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Predicting the final 53-man Jets roster plus practice squad

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 26: Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets in action against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 26: Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets in action against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 26: Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets in action against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – NOVEMBER 26: Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets in action against the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 26, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Entering the fourth season of the Mike Maccagnan/Todd Bowles administration, New York Jets football prospects are finally developing.  But make no mistakes about it, they’re still light years away before title contention.

New York Jets football has been dreadful for years, with at least a half-decade of ignominy.  After a few seasons of a new front office cleaning up the Rex Ryan-era mess, there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel.

Nowhere was such team chemistry more evident than at last week’s well-attended Green and White Scrimmage game at Rutgers University.  On a lovely summer night outside New Brunswick, the offense hummed and the defense crushed, albeit under less than game-time physical conditions.

Todd Bowles‘ previously nonexistent pass rush — blitzing heat the key to his coaching success in Arizona — may finally be a thing of the past.  His recent pronouncement of waiting to choose his starting QB until the end of preseason means that, unless he fails spectacularly, Sam Darnold will get the starting nod Week 1.

It’s difficult at this point to assemble a Jets final 53-man roster, as GM Mike Maccagnan has made a habit of actively trading late in the preseason and upgrading the roster over the year.  Don’t be surprised if players like Teddy Bridgewater and/or Buster Skrine get traded by next month.  Note that players listed as “IR” are now hurt, and will either be designated as such or may not make the final cut.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 22: Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets passes during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – OCTOBER 22: Josh McCown #15 of the New York Jets passes during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

5. A Call To Arms

Quarterback (3)

Sam Darnold — Projecting this rookie’s starting job has more to do with his calm and composed Scrimmage exhibit than with the front office’s hefty financial commitment to their #1 prized jewel.

Josh McCown — The 15-year vet, an average NFL QB earning $10 million as “coach on the field” for Darnold, will start Week 1 — if the O-line’s indeed as bad as they looked in New Brunswick.

Teddy Bridgewater — Everyone’s rooting for the injury-wrecked 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but Bridgewater has yet to “seize the moment,” so expect Maccagnan to trade him sooner than later.

Running Back (3)

Isaiah Crowell — This small-college overachiever, who never missed a game in his four years in Cleveland, can be that multi-talented bone-crusher that this team hasn’t seen since Curtis Martin.

Bilal Powell — This oft-injured 30-year-old game-breaker, who had his best of eight Jets seasons last year (178 carries for 772 yards, both career highs), will no longer have to shoulder the load.

Trenton Cannon — It’s hard to explain how dominating the No. 204 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft looked at the Scrimmage; beyond blazing speed (10 carries, 50 yards) his teammates went nuts over the 185 lb.-er’s pancake block on a blitz.

Elijah McGuire (IR) — The second-year scatback showed flashes in ’17, but with a broken foot, and the rise of Cannon (with similar skill sets), his future in Green & White may now be in doubt.

Fullback (2)

Lawrence Thomas — This 286-lb. D-lineman’s positional conversion began as a feel-good story, but he can power-block and catch the ball; his 24-yard catch at Rutgers felt like a runaway train.

Dimitri FlowersBaker Mayfield‘s favorite target at Oklahoma offers the Jets a previously unseen H-back versatility, and they will do what it takes to find the undrafted free agent a roster spot.

Wide Receiver (6)

Robby Anderson — Considering all of his off-field misbehavior and criminal shenanigans, the Jets have shown real support for this undrafted third-year burner out of Temple — now he owes them.

Jermaine Kearse — The GM’s preseason trade of Sheldon Richardson solidified the Jets moribund 2017 WR corps (65 receptions for 810 yards, and five TDs), which bodes well for the 2018 season.

Chad Hansen — The Cal receiver, who looked lost in his rookie year, has been really turning heads, at minicamp and now in training camp and should play a big role in Jeremy Bates‘ game-plans.

