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Early Jets 53 Man Roster Reflections

New York Jets Training Camp Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

What can we say about the initial 53 man Jets roster in 2020? Here are some early thoughts.

Reading between the lines on injuries

Perhaps this is reading too much into things, but it was notable to see the Jets keep only three quarterbacks and three running backs. Joe Flacco is recovering from offseason neck surgery and will not be ready for the opener. He has been targeting a September return. Fourth round pick La’Mical Perine suffered an ankle injury late in training camp. The Jets didn’t sound overly concerned about his status over the last week.

I am not sure there is an appreciable difference between James Morgan or David Fales right now. The new looser practice squad rules also could allow the Jets to sign Fales (or Mike White) to the practice squad and activate him for Week 1 without using up a roster spot. Still it seems like a positive development that the Jets chose not to keep an extra quarterback or running back. It might be a sign of confidence in the respective recoveries of Flacco and Perine.

On the same note, the release of wide receiver Donte Moncrief might be a positive sign for the recovery of key wide receivers. The Jets signed him recently to provide a veteran presence. Now he doesn’t seem to be needed.

Getting serious about the offensive line

I don’t think there are many players on the Jets for whom there has been a greater gap between perception and reality over the last few years than Jonotthan Harrison.

Harrison was never viewed as a premium prospect coming out of college. He was an undrafted free agent. He has never held down a steady starting job in the NFL. He was part of an offensive line group with the Colts whose poor performance is famous for helping to derail the career of Andrew Luck, who was one of the top quarterback prospects of his generation. Over the last three years, Harrison hasn’t been good enough to claim a starting job on one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines. When he has been pressed into action he has player poorly individually, and the Jets’ offensive line has played poorly as a whole.

For whatever reason a perception has grown in the media and in the fanbase that Harrison is an above average backup who can be trusted when he is on the field.

On some level I can understand the reaction of beat writers to his release. Over the years you are around players every day. It’s natural to build relationships. Harrison by all accounts is a great guy who has done a lot of good work off the field. You feel for him on a tough day in his career.

As I said, to some extent I can give media members a pass for inflating his value upon his release. There are some things I can’t excuse, however.

Now this was the same writer who ripped the Jets last week for having virtual meetings instead of in person meetings in the middle of a pandemic so perhaps he’s just trying to invent ways to criticize the organization.

That said, I’m not sure how Harrison “bailed out” the Jets the last two seasons. Again he played poorly individually, and the Jets played poorly as a unit. Why would this player be entitled to a starting job when he has never been a starting level performer? Ryan Kalil didn’t work out, but the Jets aren’t allowed to try and upgrade their offensive line because they have Jonotthan Harrison at center? The Jets should pay him for incentives he didn’t hit? Remember, the reason he didn’t hit these incentives is they didn’t think he was good enough to hold a starting job. If this was a team legend like Nick Mangold, maybe I’d agree the Jets should do him a favor. This is a backup who spent three years with the team, though.

And as far as not doing him right, this is a player who might have struggled to find a spot on an NFL roster if not for the Jets. They paid him $2.75 million last year.

This writer has lost any credentials he ever had to evaluate offensive line play.

On a more serious note, however, one of the problems with the previous GM was his refusal to try to upgrade offensive line depth. Getting quality backups is one of the most difficult tasks for any NFL team. Just finding good offensive line starters is tough enough. You can’t build depth if you don’t try, though. The Jets have just brought back the same subpar backups year after year and then seemed surprised when things haven’t worked out. It is good to see them finally get serious about trying to upgrade the offensive line.

Thin by design?

A few people have commented on positions where the Jets look light on players, such as offensive line and safety. You can’t rule out the Jets adding players at these positions. Still I’m not convinced it is a lock.

Joe Douglas commented over the offseason that he was seeking offensive linemen with versatility, capable of playing multiple positions. When you have that, it allows the team to carry fewer players.

And at safety Gregg Williams frequently uses cornerbacks to handle safety responsibilities, especially his slot corner.

We will have to wait and see, but I don’t think it is a lock the Jets will add at these positions. I tend to believe they will only bring in a player if they think he is a perfect fit, not because they need to do so.

Low expectations for Bryce Hall’s rookie year

We were kind of heading in this direction anyway since he didn’t see the field in training camp, but Bryce Hall not being on the active roster for the start of the season makes expectations very low for year one.

We knew at the time he was drafted that he was coming off an injury. It wasn’t clear what his status for 2020 would be, but his fall to the fifth round might have been a clue in retrospect that he might see minimal action as a rookie.

Perhaps with a few extra months to heal, he can have a Bless Austin type rookie cameo late in the season, but it would be best to expect nothing and be pleasantly surprised if the Jets got more.

Jets fans should be looking at year two as a more realistic timeframe for a contribution.

What comes next?

I don’t make many guarantees, but I can guarantee you the initial 53 man roster will not look the same by the time the Jets open the season next week. It never does.

Considering the current composition of the roster, it is clear the 54th best player on some teams is better than the 53 best player on the Jets. Any such player should be claimed off waivers.

Wide receiver and kicker are among the positions where the Jets should be active on the waiver wire. There is also the matter of building a 16 player practice squad.

We will wait and see what they do over the next few days.