Projected New York Jets' Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition
With training camp within arm's length, it is time to start making predictions about the Jets roster when all is said and done.
NFL teams will enter camp with about 80 players on the roster—but only 53 will make it out on the other side with their jobs intact. When figuring that most of the roster is already set with established veterans and draft picks, the prospects of most fringe players making the final roster are grim at best.
Here are predictions for the New York Jets' final 53-man roster as the team prepares for the start of training camp.
Based on his project snap count with the first team in training camp, the Jets have all but formally named Geno Smith the starting quarterback. The task for Smith is to play well enough to avoid any kind of locker-room division after the Jets name him the starter.
Vick appears to be resigned to his role as Smith's backup, but there is a realistic chance that he gets some playing time this year if Smith falls apart. As one of the top backup quarterbacks in the league, Vick is a premium insurance policy the Jets are hoping they never have to tap into.
The real battle on the quarterback depth chart will take place at the No. 3 spot, where rookie Tajh Boyd will try to usurp the incumbent Matt Simms.
Training camp will reveal who the superior player is, but if this race ends in a draw, the younger and more athletic Boyd will likely get the nod. Boyd also has ties to Rex Ryan's son, Seth Ryan, who played football at Clemson with Boyd.
Running Back (5)
Chris Johnson may be bringing in all of the buzz around the Jets offense, but incumbent starter Chris Ivory will carry the workload for the Jets. He is tremendous after contact and will set the tone for the rest of the game while sustaining drives. It will be much more difficult to take Ivory off the field than many expect.
The key for Ivory will be to remain healthy for more than a few games at a time. Hamstring injuries early in 2013 prevented him from having a full, more statistically impressive season.
The combination of Ivory and Johnson gives the Jets one of the best one-two punches at running back in the NFL, if not the best. Johnson fits like a glove on the depth chart, taking over on third downs and as a change-of-pace back who can score from anywhere on the field.
It won't be easy giving both players enough carries to quench their thirst for playing time. Training camp will go a long way in calibrating exactly how much the Jets will take off Ivory's plate to feed Johnson.
The only man in Florham Park who was less than enthused about the Johnson addition was Bilal Powell, who was penciled in to be Ivory's sidekick as a passing-down specialist.
Powell will see a huge decline in playing time after being a starter for the bulk of 2013, but he will still be a Swiss Army knife in the backfield who is dependable in protection, stays healthy and can perform any role when necessary.
Richardson was virtually guaranteed a spot on the roster as soon as the Jets made the release of Mike Goodson official. The former St. Louis Ram is essentially a poor man's Bilal Powell who can fill in any role if needed, albeit at the cost of effectiveness.
The Jets may not be actively looking to move on from their drafted fullback after just one season, but he will feel some legitimate competition from undrafted free agent Chad Young.
Bohanon flashed in spurts as a runner and receiver, but he must improve in the blocking game—he ranked as the worst NFL starter at his position in this area, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Wide Receiver (7)
Decker is the only player on the roster who is guaranteed to be in the starting lineup on a weekly basis. He was one of the few "splurges" the Jets made in free agency (although the contract was very responsible), and he will be a huge factor in the offense this year.
It has been long-debated whether or not Decker is a true No. 1 or simply a high-end No. 2, but on the Jets, he is the unquestioned go-to man for Geno Smith.
He may not technically be a starter, but Kerley is the only other receiver on the depth chart who is virtually guaranteed to be on the roster in 2014 as the team's slot receiver.
He may have failed to establish himself as the primary punt returner, but he has been the Jets' most consistent pass-catcher since he was drafted in 2011 and could be on the brink of stardom with an improved Smith throwing to him in 2014.
There is not much in-between when it comes to David Nelson's role with the Jets in 2014—either he wins the No. 2 job opposite Decker or fails to make the roster entirely.
His best asset is his reported chemistry with Geno Smith, but he does not offer enough upside to retain on the bottom of the roster over Stephen Hill or any of the drafted players.
The first drafted receiver of the 2014 class by the Jets, Saunders was one of the few receivers to stand out in camp, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. At 5'9", he has limited versatility but makes up for it with his insane combination of quickness, acceleration and toughness—making him a perfect fit for the slot and punt returner positions.
