With the start of the Jets season staring us in the face there is anxiousness and anxiety along with hopeful positivity. The roster is still an evolving thing for every NFL team, especially for a rebuilding franchise. I would like to take a look at some players the Jets might/should have an interest in as free agents (in case of injury) plus some other thoughts on the roster.
Every team has injuries so depth is always going to be tested. It is best to have a good bench but also an emergency list of players you could call on in case of injury. Many times you can find a player who is worthy.
They also have a list of younger players they feel have a skill set that matches the scheme. If a backup or special teams guy goes down they can call one of these players.
Players are not robots. Each has his own identity. Teams have learned the hard way about finding players with good character and a positive attitude along with the desire to work hard in order to improve. It may seem trivial but there is a reason the old adage exists that “you never know a person until you you live with that person.” Teams nearly live together for the season so your character will be exposed. They say hard times build character ,but that is a false narrative. Hard times reveal your true character (good or bad).
So far I personally believe that Joe Douglas has done a very good job of bringing in much more quality this year than he has in the past. Just like rookie players Joe was a rookie GM who was learning on the job. He made some poor moves (which was to be expected) but at least he didn’t make the huge Maccagnan like blunder that would be a albatross around the neck of the team for years. So let’s see what Joe has done recently and what can do to improve the team going forward.
Quality move in reaction to injury
Joe must have felt a gut punch when he saw that his high priced edge rusher Carl Lawson went down with a season ending injury in the preseason. Add to that the loss of Vinny Curry who was to be a situational edge threat who also went down with an injury. Welcome to the Jets, Joe, where things like this are a common theme.
Joe was able to acquire a player like Shaq Lawson for a 6th round pick. That pick was actually acquired from the 49ers in the Jordan Willis trade so basically the Jets traded Willis for Lawson which is a huge upgrade in talent. That is not to say that Lawson is some great talent, but he is an upgrade none the less.
I personally never liked Lawson in the draft as I had him as a bottom 3rd to a high 4th round prospect in 2016. He (to my delight) was over drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 18th overall pick in the 1st round. Naturally he was a bust in Buffalo starting only 17 of a possible 64 games and managing only 16 1⁄2 sacks and 108 tackles in 4 years. He then spent a season in Miami where he had 4 sacks with 32 total tackles then moved on to Houston where he never played a single down, was demoted to the 2nd team defense, and was traded to the Jets.
You may wonder why I believe this was a positive signing for the Jets. Well it is simple. Lawson is no longer a rookie but a player in the prime of his career. He was never without talent coming out of Clemson. He is just not a great edge rusher like you would imagine. In my draft book an ACC offensive coach said, “I see Shaq as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He’s not the guy you want to turn loose against the quarterback, but he is the guy that will make it hard for tight ends to block him in the run game. We knew we couldn’t run at him and it changed how we called plays.” So Shaq was a better edge setter than a edge rusher. He also has short arms for an edge guy with 32 3/4” length.
That said he is now a 27 year old player with 5 years of experience. I think the system run by Robert Saleh is near perfect for Shaq Lawson’s skill set. Lawson is a decent athlete and ran 4.7/40 at the combine at 269 lbs so he is no slouch. Saleh’s system is a get it and go type system which frees Lawson up to just get to the QB like he did here.
This move is a variation of a chop, rip, dip, and go move that is a great maneuver for a rusher with limited length. You can see he has some quickness, and he is stronger than you would think for his size. Lawson himself was happily surprised to be traded to the Jets. He said, “I was very happy when I got traded. When I found out I was coming here I was excited. This defense, you don’t gotta think. You can just go attack and be aggressive. It takes the thinking out of football. That’s what I mean by being myself. I’m just going to give them the Shaq Lawson version.”
Now of course Lawson was happy to come here from Houston who is bereft of talent, and he was relegated to the 2nd string. Yet with his skill set fit to the Saleh system I doubt or better yet I know this is a great deal for Joe Douglas to make especially at the price. He wasn’t going to get much more after cut down day even at a higher price.
Players the Jets should trade for
Currently that list is a fat zero as the team readies for its season opening game. The Jets have a roster that should surprise many as the season progresses, but the goal of this front office is always the Super Bowl as it should be. The Jets have accumulated a nice assortment of Draft picks, and it would be folly to trade any premium picks away for a chance at anything that is not a young, franchise type player.
This is not to say the Jets couldn’t use some players that would be available, but you have to wonder why they are available at this point just before the season was to begin. Most teams have their roster set so any player they might get rid of throws up a serious red flag. Besides as of right now with the college season just starting it appears for now that every team will have a full season. This is unlike last year where most teams played abbreviated schedules, and some talented players sat out the season.
