With the first preseason game under their belt, and the regular season a month away, let’s take a closer look at the multiple position battles the Jets have in camp. For those who pay no attention to the preseason, these are the games that decide ten or so roster spots a year. So, indulge and get to know a few players that are not often talked about.
Quarterback: Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
Darnold showed his skills in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Teddy Bridgewater also flashed in his two-year comeback, but look for the New York Jets to go with their homegrown talent and try to land a draft pick from an injury-ridden team in exchange for Bridgewater. McCown sticks as the backup and mentor.
Running Back/Fullback: Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Trenton Cannon, Dimitri Flowers, Elijah McGuire (injured reserve with the designation to return)
Crowell and Powell are the guaranteed locks in this grouping. Powell has been the staple of the running back room for eight years now, and Crowell was a big fish the Jets pulled this offseason in free agency. Cannon has caught fire since being drafted in the sixth round this year and has worked his way for a roster spot. The Jets love McGuire, but with his broken foot and needs elsewhere, he will stick as the IR with designation. Flowers versus Lawrence Thomas for the fullback spot will be an interesting battle to watch. If Flowers can prove he can block, there is no reason he will not beat out the converted defensive end Thomas.
Wide Receiver: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, Chad Hansen, Andre Roberts
Anderson was the Jets deep threat last year, but he also showed he can be more than that. With Enunwa back, Anderson should be able to build off a strong year. Aforementioned, Enunwa is back from his neck injury and will slot right in as the number two wideout. Kearse will slide back to the slot which is his more natural position anyways. If the Jets believe Pryor is fully healthy again, he will stick as the backup to both outside receiver positions. Hansen beats out fellow 2017 draftee Ardarius Stewart. Roberts sticks solely for his kick and punt return abilities.
Tight End: Eric Tomlinson, Chris Herndon, Clive Walford
Tomlinson is one of Todd Bowles’ favorite players. He can block, but he can also go out and catch passes in the intermediate game or even downfield. The Jets love fourth round pick Herndon’s potential. Walford, claimed from the Raiders, has shown flashes in the past, and I believe the Jets will hope he reaches his potential as well.
Offensive Line: Kelvin Beachum, James Carpenter, Spencer Long, Brian Winters, Brandon Shell, Brent Qvale, Dakota Dozier, Travis Swanson, Antonio Garcia
The starters will be the first five names going left to right. Four of the five are the same as last years starters with Long being the only new addition, a very important one at that. The team seems to love both Qvale and Dozier as they have been depth pieces for multiple years. Swanson sticks over Jonotthan Harrison because of Swanson’s flexibility along the entire offensive line. The Jets claimed Garcia off waivers from the New England Patriots, and despite his recent struggles, I expect the Jets to try and see if he can garner his third-round status.
Defensive Line: Leonard Williams, Steve McClendon, Nathan Shepherd, Mike Pennel, Henry Anderson, Folorunso Fatukasi
Williams, the former first-round pick, is a lock to make the team. The Jets are relying heavily on him to generate a pass rush because they lack 3-4 outside pass rushing linebackers. McClendon is the starting nose tackle for this team, with Pennel as his backup. Shepherd is expected to be the energizer bunny of the unit, never giving up on any play. Anderson, acquired for a seventh-round pick, has shown flashes but has been unable to stay healthy. Fatukasi will have to fight off Xavier Cooper, but I believe Fatukasi wins with the Jets fearing he will be claimed if cut.
Linebackers: Avery Williamson, Darron Lee, Kevin Minter, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Frankie Luvu, David Bass
Newly acquired Williamson will pair with Lee on the inside. Jordan Jenkins and Josh Martin will be the first-team outside linebackers. Pierre-Louis finds a spot on the team for his special teams’ ability. Kevin Minter will be the savvy veteran who serves as the backup inside linebacker. Luvu, an undrafted free-agent, has shown flashes of being a pass rusher which gives him a great chance to make the roster because the Jets are parched in that area. David Bass was the team’s best pass rusher last year, so he will stick for another campaign.
Secondary: Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Darryl Roberts, Derrick Jones, Parry Nickerson, J.J. Wilcox, Terrence Brooks
Johnson was the big fish the Jets were able to get this offseason. Only two players in Jets’ history got more guaranteed more than Johnson (Darrelle Revis and Muhammad Wilkerson). The number one cornerback from a year ago, Morris Claiborne, was brought back to serve as the number two. With the addition of Johnson, Skrine can slide back to his more conventional position of slot corner. Adams and Maye, the rookie safety duo from a year ago, will once again be the tandem this year. Roberts will serve as the backup outside corner. Derrick Jones has come on this offseason after barely playing in his rookie season. Expect the Jets to make sure he finds a roster spot. Parry Nickerson will serve as the backup to Skrine in the slot and may even push for his job if Skrine slips up. With Rontez Miles out, the backup safety battle shrinks to three people for two spots. Wilcox is the proven veteran, both as a starter and backup, and will certainly find a spot. Leaving Brooks and Doug Middleton, Brooks takes the spot because of his experience.
Specialists: Taylor Bertolet, Lachlan Edwards, Thomas Hennessy
Despite Cairo Santos being the veteran and the one expected to win the job, he has an undisclosed injury and did not play in the first preseason game. Bertolet was solid in his kickoffs and made his only field goal attempt of the game. Edwards and Hennessy both make the roster as punter and long snapper, respectively.