With the beginnning of actual Jets preseason football action later tonight, it seemed like the right time to engage in an annual fan exercise in futility: predicting the Opening-day 53-man roster.
I've broken this down into three steps. To start—more to get it out of the way than anything else—let's go through the players and spots that I feel are completely and totally safe. I've identified 36 of these, in total, with 17 on offense, 17 on defense, and two special teamers (the even-ness there was an accident, not a goal).
QB(3): McCown, Bridgewater, Darnold
While it's possible Bridgewater is traded, he's certainly not being cut, so I've kept him in the mix for now.
RB(4): Powell, Crowell, Cannon, McGuire
Given that the Jets are currently listing Crowell as the #1 RB, and the extremely promising camp we've been hearing about from Cannon, the top three here seem totally locked in. I've included McGuire, even though he's injured, because it seems like it'll be short lived enough to not really hurt his roster chances.
OL(5): Beachum, Carpenter, Long, Winters, Shell
Beyond the starting line, I didn't really see any offensive linemen I really considered to be a lock. I suppose that speaks to the lack of quality players we have here more than anything else.
WR(4): Anderson, Pryor, Enunwa, Kearse
I'm actually really hopeful about this top-four grouping, personally. It's really only after these guys that there's a battle for roster spots at WR
With so much up for grabs at Tight End, Tomlinson—initially listed as the number 1 tight end—seems like a safe bet.
DL(4): Williams, Fatukasi, Shepherd, Anderson
Anderson is some speculation here, having not yet seen him in action, but Leo and the rookies are the closest thing to a lock there is.
With Bowles describing Steve as "one of his favorite players", it seems inevitable that he's got a roster spot for his leadership if nothing else.
ILB(2): Lee, Williamson
Darron Lee and Avery Williamson are clearly the starting ILBs. Short of a injury or some miraculous play by their backups this preseason they're not going anywhere.
I thought pretty hard about this one but at the end of the day I don't think any of our other EDGE players have shown anywhere near enough ability to be a consistent, day-to-day player that they warrant a guaranteed spot. Obviously that speaks to how terrible this position group is for us, skill-wise, but it also speaks to how close I think the skill levels are among those players.
CB(5): Claiborne, Johnson, Skrine, Nickerson, Jones
The biggest leap here has got to be Derrick Jones. But with the camp he's supposedly had so far and a backlog of CB5 and below talent, he seems like the one that has stepped up so far in camp. I think that gets him a spot.
S(4): Adams, Maye, Brooks, Middleton
With Middleton taking snaps with the #1s in practice, it seems like a lock for him to make the roster. Additionally, Brooks showed some promise in real games last year, so I have to imagine he'll get another run.
ST(2): Edwards, Hennessy
Having absolutely no competition for roster spots, these two are pretty simple.
Alright, so now that I've got all the obvious bits handled, let's move on to filling in the roster based on roster spots that we need to fill—The way I see it, we've got 13 positions that need a man to fill them.
DB: 1 (D. Roberts^, Robinson, Clark$, Burris, Sinkfield, Coleman, Rodgers, Wilcox, Bryant$)
Given Bowles' propensity for having his DBs able to play any role in the backfield, it seems like a simple statement of "We're going to carry 10 DBs" is the easiest way to think about that.
ILB: 2 (Minter^, Pierre-Louis%, Hewitt^, Wint$)
Being useful on special teams as well as a critical backup for the two distinct ILB roles we have, we're definitely going to carry a total of 4 ILBs into the season.
OLB: 3 (Martin^, Bass, Donahue, Luvu%, Mauldin^, Copeland^, Gwacham)
Since I only gave us a single "Safe" OLB, here's where we really make up for that under-allocation with a good number of players. I figure we need two starters and two backups, safely.
OL: 2 (Ijalana^, Braden^, Shepley$, Harrison, Qvale, Dozier, Swanson, Garcia$, James$)
This was one of the tougher numbers for me to come to. Carrying 7 OL is really a bare-minimum style roster in my mind, but I think we've done it before under Bowles.
NT: 1 (Pennel^, Simon)
McClendon has had his fair share of injuries, and with a stated desire to rotate more guys on the DL, it seems pretty certain we'll carry a backup NT.
TE: 2 (Leggett^, Herndon^, Sterling$, Walford)
Tomlinson is obviously more of a blocking guy, so that leaves solidly two spots available for battle among this crowd.
WR: 1 (Hansen^, A. Roberts, Stewart, Johnson, McBride%, Trinnaman$, Whitehead, Peake)
While we've got a fair amount of talent down here, I think it's hard to say that a roster really demands having more than 5 WRs, so that's what I've stuck with here.
K: 1 (Santos^, Bertolet)
Somebody's gotta do the kicking, right?
So, 36 + 13 = 49. That leaves four spots for...
...the leftover guys who don't have any guaranteed spots that they're fighting for
There are three positions that didn't get mentioned in the "necessary spots to fill" section: FB, RB, and DL. In the case of FB it's that I didn't really think it's a lock that we carry one at all, but for the other two, I'm just not sure there's a camp battle for a spot. This leaves a few guys—listed below—in a bit of a tough spot, since they're forced to fight the entire roster for their role, rather than just their position group.
L. Thomas, Flowers%, Atkinson$, Rawls, Cooper, M. Thomas$, Reyes
...any waiver claims we make in the weeks going forward
...and a punt returner, if Cannon can't swing it
(Have to assume that's either Andre Roberts or Lucky Whitehead.)
So throughout those player listings, you've seen some markers on player names. They're marked as follows:
My current projection of the (13) "necessary" spots are marked with a '^'. That's...
- D. Roberts
My current projection of the (4) "additional" spots are marked with a '%'. That's...
My current projection of (10) practice squad spots are marked with a '$'. That's...
- M. Thomas
- Sterling (Wasn't sure if he's eligible, but if he is...)
(Ed. note: Sterling actually isn't PS eligible, so Marcus picked Donahue instead when I informed him of this. Atkinson isn't eligible either for what it's worth).
And so, that's it. My wildly early, opinionated, and uneducated guess about something I have no control over (and a decent emotional investment in). But that's what the offseason does to us, right?
P.S. My Last 4 out: Swanson, Cooper, A. Roberts, Robinson, Donahue
Have to think an OL would be an important depth addition. Maybe if we IR-DFR McGuire?
Marcus Armstrong is more than a "guest", he's the founder of JetsFix.com, in addition to being the wizard behind the curtain at MockDraftable.com. You'll find him in the comments, identifying as "Marcus"...