Breaking Down the New York Jets Roster After the 2014 Draft
While there are still many decisions to be made about the bottom of the roster and the order of the depth chart, the foundation of the 2014 New York Jets roster is in place.
Still, many positions remain in flux with tons of position battles to endure through the summer. There are many uncertainties surrounding the receiver and cornerback position, two quarterback battles and a dozen rookies to try to squeeze onto a 53-man roster.
General manager John Idzik has leaned on competition to get the most out of his roster, and his actions this offseason do nothing to suggest that he will stray from that philosophy.
Here is a breakdown of the Jets roster following the draft.
Depth Chart: Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Matt Simms, Tajh Boyd
With the draft in the rearview mirror, the bulk of the attention will be placed squarely on the quarterback position, where there will be competition across the depth chart.
The main event features the classic "up-and-comer vs. veteran" matchup between Geno Smith and Michael Vick. However, what makes this competition so unique is that Smith already has a year of starting experience with the Jets under his belt. While he was far from consistent, he finished the season strong with two straight wins.
Meanwhile, injury concerns aside, there is no question that Vick is the superior player right now. The Jets will have to figure out how to balance the pros and cons of starting a player to win now versus getting their youngster invaluable experience.
This competition was difficult to predict when Vick was signed, but recent comments suggest that the battle may be over before it started:
The competition between Geno Smith and Mike Vick apparently is over before it really began http://t.co/U5oFVgR9lb— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 3, 2014
These are certainly bizarre comments—so bizarre that it is difficult to take them at face value. Vick may be drumming up some of his own bulletin-board material as much as he is toeing the company line.
If the battle is close, expect the Jets to give the edge to Smith. However, if Vick wildly outplays Smith in the preseason, it will be impossible for Rex Ryan to keep him on the bench.
There will also be a sideshow competition for the third-string spot between the incumbent Matt Simms and sixth-round rookie Tajh Boyd. Simms showed enough promise last preseason to deem Greg McElroy expendable, but Boyd is the favorite to win the job because of his upside.
Plus, the fact that Ryan is a known Boyd fan (his son, Seth, was his teammate at Clemson last year) gives Boyd an edge in personnel meetings where these decisions are made.
Depth Chart: Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Bilal Powell, Alex Green, Mike Goodson, John Griffin, Tommy Bohanon, Chad Young
Within a year's time, Idzik has turned what used to be a position of need into the core of his team's offense. The combination of skill sets and overall talent between Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell is matched by few teams.
The Jets have their two-down bruiser in Ivory, which they can follow up with home run speedster Johnson on third downs. Another nice bonus of Johnson that is seldom discussed is that he is excellent in pass protection, making him even more valuable in passing situations.
Meanwhile, third-year pro Powell can be the glue that fills in all of the gaps as a do-it-all player. The fact that both Johnson and Powell have proved to be remarkably durable in their careers (Johnson has missed just one game since entering the league in 2008) offsets the injury concerns that follow Ivory.
The addition of Johnson only makes it easier for the Jets to move on from Mike Goodson, who is recovering from an ACL injury while dealing with legal troubles to make him impossible to count on being a productive player in 2014.
The only real competition will come at fullback, where undrafted rookie Chad Young will challenge the incumbent, Tommy Bohanon, for the starting job.
Because of their impressive depth and talent at this position, it comes to no surprise that they did not make any additions through the draft. The only challenge for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is to keep all three players happily involved with a limited amount of carries to go around.
Depth Chart: Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson, Jacoby Ford, Stephen Hill, Jalen Saunders, Clyde Gates, Shaq Evans, Vidal Hazelton, Saalim Hakim, Michael Campbell, Dwight Jones, Quincy Enunwa
Of the 13 players listed above, only two, Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, are virtually guaranteed to be on the Jets—which means an all-out bloodbath of a receiver competition will shape the Jets depth chart for 2014.
Adding three draft picks to the position may seem like a bit much, but the Jets' issues at receiver demand as much competition as possible. There is a good chance that Stephen Hill, a second-round pick going into just his third season, may find himself on the outside looking in when all is said and done.
