The Jets are counting on a big season from Robby Anderson, because receiver is one of the positions where they lack depth.
The New York Jets open training camp July 24 at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey. Here’s a 53-man roster projection:
A summer without a quarterback competition? Oh, no, what will we write about? The only real battle will be Darnold versus Darnold, meaning: How quickly can he reach his big-time potential? Siemian will be the No. 2 quarterback; only an awful preseason will change that. He has two factors working in his favor: A $1 million guarantee and actual game experience, something none of the other backups have. His experience is key, especially since Darnold still is a young pup. Webb and Luke Falk will vie for the No. 3 spot — if there is a No. 3 spot.
Bell and Montgomery are locks. Beyond them, it’s hard to predict. Powell is a wild card because of his age (30) and health (neck surgery last fall). If he can be the player he was (I’m betting on him), it makes Elijah McGuire expendable. McGuire has been underwhelming, and his value is limited because he doesn’t play special teams. Everybody is writing off Cannon because of his struggles as a punt/kickoff returner, but he’s the fastest player on the team and makes a lot of tackles on special teams.
Coach Adam Gase is praying for an injury-free season because there’s a big drop off after the top three. After them, it’s a bunch of special-teams guys with limited backgrounds as receivers. Don’t be surprised if new general manager Joe Douglas adds a veteran pass catcher before opening day. Bellamy and Peake will stick because they’re fantastic on special teams. What’s missing is a proven punt returner; I still don’t understand why they didn’t re-sign All-Pro Andre Roberts. For now, we’ll give the job to the 5-foot-7 Dortch, an explosive punt returner at Wake Forest, but you have to think someone better will come along.
Chris Herndon‘s four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy will hurt the offense because he’s the only tight end with a track record as a downfield receiver. Griffin, an 11th-hour addition, is a slight upgrade because he can function as a possession receiver. Tomlinson, Brown and Wesco — the only other tight ends on the roster — have combined for 51 career catches. Wesco, a fourth-round pick, has the ability to double as a fullback. They could use Enunwa in a hybrid tight end/receiver role, which he played in 2016.
Anybody who nails this projection deserves a prize. This is a tough one because, frankly, there are no roster locks beyond the top six. Translation: Depth is a major concern. Compton, Anderson and Toth will compete with the likes of Brent Qvale and Ben Braden, not to mention every offensive lineman who hits the waiver wire. All signs point to Harrison winning the center job, while Edoga, a third-round pick, could give Shell a run for the right-tackle spot. Under ideal circumstances (read: no injuries), this is an average line. An injury or two could wreck everything.
This is one of the Jets’ deepest positions, so there will be one or two noteworthy cuts. In this case, the odd man out is Folorunso Fatukasi, a 2018 sixth-round pick. He’s not a scheme fit for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who prefers quick linemen who can get upfield. The previous regime had begun to lose faith in Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd (2018 third-rounder), an ominous sign. There will be speculation about McLendon because of his age (33), but his spot is safe unless there’s a significant drop off. He’s a team leader and the ideal mentor for Quinnen Williams, who will usurp his playing time. Kaufusi, versatile and relentless, can win a job if he builds on his outstanding spring.
Gregg Williams likes to use his bench, so depth is important, especially at this position. There’s plenty of toughness, especially with the addition of Mosley, but there’s still a shortage of speed on the edge. Polite, a third-round pick, can change that if he can contribute immediately as a situational pass-rusher. Jenkins could see time as a down lineman in four-man fronts and Copeland could be used as an off-ball linebacker in certain situations. The Jets will miss Darron Lee‘s athleticism, but not his immaturity.
Where’s the panic button? Cornerback should be Douglas’ No. 1 priority because this isn’t a winning group. Johnson and Poole are coming off down years and Roberts never has been a full-time starter. The Jets are hoping Gregg Williams can light a fire under Johnson, who coasted last season after receiving a monster contract. (In fairness, he also was hampered by a leg injury.) Even if he lives up to his CB1 billing, the team needs reinforcements and/or a breakout performance by one of the kids. At safety, this is a good group, assuming Maye makes a full recovery from shoulder surgery. He was limited in the spring and will begin camp on the physically unable to perform list, but is expected to be ready for Week 1. Miles and Middleton have dealt with injuries, too. Can you sense a theme developing? Adams is terrific. He’s the heartbeat of the defense and never leaves the field.
The only competitive position is punter, where newcomer Matt Darr will try to unseat Edwards. Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said Edwards had a terrific spring, so we’ll see. I’d expect Montgomery, the team’s new Swiss-Army knife, to be the kickoff returner. The punt-returning job is wide open. They will need two players to replace Roberts.