Highlighting New York Jets' Deepest, Thinnest Positions Ahead of the 2014 Season
The 2014 NFL season is quickly approaching, as every team has commenced organized team activities and are now getting ready to begin mandatory minicamps.
After a busy offseason, the New York Jets enter the summer months with decently high expectations for the upcoming year.
Many fans and experts believe Gang Green, who surprisingly won eight games a year ago, could compete for a postseason spot if Geno Smith develops into a more complete passer.
However, success in 2014 depends on more than just Smith's performance.
New York needs several unproven players to make major contributions, as several key positional units lack talent and depth in case injuries strike.
With that said, let's take a look at the Jets' deepest and thinnest positions ahead of 2014.
Deepest: Running Back
John Idzik has to be given credit for the remarkable transformation of New York's backfield in the last two offseasons, as he's turned one of the league's worst crop of running backs into one of the best.
Chris Ivory was a phenomenal addition last offseason, as he was terrific in his first year in Green and White. Ivory is a ferocious runner with surprising burst and unmatched toughness.
Ivory is joined in the backfield by former Pro Bowler Chris Johnson and former fourth-round pick Bilal Powell.
Johnson, while not the same player he once was, is still one of the best home-run hitters in the game. His speed and elusiveness are top-notch and he should serve as a perfect complement to Ivory.
Powell will probably be the odd man out this season, but he's still capable of picking up tough yardage and serving as a terrific pass-blocker.
Even the backs on the bottom half of New York's depth chart, such as Daryl Richardson and Alex Green, are capable runners.
Gang Green's running game should be one of the team's main strengths this season, even if injuries do plague Ivory or Johnson.
Powell showed last year he is a solid rushing option, while Richardson and Green have both had their share of success at the NFL level.
Thinnest: Wide Receiver
The Jets may have upgraded a weak receiver corps significantly with the additions of Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford in free agency and Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans in the draft.
However, the team still lacks quality depth at the position.
Outside of Decker and maybe Jeremy Kerley, the Jets have no sure bets on the receiver depth chart.
Stephen Hill has dealt with inconsistency and injuries through the first couple years of his NFL career, David Nelson is nothing more than a No. 4 receiver, Jacoby Ford has yet to make an impact outside of the return game since breaking into the league, and Saunders and Evans are late-round rookies who likely need some grooming before they are able to make an impact.
If Decker suffers a freak injury, the Jets don't have any players capable of stepping in and making even half the impact Decker would.
Yes, Gang Green has drastically improved their skill position players this offseason, but it still ranks as one of the team's weakest and thinnest positional units.
New York's defensive line gets all the hype, but the linebacker corps is also one of the squad's top positional units.
The Jets boast four solid starters in David Harris, Demario Davis, Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples.
Harris has been one of the game's top inside linebackers for years now, and he constantly leads the team in tackles. Davis is a three-down player who can make an impact in all phases. Pace rebounded from a tough couple of years to register double-digit sacks in 2013, and Coples possesses immense physical talent, even if it hasn't translated yet into production.
Gang Green possesses solid talent beyond the starting four, though.
Nick Bellore, Garrett McIntyre, and Antwan Barnes are all serviceable players who could easily step in and replace one of the starters if the injury bug does hit.
Bellore and McIntyre don't boast great physical talent, but they play hard and manage to get to the quarterback and make big plays occasionally.
Barnes, on the other hand, is a fantastic pass-rusher if he can stay healthy. Only a couple years ago, he registered 11 sacks for the San Diego Chargers.
The linebacker corps should be productive in 2014, even if injuries do happen to strike.
Thinnest: Defensive End
The Jets possess two of the best defensive ends in the league in Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, so why does the position rank among the team's thinnest?
Because behind the two superstars, New York has literally nothing.
Gang Green has only five more defensive ends on the roster behind Wilkerson and Richardson. Three of them are undrafted rookies unlikely to make the final cut.
The other two are career backups Leger Douzable and Tevita Finau.
Don't get me wrong, Douzable and Finau are capable backups who can contribute in limited playing time. But in an expanded role, they just aren't good enough to be successful.
The Jets have arguably the best pair of defensive ends in football, but if even one of the two gets hurt, they don't have the depth to adequately replace them.