New York Jets’ 53-man depth chart projection looks much improved
Training camp and preseason are all that’s left. Just the smell of freshly-cut grass in Florham Park, set under the bright sun in the humid-filled air of Northern New Jersey, represents the scene for which many individuals battle it out en route to independent-contracting football glory.
For many, the Summer of 2022 is what separates the “almosts” from the “paid NFL professionals.” And naturally, the New York Jets are one of 32 organizations that’ll look to employ the best 53 men.
Injuries, trades and cuts are bound to occur; but the question that remains is, “What will the much-improved New York Jets depth chart look like come Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season?”
- Zach Wilson
- Mike White
- Joe Flacco
The Jets’ quarterback situation is as easy as one, two, three. The only question remaining is who the true No. 2 will be.
Most will have Joe Flacco slotted in that spot, but due to Mike White’s Halloween special a year ago, it’s fair to place him No. 2 while Flacco takes the special “No. 3 mentor role.”
Running Back (3)
- Michael Carter
- Breece Hall
- Tevin Coleman
Carrying just three running backs is a tricky proposition, but Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas may just have to go this route early in the season.
Fans are ready to proclaim rookie Breece Hall the starter, but why rush? The kid is a rookie, after all, and this coaching staff loves to take the appropriate tact that is making rookies fully earn their stripes.
In any event, Mike LaFleur has two solid backs he can now rely upon. Slide the unreliable Tevin Coleman into the No. 3 spot while trying to sneak undrafted free agent Zonovan Knight onto the practice squad for insurance.
- Toughest cuts: Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine
- Practice squad candidates: Zonovan Knight
Wide Receiver (5)
- Elijah Moore (OUTSIDE, SLOT)
- Corey Davis (OUTSIDE)
- Braxton Berrios (SLOT)
- Garrett Wilson (OUTSIDE, SLOT)
- Jeff Smith (OUTSIDE, SLOT)
Wide receiver is another position New York may have to go lighter to start. Then again, these five are pretty damn reliable.
It’s clear that this organization loves Jeff Smith. He has to be considered—at the very worst—the No. 5. Garrett Wilson will ultimately finish the season in the top trio, but for now, No. 3 (the slot) is Braxton Berrios’s gig.
Denzel Mims isn’t listed due to the idea that a training camp-timed trade could be likely (for a mid-round choice). The other tough odd-man-out would be minicamp standout D.J. Montgomery.
- Trade: Denzel Mims for a mid-round pick
- Toughest cuts: D.J. Montgomery
- Practice squad candidates: D.J. Montgomery, Irvin Charles, Tarik Black
Tight End/Fullback (5)
- C.J. Uzomah (TE)
- Tyler Conklin (TE, FB)
- Nick Bawden (FB)
- Kenny Yeboah (TE)
- Jeremy Ruckert (TE)
What was arguably the weakest Jets position a year ago may be one of their strongest this year. Tight end is ready to roll to the point that the cuts will be excruciating.
First, at fullback, I’ll give Nick Bawden the slight edge over Trevon Wesco. His run-blocking output in 2021 will be more than enough for LaFleur to bet on him.
In terms of tight end, keeping four is the minimum number at this moment. And if four are kept, both Wesco and vertical threat Lawrence Cager will have to go—something this franchise will not want to do.
The problem for Cager—who would present matchup nightmares in pass-only situations—is that Kenny Yeboah has also looked tremendous in OTAs and minicamp. I’m not sure if the Jets will be able to sneak Cager onto the practice squad without another team plucking him.
- Toughest cuts: Trevon Wesco, Lawrence Cager
- Practice squad candidates: Lawrence Cager
Offensive Tackle (4)
- George Fant (LT)
- Mekhi Becton (RT)
- Max Mitchell (OT)
- Conor McDermott (OT, IOL)
The offensive tackle position comes down to Chuma Edoga. How does this regime feel about the Mike Maccagnan pick?
If they feel good, he’ll be the No. 3. If they like what they see from mid-round pick Max Mitchell, they can go with the rookie as the swing tackle and count Conor McDermott as the No. 4.
- Toughest cuts: Chuma Edoga
- Practice squad candidates: Greg Senat, Grant Hermanns, Parker Ferguson
Interior Offensive Linemen (5)
- Alijah Vera-Tucker (RG)
- Laken Tomlinson (LG)
- Connor McGovern (C)
- Nate Herbig (IOL)
- Dan Feeney (IOL)
The interior of the offensive line suddenly looks pretty deep. Nate Herbig provides them with a solid No. 4, while Dan Feeney comfortably represents the No. 5, and McDermott can also play on the inside if needed.
- Toughest cuts: Derrick Kelly
- Practice squad candidates: Dru Samia, Ross Pierschbacher
Interior Defensive Linemen (5)
- Quinnen Williams (2i-TECH)
- John Franklin-Myers (3-TECH, EDGE)
- Sheldon Rankins (2i-TECH)
- Solomon Thomas (3-TECH, EDGE)
- Nathan Shepherd (2i-TECH)
Out with the old beef and in with the new lean look—Saleh is fully embracing his gap-attacking 4-3 scheme.
It’s as clear as day that the new 2i-tech starter in the 4-3 base is Quinnen Williams. Instead of playing over the guard’s outside shoulder, he’ll line up inside of the guard and even sometimes in the 1-tech (over the center’s shoulder, A-gap).
Big Q and Sheldon Rankins will move down, as will John Franklin-Myers, who—based on roster construction—might be in store for a full-time inside role (3-tech). Solomon Thomas is the other extremely talented 3-tech.
Although Tanzel Smart and Jonathan Marshall have a shot, this staff loves Nathan Shepherd.