While there will be a fierce battle for every precious roster spot between the receivers, there is also a big opportunity for a youngster to make a big impact with a wide-open spot opposite Decker. It is entirely conceivable that a player like fourth-round rookie Shaq Evans can beat out the likes of Hill, Clyde Gates and David Nelson for the starting job.
Even the established Kerley will feel some pressure from slot specialist Jalen Saunders.
The Jets have added a large quantity of bodies to this position to bolster their depth, but the No. 2 receiver spot will be a concern no matter who wins the job.
Idzik made the best of a bad situation by bringing in as much competition as possible, but this position group is still at least one proven starter away from being complete.
Depth Chart: Jeff Cumberland, Jace Amaro, Konrad Reuland, Zach Sudfeld, Chris Pantale, Colin Anderson
The Jets entered the draft with one of the worst tight end situations in the league. One second-round pick later, the Jets have a chance to field one of the better tight end duos in the AFC.
The Jets are hoping that the incumbent, Jeff Cumberland, can step into a larger role this season after giving him a contract extension, but going into his fifth season, expectations for Cumberland must be tempered. A solid receiving threat, he is a one-dimensional player who has yet to develop into an adequate blocker.
All eyes will be on second-round pick Jace Amaro, who, like Cumberland, is a much better receiver than a blocker at this point. However, just because he has not had experience as an in-line blocker does not mean he cannot learn the lost art of blocking.
In the meantime, Amaro will serve as the team's "joker" tight end, moving all around the formation to create mismatches with linebackers.
Konrad Reuland, Zach Sudfeld, Chris Pantale and Colin Anderson will all fight for the last spot. Among them, Reuland has the most experience as an H-back in the Jets offense, but Sudfeld has the most upside.
Depth Chart: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Ben Ijalana (LT); Brian Winters, William Campbell (LG); Nick Mangold, Caleb Schlauderaff, Dalton Freeman (C); Willie Colon, Dakota Dozier (RG), Breno Giacomini, Oday Aboushi, Patrick Ford (RT)
Faced with the possibility of losing two starters in free agency, the Jets have to be satisfied with virtually breaking even at this position without overspending on any free agents or reaching for a player in the draft.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold will continue to hold the fort at their respective positions at left tackle and center. They did lose up-and-coming right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, but they were able to replace him with a comparable player in Breno Giacomini, who is familiar with John Idzik from his days with the Seattle Seahawks.
The real issue for the Jets lies at the two guard positions. They were able to retain veteran Willie Colon off a successful season, but his health is now in question after tearing a bicep in the season finale.
Meanwhile, the Jets have to be souring a bit on second-year pro Brian Winters, who struggled as both a run-blocker and a pass-protector when forced into the starting lineup in Week 5 of 2013. The Jets were able to offset some of these concerns with the selection of Furman product Dakota Dozier in the fourth round, but he is more of a long-term project than a stopgap starter.
The Jets also have last year's fifth- and sixth-round picks, Oday Aboushi and William Campbell, waiting in the wings, but the fact that neither player was able to escape the inactive list hardly suggests that they are ready to start anytime soon.
The Jets do have considerable depth at this position and appear to be set on paper, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered at the guard positions between now and the start of the season.
Depth chart: Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leger Douzable (DE); Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis (NT)
By far the deepest and most talented position group on the team, all the Jets need to do is sit back and watch their defensive line continue to improve and flourish with time.
Not only is the combination of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison arguably the best 3-4 defensive front in football, but they are very young—Wilkerson is the eldest of the group at age 24. The idea that this group will only continue to improve given their collective athleticism is a scary proposition for opposing offenses.
In combination with Kenrick Ellis, bringing back Leger Douzable gives the Jets considerable depth at this position, making it nearly impossible for an incoming rookie to steal a roster spot in training camp.
The only "issue" the Jets face is Wilkerson's contract. They will have him under contract through the 2015 season after picking up his option, but they will eventually have to come to a long-term agreement with their star defensive end. Not only is Wilkerson a tremendous talent with the production to back it up (10.5 sacks in 2013), he has emerged as a team leader and a foundation of the new generation of players.