Finding a role for Saunders on offense will be difficult because of Kerley's presence, but it he is a lock to make the final roster nonetheless.
Thanks in part to a scheduling quirk from UCLA that caused Evans to miss some OTA sessions, Evans has not made quite as much of an impact as fellow fourth-round pick Saunders.
However, he has a much bigger frame that gives him a chance to eventually develop into a starter opposite Decker. For that reason alone (and the fact that he was a mid-round pick), Evans will be on the 53-man roster.
After two years of incredibly disappointing play, Hill could find himself on the chopping block if he does not make massive improvements in the all-important third year of development.
He is just 23 years old and blessed with an incredible blend of size and speed. The Jets will look for every excuse to hold onto Hill for one more season. Even showing flashes should allow for Hill to hold onto his job in 2014.
Ford was brought in to help out the return game, but he could still inject some much-needed speed into the Jets' otherwise slow receiving corps.
He will be in direct competition with the rookies for the last few spots, but his experience as a returner should give him the edge over a youngster—assuming he can stay healthy.
Tight End (3)
After giving him a contract extension in the offseason, the Jets are counting on Cumberland to have a breakout season in his fifth year as a pro. Injuries and depth chart politics have kept him under the 400-yard cap, but there are no more excuses for Cumberland as he tries to prove that he can be a starting tight end.
The Jets' prized second-round pick is actually a superior talent to Cumberland; it is only a matter of time before he eventually assumes the starting duties. Amaro will have to adjust to the pro game and develop as a blocker, but he will instantly be a matchup nightmare in the red zone. He gives the Jets some much-needed insurance at the position.
The first two spots are locked in, but the third tight end position is very much up for grabs. Many will expect former New England Patriot Zach Sudfeld to retain his backup duties, but look for Colin Anderson to make an unexpected push for the final tight end job.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, Anderson has been impressive in spring practices. He needs to develop more as a blocker, but the upside of this Minnesota Vikings castoff is sky-high in the passing game.
Offensive Tackle (2)
One of the few lasting mainstays on the Jets, D'Brickashaw Ferguson will lock down the left tackle position for the ninth consecutive year. The Jets have enjoyed the luxury of not having to think about the left tackle position for the better part of a decade, and that is not going to change anytime soon.
The Jets traded the younger Austin Howard for former Seattle Seahawk Breno Giacomini because of money issues. Giacomini is a year older than Howard (28) but is at least an equal player on the field, if not better in pass protection.
Willie Colon's health is still in question as he recovers from knee surgery. Assuming he does eventually return to the field in time, he will be an automatic starter at one of the guard positions after enjoying a nice bounce-back season at right guard last year.
Brian Winters' rookie season at left guard was less than stellar, but the former third-round pick deserves more time as he adjusts to making the position switch from tackle to guard. He will, however, see much fiercer competition than he got from Vladimir Ducasse last year.
After a nondescript rookie year in which he spent the entire regular season on the inactive list, Oday Aboushi is making a push to be a potential starter since making the anticipated switch from tackle to guard. He turned a lot of heads when he filled in for the sidelined Colon and figures to build upon his success when the pads come on.
The Jets will want to give their third-round pick more time to develop, but if Aboushi is clearly the better player, he should get a chance to start. Aboushi also doubles as extra tackle depth because of his experience in the position.
One of the team's fourth-round picks is destined for a redshirt season. A height/weight specimen with tremendous athleticism, Dozier will be a bit of a project as he refines his technique and makes the transition from a small program at Furman.
Nick Mangold and Ferguson have been as consistent as any Jet since they were drafted in 2006. Mangold did take a step back in his run blocking and appears to have peaked, but he is still an excellent pass-protector who is as smart as they come.
The former undrafted Clemson product was released last training camp because of injury, but he has enjoyed a strong set of spring practices since his return to Florham Park, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. After three years, it is about time to move on from the Caleb Schlauderaff era of backup centers.
Defensive End (3)
Last year's team MVP (as voted by his teammates), Wilkerson is the foundation of the Jets defense and represents where the strength of the team lies—the defensive line. Coming off a career-high 10.5 sacks, Wilkerson is young and talented enough to get even better, which is a scary proposition for offensive lines in the AFC East.
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Richardson was absolutely dominant against the run and established himself as one of the brightest young interior defensive linemen in the game.