- Toughest cuts: Jonathan Marshall, Tanzel Smart
- Practice squad candidates: Jonathan Marshall, Tanzel Smart
- Carl Lawson
- Bryce Huff
- Jacob Martin
- Jermaine Johnson
- Micheal Clemons
Five inside guys plus five outside guys equal 10 Jets defensive linemen. Yeah, that’s right. The best bet for a full group at any position on this depth chart is at the defensive line.
Carl Lawson and Jermaine Johnson may be the only two locks, interestingly. And while Saleh would love to keep Vinny Curry, it’ll be tough to keep him in tow if no injuries occur.
At this point, I would not even consider rookie Micheal Clemons a lock to make the initial 53-man roster. If not for rookie status, Curry clearly owns the advantage.
- Toughest cuts: Vinny Curry, Tim Ward, Jabari Zuniga
- Practice squad candidates: Jabari Zuniga, Bradlee Anae, Hamilcar Rashed Jr.
- C.J. Mosley (MIKE)
- Quincy Williams (SAM)
- Marcell Harris (WILL)
- Jamien Sherwood (MIKE, WILL)
- Del’Shawn Phillips (SAM)
Linebacker, although still weak, is incredibly tricky. Jamien Sherwood is returning from injury (achilles), which muddies the waters. C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams are the only two locks, but a No. 3 and perhaps even a No. 2 in the nickel is desperately needed.
Watch out for little-known Marcell Harris to take the WILL (or, at the very least, the No. 2 in the nickel). If Sherwood is healthy enough to make the initial roster, he’ll be in there, as the staff loves his leadership (and No. 2 MIKE role). If he’s not healthy enough, Hamsah Nasirildeen is safe.
The last spot will be a battle between Nasirildeen and Del’Shawn Phillips. Right now, I have the upset of Phillips knocking off the kid.
- Toughest cuts: Hamsah Nasirildeen, Javin White
- Practice squad candidates: Hamsah Nasirildeen, DQ Thomas
- Sauce Gardner (OUTSIDE)
- D.J. Reed (OUTSIDE, SLOT)
- Michael Carter II (SLOT, FS)
- Bryce Hall (OUTSIDE)
- Javelin Guidry (SLOT)
- Brandin Echols (OUTSIDE, SLOT)
Yet another tough position is at cornerback. The bodies are young and talented, and there are no easy choices here.
The top four above are locks to make the roster (barring injury or transaction). D.J. Reed, if willing, offers versatility to play both outside and the slot. Michael Carter II can also play safety if called upon.
Javelin Guidry is a nice young slot corner and Brandin Echols made some plays as a rook. The odd-man out, to me, at this very moment in time, appears to be special teams ace Justin Hardee. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a well-liked veteran, but unless injuries occur, the Jets can save $2.035 million against the cap if he’s cut.
Douglas and Saleh would love to keep him, but there are plenty of young legs to assume gunner position on the punt team (if there’s not enough space in the cornerback room).
The other tough cut would be young Rachad Wildgoose, who has looked good in OTAs and minicamp. They will surely attempt to keep him around (practice squad).
- Toughest cuts: Justin Hardee, Isaiah Dunn, Rachad Wildgoose
- Practice squad candidates: Isaiah Dunn, Rachad Wildgoose
- Jordan Whitehead (SS)
- Jason Pinnock (FS, CB)
- Ashtyn Davis (FS)
- Elijah Riley (SS)
Where’s Lamarcus Joyner? Well, there’s a problem with the safety position.
First and foremost, there are a number of bodies now—as opposed to a year ago. Secondly, Jason Pinnock is rapidly on the rise. Thirdly, they won’t want to cut Ashtyn Davis loose—even if he is still raw in terms of football instincts. (They greatly respect his athleticism and worth ethic.)
Lastly, Elijah Riley brings intangibles to the table that Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich admire. He’s gritty and mucks it up, offering an attitude adjustment for his teammates at times.
The final spot will likely come down to Joyner and Riley, and although the former is much more talented than the latter, age and the overall feel of this roster suggests Riley will get the nod. Plus, Joyner isn’t the most dependable player at this stage of his career. He must first prove he can stay healthy.
- Toughest cuts: Lamarcus Joyner, Jovante Moffat, Will Parks
- Practice squad candidates: Will Parks, Tony Adams
Special Teams (3)
- Greg Zuerlein (K)
- Braden Mann (P)
- Thomas Hennessy (LS)
I’ll give the kicking nod to veteran Greg Zuerlein for now, but it’s truly a flip-of-a-coin battle at the moment.
Braden Mann and Thomas Hennessy are locks.
|QB||Zach Wilson||Mike White||Joe Flacco|
|Michael Carter||Breece Hall||Tevin Coleman|
|Elijah Moore||Garrett Wilson|
|Corey Davis||Jeff Smith|
|C.J. Uzomah||Tyler Conklin||Kenny Yeboah||Jeremy Ruckert|
|George Fant||Max Mitchell|
|Laken Tomlinson||Nate Herbig|
|Connor McGovern||Dan Feeney|
|Mekhi Becton||Conor McDermott|
|Bryce Huff||Jermaine Johnson||Micheal Clemons|
|John Franklin-Myers||Solomon Thomas|
|Quinnen Williams||Sheldon Rankins||Nathan Shepherd|
|Carl Lawson||Jacob Martin|
|C.J. Mosley||Jamien Sherwood|
|Quincy Williams||Del'Shawn Phillips|
|Sauce Gardner||Bryce Hall|
|D.J. Reed||Brandin Echols|
|Michael Carter II||Javelin Guidry|
|Jason Pinnock||Ashtyn Davis|
|Jordan Whitehead||Elijah Riley|
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