At this point of the off-season, we are starting to get a good idea of what the New York Jets 53 man roster will look like heading into the 2012 season. There will still be a handful of minor transactions, injuries and surprises that could shake a few things up but here is a general overview of what we know and what to potentially expect in the coming months -
Quarterback – Mark Sanchez is going to be the starter. Tim Tebow will be the backup/option running/occasional h-backing guy and Greg McElroy will be the 3rd quarterback. Unless there is some type injury, these three are locks.
Running Back – Shonn Greene will be back as the starter. Joe McKnight should start out as the primary third down back and will hopefully get more of a chance to play to his potential under Tony Sparano. John Conner is the only pure fullback on the roster. After that it gets interesting, sixth round pick Terrance Ganaway is a bruising back who fits as a natural backup to Shonn Greene and is experienced running the option which should get him a chance for playing time when Tebow is on the field. Where does that leave last year’s fourth round pick Bilal Powell? I am not sure if the Jets will carry five backs or if Powell is good enough to beat out McKnight or Ganaway for a spot.
Tight End – Dustin Keller survived a few trade rumors and will be back as one of the Jets top options in the passing game. Beyond him, the depth chart is very cloudy. The Jets still lack a pure blocking tight end. Jeff Cumberland is a taller, slower version of Keller who is coming off major surgery. Josh Baker is more of a H-Back. Hayden Smith has a tough transition to make from rugby to football. I would not be surprised if the team added a blocking tight end at some point. It is a complete crapshoot who the number two tight end will be at this point and if the team will carry two or three tight ends.
Wide Receiver – Santonio Holmes is the number one. Rookie Stephen Hill is going to be given every opportunity to be the number two. Jeremy Kerley fits well as the slot receiver and should be a high impact player on the offense. Patrick Turner is experienced, familiar with Sparano’s offense and can contribute on special teams so he has the inside track at the number four spot. Recently signed Chaz Schilens has big play potential and if he can stay healthy should stick on the roster. It will be an uphill battle for seventh round pick Jordan White and players like Logan Payne, Scotty McKnight and Eron Riley. A safe bet for now is that they will carry five receivers (Holmes, Hill, Kerley, Turner, Schilens).
Offensive Line – We know Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson will be back as starters. Despite the objections of most rational people in the free world, it appears the plan is to have Wayne Hunter, Vladimir Ducasse and Austin Howard compete for the starting right tackle spot. My guess is that the Jets will see how they look in training camp and if it appears to be a disaster, they could place a quick call over to veteran Vernon Carey who knows Tony Sparano’s offense to step in. Mike Tannenbaum’s favorite player Caleb Schlauderaff projects as the being the top interior backup and rookie Robert T. Griffin could have a decent chance to make the team, if he shows the versatility to play guard and tackle.
Defensive Line – Arguably the deepest position on the team. As of now the starters are Muhammad Wilkerson, Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito. However, do not be surprised if DeVito is cut or traded at some point before the season to pave the way for first round Quntion Coples to step into the starting line-up. It would save the team 3 million dollars and the Jets have capable backups in Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua. Kenrick Ellis should also see a little more time this year spelling Pouha in certain situations.
Linebackers – David Harris remains one of the best inside linebackers in football. Calvin Pace is a good outside linebacker who can set the edge to help stop the run but has lost explosiveness in getting after the passer. The Jets are risking the other two starting spots to Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas. Scott looked just about finished last year but is returning at a lighter weight and can hopefully be the solid two down linebacker he was in 2009 and 2010. Bryan Thomas is coming off major surgery but should open camp as starting outside backer opposite Pace.
The depth is intriguing, third round pick DeMario Davis has an exciting skill set and should be able to help on passing downs this year and be the long term replacement for Bart Scott. Aaron Maybin will be a year better in Rex Ryan’s system as a pass rushing specialist and hopefully the addition of Coples will lead to him seeing more one on ones in pass rushing situations. Garret McIntyre, Josh Magua got experience last year and should be able to grab roster spots.
Corner – Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson are one of the better trios in the league. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets added veteran Chris Johnson to be their 4th corner. If not Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant will be the frontrunners to compete for the spot.
Safety – LaRon Landry and Eric Smith are the starters as of right now and arguably rookies Josh Bush and Antonio Allen project as the top backups. I would not be surprised if the Jets added another veteran to the mix, whether it is Yeremiah Bell or Jim Leonhard for insurance.
Special Teams – Nick Folk and TJ Conley remain the frontrunners to return as kicker and punter, respectively. Tanner Purdum will be the long snapper.