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2014 Team Report: New York Jets

Quarterbacks

Starter: Geno Smith
Backup(s): Michael Vick, Matt Simms, Tajh Boyd

Starting QB: When Mark Sanchez was hurt during the preseason, Geno Smith inherited the starting role. While his first season was far from a roaring success, he had moments and showed improvement by the end. It's important to keep in mind as well that Smith played with very little in the way of receivers to throw to. Smith is now has multiple new weapons both veteran (Eric Decker) and rookie (Shaq Evans, Jalen Saunders and Jace Amaro). This is a make or break season for Smith, and one might argue a make or break opening few weeks. If he wins the job (and he needs to fight off Michael Vick first) he will have little to no room for error.

Backup QB: Michael Vick is almost done with his career, but he's still got a little in the tank. While he and the team have said the starting job is Geno Smith's to lose, the reality is that Smith can lose it. The problem is if Vick won the starting job, it's unlikely he'll finish the season without missing time due to injury. Vick hasn't played a full season since he returned to the league in 2009. Still, he could be successful in Marty Mornhinweg's offense (where he had the best year of his career in 2010) and will push Smith in training camp. Matt Simms is no more than a backup and if rookie Tajh Boyd does well, he could lose his roster spot. Boyd has accuracy issues because of shaky mechanics but if he can straighten them out, he was productive enough in college to think he could duplicate it at the pro level. Still, it's an uphill battle and he has a lot of work to do.

Running Backs

Starter: Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson
Backup(s): Bilal Powell, Alex Green, Mike Goodson, Daryl Richardson, John Griffin
Fullback(s): Tommy Bohanon, Chad Young [R]

Starting RB: We can expect a split in running back duties for the Jets this season, as Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson both hold very distinct skill-sets. Ivory is better between the tackles, while Johnson is more explosive in space. If anything, Johnson may get more carries because he *can* run between the tackles, but the Jets are unlikely to use one back a lot more heavily. Of course, the X-factor in this is Ivory's health, something which has haunted him for years. If he cannot stay on the field, Johnson will see more carries and might not relinquish them when Ivory returns. Still, this is mostly a backfield by committee.

Backup RBs: Bilal Powell has proven he is a solid backup—not particularly flashy or outstanding in any one area, but consistent. If one or both of the backs ahead of him go down, he can carry the load, though for how long we don't know. He's reliable but nothing special. Alex Green hung around Green Bay for a while, but was done when Eddie Lacy was drafted. Green is a back with a little speed and a tough running style who could catch on as depth. Mike Goodson is coming off a season shortened by suspension and injury. Adding all the backs the Jets did could mean they consider him expendable and more trouble than he is worth. Manish Mehta of the Daily News thinks he won't be on the roster when the season starts and it's hard to argue. Daryl Richardson was the starter in St. Louis before he got hurt, allowing Zac Stacy to steal the role permanently. Potentially a change-of-pace back, he will fight with Powell for that role. John Griffin missed the 2013 season after fracturing his leg in the preseason but will get a chance to make it again this year. A combination fullback/halfback, Griffin is a bit undersized but a hard worker. He's a long shot to make the final roster.

Fullback: Bohanaon played well last season and the Jets used him frequently in both pass and run blacking. Chad Young performed well at San Diego State and while he is a bit short, his 238 pounds could make him a tough pass blocker to move.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Eric Decker, Stephen Hill
Backups: Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, David Nelson, Greg Salas, Jacoby Ford, Shaquelle Evans [R], Jalen Saunders [R], Vidal Hazelton, Saalim Hakim, Quincy Enunwa [R]

Starting WRs: With a dearth of quality wide receivers on the roster last year, the Jets made it their business to give their quarterback offensive weapons to use. Eric Decker was their big free agency signing. Decker can make tough catches as well as stretch the field vertically. The Jets hope he can reproduce the numbers he made in Denver without Peyton Manning. Stephen Hill has been really disappointing so far. Last season was derailed in part by injury, but too often he drops balls he shouldn't and struggles to be consistent and reliable. He could be surpassed by one of the rookies or new veterans in training camp.

