Making the Call on New York Jets' Hardest Remaining Cuts
Twice within the next week, every NFL team must perform the equivalent of a corporate layoff. Teams have just completed the first layoff by reducing roster sizes from 90 to 75. The second layoff, a roster reduction to 53, will come next week before the NFL season kicks off.
That's when many qualified players, for whom there's no room on the depth chart, receive their pink slips.
This annual ritual must be a strain for all concerned. Imagine being a CEO and knowing that one of your annual rituals is to assemble a workforce almost twice as big as what you need. Then you must reduce it by 41 percent before production starts. You get to recall around 22 percent of those released to fill a more limited role.
Some of those released will find new teams, which then must let others go to accommodate to the new signees. However, the net result is that 1,184 men who were NFL players in April will not be on an NFL team by Week 1. Of those men, 256 can sustain their dream by accepting a practice-squad role. The remaining 928 will need to find work in a different, less lucrative league or pursue a new profession.
It's not easy to tell any person that he or she has lost his job. However, it's easier to give the bad news to some than others. The first layoff of 480 will involve players whose performance made their elimination relatively easy.
The second layoff of 704 can be more of a numbers game.
That's when teams are more likely to make cuts because of an abundance of qualified players at one or more positions.
Even more talent-strapped NFL franchises face this predicament. It is thought that the 2013 New York Jets suffer from a lack of overall talent, but they too have players who will be victimized by the numbers game. Amazingly, the wide receiver position, thought to be New York's primary weakness at the beginning of preseason, will see quality players released.
Before viewing some potential victims of the next Jets layoff, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to an early casualty, Braylon Edwards. Edwards was a key component of the Jets offense in 2009 and 2010. When he returned for the last three games of 2012, his 10 catches for 125 yards provided glimpses of his old form, especially since eight of those catches resulted in first downs.
However, that may have been Edwards' swan song as a Jet. He returned to training camp and played in two preseason games, making five catches for 72 yards. But Edwards' production came playing with and against reserves. Plus, a leg injury kept him out of the game with the Giants. The result was that he was part of the first round of roster reductions.
While younger receivers like Ryan Spadola show promise, Jets fans will miss Edwards and the era that he represents. Thank you Braylon. Best of luck.
It's time to meet some of those who might join you.
- New York Jets' Roster, Depth Chart and Basic Statistics: New York Jets' Team Pages
- Player Grades and Advanced Statistics: ProFootballFocus.com (requires paid subscription)
- Preseason Game Play-by-Play, Statistics: ESPN ScoreCenter
- Released Players: NFL Roster Cuts Tracker
WR Zach Rogers
Last spring, Zach Rogers was not the receiver whom scouts visiting the University of Tennessee came to see—Volunteer standouts Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson were the headliners—but they came away impressed with the diminutive wideout, nonetheless.
However, despite opportunities at both wide receiver and punt returner, Rogers probably won't be able to secure a spot on the Jets' 53-man roster.
Rogers stats read like those of a steady but unspectacular receiver. In three preseason games, he caught five passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. His longest gain was 13 yards.
His expanded statistics on profootballfocus.com (paid subscription required) show that Rogers would probably fit well within a West Coast scheme. He missed only one pass thrown his way and his 26 yards after the catch comprised more than half his total.
That's a good, steady performance, but the Jets need more. If they already had one or two established breakaway threats, then there would be room for someone like Rogers.
In addition to his big-play limitations, other dimensions of Rogers' game are wanting, according to profootballfocus.com. His overall negative grade of minus-1.4. is comprised of smaller negative grades in receiving, run-blocking and blocking on screens.
In Rogers' favor, however, is that he steadily improved. He earned a minus-1.0 grade against Detroit, a minus-0.6 grade against Jacksonville and his first positive grade, 0.2, against the Giants. The gradual improvement may work in his favor.
Rogers' special teams play may work on his behalf as well. His 0.7 grade on punt returns exceeded incumbent punt returner Jeremy Kerley's grade of 0.5.
If Rogers could have broken off one spectacular return, there might be more justification for keeping him. However, a frequent criticism of the Jets' punt return game in 2012 was that there was too much use of the fair catch. Rogers two fair catches in five return opportunities indicates that he would continue the trend.
He returned three punts for 30 yards for a 10.0-yard average. That's a good average. It topped Kerley's average by three yards per return. However, just like in receiving, he's showed himself to be steady, not spectacular as a returner. His longest return was 11 yards. Kyle Wilson returned a punt for 13 yards and he also plays an important defensive role.
Rogers is a victim of the limited opportunities that come with a four-game preseason. Much as the players' union might protest, more preseason games would give players like Rogers additional chances to have breakout moments and ultimately nab a roster spot.
As it is, Rogers will most likely wind up on the practice squad, where he'll have to work on becoming more than just a reliable receiver and returner.
S Rontez Miles
Rontez Miles may be a player who has too little time to overcome too many injuries.
Family issues complicated his path to the NFL, making Miles a sentimental favorite among Jets fans.
He and half-brother Vondre Griffin dreamed of making the NFL together. Vondre didn't make it through college, and Miles' eventual move from Kent State to Division II California University (PA) may have lowered his NFL draft stock. The Jets signed him as a UDFA this offseason.
Unluckily for Miles, the injury bug has hampered his ability to demonstrate the aggressive hitting style on which he built his collegiate reputation.
