After a busy offseason that saw longtime producers in Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Nick Folk, and David Harris get taken off the books, the New York Jets’ training camp makes for an interesting series of positional battles. With that said, this is how the team looks to be shaping up right now:
*Note: names of rookies are italicized
Starter: Josh McCown
Depth: 2. Bryce Petty 3. Christian Hackenberg
Although Hackenberg was the highest drafted of the group, and is the one who has yet to have been given a chance, McCown is still the strongest and most experienced. Even if a team is evaluating a potential “quarterback of the future,” generally, the player that is most successful in camp would get the job, even if it is by a slim margin. This was the case last year for Case Keenum and Jared Goff, and should be the case for the Jets. However, McCown should be on a short leash as Keenum was last year, so expect Hackenberg and Petty to still see significant playing time.
Running back (4):
Starter: Bilal Powell
Complement: Matt Forté
Depth: 3. Jordan Todman 4. Elijah McGuire
Cuts: Brandon Wilds, Romar Morris
Though Matt Forté is the veteran in the room, after age, injury, and attrition, he is not the player that he used to be. Powell got hot towards the end of last season, and has the pass-catching ability to make an impact on all three downs with Forté as a change-of-pace contributor.
Wide receiver (7):
Outside: 1. Robby Anderson 2. Chad Hansen
Slot/Gadget: Quincy Enunwa
Depth: 4. ArDarius Stewart 5. Marquess Wilson 6. K.D. Cannon 7. Charone Peake
Cuts: Myles White, Jalin Marshall, Gabe Marks, Frankie Hammond, Deshon Foxx, Chris Harper, Devin Street
Though this crew is rife with inexperience, it is one full of intriguing, young talent. K.D. Cannon is a pure deep threat, and, assuming that he has learned from his experience in San Francisco, he should safely make the roster. Gabe Marks is another UDFA to look out for, as he is a sharp route runner that separates well, and may make the team on that alone. Jalin Marshall may be on the bubble, as he found himself in Todd Bowles’ doghouse last year and saw his workload slashed after a series of fumbles. Though Quincy Enunwa emerged as the Jets’ No.1 option last year, he should spend more time in the slot this season as his strong hands and speed are more conducive to that role, with prototypical deep threats Robby Anderson and rookie Chad Hansen manning the outside. Recent pickup Marquess Wilson is another interesting option, as he has good size and hands and could make an impact off the bench if he is able to stay healthy.
Tight End (2):
Starter: Jordan Leggett
Depth/Complement: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Cuts: Jason Vander Laan, Eric Tomlinson, Brian Parker
Though the team has not put a premium on tight ends in past years, rookie Jordan Leggett is talented enough break through into the starting lineup. Leggett has the size and strength to make plays after the catch, while Seferian-Jenkins could contribute his athleticism as a backup and a goal-line complement. Vander Laan also has a shot after spending last year on the practice squad, but, as a converted quarterback, may need another year of getting acclimated before joining the active roster.
Offensive Line (8):
LT: Kelvin Beachum
LG: James Carpenter
C: Wesley Johnson
RG: Brian Winters
RT: Brandon Shell
Swing Tackle: Brent Qvale
Swing Guards/Centers: 1. Dakota Dozier 2. Jonotthan Harrison
Ben Ijilana, Alex Balducci, Jeff Adams, Craig Watts, Javarius Leamon, Ben Braden, Chris Bordelon
The offensive line is fairly straightforward. The guard positions are solidified, and, with Ryan Clady and Nick Mangold out of the picture, Brandon Shell, Kelvin Beachum, and Wesley Johnson should fill in. If there is any “surprise” cut, it would be Ben Ijilana, who underperformed last year. If Brandon Shell, who showed flashes in limited play as a rookie, outperforms him, the Jets could cut Ijilana to save his $3 million salary.
Starter: Anthony Firksir
Cuts: Connor Harris, Julian Howsare
Firksir is a solid fullback prospect coming out of Harvard. Though he is a little small at 6’1, Firksir is quick and can catch out of the backfield, making him the top candidate for the starting job.
