Monday afternoon in late June. Training camp starts in more than a month. Not that much going on in Jet-land.
Thus, I thought it would be a fun idea to take a very early but detailed crack at the 53-man roster. Obviously anything can happen between now and the start of the season, (trades, signings, injuries etc.), but it can’t hurt to try and guess.
First up. The offense! Let me know what you think in the comment section below!
Quarterbacks (3): Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy
Cut: GJ Kinne, Matt Simms
Notes: No surprise here. Sanchez is the starter, Tebow the backup and McElroy the developmental prospect. I can tell you that the Jets love GJ Kinne. They considered drafting him in the 7th round of the 2012 NFL Draft (they chose Jordan White with that pick instead). They have been scouting him for years, and like his intangibles. Thus, if Kinne comes out and has an impressive camp, I can see him vying for a spot on the roster. To clarify, I’m not talking about replacing or instead of McElroy. I’m talking about in addition to McElroy. Hey the Jets have carried four quarterbacks before, what’s going to stop them from doing it again?
Running Backs (4): Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight, Terrance Ganaway, John Griffin
Cut: Bilal Powell
Notes: This one was hard for me. Look, Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and Terrance Ganaway are locks. But when you get to the fourth running back spot, that is where this gets tricky. It will be between Bilal Powell, a 2011 fourth round pick from Louisville, and Griffin a 2012 UDFA from the University of Massachusetts. Griffin has really impressed coaches and media alike during OTA’s and Minicamp. Powell? He sat out with a hamstring injury. “Griffin has good speed and feet and has shown some nice cutback ability. With the Jets looking for a change of pace back after Shonn Greene, Griffin’s ability to change directions and catch balls out of the backfield has created a bit of a buzz around Florham Park,” said Kristian Dyer who covers the Jets for Metro New York. So what impressed Dyer most about Griffin? “He showed outstanding hands and has very quick feet.” Dyer wasn’t the only one who was impressed by Griffin. “John Griffin continues to look impressive too, explodes out of cuts, great change of direction,” tweeted Chris Nimbley who covers the Jets for JetsInsider.com. If Griffin outperforms Powell during training camp and the preseason (I fully expect him to), look for Powell to get axed during the September cuts. If Powell makes the team, I expect the Jets to add Griffin to the practice squad. But that is irrelevant. In the end, it will take a lot for Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan to admit their mistake. However, if they are concerned about improving the team, the decision will be easy. Adios Mr. Powell.
Fullback (1): John Conner
Cut: Fui Vakapuna
Notes: The Jets signed Fui Vakapuna to give Conner some competition during camp. In April, Mike Tannenbaum said Conner was on the team “for now.” I think both these moves were psychological. After a somewhat down year, they wanted to get in the head of The Terminator, telling him that he needs to improve or he will be shown the door. Competition brings out the best in people. Some rise to the occasion, while others fold. It is Conner’s job to lose, and I think he will rise to the occasion in camp. Your Jets 2012 starting fullback: John Conner.
Wide Receivers (5): Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, DaMarcus Ganaway
Cut: Dexter Jackson, Scotty McKnight, Royce Pollard, Eron Riley, Patrick Turner, Raymond Webber and Jordan White
Notes: Holnes, Hill, Kerley, Schilens. Easy. The fifth wide receiver spot is where some “experts” will say the real competition is. However, I think that spot is easy as well. And if you know me, you know who I think it is going to. Ganaway, (6-2, 202lbs), is going to take the job and run with it. Let’s run through the list of his “competitors” and you will see why.
Dexter Jackson: Jackson is a speedster. The former Appalachian State star ran a 4.27, 40yd dash (faster than any other receiver) at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine. He was a key part of Appalachian State’ historic win vs. Michigan in 2007. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2nd round of the ’08 draft, Jackson spent one season in Tampa before they waived him on August 31, 2009. Jackson was signed to the Carolina Panthers practice squad on October 12, 2009. After his contract expired following the season, he was re-signed to a future contract on January 4, 2010. Jackson tried his make to make the active roster during training camp, but his efforts fell short, and he was waived by the Panthers on August 31, 2010. After sitting out of football for a while, Jackson was signed by the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League on May 23, 2011. Jackson was then signed to the New York Jets’ practice squad on November 9, 2011. He was released on November 19. After being re-signed to the practice squad on November 30, he stayed there for the remainder of the season. After the season, the Jets signed him to a reserve/future contracts. Now you are familiar with Jackson, let me quickly explain why I think Ganaway will beat him out. First, Ganaway has so much more potential as a receiver. Some might say Jackson is faster, but I’m not sold. While he did run a 4.27 at the combine, he had two tries. His first? He ran a 4.37, his second the 4.27. Ganaway runs a 4.30 consistently. Ganaway is the more complete receiver. Ganaway is tall and physical. He has a chance to be a big red zone target. He can block. Jackson, (5-9, 182), is more of a return man than a good, solid possession receiver. Tampa Bay fell in love with Jackson due to his combine numbers, and they thought they could mold him into a good NFL receiver. They were wrong. After signing him to a four-year deal, they gave up on him after one season. Normally if a second round pick was released, somebody would jump on him right away right? Wrong again! Jackson waited until October to be picked up by the Panthers, who placed him on the practice squad. Ganaway has so much more potential, and thus, will beat out Jackson.