Terrelle Pryor — The Jets would love to see converted Ohio State QB, entering in his seventh NFL season, and fourth at WR return to 2016 stats (77 nabs for 1,007 yards), before injuries set in.

ArDarius Stewart — Gang Green took two receivers in last year’s fourth round, Stewart and Hansen; the Alabama grad, who seemed like a sure-fire hit, is now fighting just to make the team.

Quincy Enunwa (IR) — The promising wideout who sat out last year with a scary neck injury, could be seen at the Scrimmage idling on the sidelines with a broken thumb, bad news for a receiver.

Next: 4. Hold the Line

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 29: Tight end Eric Tomlinson #83 of the New York Jets scores a touchdown against free safety Ricardo Allen #37 of the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on October 29, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 29: Tight end Eric Tomlinson #83 of the New York Jets scores a touchdown against free safety Ricardo Allen #37 of the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on October 29, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

4. Hold the Line

Tight End (3)

Eric Tomlinson — More than another 6’6″, 263 lb. road-grader, the UTEP project has upped his receiving game, which given the O-line’s deficiencies, makes it imperative to keep ET on the field.

Chris Herndon — Judging by his flashes of brilliance at the Green and White Scrimmage, the  Jets just may have struck gold in this draft’s fourth round, with a raw, blocking-deficient stud receiver.

Neal Sterling — The 26-year-old Belmar, NJ product straight outta Monmouth is one of those tenacious blue-collar lunch-pail performers that every NFL team can use — especially this team.

Jordan Leggett (IR) — Last year’s fifth-rounder, who starred catching Deshaun Watson passes at Clemson, has run good routes and has nice hands, but has proven unable to remain on the field.

Offensive Linemen (11)

Kelvin Beachum — The veteran left tackle, with the vital job of protecting the QB’s blindside, is now listed as “week to week” after an undisclosed right foot injury placed him in a walking boot.

Brian Winters — Expect former Jets GM John Idzik’s finest selection (the 72nd pick in the 2013 draft) to rebound from a subpar 2017, after trying to gut out the season with torn abdominals.

Spencer Long — After last year’s abomination of Wesley Johnson (the No. 34-ranked center in a 32-team league), Gang Green gave 4-years, $27 Million to the ex-Redskin, who’s looked lousy to date.

James Carpenter — The Jets’ highly-rated guard, the Seahawks’ No. 1 pick of 2011, has been one of Maccagnan’s finest free agent signings, but last year he really faltered and question marks remain.

Brandon Shell — Hall of Famer Art Shell‘s nephew has been given every chance to win the job at right tackle, but he’s yet to seize the moment, so 2018 will be critical for the Goose Creek, SC kid.

Ben Ijalana — The 2011 Colts second-rounder has overcome knee injuries to become the Jets’ most impressive backup lineman, which bodes well with Beachum’s health in question.

Brent Qvale — This devastating North Dakota-bred blocker (who at times lines up at TE) has held his own, most notably in last year’s first Dolphins game, when he neutralized Ndamukong Suh.

Dakota Dozier — Another forgotten Idzik pick, while hardly dominating, has proven himself a versatile NFL-worthy contributor, performing solidly in three starts last season in place of Winters.

Jonotthan Harrison — One of this GM’s smartest moves last year was the inking of Indianapolis’ former starting center/guard, who could be starting Week 1 if Long continues to falter.

Antonio Garcia — Troy University’s imposing man-mountain (6’7″, 302 lb.), following a rookie season blood clot, got dumped by the Patriots, not for his lack of talent but for a large cap figure.

Dakoda Shepley  — This big nasty Canadian is likely practice squad-bound, but he has excelled at camp, so don’t be shocked if the UDFA guard beats out both Ben Braden and Travis Swanson.

Next: 3. 7-7-7

3. 7-7-7

Defensive Linemen (6)

Leonard Williams — The No. 6 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft has been unstoppable at training camp, and his ascent to Pro Bowl status connects to the departure of immature Muhammad Wilkerson.

