FanPost

Jets Depth Issues

Since the league went to a salary cap structure, it has become commonplace to shrug off any questions about a team's depth with a kind of generic "what're you gonna do, the cap means NOBODY has depth, good teams can't keep their own players", etc. This sort of analysis is true to a point, but I think less than helpful in analyzing a team's depth issues.

It is true that the cap has fundamentally changed the power structure of the NFL. Teams can no longer stockpile talent at every position. True dynasties are rare and are based almost exclusively on one position: QB. Nonetheless, to say the depth equation has changed is not to say there is now no way ANY team can have any good depth these days.

One helpful way to look at this issue might be as follows. Ask yourself, who on this team is not a starter (or quasi- starter who gets nearly starter minutes, like Wilson or LT last year), yet when you watch them get a chance to play, you think, "Man, this guy should be starting"? As some recent examples, think Leon Washington or Jerricho Cotchery before their roles expanded. Watching those guys in limited roles, I was thinking I wish the team would give them a shot, because I think they should start. Those who go back a ways like me might remember the bad old days of Rich Kotite, when I can distinctly remember watching Victor Green and Adrian Murrell and wonder why those guys weren't starting.

Now, fast forward to today. Which guys on Offense do you think should be starting? Ducasse? Powell? Patrick Turner? Some might say Kerley and McKnight, but with McKnight inheriting LT's role, those guys both are on the field so much they are already quasi-starters. I'm talking about guys with limited roles who you think should be playing major roles. The closest I can come to that on Offense is Cumberland, and he has seen such limited action it's hard to be sure what he might be.

How about Defense? Forget about Wilson, he's a quasi-starter. Who do we have? Pitoitua? Didn't look like a starter to me when he had opportunities. Dixon? Nice backup, but probably would be exposed as a starter. Our parade of LBs? Mauga, Bellore, MacIntyre? Did any of those guys when they got their chance make you take notice and clamor for more playing time? Maybe Maybin, some think he should be given a much larger role, but personally I think he is just too small to be anything but a situational pass rusher. How about Trufant, or Wilson? Anybody think they should be starters?

The point is, there isn't a single guy on this Jets team that I look at and say, wow, he should definitely be more than a role player, he should be getting a major role. There are 1 or 2 guys who might develop into that, but as of now, not one I think should be an NFL starter today. That is dangerously poor depth. The last few years have been kind to us healthwise. Our QB has missed 1 game in 3 years. Outside of Mangold's 3 games last year and one or two other games along the way, our OL has remained largely intact. Our TE, our WRs, our RBs have all remained healthy. Other than Revis for a few games, Thomas, Leonard and Jenkins, our Defense has also remained largely intact. Of those, only Jenkins and Thomas missed more than 1/2 a season. We have been blessed by good luck, as the IR list has largely bypassed any of our impact players. But that won't last forever. Sooner or later we will once again be bitten by the injury bug. Think about this. What if Sanchez goes down? Or Revis? Or Mangold, Brick, Greene, Holmes, or Harris? If any one of those guys go down, we probably struggle to be a .500 team. If any 2 go down, we're probably amongst the worst teams in the NFL. Compare that to a team like Houston, which lost a better QB than Sanchez, an All Pro WR, an All Pro De/LB, and for a few games an All Pro RB and still managed to go 10-6 and make the playoffs. THAT was a deep team. The Jets? Not so much. The rough equivalent would be us losing Sanchez, Revis and Holmes for the season, and Harris for a few games. Does anyone think we'd make the playoffs? Does anyone think we'd be better than 4-12? I don't.

Now, you might say that those issues will be addressed in the Draft. Maybe. But EVERY team has a draft, every year. It's not just the Jets who the Draft will improve, it's every team. We had a draft last year and the year before that and the year before that. Didn't prevent us from having paper thin depth today. Truth is, outside of the first 3 rounds, most of the draft just churns the back end of the roster. Guys who will never be more than special teamers/ role players are annually replaced by other guys who will never be more than special teamers/role players. Yes, we all know the exceptions. Brady was a 6th, Colston a 7th, Arian Foster and Priest Holmes UDFAs. But we remember those examples precisely because of how rare they are. The vast majority of impact players come from rounds 1-3 of the Draft. Look at our current Depth Chart. Out of 25 starters (counting Wilson, Kerley and McKnight), we have 1 guy on Defense, Devito, who wasn't taken in rounds 1-3. On Offense, we have 4 guys -- Moore, Slauson, Kerley and Mcknight. That's right, even everybody's favorite punching bags, Hunter and Smith, were 3rd round picks. So, out of 25 starters, 20 are Rounds 1-3, and of those, 10 are 1st Rounders. So what are the chances the Draft provides us with more than 2 or 3 starting caliber players? And of those, how many will be able to step into a major role right away? 1? 2? Despite our best hopes, chances are the Draft will not solve our depth problems, at least not this year.

Yes, it's true, the salary cap has made depth a perennial issue for all teams. But it's an issue other teams have done a much better job managing than the Jets have. Sooner or later, the Football gods will "bless" us with a few major injuries, and when they do, this issue will most certainly be our Achilles heel.

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