Jets' Projected Winners of Key Position Battles

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 16, 2021

Jets' Projected Winners of Key Position Battles

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    First-year head coach Robert Saleh led the New York Jets into game action for the first time Saturday night. And he and his team emerged victorious from the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

    It may have only been a 12-7 preseason victory, but there were still events that occurred on the field that could influence the Jets' decision-making. There are some key position battles taking place in New York's training camp, and its three preseason contests could help determine the winners of starting jobs and roster spots.

    The Jets have two more preseason games on the schedule (Saturday at Green Bay and Aug. 27 vs. Philadelphia). By the time they are opening the regular season on Sept. 12 with a road matchup against the Carolina Panthers, their 53-man roster and depth chart will be set.

    Here's a look at how several key battles are going for New York, along with a projected winner for each.

Running Back

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Jets have four solid running backs competing for playing time: Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson and La'Mical Perine. Only three of them were in action Saturday, as Coleman missed the preseason opener for personal reasons.

    Carter and Johnson both got time with the first-team offense, but neither was overly impressive. Johnson led New York with 33 yards on nine carries, while the rookie had seven carries for 22 yards. Perine had 12 carries for 30 yards, scoring New York's lone touchdown on a 4-yard rush in the third quarter.

    Regardless of who ends up being listed at No. 1 on the depth chart, multiple running backs are likely to split the workload for the Jets this season. But it seems likely that either Coleman, who signed as a free agent in March, or Carter, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, will get the most touches. Coleman is a proven veteran, and Carter has tremendous upside and potential.

    Coleman was listed as the No. 1 running back on the first unofficial depth chart New York released. That seems unlikely to change, as the 28-year-old will give the Jets a proven playmaker for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to lean on early in the season. But don't be surprised if Carter ascends to the top at some point in 2021.

    Projection: Coleman stays the No. 1 running back (for now).

Right Tackle

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    RICH SCHULTZ/Associated Press

    George Fant started 14 games at right tackle for the Jets last season, and at one point, it seemed he would be there again to open the 2021 season. Then New York signed Morgan Moses in July, acquiring a 30-year-old with 97 career starts at right tackle to compete with Fant for the job.

    Moses played well over his seven seasons with Washington, and he never missed a game between 2015 and 2020. His experience and leadership could be invaluable on a fairly inexperienced New York offensive line that will feature 22-year-olds Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker as starters on the left side.

    It was clear how the Jets view the right tackle competition at this point after the preseason opener. Moses played with the first team, and Fant played with the backups. And it seems that things have been going well for Moses all training camp.

    "At the end of the day, I'm here to get myself better and try to make this team and the offensive line better," Moses recently said, per Randy Lange of the Jets' official site.

    This battle seems to be over, barring any unexpected events occurring. And while Fant will move to a backup role, that will improve New York's depth up front, which could be valuable later on.

    Projection: Moses starts at right tackle.

Wide Receiver

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    When Corey Davis signed with the Jets in March, he became their clear No. 1 wide receiver. Jamison Crowder is their top returning receiver, and he will likely be starting in the slot. But who will be the third receiver lining up with the first-team offense when Week 1 arrives?

    There are a lot of options for New York to consider. Denzel Mims, Vyncint Smith and Braxton Berrios all have experience with the team, while free-agent acquisition Keelan Cole is also in the mix. Plus, rookie Elijah Moore has been turning heads in training camp after getting taken in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft.

    Mims (three catches for 51 yards) and Smith (three catches for 39 yards) put up the best numbers Saturday. Cole started for the Jets, but Moore also didn't suit up because of a groin injury. Once he returns, perhaps he will get a preseason start. He's continually shown he should be getting an opportunity.

    Saleh recently said that Moore is "special," per The Athletic's Connor Hughes. And when a team has a special player, it normally wants him on the field. Expect Moore to cap his impressive camp by landing the open starting job at receiver.

    Projection: Moore starts alongside Davis and Crowder.