Thoughtful coverage for thinking fans.
Compiling a roster outlook before the draft is not something many people do. The roster will have many more players after the draft occurs, and so this outlook will definitely be subject to change. Therefore over the coming months there will be four of these roster breakdowns: The second one will be after the draft and UDFA are signed, the third will be after the second preseason game and the last one will be after the third preseason showdown.
There will be some surprises that nobody is presently expecting…
Quarterback: One position that may be addressed in the draft is the quarterback spot. Currently the team has five QBs: Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow, and Matt Simms. Based on money alone, Sanchez stays on this team no matter what. Garrard was a nice addition and will help not only with teaching Sanchez but also possibly starting in the event that Sanchez replicates his disastrous 2012 campaign. McElroy got to start last year, and although it wasn’t pretty at times, he is still a viable backup. The Tebow experiment is dead and buried – expect him to be released shortly. As for Simms he didn’t make the team last year and I don’t see him making it this year. Prediction: Sanchez, Garrard, McElroy (This will change if they draft a QB) Roster number: 3
Running Back: Rex Ryan always preaches ground and pound but the truth is the Jets haven’t had a featured back since the days of Curtis Martin. Mike Goodson is a great addition to a cap cautious team. Not only can he run, but he can catch as well. When all’s said and done I expect him to be the starter in New York or at least be splitting time with Bilal Powell. As for Joe McKnight, I see him making the team solely based on his special teams ability. This year may be his last wearing the green and white if he doesn’t step up his game. John Griffin has a lot of promise but unless something happens to the three men ahead of him I don’t see him making the roster. As for the fullback Lex Hilliard is the guy….because he’s the only fullback currently on the roster. Prediction: Goodson, Powell, McKnight, Hilliard Roster number: 7
Wide Receiver: The wide receiver position is one that the Jets never seem to get right. They had great receivers in the past but there hasn’t been a standout guy probably since Wayne Chrebet. The draft may be a place the Jets look, or they may stick with what they have and sign players after cuts. They may also go down the road of re-signing Braylon Edwards for chemistry reasons alone. Due to his pay reduction Santonio Holmes will be the number one receiver on the depth chart, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be the best receiver on the roster as all signs point to Jeremy Kerley taking that accolade after his great performance last year. Behind those two is Stephen Hill, who has so much upside providing he can lose his butterfingers. If Hill can fix his faults he can be a great number two receiver with Kerley in the slot. After that, things start getting a little harder to figure out. The Jets have Clyde Gates, Jordan White and Royce Pollard who have experience with the team. On other teams these men would be the 6th receiver, but the Jets don’t have that luxury. If the Jets upgrade in the draft these three will be surplus to requirements but as things currently stand, the only expendable one is Pollard. Behind him you have Vidal Hazelton, Titus Ryan, Thomas Mayo, Emmanuel Arceneaux,and Joe Collins (in no particular order). These players don’t have much experience, and it will be interesting to see if any of them stick to the active roster. Until we see them in action it’s hard to tell. Prediction: Holmes, Kerley, Hill, White, Gates, Pollard. Roster Number: 13
Tight End: One of the biggest mysteries at any position this year is tight end. With Dustin Keller gone, who is going to step up and take his place? Jeff Cumberland is penciled in as the starter right now but it’s hard to tell if he can be a full time number one. The Jets need to draft a tight end this year for insurance reasons alone. Behind Cumberland you have Hayden Smith and Konrad Reuland. Smith had his first year in the league last year and it was his first year playing football period. As much as the coaches rave about him it’s hard to slot him into the backup role so early on. The fact that the Jets currently have only three tight ends on the roster basically guarantees all of them a spot if the season starts today. Prediction: Cumberland, Smith, Reuland Roster Number: 16
Offensive Line: The Jets offensive line can be better than people expect with the proper additions and depth. It’s hard to lose players that protect your QB but with the team’s need to pinch pennies, they are simply having to make do and mend. The leader of this team on either side of the ball has to be Nick Mangold, and he will be the starter at center uncontested. The addition of Willie Colon is good depth to put behind starters D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Austin Howard. His versatility also means that he may be capable of pushing for a starter’s job at guard. Howard showed he can be the guy at right tackle and has earned his role on the team. New starter Vladimir Ducasse is a scary sight at times and at this point it’s unknown if he is ready to make the jump. If he isn’t, this may very well be his last year on the team. Caleb Schlauderaff and Dennis Landolt provide good depth, and should stick around unless players are added later on. DJ Young is brand new and currently unproven. Prediction: Mangold, Ferguson, Howard, Colon, Ducasse, Schlauderaff, Landolt Roster Number: 23
