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The Numbers Game at Wide Receiver

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Connor Orr takes a look at the competition to stick at wide receiver on the roster.

"Sometimes you can see the look on their faces; you know it’s in the back of their minds once the cuts really start to happen," Jets receivers coach Henry Ellard said of cutdown time. "They’re just kind of sitting there like, ‘Is he coming for me? What’s going on?’ "

This year, Ellard said the magic number for receivers is five, with the race for the final slot — joining Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and Jeremy Kerley — proving one of the tightest heading into the first roster cut deadline Tuesday.

Teams need to slim from 90 to 75, according to the league calendar. Four days later, on Sept. 3, they will shrink to the regular-season 53-man roster.

I am not completely sold on Ellard's comment. The Jets have been flexible in recent years with the number of guys on the roster. They have not said, "We need X guys at one positon." They tend to keep those whom they believe are the best football players. That is why they made the rare move of carrying two fullbacks last year. If a sixth receiver brings more value on special teams than a guy in another position, it behooves the team to carry an extra wideout.

We know four roster spots are set. The contenders to stay on the final roster at this point are probably Patrick Turner, Logan Payne, and Dan DePalma. Nobody else (sorry, Scotty McKnight fans, has jumped out).

I think Payne should stick. The guy has constantly been in the middle of things on special teams early in the preseason.

Westhoff giving DePalma his blessing is code for DePalma has a great chance to make the team. The fact of the matter is the fifth receiver on the depth chart will probably not see the field at all at the position. The Jets have four other wide receivers. They have Dustin Keller, who will split wide in five receiver sets. They also have Jeff Cumberland and Joe McKnight also capable of doing so.

I find it interesting because Patrick Turner is putting up decent numbers, but his path to the roster pretty much involves the coaching staff really believing it can develop him. Here's the thing about that. Why would the team have signed Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress if it believed Turner was capable of stepping up? And while Turner has played well, preseason stats are not really indicative of whether a guy can contribute when games are real. It is one thing to light up backups. It is another to be a good NFL player. Paging David Clowney and Brett Ratliff. When you are buried on the depth chart and will never see the field, guys who contribute on special teams have much more value than guys who do not.

I think Mike Westhoff's vote might count for more than Ellard's.