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2013 Team Report: New York Jets

Quarterbacks

Starter: Mark Sanchez
Backup(s): Geno Smith, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms

Starting QB: Mark Sanchez followed a mediocre 2011 with a downright horrific 2012. Yet Rex Ryan and the team refused to give up on him until the wheels had not only fallen off but exploded while doing so. He's now mired in a battle for the starting job with rookie Geno Smith and while Smith has battled an ankle injury and a penchant for holding the ball too long, Sanchez has continued his streak of ill-timed turnovers. He started off with a pick-six thrown directly into the arms of Detroit Lions rookie Ziggy Ansah and then threw another poor interception in the end zone the next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. On a positive note though, Sanchez rebounded ably after both mistakes, a marked change from previous seasons when he fell apart after an error. Still, Smith will get the start for the third game of the preseason against the New York Giants, so the competition is still very much open.

Backup QB: As it stands, the one thing the Jets definitely learned in 2012 is that they can't have a gimmick as a backup quarterback. Unfortunately, David Garrard couldn't hack it and retired. This has definitely put pressure on the team to start rookie Geno Smith. Smith has had an up and down summer, with a great August where he threw zero interceptions, to some recent issues where he threw nothing but. He also has a habit of holding the ball too long, fearing to make a mistake. He needs to show more determination against the New York Giants Saturday night to win the starting job. He's a bit raw, so if the team sticks with Sanchez as the starter, it wouldn't be the worst thing for Smith. Sitting for a season would shield him from the sometimes brutal NYC media spotlight and give him time to get comfortable. However, the Jets might also throw him to the wolves and see if he makes it out alive, since a second round pick isn't a huge investment. Patience would be best though. When Sanchez was finally benched in 2012, it was Greg McElroy, not Tim Tebow, who stepped in. McElroy showed that while he could play well, he's no more than a backup and that's likely where he'll stay if he remains on the roster - no sure thing if Sanchez, Garrard and Smith are locked in. Matt Simms has had little to do this summer, though he was fine in relief against the Jacksonville Jaguars with McElroy and Smith out due to injuries.

Running Backs

Starter: Chris Ivory
Backup(s): Mike Goodson, Bilal Powell, Lex Hilliard, John Griffin
Fullback(s): Tommy Bohanon [R]

Starting RB: The Jets finally had enough of the Shonn Greene Express (often stuck at the station) and let him walk, replacing him with former New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory. Ivory, who they acquired for a fourth round pick during the 2013 NFL Draft and subsequently signed to a three year extension. Ivory is everything Greene was supposed to be and more. A physical runner who runs angry and shows some great explosion through the hole, he can break off longer runs or fight for the short yards and first downs. The key to his success will be staying healthy, something he has been unable to do thus far in his career. To that end, he has been dealing with a hamstring injury for the beginning of training camp and on July 31st, had to leave the field when it tightened up. Whether mark Sanchez, David Garrard or Geno Smith are under center, the Jets are going to run the ball to protect their quarterback. They really need someone healthy to do it. Right now whether that is Ivory is definitely a big question.

Backup RBs: In an effort to improve their ground game, the Jets brought in Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson. So far that hasn't worked out since Ivory is hurt in camp while Goodson didn't show up for it at all and is now suspended for the first four games of the season. Bilal Powell again struggled to make much progress in 2012 and while he runs well for the most part, struggles to string together more than a carry or two in a row. Lex Hilliard is primarily a special teams guy and will have an uphill climb to make the roster. John Griffin was picked up originally off waivers last summer when he was cut by the Eagles. He never made the active squad and has some injury issues. John Griffin was playing well but has since been placed on Injured Reserve. The Jets brought in Mossis Madu and Kahlil Bell to try and fill the gaps and so far both have played well. Bell seems to have taken over the short yardage spot that Goodson was supposed to fill and if he plays well enough, could mean that Mike Goodson has nowhere to come back to once his suspension ends.

Fullback: Bohanaon is being brought in as a lead blocker (replacing the failed John Conner experiment) but is a very tough player who might see some short yardage work on occasion. He's also good catching the ball out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill
Backups: Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Royce Pollard, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Vidal Hazelton, Zach Rogers [R]

Starting WRs: Santonio Holmes restructured his contract in March, but it's not likely to keep him around past this season. Coming off of Lisfranc surgery, aging and constantly a locker room disruption, Holmes time in New York is nearly done. The question is whether or not he'll rise up and make a statement on the field right before he becomes a free agent. The Jets certainly need him to, as they are bereft of reliable playmakers. In order to do that, he needs to be on the field, something which remains in doubt for Week 1. When the usually verbose Holmes will only "no comment" a question about his rehab and potenial availability in September, you have to worry. Regardless of Holmes, the Jets expect big things from second year wide receiver Stephen Hill. When Rex Ryan spoke at the 2013 Combine he said he needs to be more consistent. "Many receivers coming into this league as rookies, a lot of inconsistency," Ryan said. "Some weeks he was outstanding, other weeks not so much, but I expect him to improve by leaps and bounds going into year two." The Jets desperately need him to fulfill the promise he has, and be the playmaker they'd hoped they drafted last season.