However, he can stand to improve as a pass-rusher after notching just 3.5 sacks last year (which is ironic considering how strong he was in this area in college). Look for him to develop into a more complete and dominant player in Year 2 to match Wilkerson's versatility.
One of the most underrated players on the team, Douzable was retained in free agency because his coaches know how comparable he is in run defense relative to Richardson and Wilkerson. After all, part of the reason why he goes unnoticed is because the Jets' dominant run defense never takes a step back when he fills in from time to time.
Defensive Tackle (2)
Damon Harrison was one of the most unique stories in the NFL last year. The (then) second-year undrafted free agent from William Penn immediately established himself as the top run-stuffing 3-4 nose tackle in the game, trumping any other player at his position in this area, according to Pro Football Focus.
With a whole new offseason to improve and develop, the sky is the limit for Harrison.
Lost in the tremendous story surrounding Harrison was the nice bounce-back year Kenrick Ellis had when he returned from injury. Pro Football Focus rated Ellis as the third-best run defender on the team. He even added seven quarterback hurries to his stat sheet.
Ellis will continue to back up Harrison, but his play is worthy of being a starter on most teams. Expect to see him on the field a bit more in 2014 to take pressure off Harrison.
Outside Linebacker (4)
This is a huge year for former first-round pick Quinton Coples, who has been held back by injury and position changes from reaching his full potential. Now that his ankle has healed and he has had more time to adjust to his new position at outside linebacker, anything less than double-digit sacks for the North Carolina product will be a disappointment.
At age 33, Calvin Pace had one of the most surprising bounce-back years of any defensive player last year. His 10-sack season saved his career from extinction, gaining him another two-year deal with the Jets to be a reliable edge-setter.
Since getting picked up by the Jets in the middle of last season, Cunningham has slowly climbed the depth chart to become more and more relevant with each passing day. He appeared in the final two games of last season and has had a strong spring, getting work with the second-team defense.
The Jets will have to make a tough decision at the bottom of their outside linebacker depth chart between late-round picks IK Enemkpali and Trevor Reilly. As versatile as Reilly is as a former walk-on safety at Utah, his age (26) may force the Jets to go with the younger player with more upside in Enemkpali if this competition comes to a standstill.
Inside Linebacker (4)
David Harris has been a mainstay in the middle of the Jets defense for quite a while (seven years), but this year will have a different vibe with his contract expiring. Regardless of how the offseason plays out, he will remain as the Jets go-to run-stuffer who knows the defense better than anyone.
Demario Davis has established himself as one of the core players on defense that the Jets can build around. He is not quite the thumper that Harris is in the run game, but he is superior in coverage with his great athleticism.
Davis is also regarded as a natural leader and would have no issues taking over for Harris in that regard should Harris leave in free agency next year.
The Jets showed their affinity for Nick Bellore when they gave him a restricted free-agent tender after the season. In addition to his special teams prowess, he gives the Jets quality depth at inside linebacker.
The fifth-round pick out of Iowa State is a bit undersized at 5'11", 234 pounds, but he makes up for it with his great range and athleticism—something that will serve him well on special teams. The ceiling for George is to eventually take over for David Harris after he leaves, but the rookie has great upside as a special teams ace in the meantime.
This is a huge season for Milliner, who must make improvements in his second season following a very shaky rookie debut.
The Jets are not just relying on him to improve—they need him to develop into the star that top-10 picks are expected to become rather quickly. If Milliner fails to make massive improvements, the Jets defense could turn into an average unit at best.
Dimitri Patterson has flashed moments of very good play over the years, but the Jets have put a lot of faith in his ability to stay healthy and make the transition to the outside cornerback spot.
He is a natural slot cornerback who has played just nine game in the last two seasons. The chances of Patterson starting all 16 games at a new position without complications are slim at best.
It took a bit longer than the Jets had hoped, but the former first-round pick has finally found a home in the slot. Wilson is entering a contract year, which makes this season of particular importance to him on a personal level.
Walls has provided great value as a depth cornerback since getting added to the roster late in the 2012 season. He filled in nicely when Milliner was benched, but Walls may actually see his role decline in 2014 thanks to all of the new additions the Jets made to the position. He will need to hold off Dexter McDougle for primary backup duties.
