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New York Jets: Final 53-man roster prediction ahead of cut day

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29: Aziz Shittu #67 of Philadelphia Eagles takes down Elijah McGuire #25 of the New York Jets during the preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 29: Aziz Shittu #67 of Philadelphia Eagles takes down Elijah McGuire #25 of the New York Jets during the preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

By late Saturday evening, the New York Jets will have cut 37 players and their 53-man roster will be set. Here’s what we think it’ll look like.

The preseason is all wrapped up, and we’ve almost made it to the regular season. That being said, the two cut days are upon us and 36 players remain to be waived by the New York Jets in the coming days.

Brandon Bryant was the first victim on Thursday, who was waived after suffering a concussion against the New Orleans Saints. Bryant, who the Jets signed after he wasn’t grabbed in the supplemental draft, is a practice squad candidate if he clears waivers.

The Jets will have some easy decisions to make, and of course some difficult ones as well. There are players who are absolute locks to make the roster. Then, there are the players who were never anything more than a training camp body and an easy cut to make. And finally, there’s the bubble players, the tough decisions to make.

Who will make the cut? A full, detailed projection of what the Jets’ 53-man roster will look like:

Next: Quarterbacks

Quarterbacks

Sam Darnold, Trevor Siemian (2)

The Jets only hold two quarterbacks in this projection, letting both Luke Falk and Davis Webb walk. Trevor Siemian is the clear cut No. 2 quarterback on the roster behind Sam Darnold, and he’ll be the only other quarterback on the roster for now.

Falk made a solid case to be held on the roster as a third QB during the preseason by putting up solid numbers. He had an especially strong game in Week 4, completing 13 of his 18 passes for 91 yards. If Darnold or Siemian were to get hurt, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Falk brought back if he’s still on the market.

Webb had a tough preseason, and it didn’t take long for him to get passed by Falk at the third-string spot. Webb hasn’t hit his stride in the NFL yet, and to his defense, he’s played with four head coaches and four general managers already. Webb is one of the easier decisions to make for Joe Douglas and company.

The quarterback position is arguably the easiest one to pick on the Jets’ roster. Darnold and Siemian are no-brainers. 3rd string quarterbacks are hardly ever used. Even if the Jets decide to keep three quarterbacks, Falk probably won’t be suiting up for games.

Next: Running backs

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell, Trent Cannon (4)

Four running backs make the roster in this projection, with Cannon squeezing in as a bubble player after a strong preseason. Bell and Montgomery will be the dynamic duo that the Jets hope can cause problems for opposing defenses, with Powell and Cannon both coming off the bench as capable backups.

Cannon makes the roster primarily for his ability on special teams. He was the Jets’ starting gunner last season and excelled. This year, his role is expanding as a possible kick returner for Brant Boyer’s unit.

Elijah McGuire just misses the roster mainly due to a loaded running back room. If he’s cut, he’ll certainly be picked up on the waiver wire and sign with another team. Unfortunately, the Jets just aren’t the right spot for McGuire after loading up on running backs in the offseason.

There’s a chance that the Jets decide to only hold three running backs and Cannon doesn’t make the cut. I think Cannon makes the team as more of a special teamer than a running back, considering he’s had prominent roles as a gunner and as a returner. Powell’s not necessarily a lock either, but I’d be shocked to see him go after sitting out the entire preseason.

Next: Wide Receivers

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Wide Receivers

Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch (6)

The Jets wide receiver room is a pretty simple room to build. Burnett and Dortch were once bubble players, but have appeared to have their spots locked for weeks now. Deonte Thompson gave them a run for their money in the preseason, but it likely won’t be enough to change this group.

Bellamy has thrived all training camp and will likely start off the season as the fourth receiver on the depth chart. He’s also been a strong special teamer in previous years with the Chicago Bears, and a great locker room presence as well.