The Jets currently have (to by best knowledge) 2- 1st round, 2- 2nd round, 1- 3rd round, 2- 4th round, 2- 5th round and a 6th round pick in the 2022 Draft. Having 7 picks in the first 4 rounds is a nice way to build a roster and gives you serious trading options. So anything that upsets the Draft pick apple cart at this point would (within exceptions) be foolhardy.
The Jets could also trade a player, but as of now I don’t see a player who would bring an additional premium pick so I don’t see the reason to make a trade. Later in the season when teams have injuries I could see them trading away a player like Jamison Crowder if Elijah Moore becomes the player that we think he will be. Even then it would be foolish to strip yourself of a nice option in the passing game for a 6th round pick. You want Zach Wilson to develop so give him as many tools as he needs even if we lose Crowder for nothing next year. Now if a contending team has an injury and want to pony up a 3rd or 4th round pick that is another story.
Players that should be on the call list
The first thing to do when building a list is to understand where you need help plus where the team is weakest in terms of depth. I will list a few players at some spots, but I will not be adding any QBs (They don’t know the system.) or WRs since we have enough with adequate players on the practice squad with knowledge of the offense. I think the defense will get a large portion of the list since there seems to be the greatest need there right now.
The list of players who I believe would benefit the Jets if needed is always evolving.
Quinton Dunbar CB 6’ 2” 202 lbs 29 years old
Dunbar went undrafted out of Florida in 2015. He was signed by The Football Team playing in 11 games as a rookie. He has started 23 of the last 24 games he played in with the Team and the Seahawks. Dunbar has had some off field troubles and injury problems although he is supposedly healthy now. He had a chronic knee problem that would definitely have to be checked before any decision on a contract could be made. In 64 games (31 starts) he has 10 INTs, 40 PBU and 180 total tackles. He can play in any defense. Here he is in man to man coverage.
This pick of Eli Manning inside with the Giants inside the 10 yard line was huge for the defense. Dunbar played in 11 games in 2019 (all starts) where he had 4 INTs and 8 PBU. He was graded that year by PFF with a 89.5 grade in coverage and 87.6 overall. To compare Xavien Howard last year was the 2nd highest graded CB with a overall grade of 87.3. Here is Dunbar playing in a zone defense.
At 29 with a injury history Dunbar would need a prove it deal that would be highly incentive laden. You would not want to put a lot of (if any) guaranteed money on the contract plus again he would have to pass a rigid physical.
Dunbar has talent but like many players on these lists he has some problem or they lack experience. No one is going to jump off the page at you, but at least Dunbar has played a high level so there is hope he could do so again.
Tre Boston S 5’ 11 5/8” 205 29 years old
Boston was a 4th round selection of the Carolina Panther in the 2014 draft. He was a former CB that converted to safety so he has some decent coverage skills. He is not the fastest safety (4.59/40) yet he is smart with 13 INTs in limited college play at North Carolina.
Boston played in Carolina. He signed with the Chargers then went to Arizona then was signed again in Carolina to a 3 year $18 million contract. He was released this year after the outstanding play of Jeremy Chinn in 2020 made him expendable. Boston has been very durable during his 7 year NFL career playing in 104 of a possible 112 games. He has 15 career interceptions, 42 PBU and 429 total tackles. Here he is breaking off his coverage of a short man when he reads the QB then drops back for an INT.
Boston is on this list as a player to look at should Lamarcus Joyner or Marcus Maye go down during the season. With Ashtyn Davis on IR and only Sharrod Neasman and Sheldrick Redwine as backups the Jets are rather thin on the backend. Both Neasman and Redwine were signed after being released during final cuts.
Mitchell Schwartz OT 6’ 5” 320 lbs 32 years old
This one is more of a dream than a hope. The former All-Pro went on season ending IR last year with a back injury and has yet to be ready to play. Kansas City has moved on since they need a starter now to protect Patrick Mahomes. Yet Schwartz will be ready to play at some point in this season, and the Jets would only need him is something catastrophic were to happen to their tackles. When healthy he is dominant so I don’t know if he would be interested in playing for the Jets or at what cost. He is a right tackle only so he would only play if two of our current tackles got hurt. (I don’t count Edoga since he is worthless). Here he is in action as a bully on the line.
He is on this list primarily because I am such a huge fan of his and his style of play. I like tackles who beat on defensive linemen rather than taking a beating. Here he is crushing an opponent while he opens a hole for the RB to score. It also helps that the opponent is a Patriot.
This video comes from the NFL top 100 show so you know he is special because they don’t have many right tackles that get this type of recognition. I was hoping the Jets could reach out to him, sign him to a minimal contract, then stash him on IR with the understanding that he would renegotiate a new contract if he was needed, or the Jets would trade him to another team (with a new negotiated contract) if they didn’t need him. This way he could rehab with doctors instead of on his own and would be high end insurance if tragedy would strike the Jets tackles during the season. The thought here is not to have Chuma Edoga on the edge protecting Zach Wilson. It’s a dream that as little chance of coming true.