Backup WRs: By the time the season ended, Jeremy Kerley had proven himself to be the most reliable receiver on the roster. He can play slot and makes some tough catches—sort of a poor man's Randall Cobb—but his ceiling isn't more than that. Geno Smith or Mike Vick will rely on him though because he proved last year that they can. Clyde Gates was one of many banged up players for the Jets last season but his speed could still be an asset in stretching the field. He could line up on the opposite side of the field from Eric Decker in four-wide sets if he can do a better job avoiding drops. David Nelson came back from a torn ACL and performed well for the Jets, especially in four-wide sets and on third downs. Greg Salas played sparingly for the Jets but filled in well in the slot when Jeremy Kerley was hurt. If he does stick, he'll be no more than a situational receiver. It's hard to see a lot of these guys making the cut because the Jets invested heavily in receivers during the draft. Shaq Evans is a big receiver at 6'1", 213 pounds and is likely to be used as a chain-moving possession guy, though he could be the big red zone weapon the Jets have been missing. Jalen Saunders will probably start out on special teams, mostly on punt returns as he did at Oklahoma. He could be another option for the slot if Kerley is hurt again, though he'd need to add weight to survive there. Quincy Enunwa has size like Shaq Evans and creates yards after the catch. Nebraska was a run-first offense and that helped Enunwa become a tremendous run blocker. As the Jets are likely to want to run a lot, Enunwa's ability to block on those plays will help him make the roster. Vidal Hazelton has bounced around the practice squads and reserves of the NFL, never appearing in a game. He doesn't bring much to special teams and isn't better than any of the rookies the Jets drafted so chances are he won't make it into August, forget September. Saalim Hakim is very fast but very raw, having played little in High School or college, though he did play a year for the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives. His speed might get him a shot at returns.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jeff Cumberland
Backups: Jace Amaro [R], Konrad Reuland, Zach Sudfeld, Chris Pantale, Terrence Miller [R], Colin Anderson

Jeff Cumberland is a very good blocker and an average receiver, so while he may hold the title as "starter" on the roster now, expect rookie Jace Amaro to get more targets. Amaro is a fair blocker, but mostly a receiving threat and the Jets are likely to use him as one. Amaro is a very good downfield blocker as well, so in what might be a run-heavy Jets attack, Amaro could see a lot of work opening things up at the second level. Konrad Reuland was hurt last November and lost the season. He mostly plays special teams and could hang around based on that. The Daily News has reported that the Jets are excited by Zach Sudfeld's potential. Sudfeld is fast and has great hands but isn't much of a blocker and doesn't use his size and body to his advantage. Chris Pantale was a very productive college tight end who was promoted from the practice squad last November, but never saw the field as a tight end, working mostly on special teams when he was active at all. Rookie Terrence Miller is mostly a blocking tight end but at 6'4" he could be a big red zone weapon if he develops his route running and hands more. Colin Anderson started off with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, but was released before the season, then signed to a future/reserve contract with the Jets in December. Anderson is of similar build to Miller, but with less talent and more rough edges to sand off.

Place Kicker

Nick Folk: Coming off his best year since becoming a Jet, kicker Nick Folk faces a different situation this summer. Rather than the usual 1-year renewal and having to compete to retain his job, this year Folk was tagged, then got a new 4-year deal, and is the only kicker on the roster. Both of his co-specialists, punter/holder Ryan Quigley and long snapper Tanner Purdum, are also back this year. After ranking in the bottom third in attempted kicking points two straight years, the Jets climbed to 14th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Walt Powell, Chris Owusu, Saalim Hakim, T.J. Graham

New York has a large group of candidates at kick returner, but few to hang one's hat as most may struggle to land a roster spot. Wide receiver Walt Powell performed best last season with a 29.1 yard average on a small sample size of 8 returns. Chris Owusu showed a flash at the end of the season with an 87-yard return, but joins Saalim Hakim and T.J. Graham on the list of potentials who may not land a roster spot. This is a situation that the returner could be the last man standing, or some other player who will be auditioned in preseason.

Punt Returners: Jeremy Kerley, Walt Powell, T.J. Graham, Eric Decker

Receiver Jeremy Kerley has a four year history being in the mix returning punts for the Jets. He started off strong with a 10.9 yard average his first two seasons, but has grown less productive since. Last season the Jets tried other options before finally returning to the sure-handed Kerley halfway through the year. The team could look at several other options this year, including Walt Powell who lost the job to Decker last year due to ball security concerns.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Brian Winters, C Nick Mangold, RG Willie Colon, RT Breno Giacomini
Key Backups: T Ben Ijalana, G Dakota Dozier [R], G/C Caleb Schlauderaff, T Oday Aboushi, G William Campbell

After returning four of five starters from last season, the Jets’ offensive line grade out as a mid-tier unit. The only change to the lineup is at right tackle where Breno Giacomini takes over from departed veteran Austin Howard. These players are similar (Breno is one year older and has a more checkered injury history) but both are good (not great) players. On the other side, left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson actually graded out as the team’s best lineman last season, which is not what most Jets fans would report. In general this line is often a victim of poor quarterback play (holding the ball too long, breaking the pocket) and in specific, no one suffered more from that than Ferguson. He’s a solid player and has been for many seasons. Next to him, left guard Brian Winters was somewhat of a disaster for most of his rookie season. Winters played better in the season finale against Miami but the team drafted Dakota Dozier in the fourth round to provide competition. Some believe Dozier’s best spot is at left guard so this is a possible battle to watch during preseason. At center, Nick Mangold made his fifth Pro Bowl, but like Ferguson, suffers from a bout of under appreciation in the New York media market. Few centers in the entire league play as well as this player, and he is the lynch pin of the offense, if not the entire team (the Jets rarely win when he’s not in the lineup). Right guard Willie Colon ruptured a bicep in the last game of the season but is expected to be full go by week one. Colon is an effective run blocker but is prone to penalties and, obviously, injuries. In terms of depth, the Jets will likely carry ten offensive linemen, but there are few solid options among the backups at this time. Ben Ijalana is probably the best of the bunch but he’s had two ACL tears since being drafted in the second round several seasons ago. The team hopes William Campbell (a converted college DT) and Oday Aboushi step up their games but it’s not a certainty. Overall this line is decent with the upside to be good, should they get better play out of their left guard position.