Steve McLendon — The 32-year-old veteran nose tackle has become a strong locker room voice, with a nose-to-the-grindstone approach that the entire D-line has seemed to really embrace.

Nathan Shepherd — The incredible life story of this year’s third-rounder out of Fort Hays State is more than a feel-good; he’s so damn driven that Jets fans will forget about Wilkerson by midseason.

Henry Anderson — This season’s best under-the-radar move to date was trading their seventh-round pick for this legit starting 3-4 DE, now fully healed from a career-threatening throat injury.

Xavier Cooper — One of 2017’s nicest surprises was the mid-year acquisition of this Cleveland rotational D-lineman, who unlike the unmotivated Wilkerson, was in the middle of every big play.

Mike Pennel —Despite some of last season’s most boneheaded penalties, the troubled former Green Bay nose tackle is a bonafide run-stuffer, who will benefit from the unit’s overall upgrade.

Deon Simon (IR) — Maccagnan’s prized pupil has spent most of his four seasons on the practice squad, and now he’s got a nagging calf injury that has sidelined him just when he needs to shine.

Linebacker (8)

Josh Martin — One of Maccagnan’s first moves was dumping Rex Ryan-era mega-bust, Quinton Coples, and signing this free agent Ivy Leaguer; proving himself the baller Coples could never be.

Avery Williamson — Coach Bowles really loves what he’s seen so far from the heir apparent to overachieving middle linebacker Demario Davis, which should put many Jets fans’ minds at ease.

Darron Lee — For two years, the Jets brass has insisted their former first-round defensive signal-caller is not a miscast inside linebacker, so now’s the time to turn that potential into performance.

Jordan Jenkins — A little over three years ago, Gang Green took two LBs in the first three rounds, Lee and then this Georgia OLB, who to date has been the most consistent on-field contributor.

David Bass — Last year’s midseason signing of this small college star (Missouri Western State) cut by Seattle, really came into his own during his fifth NFL season (two starts at OLB, 3.5 sacks).

Kevin Pierre-Louis — The former Chief/Seahawk ILB can serve this team well, as a special teams demon and terrific third-down cover man to come in for Williamson in obvious passing situations.

Kevin Minter — The Jets brought in the sixth-year LSU vet, who excelled early on under Bowles in Arizona, as both an insurance policy for Lee and an upgrade over last year’s sub Julian Stanford.

Dylan Donahue — Despite two recent DUI convictions, expect this Montana kid’s ferocious pass-rushing to edge out Lorenzo Mauldin, solid Brandon Copeland and special teamer Neville Hewitt.

Next: 2. The Safety Dance

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 10: Trumaine Johnson #22 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 10: Trumaine Johnson #22 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

2. The Safety Dance

Cornerback (6)

Trumaine Johnson — An NFL starter from his first game in 2012, this year’s splashy free agent (five years, $72 million) is that shutdown corner this team has lacked since early Revis Island.

Morris Claiborne — Another great 2017 Jets signing was bringing in the previously disappointing Cowboys corner on a prove-it pact; back for more, he and TJ can lead this defense to CB greatness.

Buster Skrine — For the first time since his initial Jets year with Darrelle Revis and 2018 training camp coach Antonio Cromartie, one of the elite nickel-backs can go back to what he does best.

Parry Nickerson — This year’s fourth-round sleeper pick has wowed at camp with his blinding speed and veteran instincts; his taking first-team reps at nickel may make Skrine expendable.

Derrick Jones — The former Mississippi receiver has developed from a 2017 sixth-round flyer to a top-five CB at camp, and has all the makings of one of 2018’s most pleasant surprise stories.

Juston Burris — There’s a three-way tie for the last cornerback roster spot between this NC State headhunter, proven baller Darryl Roberts and fast but frustrating former 49er Rashard Robinson.

