Making Call on the New York Jets' Hardest Remaining Cuts
More than any other year under Rex Ryan's leadership, there are going to be a ton of tough cuts to be made by the Jets brass at the conclusion of this year's training camp on both sides of the ball.
Some recent injuries have cleared the picture a bit, but the Jets are still going to have their hands full trying to fit as many of their draft picks on the team as possible without diluting the overall talent of their roster. After all, as much as the Jets are looking to win this year, they must find a balance between developing young players and producing on the field.
Here are some early verdicts on some of the hardest cuts the New York Jets will have to make at the conclusion of training camp.
Greg Salas: Safe
At the start of camp, Greg Salas looked like an inevitable casualty of the numbers game, but mounting injuries to the receiver position have given Salas a direct path to the final roster.
Salas has taken advantage of his new-found opportunities, leading the team with 31 receiving yards in the last preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kimberley Martin of Newsday reported Salas was also one of the few productive offensive players during the Green and White scrimmage.
Salas has always had enough ability to stick on an NFL roster, but he would have been held back by the volume of rookies and higher-valued free agents. Now that Shaq Evans is out for the season, per Dom Cosentino of NJ.com, and Jalen Saunders is sidelined indefinitely according to Rich Cimini of ESPN, Salas will not just earn a spot on the roster—he will also be needed by the Jets to fill in the remaining holes on the receiving corps.
That said, Salas will certainly have to continue to produce in the preseason to keep coaches convinced that the former member of the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad is able to take on a more meaningful role.
Either way, the picture looks much less bleak for Salas than it did just a few weeks ago.
Quincy Enunwa: Out
Injuries to the receiver position may have created some room for the likes of Greg Salas, but space on the receiver depth chart is still at a premium. Assuming Salas is kept on the roster, the only way sixth-round pick Quincy Enunwa makes the final roster is if the Jets decide to keep an unusual amount of receivers on the roster.
Slowed by a hip injury at the start of camp, Enunwa seems destined for the practice squad. His status as a sixth-round pick hardly reserves him a spot on the roster, but John Idzik is certainly not interested in wasting any of his draft picks—especially with one already headed to injured reserve (Shaq Evans), as announced by the team.
While it certainly won't be as kind to his bank account, spending a redshirt season on the practice squad could be a blessing in disguise for Enunwa. He has a huge frame at 6'2", 225 pounds that needs a ton of refinement before being put on an NFL field.
A.J. Edds: Safe
Hardly an afterthought at the start of training camp, A.J. Edds has emerged from thin air to become a favorite to win an unlikely job as a backup inside linebacker.
The former fourth-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2010 faced incredibly long odds to make the roster after the team used a sixth-round pick on Jeremiah George. However, based on the playing time he has received, Edds is already far ahead of George on the depth chart.
In Saturday's preseason game against the Bengals, Edds was running alongside veteran Nick Bellore with the second-team defense. His eight tackles in the first preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, per Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press, went a long way in putting him in the favorable position he finds himself in.
Very few teams are willing to replace a fifth-round rookie who has more upside with a fourth-year journeyman, but Edds' production is undeniable. Barring a total collapse over the next couple of weeks, his roster spot will be secure.
Clyde Gates: Safe
Drafting three receivers appeared to signal the end of the Clyde Gates project, but somehow, it appears as if the Miami Dolphins' castoff is going to survive for one more season on the Jets' roster.
Injuries to Saunders and Evans have certainly helped Gates' cause, but he has produced enough in his own right to be kept around. He showed off his signature speed (and a touch of toughness) on an impressive 17-yard touchdown from Michael Vick.
It is uncertain as to how many receivers the Jets will wind up carrying, but as the fifth receiver on Ourlads.com, Gates already has one foot in the door.
If Salas surges and Saunders is able to return sooner than later, Gates could find himself as a sudden odd man out—but for now, Gates has a better chance of surviving the final cut day than anyone else could have envisioned at the start of camp.
Jacoby Ford: Safe
Staying with the theme of roster-bubble receivers, return specialist Jacoby Ford is yet another benefactor of the rash of injuries to the younger receivers who may have taken his place.
Ford has made little impact as a receiver, finishing with zero catches in Saturday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he stands alone as the best return man on the roster. He has handled all of the team's kick return duties and split time with Jeremy Kerley for the punt return job.
Ford has yet to make a highlight-reel play, but he did have a nice 30-yard return in Saturday's game.
Even more importantly, Ford has managed to stay healthy. Having not played a full season since his rookie year in 2010, durability will always be a concern that surrounds Ford.
There is a chance that the Jets choose to replace Ford with a mix of Kerley and Clyde Gates to save a roster spot, but the recent spike in injuries may force them to hang onto a return specialist to help protect some of their more important offensive players.
Ras-I Dowling: Out
With so many injuries adding up at the cornerback position, New England Patriots castoff Ras-I Dowling would have had a tremendous opportunity to hit the reset button on his career, stepping into a wide-open starting role left by Dee Milliner.
Unfortunately, Dowling has once again succumbed to the injury ghosts that have haunted him throughout his career.
According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, Dowling is dealing with groin issues once again—the same problem area that led to his eventual release from the Patriots last year. Antonio Allen's move to cornerback signals the little faith the team has in Dowling's (or anyone else's) ability to play in meaningful action by the start of the season.
As thin as the Jets are at cornerback, the last thing they can afford is to waste a roster space on a veteran who is trying to get healthy for the first time in his career. Rex Ryan needs players who can be available to help in the immediate future, and Dowling looks like he will be nothing more than a headache that will spend more time in the trainer's room than on the field.
Rontez Miles: Safe
In a matter of days, Rontez Miles went from being a long shot to make the team to having a legitimate chance to steal the final safety spot on the roster.
The recent hash of injuries to the cornerback position will not only force the team to hang on to some extra defensive backs, but it has also forced Antonio Allen to transition to cornerback, opening up a final spot on the depth chart for Miles to sneak onto.
Miles made his biggest statement of the summer during the Green and White scrimmage, recording a sack and a pass breakup, via Rich Cimini of ESPN. This was on the heels of an impressive spring that caused Rex Ryan to take notice, per Seth Walder of New York Daily News.
The Jets know they have an NFL-caliber player in Miles, but the numbers game will determine whether or not he winds up making the squad. If Allen stays at cornerback, Miles stands a solid chance to replace him on the safety depth chart.
Caleb Schlauderaff: Out
While some leftover projects from the Mike Tannenbaum era stand a good chance to stick around (Clyde Gates), this may be the end of the road for depth offensive lineman Caleb Schlauderaff.
Since he arrived via a trade with the Green Bay Packers in 2011, Schlauderaff's stint with the Jets has been nondescript. Outside of the preseason, Schlauderaff never saw meaningful regular-season action. The fact that he has stuck around so long as a backup shows that the Jets have been at least content with their backup center situation, but at some point, finding an upgrade with more upside is a priority.
While Schlauderaff continues to spin his wheels, Dalton Freeman has taken the backup center job by the throat in his return from injury:
Dalton Freeman working as first-team center. Haven't seen Nick Mangold here today at practice.— Darryl Slater (@DarrylSlater) August 18, 2014
According to Pro Football Focus, Schlauderaff has seen less than half of the amount of snaps this preseason that Freeman has, playing in just 32 to Freeman's 77.
With so many extra receivers and defensive backs to keep, the Jets may start to pick at their offensive line depth for roster space. If Freeman continues to outplay Schlauderaff, the Jets will have no reason to keep around a backup lineman who has not shown significant signs of improvement in four years.
Advanced stats provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).