Despite his solid rookie campaign, Burnett wasn’t a lock to make the roster at the start of camp. However, he’s reminded coaches that he can play and that he has a strong connection with former college teammate Sam Darnold. He earned a spot as a backup wide receiver this offseason.

Dortch was among the teams top UDFA pickups the moment the Jets signed him, and he’s proven why. He’s flashed as a returner and a receiver. He’s the likely candidate to return punts for the Jets this season and is still developing as a receiver. Dortch could be a spark on special teams to replace Andre Roberts.

The starting three is locked down. Anderson, Enunwa, and Crowder are going to be the three receivers from the get-go, and there’s no sign of that changing at any point in the season. These three can do some serious damage to opposing defenses if they reach their full potential.

Next: Tight End

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Tight End

Ryan Griffin, Eric Tomlinson, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco (4)

The Jets keep all four of their tight ends to start out the season, primarily due to the fact that they don’t have a fullback. The extra roster spot allows all four of these guys to stick around. Chris Herndon will start the season on the suspended list, but come Week 5, he’ll be back on the roster.

Griffin will likely be the primary starting tight end until Herndon returns, mostly because of experience. He’s by the far the most experienced receiving tight end on the roster. He and Brown will likely take the pass-catching duties.

Tomlinson and Wesco will both be mostly blocking tight ends. Wesco can be used as a fullback as well and has been the Jets’ go-to guy when a fullback is needed. These two are the better blocking tight ends the Jets have and should be used accordingly.

When Herndon returns from his suspension, one of these four is more than likely to hit the exits. Carrying five tight ends is just about useless for any NFL team. However, this is what the room could look like for weeks 1-4.

Next: Offensive Line

Offensive Line

Kelvin Beachum, Kelechi Osemele, Ryan Kalil, Brian Winters, Brandon Shell, Chuma Edoga, Jonotthan Harrison, Alex Lewis, Tom Compton (9)

The Jets offensive line depth is looking pretty solid heading into the season. With most, if not every starter expected to be ready by Week 1, the team shouldn’t have too much to worry about in regards to the depth up front.

The Jets keep nine offensive linemen in this projection and let go of eight others. The Jets have a ton of veteran depth, so it’s tough to keep young players on the roster in this situation. Edoga is the only young player to make the roster, and he was the Jets’ third-round pick in this year’s draft.

This is another simple position. Douglas acquired two veteran offensive linemen over the past six weeks, so it was clear he didn’t feel comfortable with the young guys on the roster. Lewis was acquired via trade, and Kalil was signed out of retirement.

One can only hope that the Jets’ starting offensive line stays healthy. It will be extremely beneficial to the entire offense if the entire unit is on the field for most of the season. Gang Green added two big veteran pieces to the middle of the line, and hopefully, it provides a big boost to Darnold and company.

Next: Defensive Line

Defensive Line

Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson, Quinnen Williams, Steve McClendon, Bronson Kaufusi, Folorunso Fatukasi (6)

If you were to ask someone what defensive linemen would make the roster a month or two ago, this would likely be a different list. However, training camp and preseason have shifted what the defensive line unit may look like come Week 1.

Kaufusi was arguably the biggest surprise standout during camp and preseason for the Jets. He was making plays left and right on the practice field and in the preseason games, and now he’s locked up a spot on the roster.

When a player steps up and earns a spot on the roster, that comes with someone losing their spot. That player might be 2018 third-round pick, Nathan Shepherd. Shepherd has struggled to make plays or rush the passer so far this preseason, and he didn’t show much last year either. Joe Douglas has no ties to any recent draft picks, so being drafted early last year may not save him.

Fatukasi was also an unlikely candidate to make the roster a month ago, but he’s shown enough to steal a spot. He, Kaufusi and McClendon make for elite depth players. Kaufusi and McClendon are both likely going to see starting reps as well. Gregg Williams gets creative with his packages, and he has the depth to do so on the defensive line.

