Roster Analysis: New York Jets

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is an in-depth look at the New York Jets as they prepare for their season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, 1 p.m. ET.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Geno Smith. Backups -- Brady Quinn, Matt Simms, Mark Sanchez.
The Geno Smith Era begins Sunday. Smith (22-of-37, 246 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, one safety taken) didn't look ready to direct an NFL offense during his two preseason games and questions remain about his maturity and ability to transition from the spread, but with Mark Sanchez still weeks away from game action, the Jets will have no choice but to start Smith and hope for the best. The signing Monday of Brady Quinn hints that the Jets -- who have wanted to rid themselves of Sanchez for months -- may just banish him to injured reserve. Simms looked good in the Jets' preseason finale against the Eagles, but that was against third-stringers and the next regular season NFL snap he takes will be his first.
RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Chris Ivory. Backups -- Bilal Powell, Tommy Bohanon, Alex Green, Mike Goodson (suspended).
Ivory battled a hamstring injury throughout training camp and had only 14 carries for 28 yards. The Jets' best-case scenario had Ivory serving as the power back and Goodson as a passing down back with game-changing abilities, but Goodson was arrested on drugs and weapons charges in May. Goodson is suspended for the first four regular season games. Powell showed flashes of big-time talent during camp, and had 122 total yards on 32 preseason touches. The Jets upgraded the depth by signing Green, who led the Packers in rushing last season. Bohanon is a sizable upgrade at fullback.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jeff Cumberland. Backups -- Kellen Winslow, Konrad Reuland.
Cumberland is the nominal starter, but Winslow is the biggest name and the player most likely to turn a potentially awful Jets' aerial offense into something salvageable. Winslow missed all but one game last season and is perhaps the oldest 30-year-old in the league. Cumberland emerged as a reliable safety valve last season and should be a regular target in a low-risk passing game. Reuland is solid enough, but if he's starting, something's gone wrong.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Jeremy Kerley, Santonio Holmes. Backups -- Stephen Hill, Clyde Gates, Ryan Spadola.
Holmes acted as if he might never walk normally again during the off-season, participated in practices in the week leading up to the exhibition finale and appears on target to start against the Buccaneers. Kerley was the Jets' nominal No. 1 receiver last season but shouldn't be relied on as anything more than a solid slot receiver. Hill the tools but has needs to impress the new regime. Gates was impressive in short bursts but can't seem to stay healthy. Spadola garnered innumerable comparisons to Wayne Chrebet by making the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of a Division I-AA/FCS school.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- C Nick Mangold, LG Willie Colon, RG Brian Winters, LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, RT Austin Howard. Backups -- Oday Aboushi, Will Campbell, Vladimir Ducasse, Caleb Schlauderaff, Ben Ijalana.
With eighth-year veterans Mangold, Ferguson and Colon as anchors, as well as second-year starter Howard and rookie Winters, the offensive line has the experience and upside necessary to give the Jets' popgun offense a chance at succeeding. Mangold and Ferguson have been impressively durable since they were drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft while Winters played 50 games in college and Howard emerged as a big-time run blocker during his first season as a starter. But Colon played in just 12 games the last three seasons and the Jets have no backups who can step in as starters if needed. Aboushi and Campbell made the team largely on their draft status. Ducasse and Schlauderaff survived the regime change, but their limitations are well-known. Ijalana's career has been derailed by injuries but he provides far more upside as a reserve than Aboushi, Ducasse or Schlauderaff.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DE Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Sheldon Richardson, NT Damon Harrison. Backups -- Kenrick Ellis, Leger Douzable.
Wilkerson anchors a young line that is filled with potential. Wilkerson was a beast during the second half of last season and is looking to establish himself as the NFL's best 3-4 defensive end. Richardson was drafted in the first round. He led the SEC in tackles last season. Ellis was expected to become the starting nose tackle before he missed the final three preseason games with a back injury, which opened the door for Harrison to emerge from nowhere and earn the nod. Ellis may be running out of time to prove he can reach his potential with the Jets. Douzable, who spent last year on injured reserve, was a surprise addition to the Jets and can provide help in a pinch.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLB Calvin Pace, OLB Garrett McIntyre, ILB David Harris, ILB Demario Davis. Backups -- Antwan Barnes, Nick Bellore, Ricky Sapp, Scott Solomon, Quinton Coples (injured).
The Jets thought they rebuilt one of the worst pass rush units in the league by moving Coples to linebacker, but he will miss at least the first two games after suffering a broken leg in the Jets' second preseason game. Though Barnes is just two years removed from recording 11 sacks with the Chargers, the Jets expect to keep him in his situational role and start McIntyre in Coples' spot. Harris, underrated and underappreciated, is primed to lead the Jets in tackles. Bellore should contribute more on special teams while Sapp and Solomon provide valuable depth.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Antonio Cromartie, CB Dee Milliner, SS Dawan Landry, FS Antonio Allen. Backups -- Kyle Wilson, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, Darrin Walls, Josh Bush.
With Cromartie and Milliner, the Jets have star-type cornerbacks. Cromartie is filling Darrelle Revis' shoes, which he did last year. Milliner's health will be a constant concern. He underwent five surgeries in college and missed the final two preseason games with a calf injury. But is is an upgrade on Wilson, who is a pass interference machine. Wilson could be passed on the depth chart by the less familiar but far more reliable Lankster, Trufant and Walls. It remains to be seen if Dawan Landry can adequately his brother LaRon and if the proposed safety platoon between Allen and Jarrett works as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Nick Folk, Punter Robert Malone, KR Clyde Gates, PR Jeremy Kerley, LS Tanner Purdum.
Folk survived training camp challenges from Billy Cundiff and Dan Carpenter but will surely be in danger of losing his job the first time he misses a field goal. A back injury during training camp nearly cost Malone his job, but he'll be fine as long as he keeps continuing his streak of games with at least one 50-yard punt (16 and counting). Joe McKnight's release left Gates as the kick returner by default, but don't be surprised if the Jets scour the waiver wire for help. Kerley was an effective punt returner last year, when he set an NFL record by calling for 36 fair catches. Purdum is back for his fourth season as the starting long snapper.

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