We head into an unknown preseason for the New York Jets, but one question remains. Who will be on the 53-man roster come September 13 in Orchard Park?
Now that the initial push in free agency is over and the draft is complete, it is time to figure out who will suit up week one. For the New York Jets, there have been some major changes on the offensive side of the ball. With Covid-19 possibly wiping out all the involuntary workouts, rookie camp, and minicamp, there isn’t much to go on. So now is as good of a time as any to project who will be suiting up for the Jets when they head to Buffalo in September.
(Note: Starters are listed first, and on the two lines they are listed left to right)
Offense (by Alex Marinoni)
The Jets will carry two quarterbacks on their roster, like most teams. Whenever a team carries a third quarterback, it’s usually because they are used in special packages or Special Teams. Rookie quarterback, James Morgan does not possess that skill set, so he will be regulated in the early going to practice squad. Morgan does, however, have a chance at the #2 spot, depending on his camp performance. With the potential of short minicamp, it would be tough to believe that Morgan does enough to earn that promotion for week one.
There is no debate with Bell on top of the list but 4th round rookie, La’Mical Perine is interesting. With the addition of Frank Gore, Perine will have to work even harder to earn his touches in his rookie year. Joe Douglas sent a message this offseason with the additions on the offensive line. Run the ball more. Bell and Gore will handle those duties, but Perine has a chance to be a change of pace back. Trenton Cannon and Josh Adams will battle for the final spot, but Cannon makes it with his contributions to special teams. If one of the top three go down, expect Adams to jump Cannon in the depth chart.
After losing Robby Anderson to Free Agency, the Jets needed a new number one. Breshad Perriman fills that void. A disappointing start to his career, the former first rounder had a big second half for Tampa last season. The Jets are hoping that Perriman shows up in green and white. Behind him is second rounder, Denzel Mims. Mims has the tools to be number one in this league but is very raw. He will get plenty of early playing time and chances to develop his game and grow with Darnold. Jamison Crowder had a very good season in the slot for Gang Green last year. Expect him to get the same snaps this year. Braxton Berrios is another slot player who will be featured in four wide receiver sets. He will get the opportunity when the Jets spread things out. He is also very vital in kick and punt return. Lastly, Vyncint Smith gets the last spot with his work in special teams. Some players that could challenge Berrios and Smith will be free agent signing Josh Doctson and rookies Lawrence Cager and George Campbell.
The Jets will most likely carry three tight ends on the active roster. Ryan Griffin really impressed last season with Chris Herndon suspended and injured. He impressed so much so that he earned a pretty sizeable extension to play this season. Herndon had a strong rookie campaign but took a massive step back barely getting on the field last year. He has the makings to be a tight end #1 on this team, but he needs to stay on the field. Trevon Wesco is a solid blocking tight end who also features as the team’s fullback.
The Jets have completely overhauled their offensive line from last year. As it stands right now, the team has only one starter currently in a starting role and that isn’t even definite. Mekhi Becton, Connor McGovern and George Fant are definite starters for this team. Greg Van Roten is likely to be the starting left guard for the team, but rookie Cameron Clark could push him there. The team really likes Alex Lewis, bringing the free-agent back after trading for him a season ago. It will not be surprising if he beats Brian Winters out for a guard spot this year. Winters could see himself on the bench with former starters Jonathan Harrison and Chuma Edogba. With his $7M cap hit, Winters could be a late cut if he doesn’t win the job.
Harrison will come back to the team due to his versatility. Harrison is the backup center and in a pinch, can line up at guard and tackle. Edoga was better than expected last season finishing the year at right tackle. He will be a nice depth piece for the often injured, George Fant. Josh Andrews was a guy brought in by Joe Douglas, so he will get a leg up in the competition. As will rookie Cameron Clark. Clark had a very successful college career and could see himself bidding for a starting guard bid this season. Andres and Clark will get the edge over two-year player, Ben Braden and four-year man, Connor McDermott.
Defense (by Adam Melendez)
Quinnen Williams, Steve McLendon, Henry Anderson, Kyle Phillips, Folorunso Fatukasi, Nathan Sheperd, Jabari Zuniga
For the most part, the starting defensive line remains unchanged. 2020 rookie Jabari Zuniga should see more and more snaps as the season progresses. Henry Anderson must play up to his contract this season, or he could lose his starting spot sooner rather than later.
Jordan Jenkins, Frankie Luvu, Harvey Langi, Wyatt Ray, Tarell Bashum
Another position without much of a change. Jordan Jenkins is looking to continue to collect the sacks on his resume in hopes of receiving a long term contract. Gregg Williams will need to find a way for the front seven to generate more sacks this season.
CJ Moseley, Blake Cashman, Avery Williamson, James Burgess
The biggest switch up in the linebacking core comes with Avery Williamson taking a backseat to Blake Cashman, who certainly played well enough to earn a starting role. Williamson could find himself out of New York in a trade deal later this season as it stands.
Pierre Desir, Arthur Maulet, Brian Poole, Bryce Hall, Blessaun Austin, Nate Hairston, Lamar Jackson
Draft steal Bryce Hall will work his way up the depth chart rather quickly, finding himself on the field quite often. Lamar Jackson will prove his worth as an undrafted free agent, making the final roster by the time cutdowns arrive.
Ashtyn Davis, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Matthias Farley
Another shakeup of starters, Davis was a highly coveted prospect out of college that fell in the draft. An athletic freak that could help form a deadly duo in the middle of the field. Maye finds himself as the odd one out. Even before the trade rumors began to arise, Ashtyn Davis has a higher ceiling than Maye.
Little change with Adams here. The Jets could look for better safety depth in the remaining free agency pool, but Adams has given New York no reason to doubt his sustainability.
Special Teams (by Jesse Thermer)
Come week 1, expect Sam Ficken to be the starting kicker. The incumbent starter was an answer to all Jet fans needs after going through kicker hell during the beginning of the season. Despite a rough final week 17 matchup, Ficken had a strong season with the Jets, and unless the 30-year old Brett Maher can pull some magic off, don’t expect a change here.
Using a draft pick on a punter isn’t a common move by NFL general managers. That being said, when someone with the talent of Braden Mann comes along, you cannot pass it up. The former Aggie was a unanimous All-American and won the Ray Guy award for college football’s top punter. He’s caught the eye and praise of Pat McAfee, who expects Mann to be a future All-Pro kicker. He has the ability to launch the ball 50, 60 yards on any kick with deadly accuracy. If Mann can carry his success from the NCAA to the NFL, the Jets will find themselves with one of the best punters in the NFL.
Denzel Mimms, Ashtyn Davis, Vyncint Smith
Newly acquired wide receiver Denzel Mimms can likely beat out incumbent return man Vyncint Smith. Note Smith had also shared KOR responsibilities with running back Trenton Cannon and running back Ty Montgomery, who is currently still listed on the team’s UFA list. Mimms is a young, explosive athlete, and can be a huge contributor to a position where speed is king.
Braxton Berrios, Jamison Crowder, Ashtyn Davis
The Patriots castaway had a successful season as the punt returner for his first season with the Jets. The numbers all fall in his favor- 7th in the NFL in punt return yards, and 2nd in yards per return. While yet to make an impact as a receiver, Berrios has so far secured his spot as the Jets return man.