The New York Jets made their cuts down from 90 players to 53, they placed zero waiver claims, signed a free agent and placed Elijah McGuire on IR and have added 10 players to their practice squad. Their roster is set… for now.
NFL rosters are always fluid, some teams remain more active on the waiver wire in any given season than others but all teams rely on it at some point. Need to replace an injured player, or a player that’s not playing up to the standard needed, teams look to their practice squad and/or the waiver wire. Fringe players remain fringe players until they either play their way into a valued contributor or play their way off the roster. If a player was nervous about making the roster before cuts, they have no reason to think they won’t be shown the door in a couple of weeks if they don’t prove their value.
Let’s take a look at the roster, position by position, and focus on the strengths and weaknesses as well as telling you which players still have more to prove if they want to stick around and where possible reinforcements could be coming from if said players can’t get the job done.
QB (2) – Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
The weakness here is obvious, yesterday Todd Bowles made it official and announced that they will be starting a 21-year-old rookie at the most important position in football. Normally when it comes to his starting quarterbacks Bowles goes with the classic line of explaining that the guy he picked “gives us the best chance to win.” Yesterday, Bowles said “he gives us a very good chance to win.” The difference may sound like semantics to you, but words matter and Bowles is very careful about his word choice in these situations. If Monday night’s game against the Lions was the only one that matters, if it was a win or get in type situation, maybe Bowles would go with McCown as the starter. Regardless it’s close enough that it’s more than worth it to start the clock on Darnold’s career right now.
There’s going to be bumps in the road, there will be ugly moments and ugly games. But that’s unavoidable, whether you start him now or next year, those ugly moments will come. It’s far better to go through the growing pains this year and hope that going through his rookie season can help him hit the ground running next season, after the Jets have spent a large chuck of their $100 million of available cap space on improving the roster. Darnold has shown incredible poise in the pocket and a very impressive ability to process information on the fly, there’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to his future but don’t forget that he’s a 21-year-old rookie and he’s going to look like it at times.
RB (3) – Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Trenton Cannon
This is a really solid group of running backs. Crowell is better than people seem to think, he’s not a game-breaker or anything but he can do the heavy-lifting on inside/power runs and he’s a better receiving option than given credit for. Powell is in that magical sweet spot where he is still underrated by most NFL fans yet overrated by many Jets fans. Overrated might not really be the right word though, those Jets fans accurately rate his ability what they overrate is his ability to do anymore than he does. Powell is a play-maker, that’s what he does and fans always want him to get more touches but there’s a reason he never does and that’s because he doesn’t have the frame to handle more work. Powell can absolutely run the ball inside from time to time, but he wouldn’t hold up if he had to do it consistently.
With Crowell able to handle those duties it will leave Powell to be the play-maker that he is and until McGuire returns Trenton Cannon will be the third back in the rotation and his speed and quickness will be a great curveball to throw at opposing defenses. This isn’t a top running back group, but it’s solid and better than many think.
FB (1) – Lawrence Thomas
This is a weakness and honestly I don’t see the difference between having Thomas here and just going with zero fullbacks. The good news is in 2018 if you had to pick a position you don’t mind being a weakness fullback is at the top of that list.
WR (6) – Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, Charone Peake, Andre Roberts
You’ve heard all about how the Jets, “don’t have any receivers.” I’m just as baffled as anyone at how that became a narrative, it’s one thing to say that there are question marks in this receiving core (because there are), it’s a completely different and nonsensical thing to say they don’t have talent at receiver. It’s fair to wonder if Enunwa can return to 2016 form after a neck injury, it’s fair to caution that Anderson has to stay out of trouble off the field and wonder if he can continue to develop his game to become a more complete receiver. It’s fair to wonder if Pryor’s 2016 season was at least a little fluky (it happens), but it’s ridiculous to claim that there’s no talent here for Darnold to work with.
Kearse isn’t the most dynamic receiver, but he’s an incredibly smart and reliable receiver. He’s always going to be exactly where he’s supposed to be and if he’s in a position to make a play he’s going to make it far more often than he won’t. Peake was a surprise to make the roster, but he won’t see the field much as a receiver and Roberts can play some receiver in a pinch, in fact he had a better training camp at receiver than Peake, but his role is in the return game and he’s much better than anyone the Jets have had since Brad Smith.
