With one preseason game to go, there are still decisions to be made in terms of who will make the final roster and the roles each player will have once the season gets underway. Head coach Robert Saleh has said that most starters will see action against the Giants on Saturday night, but there will also be several reserves looking to secure their spot or move up the depth chart.
In most cases, it looks relatively obvious how things will end up for the Jets, but the main position where everything still seems to be up in the air is at safety.
The Jets traded for Chuck Clark in the offseason with the apparent plan being to start Clark alongside Jordan Whitehead. During the 2022 season, Lamarcus Joyner started alongside Whitehead and the Jets opted not to re-sign him, so Clark looked set to step into that role. Unfortunately, a season-ending knee injury wrecked those plans, although the Jets moved quickly to bring Adrian Amos aboard as an alternative.
It was widely expected that Amos would be that other starter, but the emergence of Tony Adams has been a pleasant surprise. Adams impressed the Jets at the end of last season, as he saw an increased role down the stretch and started one game as an undrafted rookie. The Jets list Adams as a starter on their official depth chart and have reiterated that intent by resting him for each of the first three preseason games.
Adams should complement Whitehead well because of his range and coverage skills, but the team is arguably even more impressed with his maturity and football IQ.
Amos, on the other hand, did see action in the third preseason game and played well. His roster spot seems secure, and it also seems likely he’ll get rotational reps once the regular season is underway. Reports from practice indicate that the Jets have operated with three safeties on the field at times and Amos will enter the game in those personnel packages.
Beyond this top three, all bets are off, as multiple players have been making a case for themselves in preseason. Then there’s the question as to how many safeties the Jets will actually carry. Four or five seems most likely, which would mean there’s just one or two roster spots available.
Ashtyn Davis, who was a third-round pick in 2020, seems to be on the bubble every year and this year has been no different. However, he had a terrific performance against the Bucs on Saturday night, as he was flying around and blew up a handful of plays near or behind the line of scrimmage.
It was a surprise when the Jets opted to retain Davis over Jason Pinnock last season, but Saleh said the Jets still had big plans for the former Cal Bear. Ultimately, he barely played on defense, although he did get a lot of special teams work. Pinnock looks set to win a starting role with the Giants this season, but Saleh obviously values Davis’ athleticism and perhaps this latest game has secured his roster status, which until then looked to be on shaky ground.
It cannot be ignored how productive Trey Dean has been, though. The undrafted rookie has racked up 20 tackles in the first three preseason games, most of which have been close to the line of scrimmage, including three tackles for loss. In addition, he’s recorded two more tackles in kick coverage. If the Jets expose Dean to waivers, do they risk losing a young player who could become a future contributor like Adams has?
Dane Cruikshank also appeared to have a chance at a roster spot but was released by the team on Friday.
While it looks clear that Whitehead and Adams will start the season with Amos perhaps rotating in, the current coaching staff is aware that injuries at the safety position can cause you to need to dig deep. In 2021, the Jets were forced to use nine different starters at the position due to injuries.
Any of the players who don’t end up on the final 53 could still end up on the practice squad and it’s clear the coaching staff trusts their ability within the system, so anyone who applies could still get a chance to contribute later in the year if there are injuries.
With so many players impressing at this position, though, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some other teams interested in these players, hoping to find another potential starter like Pinnock.