Scotty McKnight: Sanchez’s BFF. At (5-11, 182), Scotty would need a miracle to make the active roster. In fact, I think there is a better chance we see Wayne Cherbet come out of retirement than see Mr. McKnight on the 53-man roster.
Royce Pollard: Pollard is a kid that came to rookie Minicamp on a tryout basis, but impressed the Jets brass enough that they decided to sign him to a contract. A rookie out of Hawaii, he had a big senior season racking up 71 receptions for 1,011 yards and eight touchdowns. Pollard is no stranger to working his way up the depth chart. He entered the program at Hawaii as a walk-on and ended up as a captain for his senior season. However, his future as a New York Jet will likely be as a member of the practice squad. Unlike Ganaway, Pollard, (6’0, 183lbs.), isn’t going to over power anybody in the blocking game. For a practice or so, Pollard got reps with the first team punt unit, returning punts for them. That is really interesting, considering Pollard had a total of zero punt returns in college. Pollard is somewhat of an unknown at this point. But in all likelihood, the Jets will stash him on the practice squad and continue to work with him to develop his game as a receiver. It is extremely rare that a tryout players makes his way onto the active roster. Pollard might make some noise in camp, but in the end, Ganaway is a much more polished receiver, and will get the nod over Pollard.
Eron Riley: Riley, the former Duke Blue Devil, went undrafted in 2009. I’ll let Bent explain his story.
After going undrafted in 2009, Riley joined the Baltimore Ravens but didn’t make the active roster. However, he was back in 2010 to compete for a roster spot, having spend the 2009 season on the practice squad. He again failed to make the team and was on the practice squad for a couple of teams before the Broncos put him on their practice squad last October. He was signed for the 2011 season and played for them in preseason, but was cut and placed on the practice squad before the regular season began.
The Jets signed Riley to their active roster on October 19, 2011. After spending a few weeks on the roster, he was released by the Jets on December 28. Riley was signed to the team’s practice squad the next day. Like Jackson, the team signed him to a reserve/future contracts after the season. Unlike Ganaway who has created a lot of buzz during OTA’s and Minicamp, Riley has been relatively quiet, which is disappointing considering he got a lot of burn with guys like Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill out with injuries. Riley has some chemistry with Tim Tebow from their time in Denver. Riley to me, just seems like a camp fodder. He has been all around, and has yet to make a lasting impact. With Ganaway on the roster, somebody with unlimited potential and very little flaws in his game, Riley will not make the 53-man roster.
Patrick Turner: Of the guys mentioned above how many of them have a reception in an NFL game? None. The only real competition for Ganway is Patrick Turner, a guy who has been with the Jets since 2010, and was Mark Sanchez’s teammate at USC. Yes, Turner has made tremendous strides as a receiver since he was brought in a few seasons ago. Former Dolphins (and current Jets offensive coordinator) Tony Sparano selected Turner in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. After one season, Sparano gave up on him and cut him after the 2010 preseason. Now Sparano and Turner are reunited in New York. Awkward. Take away Turner’s relationship with Sanchez. Let’s look at him as a player. Drafting Stephen Hill dramatically hurt Turner’s chances of making the opening day roster. The Jets basically used Turner last year for solely blocking situations. Ever time Turner entered the game, you knew he was in there to block. Enter Stephen Hill, arguably the best blocking receiver in the draft. I’m willing to bet that DaMarcus Ganaway is just as good, (or an even better) blocker than Turner. In terms athletic ability? Forget about it. Ganaway is much more athletic than Turner. Speed? Not even a question: Turner runs a 4.59 40yd dash; Ganaway a 4.30 40yd dash. I can definitely see a case in which the Jets keep 6 receivers, going with Turner and Ganaway. But for right now, Ganaway has a much higher ceiling, so I would not be surprised to see him take down Patrick Turner this summer.