Backup WRs: After a rough Training Camp, Jeremy Kerley emerged as one of the few bright spots on a staggeringly poor offense. Kerley caught 56 catches for 827 yards and a pair of touchdowns and will remain a viable option in the slot for whomever is throwing the ball. His targets will likely drop from last year's 95, since both Hill and Holmes appear healthy, but he's still going to be an important part of the offense. Behind him are a lot of warm bodies. Clyde Gates had some success last season when the team was hammered by injuries and might see the field off and on this year. Royce Pollard and Vidal Hazelton are both former undrafted free agents while Emmanuel Arceneaux is a former Canadian Football League player on a futures contract. Zach Rogers is this year's new undrafted free agent addition. Given the injury issues Santonio Holmes is dealing with and the lack of weapons the Jets have at wide receiver, a hot camp could get one of these guys a lot of work, so it's worth monitoring them.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kellen Winslow Jr
Backups: Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland, Hayden Smith, Dedrick Epps, Mike Shanahan

Has the Jeff Cumberland era ended before it began? The signing of Kellen Winslow Jr might be the sign that it has. Winslow Jr impressed new Jets GM John Idzik enough to bring him in for mini-camp, where the tight end was better than anything else the Jets have at the position, and perhaps any receiver position. The problem is, while Winslow Jr is only 29, his knees have the wear and tear of a 400 year old man. he could be a playmaker if he stays healthy, but that doesn't feel likely. So maybe we'll see more of Cumberland, who is also on a one-year prove-it contract. The problem for Cumberland (and Winslow Jr) is that the Jets aren't very good at using their tight ends all that effectively and Cumberland is really limited anyway. Konrad Reuland is an intriguing player they picked up from the Niners when San Francisco cut him last year. Reuland is a great receiver but can't block anyone. Hayden Smith is a former Rugby player who is only in his second year of football and shone in practice next year - he could be a dark horse to make an impact if he can continue to progress. Dedrick Epps continues to be a practice squad player at best. The Jets signed undrafted free agent Mike Shanahan after the draft. Shanahan is converting from wide receiver to tight end and once he gets settled could be really valuable as a slot tight end, causing issues against linebackers. It could take him some time to get comfortable.

Place Kicker

Nick Folk: The Jets' summer featured competition for the specialist roles. Incumbent kicker Nick Folk, a veteran of annual challenges, held off former Miami kicker Dan Carpenter and veteran Billy Cundiff. Fourth year long snapper Tanner Purdum held off Travis Tripucka. At punter and holder, Robert Malone is back after holding off Ryan Quigley. The crowded summer roster meant less time together for the eventual winners to hone their synchronization. After ranking in the top ten in attempted kicking points two straight years, the Jets dropped to 23rd in 2011 and 28th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jacoby Ford, Jalen Saunders [R]

The Jets picked up a pair of veteran returners last season in Josh Cribbs and Darius Reynaud. Both are currently unsigned free agents, as the Jets have brought in another veteran and drafted a rookie to compete for the job. Jacoby Ford is a speedster who failed to hang on in Oakland as a receiver, but can provide a spark in the return game. Ford scored four return touchdowns in his first two years in the league and his career seemed on the rise before losing time to injuries. Fourth round selection Jalen Saunders is better as a punt returner but should get a crack at the kick returner position as well.

Punt Returners: Jalen Saunders [R], Jacoby Ford, Kyle Wilson

After the drafting of Jalen Saunders, Jets special teams coach made known which attributes of Saunders he likes best, "SPEED, SPEED, and more SPEED". Saunders averaged 15 yards on his 31 punt returns in college that included three touchdowns. Saunders is an elusive player who will make tacklers miss, but won't pick up many yards after contact. A number of players could compete for the backup job including Kyle Wilson, an experienced if non-exceptional candidate.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Willie Colon, C Nick Mangold, RG Brian Winters, RT Austin Howard
Key Backups: T Oday Aboushi, G William Campbell, G Stephen Peterman, C Caleb Schlauderaff

