Happy preseason eve, Jets fans! With the New York Jets set to take on the Atlanta Falcons in their first preseason game of the year tomorrow night it means today is the day for predicting what the Jets 53-man roster will look like after “final” cut (final is in quotes there because even-though we call that cut the final cuts, we all know more cuts will be made after other teams cuts are announced). The good news this year is the Jets have so much depth that there are going to a ton of difficult decisions for Jets GM Mike Maccagnan.
Difficult decisions for Maccagnan means difficult predictions for us media members to make, but when has the possibility of being wrong ever stopped us from making prediction? Let’s get right into the predictions with comments on each position group.
QB (3) – Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown
Well this one is easy. No more wondering which quarterback(s) that doesn’t belong on an NFL roster will be stuck on the Jets roster, no more carrying four unqualified quarterbacks. There’s only three choices and all three are most likely to still be on the final 53-man roster. The only question here is, do the Jets end up trading Bridgewater? They’d certainly love to be able to, but unless another team loses their starter to a significant injury I don’t think the Jets will be able to get enough in a trade to make it worth their while. Remember, every team in the league had a chance to sign Bridgewater in the offseason and the Jets were the only buyer. Granted that was in large part due to the questions about his knee, but if no one was interested just a couple of months ago then it’s likely going to take a starter getting injured to garner interest now.
Bonus prediction: Darnold will win the starting job by the end of the season. As long as he doesn’t look lost and completely overwhelmed during the preseason he should win the job and from what we’ve seen so far I’d be shocked if he looked that overwhelmed. I do feel it’s important to note that I feel like many Jets fans are getting carried away with all the positivity surrounding Darnold. There’s a lot to be happy and excited about with the rookie quarterback, especially from a mental standpoint, but I feel like many fans are under the impression that he looks so good that he’ll start and hit the ground running. But right now the future looks with Darnold but there’s going to be bumps in the road, he will absolutely struggle at times this season and fans need to be ready for said struggles and realize that’s life in the NFL. Don’t start dec caring him a bust after a couple of bad games, just like we shouldn’t be given the impression that he’s Canton-bound before he even plays a game.
RB (3) – Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Trenton Cannon
Before anyone overreacts to Elijah McGuire not being on this list, I’m excluding him because of the injury. I know it was said it would just be a three-to-six week recovery, but with the depth they have here there’s no need to rush to get him back. I’m going to say the Jets start the season with McGuire on the PUP list and buy themselves a few extra weeks of having an open roster spot to use elsewhere. Once McGuire comes back expect to see them carry four running backs. Also while I’d have Cannon making the roster strictly as a running back, he serves two purposes here as I’m betting on him to win the kick/punt returner job over Andre Roberts and Lucky Whitehead.
FB (1) – Dimitri Flowers
The undrafted rookie gets the nod over Lawrence Thomas for me. Thomas was a great, and fun, story but if you’re going to keep a fullback on your roster in 2018 you should probably keep the guy who is obviously a fullback, not the backup defensive end that could play some fullback in a pinch.
TE (3) – Eric Tomlinson, Chris Herndon, Clive Walford
Tight end has been a weak spot for the Jets for years, decades even, and while this group of names isn’t going to impress any casual fans they have a chance to be very productive and the best group I’ve seen in my years covering the team. I actually wanted to keep Neal Sterling as a fourth tight end, but with all the tough choices I felt like I couldn’t afford a fourth tight end taking up a valuable roster spot. I would absolutely expect the Jets to add Sterling to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Bonus prediction: Tomlinson will be the official starter to begin the season and will handle most of the blocking roles but Herndon will be the one getting the most catches and running the most routes. Herndon has looked great in camp so far and in case you were wondering about a possible suspension from his DUI, his lawyer will likely drag the case out and the NFL typically waits until the courts finish before issuing punishments themselves so look for Herndon to face that suspension to start next season.
OL (10) – Kelvin Beachum, James Carpenter, Spencer Long, Brian Winters, Brandon Shell, Brent Qvale, Jonotthan Harrison, Travis Swanson, Dakota Dozier, Ben Ijalana
This is by far the toughest position to predict. Mostly because it’s the toughest position to judge while standing on the sidelines, it can be really difficult to tell how everyone is playing because it’s hard to see through the sea of bodies when the defensive line and offensive line come together to form a jumbled mess. Also you can never have too much depth on the offensive line, so while I opted to keep 10 players, I wanted to keep more. Even if I miraculously get all these players right on the “final” cut day, I’d expect at least one of these players to be cut a couple days later after the Jets add a player from waivers.
Bonus prediction: If they clear waivers look for the Jets to stash Ben Braden and Dakoda Shepley on the practice squad
WR (6) – Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, Chad Hansen, Tre Mcbride
This was another easy group, for the top five at least. I decided to take two gambles here though; if Maccagnan had to make his decision solely based off of practice reports, McBride would have to make the roster. Of course that’s not how it works so McBride will have to use the preseason to prove he belongs but I’m guessing he’ll do enough. The easier choice is would have been to keep Andre Roberts as the kick returner and sixth receiver, but I’m rolling the dice on Cannon and McBride.
ArDarius Stewart isn’t listed because he will be suspended to start the season, but if the group is healthy when he comes back from his suspension look for him to be cut then. Third-round pick just last year, but I just don’t see a fit for him on this roster.
DL (7) – Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Nathan Sheperd, Henry Anderson, Folorunso Fatukasi, Mike Pennel, Xavier Cooper
The question here is, do the Jets roll with seven or six defensive lineman? I’m not sure, but just like with the offensive line depth on the defensive line is extremely important and the Jets are going to lean on a heavy rotation of defensive linemen so I went with seven. If they only go six then it’ll either be Pennel or Cooper that are gone, but this group doesn’t have the name power of years past but it is filled with quality guys to play their role.
LB (7) – Avery Williamson, Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, David Bass, Frankie Luvu, Kevin Pierre-Louis
I settled on seven linebackers here, but I really wanted to keep nine or 10. The first five names are locked in barring injury, and you are correct I did not include Lorenzo Mauldin (he wouldn’t have been included if I went with nine or 10 either, like with Stewart at receiver I just don’t see the value of keeping him from what we’ve seen.
Kevin Minter is a name I excluded, but I could see them keeping Minter and stashing Luvu on the practice squad. Although what I’ve seen the past few weeks, I wouldn’t risk losing him. Like with McBride, Luvu will have to continue impressing in the preseason but I’m guessing he’ll do enough to earn a spot.
CB (6) – Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine, Derrick Jones, Parry Nickerson, Darryl Roberts
No Juston Burris or Jeremy Clark, look for them to be added to the practice squad if they clear waivers. Rashard Robinson will start the season on the suspended list, but his spot will be far from secure when he returns.
S (4) – Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Doug Middleton, J.J. Wilcox
Terrence Brooks deserve to make this roster, he played well enough last season and has had a strong enough camp that he truly deserves to make the roster. The problem is, I can’t see the Jets keeping five safeties and J.J. Wilcox has been coming on strong the past week or two. This is, however, the third straight year I have put Doug Middleton on my final 53, but I was wrong the last two years because of injuries. If any of the four safeties I have making it get hurt, Brooks will hold it down until they or Rontez Miles return.
K (1) – Cairo Santos
P (1) – Lachlan Edwards
LS (1) – Thomas Hennessy