QUARTERBACK: Sam Darnold, Josh McCown (2)
The easiest position to predict. Teddy Bridgewater is out, a 3rd round selection is in, and Sam Darnold will be taking snaps from Spencer Long at Ford Field in just under two weeks’ time.
WIDE RECEIVER: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Terrelle Pryor, Jermiane Kearse, Chad Hansen, Charone Peake, Andre Roberts (7)
ArDarius Stewart’s two-game suspension makes this group a bit easier to decipher as of right now. Beyond the four locks, there is plenty of room to safely include Roberts as a return specialist and Hansen as a draft pick golden boy in spite of his quiet preseason.
The competition lies beyond those six. Tre McBride has had a solid preseason. Charles Johnson leads the team in receiving and leads wide receivers in targets and receptions, but has made some timely mistakes.
I’m leaning with Peake. He has the favoring of being an in-house selection, and provides value on special teams (he played 29% of ST snaps in 2016). While Tre McBride has generated a lot of hype, he and Peake have the same amount of first downs (2 each) - and Peake has only seen two targets.
Johnson or McBride making the roster over Peake would not surprise me, though. The big question will be who ArDarius Stewart replaces upon return from suspension - if he has proved enough to replace anybody.
RUNNING BACK: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Elijah McGuire, Trenton Cannon, FB - Lawrence Thomas (5)
McGuire was reported to be sidelined for 3-6 weeks back on July 29th. Even if not ready for Week 1, I don’t think the team will stash him on IR if he is week-to-week.
Cannon has turned heads for the wrong reasons in the preseason with his 3 fumbles on kick/punt returns, but I think he has flashed enough as a runner throughout camp and the preseason to the point where the team will not risk losing him on the waiver wire this soon. As you’ll see throughout this piece, the depth on this team is just not strong enough to the point where there are any names worth keeping over Cannon in spite of his special teams issues.
I was rooting for Dimitri Flowers to win a spot and thought he would due to Thomas’ struggles at times last year, but Thomas has really showed up this offseason. Flowers, meanwhile, has struggled to earn playing time. I think Thomas holds on to his fullback spot. The team likes to utilize the position and Thomas has done enough to retain the position.
TIGHT END: Neal Sterling, Clive Walford, Chris Herndon (3)
Eric Tomlinson is clearly a team favorite, but I don’t think he has excelled enough at his one tool (in-line blocking) to stave off a trio of competitors who all have much more receiving upside.
Herndon has received positive buzz all camp and will be on the team as a 4th-round pick. Sterling has impressed as a receiver. I can see him being the primary receiving option at tight end to start the year while the team tries to phase in Herndon as the season goes on. Walford has not been as impressive as Sterling catching the football but has certainly been the second-best all-around tight end throughout the preseason. His blocking is plenty solid enough to supplant the loss of Tomlinson, while he has proven capable of decent receiving production throughout his career.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Kelvin Beachum, James Carpenter, Spencer Long, Brian Winters, Brandon Shell, Brent Qvale, Jonotthan Harrison, Antonio Garcia, Travis Swanson (9)
The starting five is locked in. If healthy, it’s a unit that has the potential to be decent if a few internal progressions can be made. Spencer Long can improve his run blocking. So can Brandon Shell - and he has shown tremendous improvement in that area in the preseason. James Carpenter needs to bounce back and prove he can sustain competency in this zone-based scheme. Brian Winters needs to prove he can maintain his peak level of play consistently.
Anyway, in terms of the final 53, the backup battle seems to be very open. Brent Qvale seems like the only lock - ironic since he has easily been the worst performing lineman on the team throughout preseason.
Ben Ijalana would be here, but he has been placed on IR. I think Jonotthan Harrison has been impressive enough in the run game to earn a spot. Though his pass protection is spotty, he’s thrown a few strong blocks in the run game, especially beyond the line of scrimmage. Harrison can rotate between center and guard, much like,Travis Swanson, who I think has enough starting experience to make the team.
If Harrison and Swanson both make the team, the Jets will need another reserve tackle. I think Antonio Garcia’s upside as a 3rd-round pick from just a year ago will be enough for him to make the team with this offensive line group looking so thin. Dakota Dozier is my last man out. He has played both guard and tackle in the preseason, but I don’t think he’s as good an interior player as Swanson or Harrison, nor does he seem fit to play tackle.
It still feels bold to predict Dozier to miss the team. He has a decent shot. However, I’m banking that the team will take a shot on the upside of Garcia on this unit starved for youth and talent. He’s been passable enough this preseason for final-53 consideration.
CORNERBACK: Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Derrick Jones, Parry Nickerson, Darryl Roberts (6)
Not a tough position to predict, outside of how Parry Nickerson is handled. The rookie has looked strong when healthy, but has yet to suit up this preseason. He was reportedly back at practice this week. Could he suit up against Philadelphia? If healthy, Nickerson seems like a lock, and this final six seems pretty set in stone. Roberts is inconsistent but was quietly a decent #2 last year. You could do much worse with a backup outside corner. Derrick Jones has had a strong camp and continued that into the first preseason game - though his health is also a question mark.
