New York Jets – The Worst Roster In The NFL?

Joe Caporoso with a closer look at recent claims the New York Jets have the worst roster in the NFL

Despite an encouraging offseason, the New York Jets currently have the lowest odds to win the Super Bowl in 2019 via Bovada. On top of that, ESPN NFL writer Mike Clay recently incurred the wrath of #JetsTwitter by claiming the team has the worst roster in the league. Are the odds and roster rankings off base? 

Before Jets fans storm the casinos in Vegas or firebomb Clay’s mentions, they should remember it is early in the offseason. The NFL Draft still needs to happen. Further trades, free agent signings and injuries are going to occur. It doesn’t matter all that much how rosters rank in the month of March. Yet, it is not that crazy of an assertion that the Jets have one of the league’s worst rosters as things currently stand.

The 2017 New York Jets finished 5-11 after going 2-9 over their last 11 games. Only four teams in the league had a worse final record than them: Browns, Giants, Colts and Texans. Both the Texans and Colts are assumed to be getting their starting quarterback back in 2018. If they don’t do something stupid like trade him, the Giants will get Odell Beckam Jr back and the Browns have had an active offseason by acquiring Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Damarious Randall. You can make a fair argument that the Jets roster is better than all of these teams right now (outside of Houston), if they are going to find a suitable answer at quarterback either from the NFL Draft or from Teddy Bridgewater. You can also make a fair argument that with Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor/Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, those four teams are in better shape.

The Jets unquestionably improved this offseason. They added a top flight cornerback in Trumaine Johnson, a capable starting center in Spencer Long, made their quarterback room better with Teddy Bridgewater, added more juice at running back and receiver with Isiah Crowell and Terrelle Pryor and stayed steady at inside linebacker with Avery Williamson. It is hard to say how many games that improvement equates to because record doesn’t always reflect talent and because we do not know how quarterback is going to shake out yet.

Despite these improvements, the Jets still do not have a single player on their roster who made the Pro Bowl or was an All-Pro in 2017. You can say both of those connotations are meaningless but it is noteworthy and there are no blatant “snubs” on the current team. They have young players who have shown the ability to potentially reach this level (Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Robby Anderson) but they haven’t yet, which is why most rankings and odds are not going to be kind to the Jets.

This is what the Jets current two deep depth chart looks like:

  • QB: Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater
  • RB: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowll
  • FB: Lawrence Thomas
  • WR: Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor
  • TE: Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett
  • OT: Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell, Ben Ijalana, Brent Qvale
  • OG: James Carpenter, Brian Winters, Dakota Dozier
  • C: Spencer Long, Jonotthan Harrison
  • NT: Steve McLendon, Deon Simon
  • DE: Leonard Williams, Mike Pennel, Xavier Cooper
  • ILB: Avery Williamson, Darron Lee, Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Lorenzo Mauldin, Brandon Copeland
  • CB: Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Daryl Roberts
  • S: Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Terrence Brooks, Rontez Miles
  • K: Cairo Santos
  • P: Lachlan Edwards

Let’s start with the positives, the team has the makings of a very good, potentially great, secondary if Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye make a year two leap combined with Morris Claiborne staying healthy. There is more talent at the skill positions, namely running back and receiver, than they are generally given credit for. If Quincy Enunwa is back to his old self and Robby Anderson’s suspension is minimal, the Jets have a deep, explosive group of receivers with plenty of size. Bilal Powell is one of the most productive and efficient backs in the league with the carries he is given and Isaiah Crowell is a competent early down compliment to him. The offensive line will be league average if healthy, particularly with the improvement from Wesley Johnson to Spencer Long and could be slightly above average if Brandon Shell keeps developing and Brian Winters reverts to his 2016 form. Leonard Williams is one of the better young defensive ends in the NFL and Steve McLendon was one of the league’s better nose tackles in 2017.

On the other hand, there are many qualifiers to what was laid out above mostly around health and a lack of depth. The Jets can’t afford to sustain a major injury on their offensive line, have Morris Claiborne go back to missing extended time or to be without Anderson/Enunwa for a prolonged stretch. Elsewhere, their front seven on defense is very thin and lacks a game change at the second level. There is basically nothing at edge rusher and tight end lacks a proven full time starter, although the position may be deemphasized in Jeremy Bates’ offense. Quarterback is still a question mark until after the NFL Draft. As is stands today, they have a 39 year old journeyman and a player who hasn’t taken a meaningful snap since 2015. Teddy Bridgewater was a smart, low cost flier to take but it is hard to objectively project him as an above average starter at this moment.

So where does this leave the Jets? If they aren’t the worst roster in the league, then who is? Ironically, you could start by looking in their own division. You can make a reasonable case they have the second strongest roster in the AFC East as it currently stands. Yes, Buffalo made the playoffs last year but no longer have Tyrod Taylor, EJ Gaines and Cordy Glenn. Miami finished only one game better than the Jets last season and no longer has Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, Mike Pouncey and Julius Thomas. They also have a question mark at quarterback with Ryan Tannehill coming back from a serious injury. You can make a perfectly reasonable counter argument that both Miami (they also added Robert Quinn, Frank Gore and Albert Wilson) and Buffalo are still slightly ahead of the Jets but overall all three rosters are right around each other at the moment.

Elsewhere in the AFC, only the Colts jump off the page if they do not have a healthy Andrew Luck (which is always a possibility). The Bengals were not far behind the Jets with their Super Bowl odds but have a player on offense and defense better than anybody on the Jets roster (AJ Green and Geno Atkins).The Browns roster looks better on paper but Hue Jackson and Gregg Williams have a way of getting the least out of everything they touch. In the NFC, if the Giants dump Odell Beckham Jr, they are in the Jets ballpark. Chicago looks better on paper after adding Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel to compliment their defense. The Cardinals could be in the mix, especially with their quarterback situation but they still have All-Pro caliber players like David Johnson, Patrick Peterson and Chandler Jones.

As it stands now, it is probably more logical to tier teams off and the Jets sit in the bottom 24-32 tier, making it not completely asinine to argue they have the league’s worst roster but also making it far from conclusive. The harsh reality for the Jets is they have the league’s third longest playoff drought, no franchise quarterback (yet, come on April!), and are 10-23 over their last 33 games. They are not going to get more respect league wide until they win more football games.

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Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports