Injuries are mounting around the NFL, along with former fringe players exceeding expectations and former starters losing their jobs. The depth chart movement around the league is contagious as the second half of the season is quickly approaching. Practice squad players being signed to active rosters will have a chance to showcase their talent, while depth player’s roles increase as the starters endurance wears down. Lets take a look at some vital movements which have shaped the Jets depth chart for their week seven match up against the Patriots.
Antwan Barnes had a small but very vital role for the Jets before his season ending knee injury. While only playing around 30% of the defensive snaps, Barnes was a situational edge pass rusher. His speed brought a new dimension to the Jets defense as he often forced quarterbacks to step up into the mouth of the defense (Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson). Unfortunately for the Jets, they have yet to replace Barnes. Quinton Coples has yet to produce as an edge pass rusher and Garrett McIntyre is a very limited player. Ricky Sapp has proved he is not the guy, how about bringing in a new face John Idzik?
Mike Goodson looked explosive coming off of his four game suspension. His big play ability out of the backfield was another dimension the Jets have lacked for years. Unfortunately, Goodson tore his ACL while trying to make a tackle against the Steelers. Talk about a bad break for not only Goodson, but the Jets offense. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory can handle the load, but who’s going to bring that big play threat to the offense in Goodson’s absence?
Clyde Gates had a big camp that carved his role as a kick returner and fourth wide receiver coming into the season. Unfortunately for Gates, he was put on the IR this week after suffering a shoulder injury. Fortunately for the Jets, they may have upgraded his role with the addition of Josh Cribbs. Cribbs was formerly the best kick returner in the league, but a knee injury has had him rehabbing for quite some time. He’s caught 40+ balls in a season before, been a lethal kick and punt returner, while also being dangerous out of the wildcat formation. If he can stay healthy, the Jets may have finally replaced Brad Smith (two years later).
Mark Sanchez would have at least been the number two quarterback on the roster this season, but he’ll be on the shelf all year long with a serious shoulder injury. While Geno Smith has clearly carved his way into the starting role, the number two spot is completely up in the air. If David Garrard proves he is healthy, he’ll most likely be the back up. In the meantime, Brady Quinn and Matt Simms continue to ride the back up carousel. Personally, I think the Jets will keep Simms over Quinn as they value his long term potential and big arm.
You are the weakest link, goodbye!:
Vlad Ducasse won the starting guard spot by default, as rookie third round pick Brian Winters failed to stay healthy in the preseason. Ducasse’s main competition was former Lions guard Stephen Peterman, who was downright terrible in his short tenure as a Jet. Ducasse had an excellent game against the Patriots but it was all downhill from there. He was committing multiple penalties game after game while being abused in pass protection. Brian Winters has quietly stepped into his spot recently. While Winters is the weakest link on a respectable offensive line, he is not the “turn style” or penalty machine Ducasse was.
Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson battled it out in camp for the number two corner spot. Quite ironic that both of the former first round picks are now sitting behind former undrafted free agent Darrin Walls. Milliner has battled a hamstring injury and Kyle Wilson, much like Ducasse, gets himself into penalty trouble constantly. Walls has done a very solid job as the number two corner and doesn’t appear to be giving up that spot anytime soon.
Kenrick Ellis has had a solid season in his limited role as the backup nose tackle, but in the preseason he was expected to start. Former undrafted free agent Damon Harrison has arguably been the best nose tackle in the league, after beating out Ellis in the preseason for the job. Having both players is vital for defensive line depth and one of the reasons Rex Ryan’s defense is one of the best run stopping units in the NFL. While Harrison is the clear cut starter, the defense has recently shown a formation fielding both nose tackles. That is close to 700 pounds of man side by side.