Juston Burris has not done enough to justify a roster spot. Neither has Jeremy Clark, who is just rarely healthy.
Terrelle Sinkfield is a dark horse to back up Buster Skrine in the slot if Nickerson starts the season on IR.
Rashard Robinson has had an especially great preseason, but is suspended for the first four games of the season. I’d expect him to take one of these spots upon return - most likely I would bet it is Roberts’ place that will be taken, but we shall see how the position pans out.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Frankie Luvu, Dylan Donahue (4)
Jenkins and Martin are locks. Jenkins can add more to his pass-rushing repertoire and needs to finish for more sacks, but is a tough run-defending strongisde outside ‘backer.
Martin is a very good special teamer who is consistently among the league leaders in tackles on punt and kick returners. In 2017, he was solidly productive as a weakside outside linebacker.
The race is on beyond those two. Ultimately, I think the level of both talent and production throughout the preseason is so low among this group, the Jets would be best served leaning towards youth.
Donahue has had very troublesome off-field issues this offseason and could potentially be suspended, but until that happens I think the team will stick with its recent draftee. Donahue is not technically “young” (he is crazily already 26 before beginning his second season), but as a player drafted by this regime only a year ago, I think he’s done enough to warrant making the team on this razor-thin depth chart.
Luvu, who will turn 22 in less than a month, is by far the youngest player on the team at this position. He’s received a healthy amount of playing time with the backups. Luvu and Donahue are the only edge defenders on the team with a sack this preseason, with one each.
Brandon Copeland could also make the team. He received a lot of playing time against the Giants. Obum Gwacham and David Bass (who has the most sacks of any returning Jet) are in the mix but both have been dead silent. Lorenzo Mauldin is seemingly toast.
INSIDE LINEBACKER: Darron Lee, Avery Williamson, Neville Hewitt, Kevin Minter (4)
Lee and Williamson are locks. Lee will reprise his role while Williamson will take the place of Demario Davis, as proved in the Giants game where Williamson (a two-down player a year ago) played every down with the starters.
Hewitt has been exceptional throughout the preseason playing with the reserves. He has diagnosed and broke on plays very quickly against both the run and pass. Minter has starting experience and has also performed well.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, a coverage specialist, should find a place on the team when he returns from a one-game suspension. His contract is partially guaranteed. Will he take the place of an inside linebacker? Hewitt and Minter have been far promising than the reserves at most other positions.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Leonard Williams, Henry Anderson, Nathan Shepherd, Steve McLendon, Folorunso Fatukasi, Mike Pennel (6)
I think there are five locks in the group - Williams, Anderson, Shepherd, McLendon, and Pennel. The only question here to me is whether the team keeps only one or both of Xavier Cooper and Fatukasi.
Cooper flashed as a pass rusher last season, but ultimately I don’t think there is enough room for the team to hold seven defensive linemen. I would rather see the team give Fatukasi some rotational reps, and I think they will feel the same.
This will be a fun unit to watch. There are lot of unique talents here, and it seems clear the Jets are going to look to mix and match their lineups quite a bit. The defensive line could be the calling card of this team once again.
SAFETY: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Terrence Brooks, Doug Middleton (4)
This may not be the case, but I personally feel like Brooks is a lock. He was solid last season and seems to be a favorite of the team.
The battle looks to be between Middleton and J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox is a bigger name and has flashed with some big hits throughout the preseason, but has struggled in coverage. I think his hard-hitting, downhill style is redundant to what the Jets have in their two starters. I feel like Middleton has showcased more versatility, and he also collected more snaps in the Giants game (24 to 10). In addition, he’s had a knack for big plays with the Jets, picking up a right-place-right-time interception against the Redskins and a miraculous touchdown on special teams against the Bills in the 2016 season finale.
Any of two of those three could take the backup spots until Rontez Miles returns, but my picks are Middleton and Brooks.
SPECIALISTS: Jason Myers, Thomas Hennessy, Lachlan Edwards (3)
I’ve put a lot of thought and research into this kicker situation. I think it could be a real issue for this team. Myers is not a good kicker. He is poor from distance, in the clutch, and on extra points.
I have really been rooting for Taylor Bertolet, but with him missing an extra point against the Giants and the team adding an influx of competition, his prospects aren’t looking too favorable. In addition, rookie kickers have tended to struggle mightily in recent years, and have rarely provided above-average play.
I think the Jets are leaning towards the slightly more experienced (to quote Thanos: if you consider failure experience) Myers right now, but this team would really benefit from a more promising name emerging from the wave of cuts coming over the next few days. I would not be confident with either of these names going into the year.