More from The Jet Press

Safety (3)

Jamal Adams — Last year’s top pick has delivered since Day One, both on the field and in the locker room; as their vocal leader moving forward, he’s destined for a multi-Pro Bowl career.

Marcus Maye — The franchise’s only productive second-round selection in recent memory (see Christian Hackenberg, Devin Smith, Jace Amaro, etc) may have played even better than Adams.

Doug Middleton — The Appalachian State UDFA sat out last season with an injury, but now’s he’s back and bustin’ noggins, which may unseat capable veterans Terrence Brooks and JJ Wilcox.

Rontez Miles (IR) — This fan favorite and special teams ace, undrafted out of California (PA) is out 3-4 weeks with a torn meniscus, meaning he’ll miss at least the first half of his sixth NFL season.

Next: 1. The Best of the Rest

KANSAS CITY, MO – NOVEMBER 20: Kicker Cairo Santos #5 of the Kansas City Chiefs kicks a field goal from the hold of teammate Dustin Colquitt #2 for the first scoring of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on November 20, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO – NOVEMBER 20: Kicker Cairo Santos #5 of the Kansas City Chiefs kicks a field goal from the hold of teammate Dustin Colquitt #2 for the first scoring of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on November 20, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

1. Best of the Rest

Special Teams (4)

Cairo Santos — This Brazilian soccer star via Tulane was one of the league’s most reliable kickers before 2017’s groin injury, but he’s been accurate enough to beat out camp signee Taylor Bertolet.

Lachlan Edwards — The Aussie booter was literally handed the punting job two years ago, and his performance vastly improved last season, with 46.6 yards per kick; 33 kicks inside the 20.

Thomas Hennessy — The second-year long-snapper out of Duke and Don Bosco Prep, capably replaced reliable Tanner Purdum, and now stands to hold this unglamorous job for quite awhile.

Andre Roberts — At 30-years-old, the most famous NFLer out of The Citadel, since Jets running backs coach Stump Mitchell, is this team’s first legit return-man since the late Joe McKnight.

Practice Squad (10)

Brandon Bryant — After July’s supplemental draft, the Jets cut Devin Smith and brought in this speedy Mississippi free safety with great special teams skills, and already flashing NFL worthiness.

Jeremy Clark — Last year’s sixth-rounder was deemed high value coming off ACL surgery, but the rangy Michigan CB has already missed the Scrimmage, and was last seen riding a stationary bike.

Xavier Coleman — This undersized cover-corner, undrafted out of Portland State, was one of last year’s training camp sensations, but then suffered a nasty leg contusion at last year’s Scrimmage.

Folorunso Fatukasi — This sixth-round run-stuffer, a local kid from Far Rockaway, Beach Channel High and UConn, was one of the Scrimmage’s stars, and has so far earned a job over Deon Simon.

Darius James — The undrafted tackle, carted off the field twice on his road to the NFL, who started every game at Auburn the past two years, is the definition of a legit developmental player.

Frankie Luvu — Bowles and his defensive unit have been raving about the unrelenting energy of this undrafted Washington State ILB, so don’t be surprised if he shocks us all and makes the team.

Ben Braden — The slowest player at 2017’s NFL Combine, went to camp as a long-shot tryout player, and made the practice squad; the team sees the Michigan guard a worthy developmental project.

Mych Thomas — There’s nothing not to like about this disruptive 320-lb. Texas Tech D-lineman (check out his highlight reel) but he will need to learn and grow under the current DL unit.

Top 30 greatest all-time players to ever play for the Jets. Next

Jonah Trinnaman — For those in the stands in New Brunswick, it was impossible not to notice the blazing speed of this BYU WR, signed after the “freakish athlete” wowed at the Cougars’ pro day.

Anthony Wint — You don’t have to be a football insider to see the NFL potential of this ILB from Florida International; like Luvu, he’d likely be taken if they tried to sneak him on the practice squad.

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