After an offseason overhaul that has drastically changed the identity of the New York Jets, cut day looks a whole lot different than it did a year ago. The 2020 dichotomy of Joe Douglas players versus Mike Maccagnan players made otherwise contentious decisions rather straightforward.
This year, the Jets are full of Douglas’s guys on both sides of the ball. This year, he’s going to have to cut bait with players he’s scouted, signed and drafted.
It’s a good problem to have when compared to last year’s camp, one that probably didn’t have 53 NFL-caliber guys in it to begin with. Now, New York is going to have to cut players that have shown promise, and were legitimate commodities for the Jets. Good teams can afford to be more selective, and the Jets are making progress towards getting there.
With just a few days until Gang Green’s first preseason matchup against the New York Giants on Saturday, here’s SI Jets Country's 53-man roster prediction:
Zach Wilson, James Morgan
Cuts: Josh Johnson, Mike White
The Jets waited as long as possible to sign a veteran backup, eager to give Morgan and White all the reps they could handle. It doesn’t seem likely that Douglas and Robert Saleh would cut both of them now. Johnson has spent just one of the past seven seasons on an NFL roster and has a lot of catching-up to do in a short time if he’s going to vault Morgan and White. He might have arrived too late.
Douglas used a valuable draft pick on Morgan last year and probably isn’t ready to send him packing after a year on the practice squad. If Wilson is forced to miss time at some point this season, expect Morgan to remain the backup while Douglas searches for a viable veteran option around the league.
Running Back (4)
Tevin Coleman, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Austin Walter
Cuts: Lamical Perine, Josh Adams
Mike LaFleur’s offense seems locked into a committee approach. In fact, it would be a surprise if any Jets’ running back played more than 50% of the snaps this season. Coleman and Carter are roster locks, while the remaining four guys will battle for the last two spots. Johnson provides the perfect compliment for those two as more of a one-cut back best suited for runs between the tackles, and he showcased that ability late in the season.
Walter over Perine is the main surprise here, especially after the Jets selected Perine in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft, but it ultimately comes down to familiarity and versatility. Walter spent time with Saleh and LaFleur in San Francisco last season, and has even gotten some reps with the first-team offense throughout the first week of training camp. Combined with his ability to contribute on special teams as a return man and potentially on kick coverage, Walter checks more boxes for the Jets in one of the tougher roster decisions management will have to make.
Wide Receiver (6)
Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims
Cuts: Manasseh Bailey, Lawrence Cager, Josh Malone, D.J. Montgomery, Jeff Smith, Vyncint Smith
This is the most improved position group on the roster, as guys that made the team easily a year ago will have to sweat it out on cut day. Crowder, Moore, Davis and Cole are locks, particularly Moore, who has been the unquestioned offensive star of training camp. Berrios showcased what he can do out of the slot in an injury-riddled 2020 receiving corps and might function as the punt returner on opening day.
When it comes to roster cuts, however, all the talk centers around Mims, last year’s second-round pick who showed promise down the stretch. This year, he could be on the chopping block, as New York reportedly feels that he hasn’t progressed enough to be a viable factor in an offense that is already poorly-suited for his skill set. A drop that led to an interception in Tuesday’s practice didn’t exactly alleviate those concerns.
Still, cooler heads should prevail here, as Saleh hinted after Wednesday’s practice that Mims’ roster spot might be safe. The Baylor product possesses too much talent and spells too big of an investment to move on this quickly. It will be an uphill battle for playing time, though.
Tight End (4)
Tyler Kroft, Chris Herndon, Trevon Wesco, Ryan Griffin
Cuts: Donald Brown, Kenny Yeboah
Save for Wesco, who will operate as New York’s fullback, there isn’t a starting-caliber player in this group. Herndon, who struggled with drops throughout the entirety of last season, has been a massive disappointment. Still, he’s the one with the most upside and the most logical fit in LaFleur’s offense. Without doing himself any favors, that alone should earn him a roster spot. Kroft is a potent run-blocker who can emerge as a red-zone threat and Griffin has had success in New York in small doses. If the Jets are looking to sign someone after cuts around the league take place, though, this might be a position to look at.