According to profootballfocus.com (paid subscription required), Miles participated in nine plays in the first three preseason games and he's recorded three tackles. He didn't played badly. His 1.0 grades on both defense and special teams are above average. Even better, his best grade was in pass coverage (1.1). He could nicely complement someone like Dawan Landry.
However, these stats are too small a sample size to land Miles a job. He just hasn't had enough snaps to prove he can contribute consistently at the NFL level. Since the Jets may use Kyle Wilson as a hybrid cornerback/safety, the need for safeties may not be as great as previously thought.
Miles may wind up on the practice squad, hoping to keep his and Vondre's dream alive, at least for one more year.
G William Campbell
The New York Jets may have concluded one great experiment by releasing the former rugby star Hayden Smith, but they still have another project in progress: converting William Campbell from collegiate defensive lineman to NFL guard.
That one may end badly too.
Campbell showed promise in rookie camp, impressing Rex Ryan by his mistake-free play. However, Campbell didn't distinguish himself enough in training camp and preseason to move up the depth chart.
According to profootballfocus.com (paid subscription required), Campbell participated in 22 plays during the Jets' first three preseason games. His performance was almost the epitome of average: a grade of 0.1. Only his penalty grade kept him above the plain-vanilla grade of 0.0.
Avoiding penalties is a positive achievement, especially for someone playing a new position. It might earn Campbell a spot on the practice squad. However to leap above a player like Caleb Schlauderaff on the depth chart—especially since Schlauderaff also plays center—Campbell needed to show something more.
Willie Colon is on a one-year contract. Campbell may not progress enough in a year on the practice squad to assume Colon's starting role next year. However, should Colon depart, there may be room on the roster for Campbell to make his contribution as a backup.
From there, who knows. If Vladimir Ducasse could play for three years as a backup before becoming a starter, maybe the Jets will be equally patient with Campbell.
WR Ben Obomanu
When Jets general manager John Idzik signed receiver Ben Obomanu, it looked like he'd acquired an all-purpose player. During his first two seasons, Obomanu gained more yardage returning kickoffs than he did catching passes.
Since he wasn't in line for a first-string receiving job, maybe his play on special teams would help him earn a roster spot.
However, Obomanu hasn't seen any time on special teams. He did, however, distinguish himself as a receiver, getting profootballfocus.com's (paid subscription required) second-highest grade on the team. The problem isn't the things Obomanu accomplished.
It's the stages of the games during which he accomplished them.
Through three games, Obomanu is tied for the team lead in receptions with seven. His 115 receiving yards trails only Ryan Spadola's 169 yards. The 54-yard difference is mostly accounted for by a the difference between Spadola's longest reception (70 yards) and Obomanu's (24 yards).
Yards after the catch comprised over two-thirds of Obomanu's total. That would seemingly make him an ideal fit for the Jets' West Coast offense. Yet he may be on the roster bubble.
His uncertain status may have more to do with when he has played than how he's produced while playing. Obomanu didn't appear with the starting lineup until the Giants game when he caught Geno Smith's lone touchdown pass. However, many of his receptions and yards came against backups.
He's also facing the numbers game. The Jets may have more talented receivers than places to put them.
Now that Santonio Holmes has been reactivated, the leading contenders for the remaining wide receiver positions are Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Mohamed Massaquoi, Obomanu and Ryan Spadola. Michael Campbell and Zach Rogers are outside possibilities.
That means there are nine candidates (including Holmes) for, at most, six spots. Campbell and Rogers are eligible for the practice squad, but other discarded players must hope they've accumulated enough highlights to impress another team.
Based on his abilities after the catch, it looks like Obomanu has done so.
QB Greg McElroy
After the Jets' first preseason game against Detroit, Greg McElroy appeared to have the No. 3 quarterback job secured.
Two weeks later, McElroy's job security is far less certain.
Against Detroit, McElroy led the Jets to a touchdown and a field goal. It's true that his fumble led to a Lions field goal. However, that fumble occurred during a sack. The offensive line deserved to some of the blame for that mishap. Plus, McElroy still managed to produce more points for his team than the Lions generated from his turnover.
However, an ankle injury prevented McElroy from playing against Jacksonville and the Giants. That gave Matt Simms his opening.
All Simms did was to go 5-for-5 for 73 yards (for a rating 118.8) against Jacksonville, leading the Jets to a field goal. Against the Giants, he led the Jets to a go-ahead score, a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Spadola, with just under three minutes remaining in regulation.
The Giants forced overtime. On the Jets' second possession, Simms led them from their own 4-yard line to the Giant's 15-yard line to set up the winning field goal. The key play was a 70-yard pass to Spadola, which moved the Jets from their own 10-yard line to the Giants' 20.
Four plays later, Billy Cundiff kicked the game-winning field goal.
In other words, while McElroy's performance was solid, Simms led a comeback win against a crosstown rival, and he may have helped Spadola clinch a roster spot in the process.
The last preseason game will be critical for both quarterbacks. Both, if healthy, should see extended action. However, McElroy will be hard pressed to top Simms' exploits.
It's true that McElroy has taken more regular-season snaps and has even won a regular-season game in relief. However, he doesn't have the physical tools to be more than a reserve. Simms demonstrated the power of his arm against the Giants and added enough mobility to elude pressure. He's more accurate than his earlier assessments would have had one think.
In other words, Simms has more upside. McElroy has to go.
Fortunately, he's done well enough for himself to earn work elsewhere. So, for that matter, has Simms. No matter who stays and who goes, both men should be on an NFL roster come Week 1.
Follow Philip Schawillie on Twitter: @digitaltechguid