The New York Jets lost both starting guards to free agency this offseason. Predicting the depth chart in May is like picking names out of a hat. Brian Winters, a third round pick out of Kent State, is the player Jets fans hope wins a job. Winters spent his career at left tackle but his best position is probably left guard. Winters can pass block and could win a job this summer, depending on how quickly he can learn a new position. There are several vets who will try to keep him on the bench. Local product Willie Colon returns home and is a decent bet for the other guard spot. Colon is prone to injury and penalty but he can run block when he feels like it. Vlad Ducasse played about 40% of the left guard reps last year but he will really have to step up to win a job. Former Detroit Lions guard Stephen Peterman had a bad year and was signed during the draft. Peterman has over 60 starts at right guard. All these veterans are problems in pass protection but all can be solid run blockers. Former Green Bay Packers left guard Caleb Schlauderaff is an interesting depth name at guard and center, and he also could be in the mix to compete for a starting job during preseason. In addition, the Jets drafted Virginia tackle Oday Aboushi in the fifth round, and he could be groomed for swing tackle. It's a real competition for jobs on the Jets this year. Unfortunately, none of these players are as good as Brandon Moore, who is still on the free agent market. Should Moore somehow rejoin the team, the Jets line would grade out at ninth overall in the offensive line rankings due to improved cohesion and Moore's individual grade of B+. But that's not a likely outcome unless Moore reduces his salary demands. However there is some certainty for the New York Jets offensive line. Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold continue to play at a high level. Both are big money players and Mangold especially is the leader of this unit. Right tackle Austin Howard actually did a good job last season stepping in for Wayne Hunter. Howard is the Jets only starting restricted free agent and he received money from the league's performance based bonus system, indicating that he outplayed his contract. If Brian Winters can win a job in camp, this team has the ability to rise up the rankings.

Team Defense

When cornerback Darrelle Revis was sent to Tampa Bay, most immediately began lamenting the demise of the Jets defense. While there will likely be regression here, there is still a good amount of talent in New York. The defensive line is absolutely stocked with Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and 2013 first-rounder Sheldon Richarson. In the secondary, Antonio Cromartie elevated his play in 2012 and is now considered among the NFL's elite. Once you dig deep into this group, it becomes apparent that the biggest issue is on the other side of the ball. With Mark Sanchez or the raw rookie Geno Smith under center, the offense will likely sputter. It will be difficult for the defense to take many chances, but the Jets look like a borderline starting unit in most scoring systems.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, DE Quinton Coples, NT Kenrick Ellis
Backups: DE Sheldon Richardson (R), DT Antonio Garay

Starting DL: The Jets have invested heavily in their defensive line with high draft picks in each of the last three drafts. Muhammad Wilkerson is the focal point and already appears to be one of the best 3-4 DEs in the league. Quinton Coples was drafted 16th overall last year, played well as a rookie and should take another step in his development this year. The biggest question mark for the Jets up front this year is the Nose Tackle position. Sione Pouha held down the position for years but was a cap casualty this year. Kenrick Ellis looks like he could step into the role, but he has yet to show much in his two years as a pro.

Backup DL: Sheldon Richardson was taken 13th overall in this year's draft, but it isn't immediately clear where he fits in the Jets defensive plans. It seems the Jets may be planning to run more four-man fronts this year where they can take advantage of Richardson's quickness and ability to disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage. Antonio Garay was signed from the Chargers and will provide some insurance behind Ellis at the NT position, but at 33 years old he may require fewer snaps to be most effective.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB David Harris, ILB Demario Davis, OLB Antwan Barnes, OLB Garrett McIntyre
Backups: OLB Calvin Pace, ILB Josh Mauga

Starting LBs: While the Jets have invested significantly in their defensive line, the linebacker group is generally underwhelming. David Harris remains the focal point in the middle and is a good all-around player, but he doesn't make enough impact plays to be considered among the best at his position. Demario Davis figures to take over for Bart Scott at the other starting inside linebacker spot and should provide a much needed boost of speed to the defense. Antwan Barnes posted an 11-sack season with the Chargers in 2011, but that looks like a fluke in comparison to the rest of his career. Garrett McIntyre played in a part-time role last year and acquitted himself well so he should be in line for a bigger role this year.

Backup LBs: Calvin Pace has seen his level of play steadily decline and will turn 33 years old this year, so it's unlikely to turn back around. Josh Mauga missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle but is a good special teams player and experienced backup.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Dawan Landry, FS Josh Bush, CB Antonio Cromartie, CB Dee Milliner (R)
Backups: S Antonio Allen, S Jaiquawn Jarrett, CB Kyle Wilson, CB Ellis Lankster

Starting DBs: The Jets have revamped their secondary this offseason and figure to begin the year with 3 new starters. Last year's safety starters (LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell) are both gone. Dawan Landry figures to take over at strong safety, and he already has experience playing under Rex Ryan when they were both in Baltimore. The free safety spot is up for grabs but Josh Bush looks like he'll get the first crack at it. The former 6th round pick didn't really make any impact as a rookie so it's tough to know what to expect from him. The corner spot will have a huge hole to fill after the trade of Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay, but Antonio Cromartie showed last year that he's capable of taking on opponents' No. 1 receivers each week. Rookie Dee Milliner was also rated as the best corner in this year's draft so he should be able to start, but will have a lot of pressure on him to replace an All Pro.

Backup DBs: Antonio Allen was a late round pick last year who could compete for the open safety spot, but is probably better suited to playing strong safety. Jaiquawn Jarrett is a reclamation project after the Eagles cut him loose, but he was a high draft pick in 2011 and might benefit from a change of scenery. Kyle Wilson stepped into the starting spot created by the Revis injury last year and played well. Ellis Lankster provides experienced depth at the position.

Last modified: 2014-05-16 00:20:48