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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There’s no doubt about it, the numbers are tight, and there are going to be some difficult decisions to make. No matter which way they go, there will be questions by the media and fanbase, and there will be those who will be upset.
I think this is an excellent effort on your part. Thanks. I don’t totally agree with it, but your rationale for your decisions make sense.
I would be shocked if the Jets only keep 3 RBs, especially with Hall being a rookie, Carter (who couldn’t stay healthy last season and has a slight build), and the older and injury-prone Coleman, but agree that the numbers elsewhere will probably force them to keep only 3 or 4 if one includes Bawden. A minor quibble is that I think Bawden will be counted as a RB, not a TE, but he isn’t going to be running the ball or receiving very much. He will primarily be a blocker. Perine isn’t a scheme fit or that good. Johnson is a good runner, but is an awful blocker and his hands as a receiver are questionable. He had a ton of drops last season in addition to all his blown assignments last season and didn’t seem to know the offense. I won’t be sad to see him go, as I thought he needed to be replaced, but I’d rather see another good young RB on the roster. I hope that Knight can live up to his promise and will make the PS.
I’ll be shocked if Hardee and Joyner are cut. Hardee, especially. I can’t imagine that Brant Boyer would be happy with that, but he is older, and as you said, the Jets have lots of fast young players who could serve as gunners. The question is will they have the instincts and ability to make plays like Hardee? Joyner missed all of last season, and it’s been 3-4 years since he played well. In addition, we do need another SS in case Whitehead gets injured. I’ve read that Davis plays better near the LOS, so he could be the backup SS this season, but I think they’d rather make use of his speed and athleticism at FS. It’s definitely good that we have some flexibility in the secondary with Reed, Carter, Echols, and Pinnock. They may not keep him, but I think Nasirildeen could possibly provide futher flexibility as a hybrid LB/SS.
Why do the Jets supposedly love Shepherd? He’s a penalty machine. I haven’t seen him make that many plays or live up to his potential, and he is older as well. He was a last minute addition in FA this year. I think Marshall would have to flop vs the run and both he and Smart have bad TCs for Shepherd to make the team over them, although they could go to the PS.
I’ll be surprised if Nasirildeen doesn’t make the team. I can’t imagine the Jets giving up on him that quickly. He might not make it through waivers. Another team could sign him as a SS. If he struggles early in TC, I think the Jets should switch him back to SS where he exceled in college. He should provide better depth and athleticism than Riley.
The most disappointing cut for me (trade actually) would be Mims. I wanted the Jets to draft him and they did. He’s struggled mightily and had a lot of things go against him early, but he’s a great kid and has a ton of talent. I hope he blows the top off of TC and makes it impossible for the Jets to not keep him. I’d like for him to have such a great season that the Jets let Corey Davis walk in FA following the season. I’d MUCH rather Mims be the #5 WR than Smith. I know the Jets supposedly love Smith, but when he gets on the field, he doesn’t do much against other teams. He just looks good in practice against the Jets’ D. I don’t want to see the likes of Black or Montgomery ever on the field for the Jets again. Charles is a good PS candidate. Keep Mims and put Smith on the PS. I believe that if Mims goes elsewhere, he becomes a very good WR, if not a star. He’s in great shape, has great size and speed, and all the adversity has made him tougher mentally. I think he’s ready to have a breakout seaosn.
Very well thought-out article as usual. As I am an offensive-minded person, I would have 9 defensive lineman. I would have 10 offensive linemen. I would cut Yeboah and have 6 WR’s. I am very excited to see the wheeling and dealing that Joe will do after camp cuts and during the pre-season. I can see us adding a WR, OT and a LB.
I also am an offensive-minded person, but unless the Jets sign Reiff, or some other good OL becomes available, I can’t see them keeping 10. The DL depth personnel we have is better than the OL depth personnel. I agree about 6 WRs, but like Yeboah. I don’t think the Jets will need to add a WR. I think Mims is going to have a great TC, and will wind up making the team or at least making it very tough for the Jets to keep Jeff Smith over him. I hope that we can add Reiff or another good OL and a LB.
I like your breakdown, even though it’s so early, we know, as you mentioned “things” happen. A couple of thoughts: I don’t understand the love of Jeff Smith? His route running is nothing short of atrocious, he doesn’t attack the ball, and they have other guys who can “do what he does.” I have seen him cause several interceptions simply because he doesn’t attack the football, and his routes aren’t sharp. Get rid of him please. I’d rather watch Mims for another season than see him get pushed around and cause picks.
Shepherd is also an interesting guy. I agree they do like him and he’s one of those guys that is useful and a backbreaker all in the same player. His propensity for “dumb” mistakes should be enough to ship him out but…he is still useful and they really don’t have a guy to take his spot. I am hoping Marshall or Smart can beat him out. I do agree with you about Curry, he’d be great to keep but they won’t get Clemons to the practice squad so he has to be on the roster. I think Curry is one of those vets you keep until the end and he’s ready should there be an unfortunate injury.
I agree, I don’t see them keeping Hardee, sure he’s a great leader but really what does he do for the team that some younger player can’t? He was pretty hyped but I don’t remember one “big” play he made all year. That’s not to say he wasn’t good but he seems to be a guy they can replace. Speaking of special teams, I do like Phillips. I think they see him as a “core special teams guy” and he’ll be on the roster, but I don’t see them cutting Hamsah. The LB group will be the most interesting to watch since just about everything seems up for grabs.
