Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com4PM ET Saturday marked the deadline for every NFL team to cut down their roster from 75 to 53 players. Granted, with waiver claims pending and potential free agents in the air the roster the Jets posted Saturday night might not be exactly the same as the one that lines up next weekend against the Raiders.
Here’s our reactions to the team’s newly named position groups.
Defensive Line (8)
|51||Enemkpali, Ikemefuna||DE||6-1||272||23||R||Louisiana Tech|
|94||Harrison, Damon||DL||6-4||350||25||3||William Penn|
|99||Barnes, T.J.||DT||6-7||364||24||1||Georgia Tech|
|78||Douzable, Leger||DT||6-4||284||28||7||Central Florida|
|98||Coples, Quinton||LB||6-6||290||24||3||North Carolina|
Wilkerson is the anchor of the unit, Harrison is one of the most stout run-stuffers in the NFL and Sheldon Richardson is an interior playmaker on the rise. Quinton Coples (this is his group, not the linebackers) is primed to take another big step forward, as evidenced from his play at the end of last season once he had recovered from his leg fracture.
The reason that this is the team’s strongest group is not just because of the front-line starters, but also because of the fantastic depth that this group has built in the last two years. Douzable and Ellis are backups, but play heavy in rotation and are both positive influences against the run and pass. Both Barnes and Enemkpali are young backups that will have the luxury of learning and playing from some of the league’s best. Enemkpali in particular looks to be a future standout player on special teams for the Jets.
|53||George, Jeremiah||ILB||5-11||219||22||R||Iowa State|
|58||Babin, Jason||LB||6-3||267||34||11||Western Michigan|
|54||Bellore, Nick||LB||6-1||250||25||4||Central Michigan|
|56||Davis, Demario||LB||6-2||239||25||3||Arkansas State|
|97||Pace, Calvin||LB||6-4||265||33||12||Wake Forest|
The youth movement is fully underway in the Jets linebacking corps, led by Demario Davis. Davis is now flanked by both Jeremiah George and Trevor Reilly (not so young as he is a 26 year old rookie) and the team must continue addressing the position in coming years as both Calvin Pace and David Harris have less football ahead of them than behind. Harris is an excellent field commander and one of the league’s best technical interior linebackers, but is best used in run and blitzing support than in coverage. Davis is growing into a leadership role on the defense and is the the best of the bunch at running in coverage and seems to be getting better by the year.
Don’t expect Pace to hit double digit sacks again this season with the addition of Jason Babin. Regardless, the work that Pace does to set the edge is never the stuff of Monday backpages, but that doesn’t make it less crucial to how Ryan sets up his defense. George will provide interior depth, something the Jets desperately lacked in 2013 and must make his mark in 2014 on special teams if he is even activated. We fully expect Trevor Reilly to be a special teams demon and that by the end of the season he’ll have some impact plays as a situational pass-rusher.
Speaking of pass rushers, Jason Babin has fit in on the team nicely and we expect that when he’s on the field, all he’ll do is rush the passer. Mr Wide Nine seems someone that opponents could key on because he is percieved as a uni-tasker whose unconventional alignment can expose the edge of the defense, but we trust that Rex Ryan can figure out how to plaster over that particular issue. Nick Bellore is among the league’s best special teamers, but the Jets have been hesitant to use him in sub-package work. Now in his RFA-walk season, will the Jets test out just how much a contributor he can be going forward?
Defensive Backs (10)
|31||Lankster, Ellis||CB||5-9||190||28||5||West Virginia|
|38||Lewis, LeQuan||CB||5-11||190||25||2||Arizona State|
|30||Walls, Darrin||CB||6-0||190||26||4||Notre Dame|
|20||Wilson, Kyle||CB||5-10||190||27||5||Boise State|
|39||Allen, Antonio||S||6-1||210||25||3||South Carolina|
|32||Bush, Josh||S||5-11||205||25||3||Wake Forest|
|26||Landry, Dawan||S||6-1||212||31||9||Georgia Tech|
Analysis: I know that many think that the grade is too soft, but let’s face it, we’ve been spoiled by stellar play at the cornerback position. I’ll argue that by the end of the season, the front seven’s ability to pressure will make life easier on the secondary. I’ll also argue that the current concern is more glaring because of our recent bias. The Seahawks Legion of Boom was a major reason that Seattle hoisted the Lombardy Trophy last February, but let’s look further back. In 2012 Baltimore had the 13th best secondary when they won, in 2011 the Giants had the 19th best. In 2010 New Orleans the 10th best while Pittsburgh the 14th best in 2009. My point? While secondary play matters and might be accelerating in importance, recent history would say that Super Bowls are won with other position groups. Those groups were not the first or even second most important groups on four of the last five Super Bowl champions. All of those teams had efficient, or in some cases, prolific offenses. A team like the Giants had an unmitigated wreck in their secondary, but were still able to rattle future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady in the Super Bowl based on the strength of their defensive line, not their corner play. Even if the Jets secondary is bad, this group won’t end the season ranked in the 20s.
It is true that the Jets secondary failures might be systemic and wholly avoidable had they brought in a high-priced veteran like Alterraun Verner or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie during free agency, but there’s no going back now. The hurricane is upon us and when I look at this group, I would argue that the Jets have decided to steer into the storm. It’s hard to know when Milliner will be ready to come back to the team and it’s even harder to say when he’ll be back at 100% but he’s ready to play the lead dog role as he demonstrated at the end of last season and in his short time on the field against Andrew Luck in the first preseason game. Kyle Wilson will finger wag himself off the team next year, but for now he’ll do his normal erratic work in the slot. Darrin Walls seems primed to be the man to step up as the second boundary corner. Lankster can fill in on the inside or out as needed. It’s hard to know what we can rely on from LeQuan Lewis, but I don’t expect the Jets to be throwing him up against Alshon Jeffrey or Randall Cobb any time soon.
Rex also feels confident about charting the hardest course with this group because he’s been gushing about the depth of his safeties for months. Can he get away with playing Big Nickel extensively instead of using/exposing his third corner until Milliner returns? We’re about to find out.
Antonio Allen is a player on the rise and Rex’s confidence to switch him to corner was eye-opening. Allen is still recovering from his concussion, but could be ready for Week 1. Regardless, Dawan Landry and Jaiquawn Jarrett are capable of making contributions while Allen recovers. If the Bengals game was any indication, Calvin Pryor’s range of real estate in which he can impact a play will be a building block for the rest of the unit. Many have scratched their heads at the inclusion of Josh Bush over Rontez Miles, but Bush might not be long for the roster anyway should the team find a veteran or waived defensive back they prefer. For now, it is wholly the team’s decision to bring as much coverage skill as they can into group. While Miles is a great story and might make the active roster at some point this fall, the Jets are in crisis mode until Milliner is healthy.
The Jets cornerback situation isn’t great, but it could be worse. Once Milliner and Pryor are on the field together, the rest of the pieces will fall into place … and as recent history indicates they won’t even need to be the league’s best to win the Lombardi Trophy.
|4||Quigley, Ryan||P||6-3||188||24||2||Boston College|
Analysis: It is important to have a quality kicker on the roster with a young quarterback who might have drives stall short of the red zone. Folk had a career season in 2013 and seems to be on track for another good year in 2014. Purdum has been one of the league’s steadiest long-snappers and looks to continue his solid work this season with the Jets. Ryan Quigley has had some poor punts in the preseason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jets make a switch if they find a better player comes available.