No rookie has been more impressive in spring practices than third-round pick Dexter McDougle, who has drawn comparisons to another great cornerback who used to walk the halls of One Jets Drive not long ago.
McDougle faces long odds to start as a rookie because of the volume of veterans ahead of him, but he can at least earn nickel and dime package roles to set him up for next year.
Ellis Lankster is an ideal fifth cornerback who excels on special teams while being able to fill in on sub-packages whenever necessary. The fact that the Jets gave him an extension early in the offseason indicates that they have no plans to move on from him.
Dowling was a massive disappointment with the New England Patriots as a former second-round pick who only played in a handful of games, but he appears to finally havieved a clean bill of health with the Jets.
If he can maintain his health, he can essentially be an extra draft pick for the Jets.
John Idzik did not use a first-round pick on a safety for him to sit on the bench. Whether he is ready or not, Calvin Pryor will be given every chance possible to start—just as Dee Milliner was last season.
It may be a rocky transition for Pryor, who spend a good chunk of his time in the box at Louisville. Picking up NFL coverage concepts and reading professional offense will not be easy right off the bat.
As well as Antonio Allen played last year when covering tight ends, he was never given a chance to prove that he can be a full-time starter with a season's worth of snaps, thanks to Ed Reed's presence.
Now with Pryor in the fold, Allen will have to compete with Dawan Landry for precious playing time. Allen is not as trustworthy as the veteran Landry, but he is much more athletic and capable in man-to-man coverage.
Whether or not he beats out Allen for the No. 2 job, Landry is destined to see at least a small dip in playing time with the newfound depth on the roster. He is still useful against the run and can be trusted not to be overaggressive.
Expect him to take on more of a leadership role, mentoring the younger safeties (who will ironically be taking his job).
Not many fans are aware of Rontez Miles' existence, but based on the Jets' roster transitions, they do not want to risk losing him to another team. Miles was the first player called up to the active roster when Kellen Winslow was suspended for four games last year, which indicates that the Jets believe that he is worthy of an NFL paycheck.
The addition of Pryor will make it more difficult for Miles to make the roster, but he should prevail over the other "bubble" safeties.
Special Teams (3)
After signing a big-time extension (especially for a kicker) worth $12 million, camp competition is a thing of the past for one of the most clutch kickers of 2013. Barring an epic collapse (which all kickers are more than capable of at any time), Folk will be New York's kicker for the foreseeable future.
While Folk has finally achieved some hard-won job security, punter Ryan Quigley has more work to do to get on Folk's level. Quigley struggled with consistency at times last year and will have to beat out some camp competition as a result.
Entering the ring is former Jake Schum, who spent time with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a rookie. For now, Quigley will be the assumed starter, but the best man in training camp will win the punter job regardless.
Another year, another perfect season for the most unknown starter on the team—which is a good label to have for long snappers. There is a chance the Jets bring in some extra bodies to push Purdum, but he remains the overwhelming favorite to retain his job as long snapper in 2014.
- Geno Smith
- Michael Vick
- Tajh Boyd
- Chris Ivory
- Chris Johnson
- Bilal Powell
- Daryl Richardson
- Tommy Bohanon
- Eric Decker
- Jeremy Kerley
- Jalen Saunders
- Shaq Evans
- Jacoby Ford
- David Nelson
- Stephen Hill
- Jeff Cumberland
- Jace Amaro
- Colin Anderson
- D'Brickashaw Ferguson
- Brian Winters
- Nick Mangold
- Dalton Freeman
- Willie Colon
- Dakota Dozier
- Breno Giacomini
- Oday Aboushi
- Muhammad Wilkerson
- Sheldon Richardson
- Damon Harrison
- Leger Douzable
- Kenrick Ellis
- David Harris
- Demario Davis
- Nick Bellore
- Jeremiah George
- Quinton Coples
- Calvin Pace
- Jermaine Cunningham
- IK Enemkpali
- Dee Milliner
- Dimitri Patterson
- Kyle Wilson
- Darrin Walls
- Dexter McDougle
- Ellis Lankster
- Ras-I Dowling
- Calvin Pryor
- Antonio Allen
- Dawan Landry
- Rontez Miles
- Nick Folk
- Ryan Quigley
- Tanner Purdum
Special Teams (3)