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3 potential surprise NY Jets roster cuts after training camp

Michael Carter, NY Jets RB
Michael Carter, New York Jets, Getty Images

The New York Jets have three players who could surprisingly be on the outside looking in after training camp

Which New York Jets players are going to get cut on camera?

The specter of ‘Hard Knocks’ looms large over the Jets’ upcoming training camp, bringing the potential to air some unpleasant moments. The release of players who had become popular on TV is rather common.

While there isn’t as much uncertainty surrounding the roster this year as there was in 2022, there are still some questions looming for the Jets. Who will the final receiver on the roster be? What’s the primary safety alignment? Who will be the weakside linebacker?

Amidst those questions, there are three players whose roster spots may not be as secure as they seem. We’ve already talked about how Denzel Mims’ spot is highly unlikely, and Bryce Hall is considered a likely cut candidate by most. Therefore, we’re going to go in a different direction.

Zonovan Knight

The Jets do seem to have at least a modicum of interest in Dalvin Cook, notwithstanding his constant social media flirtation with both the Jets and Dolphins. Although it’s more likely that he ends up in Miami, if the Jets do acquire another back, that would place some doubt on the role of the other running backs.

Breece Hall‘s spot is assured, and you would have to assume Israel Abanikanda’s is, too. The question is how many running backs the Jets will carry. If Cook were to enter the mix, then 2022 undrafted free agent Zonovan Knight could end up fearing for his job.

Knight had a very stark divide performance-wise in 2022. After averaging 4.56 yards per attempt in his first three games, including 3.39 yards after contact per rush attempt and 0.446 missed tackles forced per touch, he fell off the rails along with the rest of the Jets’ rushing attack.

In his final four contests, Knight managed just 70 rushing yards on 39 attempts, a putrid 1.79 yards per attempt. Ironically, he had 77 yards after contact (1.97 per attempt)—meaning that he was often hit behind the line of scrimmage. His missed tackles forced fell to 0.143 per touch.

Personally, I think Knight should be the RB2 in 2023. I believe in his ability to break tackles and utilize his power. His vision is far from perfect, but if the Jets’ run-blocking is as bad as it was at the end of last year, I’m not sure how much any running back could have done. Furthermore, Knight showed potential as both a receiver (13 receptions, 100 yards, 10.2 YAC per reception) and blocker, which are the elements of a complete back that none of the other Jets backs besides Hall have ever shown in tandem.

However, the fact that the Jets stowed Knight on their practice squad last year could lead them to try to do it again. Robert Saleh indicated in 2022 that the Jets like Knight’s one-cut running style, which is what caused them to activate him from the practice squad. However, the question is if they liked what they saw enough to keep him on the active roster.

It’s worth noting that if the Jets were to release Knight, another team would likely pick him up. He had already shown enough in the 2022 preseason that it was somewhat surprising the Jets were able to sneak him onto their practice squad. I don’t think that would happen again.

Michael Carter

This leads us to the Jets’ other back, Michael Carter. After a strong rookie year, Carter fell off the rails in Year 2 in just about every area. Even before the Jets’ run-blocking imploded at the end of the season, Carter took the same blocking that Hall and Knight had in front of them and did almost nothing with it. In fact, Carter’s most noteworthy (and cringe-worthy) play of the season was a fumble in the Jets’ second game against the Bills.

The question is if the Jets now have 2021 Carter or 2022 Carter. 2021 Carter broke tackles left and right; 2022 Carter got tackled at the spot. Rookie Carter had the vision to find the holes; Year 2 Carter ran right into blockers and didn’t set up his blocks well. There is no indication that an injury caused this, either; although he did miss a game with an ankle injury, he was scuffling well before that, too.

Carter did not react well when the Jets traded Elijah Moore, briefly blocking most of the big names on Jets Twitter before unblocking them with a halfhearted apology. Moore was Carter’s best friend on the team.

The fact that Knight was getting the lion’s share of the carries later in the season calls Carter’s 2023 role into question. Could he be the sneaky cut candidate? Maybe the Jets go with Hall, Knight, and Abanikanda and move on from Carter.

Max Mitchell

This one is not likely, but does anyone know what’s going on with Max Mitchell? His blood clotting condition that kept him out for the end of the season is not a short-term type of thing.

Mitchell gave an admirable attempt for a fourth-round developmental prospect, but the truth is that he was well below average as a tackle in 2022. His 6.0% pressure rate allowed ranked 45th out of 73 tackles, and his 2.59% sack-plus-hit rate ranked 62nd. That means he allowed more pressure than average, and that pressure impacted the quarterback at an extremely high rate.

Pro Football Focus gave Mitchell a 52.7 run-blocking grade and a 53.7 pass-blocking grade, which both ranked 62nd out of 73 qualified tackles. That’s not a tackle who should see the field in 2023 (any more than he should have in 2022).

What will likely happen is that the Jets will carry five tackles—Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton as the starters with Billy Turner, Mitchell, and Carter Warren as the backups (in that order). It seems that the Jets’ strategy is to hope that at least one of Mitchell or Warren is ready to start by 2024, when both the team’s starting tackles will be free agents.

Still, we can’t discount the possibility that the Jets brought in Turner as insurance and drafted Warren because they simply don’t believe Mitchell can do it. Maybe Mitchell hasn’t been able to gain any play strength as he recovers from his injury. Perhaps being thrust into action as a rookie messed with his developmental curve.

Again, this is not that likely. But developmental fourth-round prospects get released after a year pretty frequently. With a blood clotting issue, Mitchell could be on the outside looking in if he’s not up to speed in training camp.

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Noam
1 year ago

I recall that Carter was very focused last off-season on getting faster by losing some weight. I wonder if the lost weight affected him. He looked like a completely different player last year.

mlesko73
1 year ago

I agree w/ your assessment of Knight vs Carter. I give Knight the benefit of the doubt as far as the degradation of the OLine over the course of the season. By the final qtr of the season defenses had absolutely no fear of our passing game and were loading the box.
Carter looked as though he lost his RB vision; missing holes, delaying for no reason etc.
I don’t want Cook based on Nania’s analytical breakdown beyond yds & TD’s. I say we sit pat w/ our RB room.
One can only hope that Mitchell is physically ready and has gained size/strength in order to compete.

dudizt
1 year ago

Interesting you add Mitchell. Cimini had a post today that he was a sneaky surprise in training camp, but there are a lot of mouths to feed at OT.

What are the odds they roll with 5 tackles in the 53?

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