Last year, the New York Jets signed Antonio Allen to the eighth and last position on the 2012 practice squad. This year, Allen is competing for a job as starting safety. The question is: Who will be this year’s Antonio Allen?
There are few positions on an NFL team with more than one backup. In fact, the Jets’ September 1, 2012 depth chart had no backups at fullback and right guard. Only quarterback, right wide receiver (to account for slot receiver Jeremy Kerley), tight end, running back, nose tackle, left inside linebacker, strong safety and right cornerback had third-string players. (Punt returner did as well, but all punt and kickoff returners were already on the roster.)
The practice squad provides some room for the following categories of players:
- Players of promise who might be needed in the following season. They don’t fit on the current roster but might develop enough in a year to replace someone who will leave the team. Allen could have this category had he remained on the practice squad in 2012.
- Projects. These are players who need more time to acclimate to a new position or to NFL football in general. Tight end Hayden Smith had never played organized football before coming to the Jets. The ex-rugby star moved from the practice squad to the active roster in 2012 and has made a strong impression in 2013 during OTAs and minicamp.
- Extra backup. Some players shuttle back and forth between the 53-man roster and the practice squad because of injuries or roster issues.
Inclusion in this list doesn’t mean the player can’t make the 53-man roster in 2013. That depends on the coaching staff’s plans, how their competitors play and their own performance. However, these players have an option for continuing their careers that more established veterans do not—the practice squad. They can make a living playing football while honing their craft and preparing for the competition to come in 2014.
It’s time to meet some of the players who might comprise the 2013 New York Jets’ practice squad.