What really makes this position a strength is the way these receivers all compliment each other. Anderson has the ‘take the top off the defense’ speed, Enunwa has the versatility to line up anywhere, run any route and make plays all over the field, Kearse is the steady presence that the quarterback can always rely on and Pryor has the size and speed to be a deep-threat and a valuable red-zone target. It’s fair to wonder if Anderson’s skill set may get wasted a bit this year with Darnold’s ability to be accurate deep, Enunwa would seem to be the safest bet to lead the team in receiving yards because of this, and it’s fair to wonder if they can keep everything together and in tact, but it’s absurd to question the talent at receiver on this team.
TE (4) – Eric Tomlinson, Chris Herndon, Neal Sterling, Jordan Leggett
Strength or weakness? Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess. The Jets haven’t been able to get any type of consistency at tight end since… Dustin Keller? If you even count him considering he was incredibly inconsistent. This is a position that the Jets have historically struggled with, however this was also the position that turned out quality practice after quality practice all throughout camp. Go back and look at the camp reports from all the beat writers, pick a day and you’ll find at least one of the Jets tight ends listed as a “star of the day.”
There’s a lot of talent in this group, can anyone from this group emerge and show that talent consistently during games remains a question. After all I remember watching Austin Seferian-Jenkins dominate in training camp practice all last year only to go on and have a completely pedestrian season. Maybe the reason the tight ends have looked so good in practice these past couple of years is simply because the Jets struggle to cover tight ends on defense.
As for this specific group, Tomlinson made the team for his blocking ability. At least that’s what the coaching staff will tell you, his actual blocking ability hasn’t been all that great though, but he’s a top the blocking tight end depth chart for now and will assume that role. Herndon is the most talented of the bunch and was well on his way to looking like he deserved the starting spot until he had to miss some time after an injury. He rebounded okay, showing flashes here and there but he might not be ready for full time duties until next year. He’s still the most dangerous receiver of this group, but Sterling isn’t far behind and he should be ready to contribute much more this season.
As for Leggett I know many fans were wondering why the Jets kept him, but it really shouldn’t be a question. Leggett’s biggest problem has been injuries since he got here, but when he’s been able to practice he’s looked really good. Anyone who flashes that much talent and ability is going to get at least two years to prove it on the field before a team cuts their losses. If healthy he should be able to contribute sporadically in the passing game this year, but the Jets are really hoping for him and Herndon to be dual receiving threats for the future.
OL (9) – Kelvin Beachum, James Carpenter, Spencer Long, Brian Winters, Brandon Shell, Brent Qvale, Jonotthan Harrison, Dakota Dozier, Ben Braden
Mark this down as a definite weakness just as long as you remember offensive line is a definite weakness for most of the league and if we’re talking about depth on the line then it’s a weakness for everybody. The Jets line is not great, but it’s also not terrible as long as the starters are all playing. If they have to lean on their depth for any extended period of time it’s going to be a problem. All of the Jets starters are solid starters, but none of them are great. They are much better on the inside than on the outside though and as we saw in the preseason Qvale can not be expected to play for an extended period of time so the jets can’t afford to lose Beachum or Shell.
The Jets would have loved to add offensive lineman after their cuts but as I said no team is completely happy with their offensive line groups. There’s such a dearth of talent at offensive line around the league that teams don’t give up on their offensive lineman until they know they can’t do the job anymore. This is something that the Jets will desperately need to address this offseason and next, for now it remains a weakness as it does for most teams in the league. As long as this unit can be around average it will be a win for the Jets offense.
DL (6) – Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Nathan Shepherd, Henry Anderson, Folorunso Fatukasi, Mike Pennel
I know this group doesn’t have the name-power that Jets fans are used to but I still think this is a strength. Sure, this isn’t one of the elite defensive lines in football but it’s definitely above average in my opinion and while it doesn’t have the dynamic star-power of year’s best I think this group meshes much better. No more questions of, how do they fit? Who plays where? How can they get four similar players to play all the different roles?
