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.
5. A Call To Arms
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)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Offensive Linemen (11)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Next: 3. 7-7-7
Defensive Linemen (6)
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.
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.
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.
Next: 2. The Safety Dance
2. The Safety Dance
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.
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.
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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.
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
1. Best of the Rest
Special Teams (4)
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.
Practice Squad (10)
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.
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.
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.