Gareon Conley CB 6’ 0” 190 lbs 26 years old
I don’t know what is with Conley, but he is an enigma to me. He has skills. He was a 1st round selection (#23 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has only played 3 seasons after sitting out last year because of the pandemic. I loved Conley when I scouted him in 2017. I had him as my #29 prospect. He is agile and quick with near elite speed (4.44/40) yet he is a free agent. I don’t know if there is something about him character wise, but it may behoove the Jets to at least bring him in for an interview. He is way too talented to sit out on the street. Here he is in man coverage against a slick WR.
This is elite man to man coverage where the receiver never is more than a few feet away from Conley once he engages coverage. Bring him in on a prove it deal and see how it progresses. Saleh is a defensive coach that most defenders like playing for so why wouldn’t Conley. If you have a problem with him he would be easy to release without any headaches. See how the current Jets CBs perform, and if they struggle you could sign him right away. Seems like a no brainer.
Benardrick McKinney ILB 6’ 4” 257 lbs 28 years old
McKinney is a solid run stopping ILB with good leadership skills. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins this year after 6 years in Houston. He had been very durable for such an aggressive power player, but last year he played in only 4 games due to injury. Miami released him earlier this year for some unknown reason. McKinney is on this list because the Jets are very young at LB with no real leader if C. J. Mosley should go down. McKinney could hold down the fort until the end of the year. He has only 12 sacks in his career but he has shown a good ability to do so once he is given the opportunity.
To go with his 12 sacks he has 530 career tackles with 3 years over 100 tackles on the inside of the defense. He has decent range and good recognition skills with 30 QB hits, 35 TFL and 14 PBU. He would be a nice guy to bring in to put through a physical then interview. He is not all that solid in the passing game but could hold the fort and provide leadership for our young interior defenders if Mosley were to become injured.
Practice Squad Candidates
Tanner Muse LB/S 6’ 2” 227 lbs 25 years old
Muse was a favorite of mine coming out of Clemson in the Draft in 2020 as a late round gem. Sadly and pathetically the Raiders used a 3rd round pick on him (#100) to secure his services. Muse injured his toe during training camp that required surgery so the Raiders put him on IR but never reactivated him. This year he was running with the first team defense at times but was just released from the team.
Muse was a safety in college but he lacked anticipation and didn’t read route patterns well so he was often late on helping corners in coverage. Yet he has 4.41/40 speed (clocked at the NFL combine) and still managed 7 INTs in his career. What I envisioned was a hybrid LB/S who would be a great coverage guy as a WILL LB or be able to run down plays from the edge. With his skill set I believe that Robert Saleh could find a nice place for him on the defense even if in a sub-package role.
Muse never had a problem; in fact he excelled at flying up from his safety spot to help in run fits. Here he is doing just that against Charlotte.
Muse finished his college career with 191 total tackles 4 sacks and 14 PBUs. He would be a project type player who could be a diamond in the rough. He is worth a shot as a practice squad player after his surprise/questionable release from the Raiders.
Jose Borregales K 5’ 10” 205 lbs 23 years old
Borregales is a kicker with a strong leg who made 98.2% of his extra points and 79.5% of his kicks 70-88 for his career including this 57 yard bomb in 2020.
Borregales spent only a single season at the U of Miami after coming over from FIU. At Miami he was much more accurate as a kicker hitting all 37 of his extra points (100%) and 20 of 22 field goal attempts (90.9%). It would be nice to have a young kicker to work with that the Jets could call up in case of injury or a stumble by Matt Ammendola who has never kicked in the NFL.
There are some others who could come in if injuries become a problem, but the Jets really need to see what they have right now in terms of players so they can self scout their team with an eye towards the 2022 NFL Draft. This is just year two of the rebuild with the vast majority of that coming this year. There are going to be bumps in the road, but this year should be spent getting Zach Wilson protected while he gains experience. The learning curve for a first year QB is steep. He will be a lot more prepared entering next year if the Jets can keep him healthy.
Once the Jets have a season to see what they have they can target certain players from certain positions come Draft time. It is the best way to build a team instead of needing every position every year. You can also trade up or trade back to amass more draft capital once you have a select number of players to target.
This could be the most interesting year in New York Jets football in the last decade. There is definite talent in some positions that just need time to develop. The receiver position is one to watch carefully to see who emerges from the group. The Jamison Crowder injury/Covid problem may open the door for Elijah Moore to take a giant step towards becoming a go to type receiver. The more snaps he gets (no pun intended) the better for him.
Let me know what you think...
Enjoy the season (for once)…
Go J E T S Jets-Jets-Jets