Early Projections for New York Jets' Final 53-Man Roster
With the bulk of the offseason roster moves in the rearview mirror, the base of the New York Jets' 2014 roster is in place. Now, the Jets will use the rest of the spring and summer to figure out who will compete for the few open positions to determine the bottom portion and the order of depth charts.
A massive rookie class that includes 12 draft picks only adds intrigue to a roster that has already seen a lot of changes in free agency. So many extra bodies will only catalyze competition, making for a fierce, competitive training camp.
Here are the early projections for the Jets' final 53-man roster.
Geno Smith, Michael Vick, Tajh Boyd
Geno Smith and Michael Vick will demand most of the attention while they compete for the starting job, but there is more uncertainty at the No. 3 position with the addition of sixth-round pick Tajh Boyd.
Boyd will compete with the incumbent Matt Simms for what is likely to be the final roster spot. Boyd's youth, upside and relationship with Rex Ryan (he was a teammate of his son, Seth, at Clemson) will give him the upper hand to start, but he won't be given the job. Simms showed a lot of promise last preseason—enough to deem Greg McElroy expendable.
Simms is also talented in his own right, sporting a strong arm and improving accuracy.
There is an outside chance that the Jets will carry four quarterbacks, as they did back in 2009 in Mark Sanchez's rookie season, but doing so would force the Jets to cut back on another position. With a massive incoming rookie class, it would be odd if the Jets didn't do everything possible to get as many draft picks on the team as possible.
However, if the competition is close, expect the Jets to give the nod to their hand-selected prospect in Boyd, who has more upside and intrigue than Simms.
Running Back (5)
Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Bilal Powell, Daryl Richardson, Tommy Bohanon
The Jets are ramping up their running back competition by the day, adding former Ram Daryl Richardson off the waiver wire to replace Alex Green.
Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson will be New York's one-two punch at the position and garner most of the carries, but the team has plenty of depth in the wings in case one of them goes down with an injury. Bilal Powell was productive in the first half of last season, while Ivory was nursing a hamstring injury and Richardson has two years of experience under his belt with some upside to continue to develop.
The order of the depth chart is just about set—all there is to wait for is exactly how the carries will be split among the top three runners once the games start.
The only real question at this position is at fullback, where Tommy Bohanon will battle undrafted free agent Chad Jones for the right to keep his job. Bohanon was at least serviceable as a rookie last year, but he will have to thwart off competition to retain the same role on the team next year.
Wide Receiver (6)
Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans, Jacoby Ford, Stephen Hill
By far, there are more questions at the wide receiver position than any other position on the team. Between the 14 players currently on the roster, only two—Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley—are virtually guaranteed to have a spot on the team in 2014.
Adding Eric Decker, Jacoby Ford, three players in the draft and a handful of more undrafted or journeyman free agents makes it impossible for the Jets to keep all of their new faces on the team, but the added competition is necessary for the Jets to make the massive improvements they need to make at the receiver position.
Fourth-round picks Jalen Saunders and Shaw Evans figure to take up two of the other receiver spots, but the other one or two spots (depending on how many receivers the Jets choose to carry) are very much up for grabs.
Do the Jets give the disappointing Stephen Hill one more chance? Or do they give his spot to the more productive but less athletic David Nelson? What about sixth-round pick Quincy Enunwa, developing speedster Clyde Gates or new addition Jacoby Ford?
Training camp will help sort out all of these questions, but it makes more practical sense to carry an extra receiver this year given the sheer amount of bodies at the position.
No matter what decision the Jets make, there will be some quality talent left on the cutting room floor.
Tight End (3)
Jeff Cumberland, Jace Amaro, Zach Sudfeld
The Jets have found a lot more security at tight end after drafting Jace Amaro in the second round to pair with Jeff Cumberland.
Cumberland will enter the season as the assumed starter, but there is no question that Amaro is the superior talent. Amaro is a bit raw as an in-line blocker, but it is only a matter of time before he is at least as adept at it as Cumberland, who struggles mightily in the area. Both players are receiving specialists, but Amaro's combination of size and athleticism gives him much more upside.
Unless Cumberland makes a massive leap in his fifth season, the Jets will be waiting on Amaro to learn the playbook and adjust to the NFL game to insert him in the starting lineup.
Training camp will determine the order at the top of the depth chart, but there is some question about what is likely to be the third and final spot. With Konrad Reuland no longer in the fold, New England Patriots outcast Zach Sudfeld assumes the final role, but Chris Pantale will give him a run for the job in camp.
Offensive Line (8)
D'Brickashaw Ferguson (LT); Brian Winters (LG); Nick Mangold, Dalton Freeman (C); Willie Colon, Dakota Dozier (RG); Breno Giacomini, Oday Aboushi (RT)
There will likely be few surprises on this year's final offensive line roster. Mainstays Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson will resume their duties at center and left tackle, while free-agent acquisition Breno Giacomini will take over for the departed Austin Howard.