Ashtyn Davis is lost regardless of his work ethic or athletic ability. Why they would keep him over Joyner is beyond me? I know Joyner isn’t reliable but he is someone who KNOWS how to play safety. Davis, Pinnock, the younger guys in the group they don’t KNOW how to play safety. They need more experience back there, and I think the Ashtyn Davis track experiment has run its course. He’s a guy they can cut and if he ends up a pro-bowler with another team, I wouldn’t blink.
Lastly, I don’t mean this to be cruel but I have to believe Joe Douglas had to go into the off-season thinking: “I have to bring in enough good OL so we don’t have to keep Chuma Edoga. He’s simply not good, and this OL needed to improve. Getting players better than him means they are developing the group. He’s out, and for me it’s another easy cut.
Of course, I could be 100% wrong and some guys can surprise. Let’s hope it’s a fun, low injury summer, and they are ready to roll on opening day. My “way too early prediction” is the Jets are ready to play opening day and beat the Ravens by double digits.
Nice comment. You’re on the money. Can’t argue with anything you said. I agree on Joyner, but that one is more of a, “I don’t trust that everything will go go *right* for him this summer, whether that’s injury or something else that’s unforeseen at this very moment.”
Per Hamsah, I would say this: There’s a great chance (over 90%) that’s he sticks to the roster. Injuries, something else, etc. will occur. BUT, if everybody remains healthy, I can see this regime splitting the baby and finally saying to themselves, “OK, perhaps two young late-round LB picks who were natural safeties in college is a bit much (him and Sherwood).” And I know how they feel about Sherwood (leadership, MIKE/leadership abilities, etc.). Sixth-round picks are never automatic, especially with the newfound depth in-house. And there’s also a good chance Sherwood is still PUP and then IR, clearing the way for him.
Do you think they could move Hamsah back to safety? Maybe he just needs to play there? He may be a better developmental safety talent than Davis. I know there were a lot of positive reviews on him coming out of college and many thought he was the “steal” of the Jets’ draft. I find it hard to believe Sherwood isn’t on the PUP and perhaps IR to start the season, so I do think there will be room for Ham. I get your point on Hamsah, it’s sort of a “right of passage” to being a good team….you have to cut some good players. Not sure he’s a good player yet but I’m confident he’d get picked up by another team fairly quickly.
Let’s hope the “unforeseen” thing in the Joyner equation is that the younger guys outplay him and force the Jets to keep them.
Nah, I don’t think any NFL team would try to move Hamsah to safety. Not worth the effort, don’t think he’s capable—at least not in todays NFL. A few decades ago, when SS was still the traditional SS role, perhaps it’d be a thought. Not anymore.
Why wouldn’t it be worth the effort? He played safety for all 4 years at Florida St. and played it well. He had lots of tackles, had some interceptions and forced fumbles. Is he not fast enough? Not good enough in coverage?
Excellent points, but didn’t Nasirildeen fall to the 6th round because of his injury? I may be getting him confused with another player, but thought he was rated as a 2nd-3rd round pick, but fell due to injury. Rather than cut him, I’d prefer the Jets move him back to SS. He made a lot of plays at SS in college, and I think has the instincts and athleticism/speed to at least be a better backup SS than Riley.
I wholeheartedly agree regarding Jeff Smith. He may look great against the Jets’ defenses in practice, but never even looks good vs other teams in games. I think Mims is poised to break out this season and replace Davis next season.
Regarding Shepherd, I don’t see what’s so interesting. Yes, he makes some plays, but he makes more boneheaded mistakes that any other 2-3 players. He was an older rookie. He was a last minute re-signing during FA. He has some usefulness as you say, but I’d much rather see Marshall make the roster over him, or a hard-working overachiever like Tanzel Smart make the team over him.
I totally agree regarding Hamsah Nasirildeen. It’s way too early to give up on him. He could also have value as a hybrid LB/SS. Whitehead is the only real SS we have on the roster. Riley is a hard worker and overachieve, but Nasirildeen could be a better backup to Whitehead, and he could still develop at LB. Move him back to LB where he’s more comfortable, build his confidence, keep contributing on STs and keep working on learning and developing at LB.
I disagree on Davis. He does look lost at times, but he also makes plays, and it’s too early to give up on him. He didn’t start playing football until his Jr. or Sr. year in high school. He has a ton of speed and athleticism. I’d give him one more year.
I agree on Edoga. I don’t want him to ever see the field for the Jets again.
Thanks for the great response. It’s so early so much will happen. The thing with Ashtyn Davis, I don’t remember any plays he made, other than HUGE missed tackles, or horrible angles. It’s not that he’s not athletic etc, he has no “feel” or instincts for the position. I don’t think that’s something that can be taught.
I could be wrong, but I think instincts come from a combination of knowing how to play a position, i.e., techniques and positioning, and experience. He is still learning how to play the FS position, and is getting invaluable needed experience. Remember that he didn’t even start playing football until he was a Jr. or Sr. in high school. Still, he made a lot of plays at Cal just due to his speed and athleticism. Once he fully understands how to play the position, and has that experience, he could develop and have a breakout year.
He still may not ever prove to be even a good S, much less a great one, but imo he deserves one more year. If he doesn’t show significant improvement this year, then they can move on if they want. A lot of times missed tackles and bad angles can come from reacting too slowly due to having to think too much. It slows downs players. I think Davis is probably still having to think too much, and he is not yet fully able to just go out there, relax, and allow his training, experience and talent to take over. Even with his missed tackles and poor angles at times, he has made some big plays, and I have seen some stats that indicate that he has made a significant contribution.
I hope you’re right. I had high hopes for him and liked him but I’m having a tough time with him haha.