Next: Linebackers

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Linebackers

C.J. Mosley, Blake Cashman, Jordan Jenkins, Frankie Luvu, Neville Hewitt, Tarell Basham, James Burgess, Harvey Langi, Jachai Polite (9)

This group’s depth looked a lot deeper before the Jets lost starters Avery Williamson for the season and Brandon Copeland for four games. However, it’s still a packed room, and one or two players may find themselves walking during the waiver wire period. For now, this is what it could look like.

Langi and Polite both fit into the final roster, despite their spots not being locked all the way up until cut day. When Copeland returns from his suspension, it may be one of these two that walk. Langi had a strong camp before being hurt for a few weeks. Polite, Mike Maccagnan’s third-round pick in 2019, has struggled immensely.

Burgess fits into the roster as well as a bubble player, beating out Anthony Wint and Jamey Mosley to grab the last inside linebacker spot. Burgess had a very strong preseason, which included a pick-six against the Giants.

When the Jets lost two starting linebackers, that opened up opportunities for several players. Now, it looks like Mosley, Cashman, Hewitt, Luvu, Jenkins, and Basham will all get some sort of playing time to start off the season. As I said, Gregg Williams likes to be creative with his defense, and he’ll do just that with this group.

The linebacker group is a spot where things could change heavily over the course of the season. Waiver wire pickups, Copeland’s return, or even a trade for an edge rusher could greatly impact the shape of this room. However, this is what the group could look like by 4:00 p.m. EST. on August 31st.

Next: Secondary

Secondary

Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Rontez Miles, Derrick Kindred, Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts, Brian Poole, Nate Hairston, Marcus Cooper, Alex Brown (10)

The secondary is where the Jets are thinnest. They made a trade on Wednesday to acquire Nate Hairston from the Indianapolis Colts for a sixth-round pick, which helped their case. However, it’s still weak.

Hairston joins Cooper and Alex Brown as the cornerbacks who make the roster. Cooper, who the Jets signed on waivers in August, has the most experience of any backup defensive back on the Jets’ 90 man roster. Brown, an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina State, was also a waiver pickup by the Jets.

Brown rose above the rest of the Jets’ backup corners and stole a spot on the roster. Very few believed he’d be on the 53-man roster when the Jets originally claimed him off waivers, but he outplayed players like Kyron Brown, Tevaughn Campbell, and Arthur Maulet.

The safeties were a pretty easy position to choose. Adams and Maye are cornerstones of the Jets’ defense, and Miles is arguably the team’s best special teams player. Miles also has gotten reps in three safety packages in Gregg Williams’ defense. Kindred may find himself on the field as well, in more of blitzing and run defense scenarios.

The Jets didn’t have much to choose from to fix their lackluster secondary depth, but they did what they could. Regardless, it’s much stronger than it was at the beginning of the preseason. Don’t be surprised if they make more waiver claims after cut day as well.

Next: Specialists

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Specialists

Taylor Bertolet, Lachlan Edwards, Thomas Hennessy

Believe it or not, the kicker and punter positions are two of the hardest positions to pin down on the entire roster. The Jets can go in any direction they want with their specialists. Very few people know what route the Jets will take with their special teamers.

Matt Darr and Edwards have been battling it out for the punter job during the preseason, and it’s hard to tell who won. Edwards punted Week 1, Darr punted Week 2. Edwards punted Week 3, and Darr punted Week 4. The coaching staff let this competition run all the way to the last game of the preseason, and now it’s time to make a decision.

Edwards is my candidate to make the roster, mainly because of his consistency. He’s been a better punter than Darr this preseason, despite the two having near-identical numbers career-wise. It can go in either direction. Only time will tell who will be punting the football for Gang Green.

Next. Top 5 individual performances of all-time

As for the kicker position, Bertolet likely won’t be kicking many meaningful field goals for the Jets. His shaky preseason finale all but sealed his fate. The Jets need a new kicker and they know it. It’s time to bring in a veteran like Matt Bryant. For now, however, he’s the Jets’ kicker, and that may not change by the time the initial 53-man roster has been completed.

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