replacement for D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Jets would have outstanding talent and depth if these nine were to make the team.
Next: Defensive Line
Defensive Line (6): Sheldon Richardson, Steve McLendon, Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Jarvis Jenkins, Deon Simon
The heart of Gang Green’s defense lost a valuable piece this offseason in defensive tackle Damon Harrison, although McLendon is a respectable consolation prize. The ex-Pittsburgh Steeler is in line to be the new nose tackle in head coach Todd Bowles‘ 3-4 scheme.
We all know what Richardson, Wilkerson and Williams can do, so this summer it’ll be all about who backs up McLendon. Jenkins is basically an upgrade over Leger Douzable, therefore he’ll get his cracks when one of those three need a breather.
The guy predicted as the backup nose tackle for the time being is Simon. If you’re looking for another ‘Snacks,’ the 2015 seventh-rounder may perhaps be the next man up.
Harrison had to wait his turn before finally stepping in as the full-time starter in 2013. At 6’4, 330, Simon has what it takes to follow the same exact path.
Next: Outside Linebackers
May 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets linebacker Lorenzo Maudlin (55) during organized team activities at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Outside Linebackers (5): Lorenzo Mauldin, Trevor Reilly, Jordan Jenkins, Julian Stanford, Freddie Bishop
Outside linebacker is the one weakness that Maccagnan chose not to address as heavily as he could’ve. Jenkins in the third round and Bishop out of the CFL are two great moves, however, the unit is in desperate need of a star.
Mauldin and Reilly are two pass rushers who you can trust game in and game out, but they lack the talent to tally three+ sacks in a contest. The same can be said about Stanford who has bounced around the league quite a bit in his young career.
Teams who run a 3-4 defense usually keep four edge rushers if they have one guy who can carry the load. Unfortunately, the Jets don’t have that type of player and that’s why they’ll be keeping five.
Bishop was one of the best defenders in the CFL and that’ll for sure make him a candidate to be a diamond in the rough for New York. The only problem is that if he isn’t that diamond in the rough, who will be?
Next: Inside Linebackers
Jun 9, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) pushes a sled during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Inside Linebackers (4): David Harris, Darron Lee, Erin Henderson, Bruce Carter
If the Jets didn’t pick Lee in the first round, this position would’ve been the oldest one on the team. Harris is 32, Henderson turns 30 in July and Carter recently turned 28.
Regardless, middle linebacker is simply another reason why the defense should remain elite. Harris has been the cornerstone piece for years and Demario Davis won’t be missed with Lee as well as Carter now in the organization.
These four are practically locks to make the roster. Taiwan Jones is a tough guy to cut, but he doesn’t have enough experience to ball out in Bowles’ defense yet.
Overall, Maccagnan has to feel good about what he has at inside linebacker. A great leader, a first-round stud and a pair of veterans to keep things together.
Jun 9, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Dexter McDougle (23) and New York Jets cornerback Marcus Williams (20) talk during New York Jets minicamp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Cornerbacks (6): Darrelle Revis, Marcus Williams, Buster Skrine, Dee Milliner, Dexter McDougle, Juston Burris
Antonio Cromartie is gone, although everyone is excited for Williams to step in as the No. 2 cornerback. Skrine should hold his role as the nickel and Revis will of course lead the way.
The big question mark in the unit is obviously depth. Milliner and McDougle are ridiculously injury-prone while Burris is just a rookie.
Darryl Morris, Kendall James, Kevin Short and Bryson Keeton make up the rest of the corners currently on the team. Morris has experience with the Texans, however, it’ll be an uphill battle for him unless Milliner or McDougle struggle in camp.
The other three will have their opportunities to shine throughout the summer, but they’ll need to mature quickly in order to impress the coaching staff. No matter what happens, the Jets are in good shape at the position.
Aug 4, 2014; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets free safety Calvin Pryor (25) walks out to the field prior to the start of training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Safeties (4): Marcus Gilchrist, Calvin Pryor, Dion Bailey, Rontez Miles
Gang Green has their fair share of solidity at safety. Pryor is entering his third season with Pro Bowl aspirations and Gilchrist is on the second year of his four-year deal.
The two turned heads in 2015 after their inconsistent 2014 campaigns, so New York has nothing to worry about moving forward with them. Much like cornerback, depth may unfortunately be a concern.
Surprisingly, Miles did rotate in nicely at strong safety when Pryor was banged up. The problem was that Bailey was sidelined too, making the team as shorthanded as can be.
With all that said, keeping five is definitely an option. In the mean time, four might be the better route, especially when they all were on the roster the previous season.
Next: Special Teamers
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; A general view of a New York Jets helmet and an NFL football during the game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Special Teamers (3): Nick Folk, Lachlan Edwards, Tanner Purdum
Not much to talk about here. The Jets will obviously keep Folk and Purdum who’ve been reliable for a long time.
The punting battle between Edwards and Tom Hackett can become interesting, but New York would be hard pressed not to keep their seventh-rounder. The Sam Houston State product had an impressive stat line in 2015.
He finished with 31 fair catches, 31 inside the 20-yard line, eight touchbacks and an average punt of 41.5 yards. The Bearkat booted the ball 74 times as a senior.
Punter Ryan Quigley had his moments in the ‘Big Apple,’ although not all of them were positive. Expect Edwards to be an upgrade over him right off the bat.