Team Defense

Rex Ryan's teams are almost always known for their defense and this year should be no different. The defensive line is immensely talented and continuing to improve. The linebackers have a lot of experience without being so old that you'd expect a significant decline. Where Ryan can make his biggest mark is in the secondary. With Revis and Cromartie both gone now, it will be interesting to see Ryan's schemes work without an elite corner. The addition of Calvin Pryor fills a hole at safety, but without a true CB1 the safeties on this team will really be tested. If this secondary struggles they will have a negative impact on the sack numbers up front as well.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Damon Harrison, DE Sheldon Richardson
Backups: DE Jason Babin, DT Kenrick Ellis, DE Leger Douzable

Starting DL: This is perhaps the strongest positional unit on either side of the ball for the Jets. Muhammad Wilkerson is an elite 3-4 DE who can dominate against the run while still contributing as a pass rusher. Sheldon Richardson was the defensive rookie of the year and has the size and quickness to cause a lot of matchup problems for opposing offenses. The scheme doesn’t lend itself to big sack numbers though, and a weakness in the secondary probably limits their fantasy upside somewhat. Damon Harrison took over the nose tackle job last year and also made a significant contribution to the team’s league-best run defense (allowed just 3.35 yards per attempt).

Backup DL: Jason Babin was signed late in July and the veteran should provide an upgrade to the pressure the Jets can put on opposing QBs. He's likely to serve as a pass-rush specialist which will limit his snaps and fantasy potential, but probably result in a more effective player overall. Kenrick Ellis is the top reserve and is capable of playing either inside or outside as needed. Leger Douzable is another depth player with limited upside, but the team will rely heavily on their three starters most weeks.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Quinton Coples, ILB Davis Harris, ILB Demario Davis, OLB Calvin Pace
Backups: OLB Garrett McIntyre, OLB Jermaine Cunningham, OLB Antwan Barnes, ILB Jeremiah George, ILB Nick Bellore

Starting LBs: Quentin Coples was a 1st round pick in 2012 who has yet to emerge as the playmaker the Jets were expecting. He’s posted 10 sacks in two seasons but still seems to be adjusting to playing OLB in the Jets 3-4 scheme. David Harris is a veteran who has been in the middle of the defense for many years and he is generally a reliable tackler. Fantasy owners would certainly like to see more big plays from him, but he’s a steady source of tackles who is also entering the final year of his contract. If Harris is the thumper inside, Demario Davis is more of the playmaker. Last year was his first as a full-time starter, and he probably has the most upside of anyone in this group. Calvin Pace has been with the team for 6 years, but he posted his first 10-sack season in 2013 at 33 years of age. Based on his history, that performance looks like an outlier but he’s always been a capable playmaker.

Backup LBs: The Jets have some solid depth but appear to be lacking an impact player if Coples can’t figure things out soon. Garrett McIntyre is more of a run stopper while Antwan Barnes is a pass rush specialist coming back from a torn ACL. Jermaine Cunningham is a former 2nd round pick of the Patriots who hasn’t shown much as a pro to this point. Nick Bellore is primarily a special teams contributor, and rookie Jeremiah George could develop into a starter down the road.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Dee Milliner, CB Dimitri Patterson, S Dawan Landry, S Calvin Pryor
Backups: S Antonio Allen, CB Kyle Wilson, CB Darrin Walls, CB Dexter McDougle, CB Ras-I Dowling

Starting DBs: This is a unit that had trouble adjusting to the loss of their anchor in Darrell Revis last year, and they'll be depleted even further due to the release of Antonio Cromartie this offseason. Dee Milliner was a high pick, but was benched midseason as he struggled through a rough rookie season. The physical corner did show some flashes, however, and will be expected to take a big step in his development as a sophomore. According to Rex Ryan, the second starting job is expected to go to journeyman Dimitri Patterson, but the Jets are his sixth team in 10 years. Dawan Landry is probably nearing the end of his career and doesn't offer a whole lot of range in coverage, but he can play up in the box and knows the Rex Ryan system well. The Jets added reinforcements on draft day with the addition of Calvin Pryor in the first round. He has a chance to become an elite safety but may need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL like most young safeties.

Backup DBs: Antonio Allen figures to be the primary competition for Pryor, but he'll most likely wind up playing in subpackages. Kyle Wilson should remain the team's nickel corner, which is where he played most of last year. Darrin Walls is a young player with some intriguing potential while Ras-I Dowling has been a bust to this point of his career. Dexter McDougle was taken in the third round of the draft this year but doesn't sound like he'll be ready to take on a big role right away.

Last modified: 2015-05-10 19:49:46