Raymond Webber: Um, who? Webber was signed by the New York Jets on June 19, 2012. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in July 2011. He suffered a hamstring injury and was placed on IR in September before being waived on May 2, 2012. Former Jets head coach and current Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll signed Webber on May 3rd, 2012. However, he clearly did not make a great impression, as he was waived a week later, on May 11th. Why is Ganaway a better candidate? He is faster and has a better relationship with the quarterbacks currently on the roster. We have never seen Webber play for the Jets, but he has a long way to go before he can be considered for a roster spot.
Jordan White: White is interesting, but he has fell far behind due to a broken ankle. He can push for a spot of he comes back healthy and impresses early and often during training camp. But it is more likely that we will see him be placed on the IR.
Conclusion: In all, as you can tell, I am pretty confident that DaMarcus Ganaway is going to be a special player in this league. Beating Dexter Jackson, Scotty McKnight, Royce Pollard, Eron Riley, Raymond Webber and Jordan White? Piece of cake. Patrick Turner is the tough one. If both Ganaway and Turner impress in training camp, look for them to carry six wide receivers going into the season. Ganaway has been getting reps with the first and second teams in practice, and has also seen time on special teams. Whatever happens, DaMarcus Ganaway will be on the 53-man roster this fall. I’m willing to argue with anybody who tells me otherwise.
Tight Ends (4): Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Josh Baker, Hayden Smith
Cut: Dedrick Epps, Brian Linthicum and Tarren Lloyd
Notes: The lack of depth at tight end is scary. Besides Dustin Keller, every other person is a toss-up. Josh Baker will make the roster. But Cumberland? He had a horrible camp, and reports surfaced that he had a few drops. It didn’t really seem as if he was trying. He really needs to step up with an impressive camp. Brian Linthicum and Tarren Lloyd are two blocking tight ends that should fight to make the roster in camp, but in the end I think they will fall short to Hayden Smith. Smith struggled during camp, but that was expected, seeing he had never played football before. That being said, he has improved dramatically, and Rex Ryan continues to praise him. When Linthicum signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, he stated that the team told him he would compete for a starting job in camp. An undrafted free agent from Utah State, Lloyd is a big kid. At (6-7, 258lbs.), he helped pave the way for one of the nation’s most productive rushing attacks last year. Either could make the team with an impressive camp. It is just too early to tell. Epps was drafted by the Chargers in the seventh round, 235th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami. After learning under Antonio Gates during training camp, he was cut after the preseason and did not make the team. A few days after he was cut on September 14, 2010, Jets offensive coordinator (then Miami Dolphins head coach) Tony Sparano signed him to their practice squad. Epps stayed with the Dolphins the entire season, and when he attempted to make the roster the next season he failed, and once again was cut after the preseason. Epps was signed to the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad on October 5, 2011. He was released on December 1, 2011. Epps was signed to the New York Jets’ practice squad on December 20, 2011. His contract expired after the season, but he was signed to a reserve/future contracts on January 2, 2012. Epps could have an inside track to the active roster, due to the fact that he knows Tony Sparano’s offense, having spent a season in Miami. If he gets an opportunity to make some plays during camp, you never know what could happen. I can definitely see the Jets looking to add a blocking tight end before training camp starts or after September cuts (that’s where they found Matthew Mulligan and Marcus Dixon). We shall see!
Offensive Line (9): LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Matt Slauson, C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore, RT Wayne Hunter, T/G Vladimir Ducasse, G/C Caleb Schlauderaff, OT Austin Howard, OG Robert T. Griffin
Cut: OG Terrence Campbell, T Stephon Heyer, T/G Fred Koloto, C/G Matt Kroul, G/T Dennis Landolt, T Ray Willis.
Notes: When the Jets signed Stephon Heyer and Ray Willis on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, many people thought they would push Wayne Hunter for a starting job. However, neither have been very impressive during OTA’s and Minicamp, often getting beat by opposing defensive players for sacks. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore are not going anywhere. Robert T. Griffin is going to make the roster due to the fact that the Jets spent a 6th round pick on him. Schlauderaff will make the roster due to his versatility (he can play both center and guard). Per Rex Ryan, Vladimir Ducasse has looked amazing during the offseason, so the former 2nd round draft pick will make the team. According to Kristian Dyer, Austin Howard, (6-7, 333lbs), looked “tremendous and rarely looked overmatched.” Thus, he is the best backup tackle, and he too, will make the roster. Now that leaves us with Wayne Hunter. By not getting rid of him during the offseason, Hunter’s $2.45 million base salary for the 2012 season is now fully guaranteed. That being said, unless a guy like Howard, Ducasse (or even Heyer/Willis) lights it up during camp, while Hunter really struggles, I expect Wayne Hunter to be the Jets starting right tackle come opening day. Terrence Campbell, Fred Koloto, Matt Kroul and Dennis Landolt will be cut. There just isn’t enough room for them!
Check back soon for the defense!