Cornerbacks: The defense of the New York Jets used to strike fear into their opponents. This may no longer be true but rest assured that with Rex Ryan at the helm, defense will always be priority number one. The main position that may soon be tampered with is the cornerback class. Obviously if Darrelle Revis doesn’t get traded he will be the number one CB. If he does, obviously Cromartie will fill that role. The scary thing is that after Cromartie, the CBs on the Jets are not very good. At all. Kyle Wilson had a very bad year and seemed to only be good at wagging his finger after the receiver he was covering occasionally dropped the ball. His career up until this point just isn’t what a first rounder should be. After Wilson you have Ellis Lankster, Aaron Berry, Isaiah Trufant, Darrin Walls and Donnie Fletcher – most likely in that order. Add in Eric Crocker and Cliff Harris – who are newly added – and you have the CB class. Most teams try to have at least two good corners and currently, the Jets have that. The problem is that if Revis is traded, that goes up in smoke, and there’s presently no viable option on the team to fill the role behind Cromartie. Wilson tried it, but it just didn’t work. Prediction: Revis, Cromartie, Wilson, Lankster, Berry, Trufant. Roster Number: 29
Safeties: The Jets safety class is decimated and dismantled to say the least. Losing both Landry and Bell was killer to our secondary, but if you also sprinkle in the possible loss of Revis, all bets are off. Currently there are only four safeties on the roster and one of them is a brand new addition. If the season started today the starters would be Antonio Allen and Josh Bush. Jaiquawn Jarrett and Brett Lockett are the other safeties. Jarrett was a second round pick of the Eagles and could show some ability, Lockett is unproven but with only four safeties on the team, you take what you can get. Prediction: Allen, Bush, Jarrett, Lockett Roster Number: 33
Defensive Line/Linebackers: One of the most promising parts of the Jets is their young and promising defensive line and revamped linebacker crew. Led by Muhammad Wilkerson, who played lights out last year, the defensive line is a bright spot on a team of shadows. Quinton Coples will be a name to watch for years to come, and teaming him up with Wilkerson will provide the perfect learning tool. Add in questionable starter Kenrick Ellis and you have the core of the defensive line put in place.
The Jets linebackers have forced zero pressure for what teams to be forever. By getting younger it will help them out immensely. Led by David Harris, Antwan Barnes, and Demario Davis there may be a chance the team can get to the QB this year. The Jets have some depth at these positions (which is vital because the team is injury prone) and players like Antonio Garay, Nick Bellore, Garrett McIntyre, Josh Mauga, Damon Harrison, and Ricky Sapp could see increased playing time as the season goes on. Everyone else is pretty much unproven and will need to fight to stay on the roster. Fringe players include Claude Davis, Jacquies Smith, Tevita Finau, JoJo Dickson, Junior Aumavae and Danny Lansanah. Prediction: Wilkerson, Coples, Harris, Barnes, D. Davis, Ellis, Garay, Bellore, McIntyre, Mauga, Harrison, Sapp Roster Number: 45
Special Teams: Last but not least we have our special teams unit made up of our punter, field goal kicker and long snapper. All three of these positions are most likely set in stone. Robert Malone is the punter that the Jets were waiting for, and he will be used very heavily this year based on the roster at hand. Nick Folk started the season perfectly and then things started getting irregular towards the end, however, a number of misses were not his fault based on some attempts getting blocked. Tanner Purdum was the long snapper last year and it is unlikely that Travis Tripucka will overtake him. Prediction: Malone, Folk, Purdum Roster Number: 48
The most surprising part of this analysis is that based on talent there were not enough proven players to get to the magic number of 53. Things will change after the draft with UDFAs and additional signings, but as of right now there is a long way to go. Not only do they need to get up to 53 players they also need to put together a practice squad that can step up at any moment.
For all you optimists out there this off-season can be viewed as being an experiment in letting the best players on the field win the starting jobs. And, as was previously mentioned, not many jobs are set in stone and so it’s likely that any number of UDFAs might want to land on a team like the New York Jets.
Stay tuned to The Jet Set for part two of the roster outlook after the 2013 NFL Draft.
What do you think? Has Rich pretty much nailed his assessment or are there areas where you disagree? Feel free to let him know in the comments section below.