Report Card Grades for Every Positional Unit on the New York Jets' Roster

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor IJune 26, 2012

Report Card Grades for Every Positional Unit on the New York Jets' Roster

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    With training camp just one month away, the New York Jets seem pretty well set with the roster they will trot out on the first day of camp on July 26. 

    There may be some minor tweaks, but for the most part, the bulk of the Jets' final 53-man roster will be made up of players who are currently under contract with the team.

    At the end of the 2011 season, it was evident that the Jets had holes in just about every unit on the roster.  They've since made changes at every position, but that doesn't mean all the questions are answered.

    The team will be relying on rookies, veterans with question marks and one polarizing quarterback to provide upgrades to last year's team.

    Although the final roster is still some time away from being set in stone, here are the current grades for each unit on the Jets.

Quarterbacks: C

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    Fans will get their answer this year about whether Mark Sanchez's 2011 regression was a product of his own limitations or Brian Schottenheimer's haphazard play-calling.

    Sanchez still deserves a ton of credit for his postseason success during his first two seasons, but after the way he played at the close of last season, questions still remain about his development.

    Last season was only Sanchez's fourth as a starter (one year at USC, three in the NFL), but it is now make-or-break time for him.

    Despite all the controversy and hoopla surrounding Tim Tebow, the fact remains that he is a solid option as a backup quarterback.  

    If the Jets use him properly, he can be a dangerous weapon.  At the very least, he is a huge upgrade over Mark Brunell.

    Greg McElroy is also a nice option to have floating there as a No. 3 quarterback.


    Too many questions remain to give the unit a higher grade.  Sanchez and Tebow have combined to win five playoff games over the past three seasons, including wins over Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.  But "consistency" is the magic word this year for both Sanchez and Tebow.

Running Backs: B-

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    This unit is tough to judge, as its production relies greatly on the production of the offensive line.

    Shonn Greene isn't a running back who will create on his own, so he needs that hole to make something happen.  With LaDainian Tomlinson gone, Greene may be asked to take on an even bigger workload in 2012.

    The Jets better hope Greene is able to stay health and productive, because there isn't another running back on the roster who has any real experience.

    For a team expected to re-commit to the running game, having players like Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell and Terrance Ganaway as its backups isn't the ideal situation.

    The Jets are counting on McKnight to continue to develop and finally find explosiveness in his running game.  

    Powell needs to show more or he is at risk of losing his roster spot to Ganaway, who has the potential to be a bull of a running back.

    Although Ganaway can play fullback as well, chances are that John Connor will return at fullback.


    The production of this unit relies largely on McKnight's ability to step into the role played by Tomlinson the past two seasons.  The Jets know what they will get out of Greene, who needs to do a little better job hanging onto the football.  Greene will take what the line gives him.  Powell, Ganaway or a training-camp pickup should have a real opportunity to get a lot of snaps this season.  

Offensive Line/Tight End: B-

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    Viewed as a strength of the team in 2010, this unit took the biggest step backwards in 2011.  

    The fact that the Jets' offensive line sent three players to the Pro Bowl in 2011 remains nothing short of a joke, Nick Mangold notwithstanding.

    Mangold is the anchor at center and quite honestly is on his way to Canton if he continues this level of play.

    The other two Pro Bowlers, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Moore, need to become more well-rounded in 2012.  Ferguson did fine in the run game, but inexplicably gave up more sacks than Wayne Hunter last year.  Moore did not allow a sack all season, but didn't get any kind of push in the run game.

    If Hunter isn't beaten out by free-agent signees Stephon Heyer or Ray Willis, Mark Sanchez is in big trouble again.

    Expect a bounce-back year from Matt Slauson who played a majority of the 2011 season with a severely injured shoulder.  He should bounce back from extensive surgery and return as a solid choice at guard.  Though he didn't play well in 2011, he gets a pass for toughing it out with such a severe injury.

    Vladimir Ducasse will hopefully be someone else's problem in 2012.  If he hasn't improved and Heyer and Willis show any ability, Ducasse will be gone.  

    The tight end position is being lumped in with the linemen, and that unit will be led by Dustin Keller again.  A favorite target of Sanchez, Keller needs to develop into the weapon that he should be.  The hope here is that he is used more consistently in the game plan under Tony Sparano.


    Mangold's presence keeps this grade from dropping any further, but Hunter's presence keeps it from going any higher.  Ferguson and Keller need to return to their 2010 form for this unit to take a step forward.  A ton of questions surround the remaining players along the line, but at least they seem to have more depth here than they did in 2011. 

    One thing to note is that respected line coach Bill Callahan left the Jets at the end of the season when he was told he wouldn't be considered for offensive coordinator.  He was replaced by Dave DeGuglielmo.

Wide Receivers: B

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    The paradox of the New York Jets is that they plan to be a running team but have better wide receivers than they do running backs.

    Santonio Holmes has done all the right things in the offseason to work his way back into the team's good graces, but he will have to produce in order to win the fans back.  Holmes may have been the happiest Jet when Brian Schottenheimer left for the Rams.

    Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley give the Jets two young options at receiver.  The sky appears to be the limit for the rookie Hill, while Kerley showed last season as a rookie that he could be a trusted receiver.

    Chaz Schilens and Patrick Turner should expect to play a role as well. 

    If Holmes returns to form and Hill is as good as expected, this unit has the potential to be a real strength of the team.  

    That's if Sanchez can get the ball to them.


    The weapons are there; it's just a matter of the line keeping Mark Sanchez standing upright and Sanchez hitting his targets.   

Defensive Line: A-

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    The defensive line has the potential to become the top unit on the roster, and Rex Ryan has recognized that by admitting he will use a 4-3 defense more frequently in 2012.

    Besides the currently jailed Kenrick Ellis, there isn't a weak spot or question mark out there.

    Sione Pouha is back to anchor the unit and there is no reason to believe that he won't continue his Pro Bowl level of play in 2012.  The ends should be held down by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, both of whom have the potential to be a fearsome pairing.

    Mike DeVito should also return healthy from a knee injury that hampered him 2011, but at 28 years old, he will have to prove it hasn't caused him to lose a step.


    If Wilkerson takes a step forward and Coples is as good as advertised, this Jets starting defensive line could be among the best in the NFL.  The line isn't particularly deep, though, so any injury to their "big three" would be devastating.  Also, the line is going to have to show the ability to get to the quarterback on its own if the Jets want to be an elite defensive unit. 

Linebackers: C-

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    Aside from David Harris and the handful of plays Aaron Maybin made when he was on the field, the Jets' linebacking unit didn't have the best season in 2011.

    At the conclusion of the 2011 season, it was expected that the Jets would get younger and upgrade over players like Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas.

    Although they added dynamic rookie Demario Davis, Pace, Thomas and Scott expect to play significant roles again in 2012.

    That should cause concern for Jets fans.

    While Harris is a tackling machine, he doesn't have sideline-to-sideline range like an elite linebacker.

    If Maybin is able to play a more expanded role and Davis is the beast that Darrelle Revis and the Jets think he'll be, the unit might perform better than expected.

    But as of right now, it's too old and limited.


    Davis provides the only real reason for excitement here, but if he was that good, wouldn't he have been drafted higher?  Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine made a very smart move in saying they will use a 4-3 defense a lot of the time, and it appears they will try to scheme their way past this unit's shortcomings.

Secondary: A

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    After an 8-8 finish to the 2011 season, it was evident that the Jets had holes all over their roster.  The one unit in which they seem to have best addressed their deficiencies is the secondary.

    After an injury to Jim Leonhard and brutal play by Eric Smith, the Jets added LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and seemed to get great value in drafting Antonio Allen.

    Smith fares better as a part-time player, so a rotation of Landry, Bell, Smith and Allen at safety actually looks pretty good.

    Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis should remain the elite pairing they are expected to be at corner, while Kyle Wilson continues to develop.

    Rex Ryan employs a ton of corners, so the rest of the unit should remain fluid, but with the core they have in place, the Jets' secondary is expected to be elite.

    If the team can generate an increased pass rush, it will help the secondary even further.


    Revis' contract situation remains up in the air, but things don't seem as dire as they did in 2010.  On top of their pass-coverage skills, Smith, Revis, Landry, Bell and Allen all are strong tacklers and will help tremendously in the run game.  Expect this unit to continue to be among the NFL's best.

Special Teams: C+

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    If the Jets want to return to being an elite team, they really better hope their kicking situation improves.  

    They can get away with Nick Folk kicking, even though they brought in veteran Josh Brown as competition, but T.J. Conley is a subpar punter to say the least.

    Folk's field-goal percentage ranked near the bottom of the league last season, but he has shown a knack for making clutch kicks at times.  He has also shown some ability to hit the long field goal.

    Conley, on the other hand, didn't show much as a rookie.

    His 42.7-yards-per-punt average was the second lowest among all full-time kickers, and he wasn't adept at directional kicking either.

    If he could hang his hat on anything, it's that he only had six touchbacks on 92 punts for one of the best ratios in the league.

    The Jets' return game is what keeps this grade from dropping any lower.  Until a midseason meltdown of turnovers and penalties, the Jets were one of the top return teams in the league. 

    It seems that no matter whom Mike Westhoff puts back on kick returns, they will succeed.  Expect that role to fall to Joe McKnight again.  

    The loss of Jim Leonhard hurt in the punt return game, as his sure hands were severely missed when he was injured.  

    Punt return duties in 2012 should fall to Jeremy Kerley, who was fourth in the AFC with a 10.9 return average in 2011.


    Just having Mike Westhoff directing this unit means the Jets will do well in their return and kick coverage games.  Fans can also expect their fair share of big plays.  However, with Folk and Conley as the kicking incumbents, this grade can't be any higher than a C+.

    Westhoff has announced that he will retire from the NFL after this season.  The bone cancer survivor has missed a large portion of the Jets' offseason workouts, as he is recovering from surgery that was necessary when the titanium rod in his left leg broke.