The Jets only added one player in the draft on the position—Dakota Dozier in the fifth round—who will more or less directly replace the departed Vladimir Ducasse as a backup guard.
There could be some shifts in the order of the depth chart. If Dozier develops quickly, he could compete with Brian Winters for the starting left guard job. There is also the chance that last year's Day 3 picks, Oday Aboushi and William Campbell, makes strides in their second seasons as well.
There could also be some shuffling at the backup center position, as Dalton Freeman has been impressive in his past training camp.
Still, barring a slow recovery from Willie Colon in his return from a torn biceps injury, the Jets' starting offensive line is all but set.
Defensive Line (5)
Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis (NT); Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leger Douzable (DE)
This position is, by far, the most established position on the team that is stacked with both talent and youth.
Boasting the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in Sheldon Richardson opposite the team sack leader, Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets' pair of defensive ends is as good as the league offers.
Up-and-coming Damon Harrison at nose tackle, who was the best run-stopping nose tackle in football last year according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) by a significant margin, gives the Jets the best 3-4 defensive front in football.
The Jets have depth at the position as well, as both Kenrick Ellis and Leger Douzable have played at high levels when given a chance to play as rotational players.
As a result, only injury will open up a roster spot along the defensive line.
Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre, Trevor Reilly (OLB); David Harris, Demario Davis, Nick Bellore, Jeremiah George (ILB)
With a healthy Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace back in the fold, the Jets have their four starting linebackers in place. The Jets will also be getting back their best edge pass-rusher, Antwan Barnes, after missing him for nearly the entire 2013 season after suffering an ACL injury.
There are, however, questions on the bottom of both the inside and outside linebacker depth charts that need to be sorted out.
At inside linebacker, Nick Bellore will try to thwart off sixth-round pick Jeremiah George to retain his spot as the primary backup to Demario Davis and David Harris. Troy Davis will be in the mix for the final backup spot as well.
George has more raw ability as a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, but the coaches trust Bellore both on defense and on special teams, evidenced by his receiving a tender at the end of last season.
Meanwhile, there will be a fierce battle at outside linebacker as sixth and seventh-round picks Ik Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly will duke it out for what will likely be the final linebacker spot behind Garrett McIntyre. For now, Reilly gets the edge because of his versatility and athleticism (he was a walk-on safety at Utah), making him a better special teams player.
Dee Milliner, Kyle Wilson, Dimitri Patterson, Darrin Walls, Dexter McDougle, Ellis Lankster, Brandon Dixon
Like the wide receiver position, the cornerback group has a lot more questions than answers at this point.
We were given a hint as to who will start opposite Dee Milliner (leaving Kyle Wilson in the slot), but everything else about the position is still very much up in the air.
Rex talking up Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro + McDougle. Says McDougle will compete w/ both Kyle Wilson and Dimitri Patterson #jets— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) May 16, 2014
The rest of the depth chart will depend on a variety of factors, including the health of Ras-I Dowling and the ability of Dexter McDougle and Brandon Dixon to adjust to the NFL game. Rex Ryan has said that McDougle, the team's third-round pick, will get a chance to compete for a starting job, but it would be an upset if the veteran Dimitri Patterson is not on the field for the first play of Week 1.
Darrin Walls also showed some promise last season when filling in for the benched Milliner last season, but the amount of talent in front of him will make it difficult for him to match his playing time from last season.
Meanwhile, Ellis Lankster and sixth-round pickDixon figure to fill in as depth cornerbacks who will see the bulk of their playing time on special teams and on spot duty in dime packages.
Calvin Pryor, Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett
The addition of Calvin Pryor will leave one odd man out at the safety position, and it does not appear that veteran Dawan Landry will be on the chopping block:
Rex says Dawan Landry is a 'vital' member of the secondary. Calvin Pryor's presence won't change that.— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) May 17, 2014
Instead, look for the Jets to part ways with Josh Bush, a sixth-round pick from 2012 who has yet to earn an established role with the team.
The biggest question that will has to be answered about this position is how the top three safeties will be used. If Landry will still have a major role on the team, what does that mean for Antonio Allen? How much will Pryor be used right off the bat?
Training camp will sort out these issues, as much of it will depend on the dependability of the team's first-round pick, Pryor.
Nick Folk (K), Ryan Quigley (P), Tanner Purdum (LS)
After signing a long-term deal in the offseason, Nick Folk will enter the season as the unquestioned starter for the first time in his career as a Jet.
Meanwhile, with yet another flawless season as the team's long snapper, the Jets have to reason to move on from the incumbent, Tanner Purdum.
However, there could be some shake-up at the punter spot. Ryan Quigley was inconsistent in 2013 but proved to be good enough to be an average starter. If he is the Jets punter in 2014, he will almost certainly have to beat out some kind of camp competition.
Because the Jets have not brought in any competition just yet, Quigley will be the assumed starter until proven otherwise.
Advanced statistics provided by Pro Football Focus.