Offensive Line (9)
Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, Morgan Moses, George Fant, Dan Feeney, David Moore, Conor McDermott
Cuts: Grant Hermanns, Tristen Hoge, Corey Levin, Jimmy Murray, Chuma Edoga
Offensive line has been Douglas’s pet project, and this could be the year where it starts to show. Becton and Moses as bookend tackles look promising, with Fant acting as a more than capable swing tackle. The starters on the inside will be Vera-Tucker, McGovern and Van Roten, the last of which will win his job by default after Alex Lewis was placed on the exempt/left squad list.
Feeney has gotten the first team reps while Vera-Tucker has missed time due to injury, so his spot appears relatively safe. McDermott has seen time at tackle, but can also play guard if need be, making him the better bet over Chuma Edoga, who has been disappointing and plagued by injuries thus far. Finally, the Jets could take a flier here and keep Moore as a ninth lineman. The Grambling State product and undrafted free agent was dominant at the Senior Bowl and was immediately scooped up by Douglas after the Panthers released him earlier this week.
Defensive Line (10)
Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Vinny Curry, Foley Fatukasi, Jabari Zuniga, Bryce Huff, Nathan Shepherd, Ronald Blair
Cuts: Tanzel Smart, Jerimiah Voloaga, Michael Dwumfour, Johnathan Marshall, Kyle Phillips
This is without a doubt the strongest position group on the roster, and it’s loaded with depth, so don’t be surprised if New York uses nearly one-fifth of its roster spots on the defensive line. Lawson and Williams are Pro Bowl caliber players. Rankins and Franklin-Myers might not be too far behind. Curry and Fatukasi are locks as well.
Phillips is the odd man out here, and if he does get cut, he’ll find a new home quickly after a promising rookie year followed by an injury-marred sophomore season. Huff is one name to watch. He might just be a situational pass-rusher early, but the undrafted free agent from a year ago out of Memphis has had an exceptional camp and has seen ample time with the first-team defense as a result.
CJ Mosley, Jarrad Davis, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Jamien Sherwood, Blake Cashman
Cuts: Del’Shawn Phillips, Brendon White, Noah Dawkins, Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Milo Eifler
New York is relatively light at linebacker, and could keep as few as four guys to start the season if Cashman doesn’t impress. Mosley is looking to return to his All-Pro form after missing nearly two full seasons. Davis was the Jets’ first free agency signing this offseason and has been calling the plays in practice. Despite being drafted a round after Sherwood, it’s Nasirildeen that has gotten nearly all the snaps with the first-team defense, winning the battle of the converted safeties. Cashman will be an insurance policy who can step in at inside backer if Mosley is forced to miss time.
Bryce Hall, Blessuan Austin, Michael Carter II, Javelin Guidry, Justin Hardee, Jason Pinnock, Brandin Echols
Cuts: Corey Ballentine, Elijah Campbell, Lamar Jackson, Zane Lewis, Isaiah Dunn
Has there ever been a more open competition across the board than there is for the Jets at corner? Austin is considered the veteran of the bunch with just two years of NFL experience. Hall and Guidry flashed last year in their first NFL seasons. Hardee is predominantly a special teams stalwart. That leaves three spots for the team’s Day Three rookie selections, which is a gamble.
Saleh and Douglas opted not to add a veteran presence to this locker room despite several viable options on the open market, including Brian Poole, who enjoyed a career season in New York a year ago. They’ll be keeping their fingers crossed that the youth movement pays off. Even if the team elects to go with Dunn or Campbell, probably the first two guys on the outside looking in, they’ll be extremely inexperienced.
Marcus Maye, Lamarcus Joyner, Sharrod Neasman
Cuts: Bennett Jackson, JT Hassell
Ashtyn Davis is expected to miss the start of the regular season with a foot injury, so Neasman gets the nod for the third spot here. The 29-year-old has some familiarity with Jeff Ulbrich after spending the last five seasons in Atlanta. If Davis is ready to go, he’ll replace Neasman and create a formidable trio behind Maye and Joyner. Maye is reluctantly playing on the franchise tag, while Joyner is happy to be returning to his rightful position of safety after a failed experiment at nickel with the Raiders.
Chris Naggar, Braden Mann, Thomas Hennessy
Cuts: Matt Ammendola
Kicker is the only position up for grabs here, and Naggar has already knocked off last year’s starter, Sam Ficken. The undrafted free agent out of SMU has been the more accurate of the two legs in practices, giving him the slight edge over Ammendola heading into the preseason. Mann and Hennessy — the Jets’ long snapper and longest-tenured player — are uncontested roster locks.
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