Depth Chart: David Harris, Demario Davis, Nick Bellore, Jeremiah George, Troy Davis (ILB); Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Garrett McIntyre, Antwan Barnes, Trevor Reilly, Ik Enemkpali, Tim Fugger
After retaining Calvin Pace for two more seasons, New York's starting four linebackers are set for 2014. Most exciting is how Quinton Coples will finally have an injury-free offseason to work on his transition to his relatively new position.
The Jets will also be getting Antwan Barnes back from an ACL injury he suffered in the season opener, giving a much-needed boost to their edge pass rush.
However, the future beyond 2014 at this position group is murky at best. Longtime starter David Harris is set to hit the open market in 2015. Pace is under contract until 2016, but at age 33, he is virtually on a year-to-year contract. The Jets have to be ready for a sudden decline in production from either player.
The Jets did add two outside linebackers, Trevor Reilly and Ik Enemkpali, and an inside linebacker, Jeremiah George, in the draft to bolster depth. The Jets will let these players show what they are capable of as rookies and revisit these positions next offseason when the status of their players' production levels are more clear.
In the meantime, there figures to be a fierce competition among all of the backup linebackers for precious roster spots and special teams jobs.
Depth Chart: Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Dimitri Patterson, Darrin Walls, Dexter McDougle, Ellis Lankster, Ras-I Dowling, Brandon Dixon, Johnny Patrick, Nick Taylor, Jeremy Reeves
There are more questions as the cornerback position than any other position on the team. After failing to land a high-end cover man early in free agency, the Jets will depend on Dimitri Patterson to handle the duties opposite second-year pro Dee Milliner.
Patterson is an experienced veteran, but he has dealt with injuries throughout his career and is better-suited to play in the slot. Milliner showed promise in the final month of his rookie season, but he still needs to be more consistent following a rough rookie season in which he was benched three times.
Darrin Walls did play well in Milliner's place when he was benched, but the former undrafted free agent has not been tested for an extend period of time.
The only position the Jets have some security in is in the slot. Kyle Wilson is coming off his best season as a pro, but he is set to hit free agency in 2015.
The good news for the Jets is that they have some extra young talent in place with the additions of Dexter McDougle and Brandon Dixon in the draft. If Ras-I Dowling can ever find a clean bill of health, he could provide tremendous value as a former second-round pick.
The Jets have some options at this position, but they are certainly far from comfortable about the status of this position—especially considering its importance in Ryan's defense.
Depth Chart: Calvin Pryor, Antonio Allen, Dawan Landry, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Rontez Miles, Brandon Harrin
Using a first-round pick on Calvin Pryor certainly shakes up the safety position from the ground up, as spending such a high draft pick on the position all but assures the fact that he will be an immediate starter.
The question now is how the rest of the depth chart will be affected. Will Antonio Allen or Dawan Landry see a cut in playing time? Will the Jets simply move on from the older Landry altogether, or will they simply cut a player from the bottom of the roster instead?
A logical solution will simply be to let training camp determine the roles of all of their safeties. If Pryor is as-advertised and Allen continues to improve at a rapid rate, the Jets may be better off without the 31-year-old Landry on their roster.
On the other hand, if Pryor comes out to a slow start, keeping a veteran like Landry around would provide extra insurance, at least for one more season.
Depth Chart: Nick Folk (K), Ryan Quigley (P), Tanner Purdum (LS), Jacoby Ford (PR/KR)
After extending Nick Folk to a long-term deal, the only question on the Jets special teams is at the punter and returner positions.
Ryan Quigley showed promise in 2013, but his slight inconsistencies will force him to endure some type of training competition—it is a matter of time before the Jets bring in competition.
Jacoby Ford was brought in to be the primary return man, but he will not be handed the job without beating out some competition. The Jets invested three draft picks in speedy cornerback and receiver prospects with return ability—Saunders, McDougle and Dixon—who will at least give Ford a run for his money.
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