Obviously the pass rush is a major, major weakness. That responsibility is shared with the outside linebackers though and in a 3-4 system the outside linebackers get most of that responsibility. Williams, McLendon and Shepherd will certainly create inside pressure at times but without anyone off the edge the sack totals will remain low. There’s no reason to worry about the run defense though, sure it’s 2018 and offenses are most deadly through the air but Bowles hasn’t totally gotten that memo yet because he still leans on stopping the running game first.
OLB (4) – Jordan Jenkins, Jeremiah Attaochu, Josh Martin, Brandon Copeland
WEAKNESS!!! The Jets only kept three outside linebackers that they had in camp and they signed Attaochu who immediately becomes their best known commodity as a pass rusher but that’s not saying much. Copeland had a really strong camp and looks to have potential but this is still a unit that’s built more to set the edge and control the run game more than to rush the passer. Jenkins and Martin are great in those roles, but in a 3-4 defense there needs to be some pass rushing talent among the outside linebackers.
Maybe Copeland steps up, maybe Attaochu looks better considering the opportunity and talent around him. I’d expect to see Frankie Luvu promoted from the practice squad relatively quickly because as long as he can control himself from getting penalties, he’s shown he has the talent. I’d also like to join the growing chorus of people singing about how Darron Lee continues to be misused and think that blitzing Lee more could be a strategy that could help both Lee and the team.
ILB (3) – Avery Williamson, Darron Lee, Neville Hewitt
Well it’s certainly a weakness to only have three inside linebackers, if one of them gets injured then they’d be down to zero backups when in 3-4 sets. They will have Kevin Pierre-Louis to add to this group after he returns from his suspension and I think it’s safe he will join the roster because this group lacks pass coverage ability. Williamson has looked really good so far on a whole, but his coverage ability is lacking. Same with Lee and Hewitt actually looked good in coverage for most of camp, but he’s going to have to prove he can do it in games before anyone can count on it. Against the run this group will be good, I’d mark them as a weakness in coverage though.
CB (7) – Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Parry Nickerson, Darryl Roberts, Derrick Jones, Juston Burris
The starting three corners (again the Jets run a 3-4 system but their in Nickel more than anything else so they mostly will run out three corners) are a strength for this team, the depth is a weakness but with potential. Nickerson looks like he could be a great replacement for Skrine in the future, but I’m not sure he could handle that this year. Speaking of Skrine, I know a lot of fans think he has a terrible year last year, but it was really just one truly awful game (against the Dolphins) and he suffered a concussion in that game. Skrine is still a good corner.
As you know from last year, and his entire career, Claiborne is a talented corner but he has trouble staying healthy. If he goes down, can any of the others step up enough so it doesn’t drag the rest of the unit down? Jones had an outstanding camp, is he ready to do that week after week in games? Roberts is a solid depth guy, I’m surprised that Burris is still on the roster to be honest. My guess is Rashard Robinson will take Burris’ spot when he comes off suspension, the coaching staff was really impressed with the way Robinson closed out the last couple of weeks of camp/preseason so I think he’ll stick.
S (5) – Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Doug Middleton, Terrence Brooks, J.J. Wilcox
This is a strength, how much of a strength is the question. Also five safeties? Plus Rontez Miles stashed on IR? Yeah, that’s a lot of safeties but it also probably helps explain why the Jets were comfortable going light at linebacker. Expect to see a ton of three safety sets this season and from a depth standpoint this is a really solid group.
For this group to reach the level of strength many fans are expecting Adams is going to have to take a huge step in his game, especially in coverage. Maye is going to have to prove he’s completely healthy and continue to improve his game as well. How these two build on last year will determine a lot about the success of the defense this year and the outlook of the future.
P (1) – Lachlan Edwards
Strength. He’s got a boot.
K (1) – Jason Myers
Weakness. The Jets worked out Dan Bailey yesterday, Myers is still here. Right now this will stay a weakness.
LS (1) – Thomas Hennessy
S Brandon Bryant
WR Deontay Burnett
CB Jeremy Clark
C Nico Falah
RB De’Angelo Henderson
T Dieugot Joseph
DL Bronson Kaufusi
LB Frankie Luvu
LB Anthony Wint
QB Davis Webb
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