Interior rusher (6):
Starters: 1. Leonard Williams 2. Muhammad Wilkerson 3. Sheldon Richardson
Depth: 4. Deon Simon 5. Mike Pennel 6. Anthony Johnson
Cuts: Steve McLendon, Lawrence Thomas, Brandin Bryant, Patrick Gamble, Claude Pelon
Although there have been trade talks involving Sheldon Richardson, the nucleus of Williams, Wilkerson, and Richardson should remain intact. Mike Pennel has “had a very good spring,” according to head coach Todd Bowles, so he should also make the roster as a depth piece. However, with the way the Jets’ offseason has gone, there is a chance that veteran Steve McLendon is cut to save over $7 million in cap over the next two years, which could lead to extra playing time for Pennel or Deon Simon. Lawrence Thomas made the team out of camp last year, but spent most of his rookie season on IR, putting him slightly behind the rest of the pack. This makes Thomas more of a long-shot to make the 53, opening the door for players like Anthony Johnson.
Edge rusher (5):
Starters: 1. Jordan Jenkins 2. Lorenzo Mauldin IV
Depth: 3. Josh Martin 4. Dylan Donahue 5. Corey Lemonier
Cuts: Freddie Bishop, Julian Stanford, Frank Beltre
Jenkins emerged as ferocious run defender last year, and should remain a stronghold in the starting lineup next to Lorenzo Mauldin. Columbia graduate Josh Martin signed a two-year extension this past offseason, so he should make the team alongside rookie Dylan Donahue. Corey Lemonier should also squeak in, as he flashed in limited play last year and could impress the coaching staff in camp.
Linebacker (4) :
Starters: 1. Darron Lee 2. Demario Davis
Depth: 3. Spencer Paysinger 4. Bruce Carter
Perhaps the weakest group on this roster, it would be unreasonable for the Jets to cut any of these players. Darron Lee’s development will be interesting to monitor, especially after the removal of a veteran like David Harris. Though he struggled last year, especially in terms of tackling and physicality, Lee has enormous athletic upside and could emerge as a threat in coverage.
Outside: 1. Morris Claiborne 2. Juston Burris
Nickel/Slot: Buster Skrine
3rd Down/Ballhawk: Marcus Williams
Depth: 5. Darryl Roberts 6. Jeremy Clark
Cuts: Dexter McDougle, Derrick Jones, Bryson Keaton, Xavier Coleman, Corey White
As a high pick that finally emerged last season for the Cowboys, Morris Claiborne may be inconsistent, but he is the best the Jets have to offer. If Juston Burris continues to develop, he could cement his role alongside Claiborne with Buster Skrine moving back to his natural slot position. Marcus Williams should also feature in, as he has had eight interceptions in limited play over the past two seasons, and could succeed in a gadget-type role. Besides this “core four,” there is a horde of training camp battles. Dexter McDougle was cut last year, but is a natural athlete and a former third-round pick that could make the team this time around. There are also three rookies on the roster vying for a spot in Jeremy Clark, Derrick Jones, and Xavier Coleman. The two sixth-round picks, Clark (6’3) and Jones (6’2), have intriguing size, so their competition will be fascinating to follow.
SS: Jamal Adams
FS: Marcus Maye
Depth: 3. Rontez Miles 4. Doug Middleton
Cuts: Shamarko Thomas, Ronald Martin
By devoting the first two rounds of the past draft to safeties, it seems as though the Jets want to make this position the focal point of the defense going forward. Adams is pro-ready and looks to be a lock for the strong safety spot, while Maye still has to beat out Rontez Miles, but should do so soundly as he is more instinctive in coverage. Doug Middleton should also sneak on due to his contributions on special teams last year.
Special teams (3):
Kicker: Chandler Catanzaro
Punter: Lachlan Edwards
Long snapper: Tanner Purdum
Kick returner: K.D. Cannon
Punt returner: ArDarius Stewart
Cut: Ross Martin (Kicker)
After releasing Nick Folk, the Jets took a gamble on Arizona castoff Chandler Catanzaro. In a career-worst 2016 season, Catanzaro made just 75% of his field goal attempts and should be on a short leash with Ross Martin waiting in the wings. Edwards is also one to watch, as he had a rough rookie season and could be replaced by a free agent if he struggles in camp. With Jalin Marshall as a projected cut, speedster K.D. Cannon should take over kick return duties and shifty slot receiver ArDarius Stewart should man the punts.