With one more game left to play, it’s time to take a look at what we think could resemble the New York Jets’ 53-man roster. Here’s who Max Marcilla and Adam Zielonka think will make the final cut Saturday, and begin 2017 as members of Gang Green.
Quarterbacks (3): Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
Max: With only three quarterbacks on the active roster, this was the easiest position to project. The only challenge may be the order in which these players are listed on the depth chart. McCown starting is no surprise, but can Petty’s preseason performance elevate him to No. 2 QB, in front of Hackenberg?
Running backs/fullback (5): Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Marcus Murphy, Anthony Firkser
Adam: It’s a little more crowded than we might have expected here, but Murphy looks like the Jets’ best bet at kick returner and punt returner right now. He makes the roster but won’t see handoffs behind Forte, Powell and 2017 sixth-round pick McGuire. Firkser, an undrafted rookie out of Harvard, has done more than Julian Howsare to win the Jets’ fullback job, a legitimate role that will contribute to John Morton’s new West Coast offense.
Wide receivers (6): Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Chris Harper, Kenbrell Thompkins
Max: The first four players on this list are essentially locks — Anderson and Peake should be two starters while Stewart and Hansen are mid-round rookies that have room to develop. Behind that is a “guess who” of unproven commodities. Harper has had a nice training camp and can be an under-the-rader depth receiver. Thompkins sticks as the lone veteran of the group, as none of the other projected receivers have played more than 16 games in the NFL.
Tight ends (2): Jordan Leggett, Eric Tomlinson
Adam: Like Marshall, Austin Seferian-Jenkins starts the year suspended (two games). Leggett is a pass-catcher without real blocking ability, and ASJ will need to be a receiving target when he returns, so we complemented them with Tomlinson, a blocker who played with the first-team offense against the Giants.
Offensive linemen (9): Kelvin Beachum, Brent Qvale, James Carpenter, Wesley Johnson, Brian Winters, Ben Ijalana, Brandon Shell, Dakota Dozier, Jonotthan Harrison
Max: The starting unit, from left-to-right, should be Beachum, Carpenter, Johnson, Winters and either Qvale or Shell — right tackle is the only battle that should still be open heading into Week 4. Whichever tackle loses the battle will join Ijalana as a prized backup with room to develop. Dozier provides interior insurance while Harrison can be the emergency center in case Johnson goes down or struggles.
Defensive Line (6): Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, Steve McLendon, Deon Simon, Kony Ealy
Adam: No doubt with the top three, of course. We don’t think McLendon is in danger, either, despite the Jets’ attitude toward most players over 28 years old this offseason. Will Ealy, who contributed some sacks for Carolina in each of his three NFL seasons, find a home here as a rotational pass-rushing end?
Outside linebackers (4): Dylan Donahue, Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, Freddie Bishop
Max: The most interesting name in this group is the one that’s not there — Lorenzo Mauldin. Head coach Todd Bowles said injured reserve is “possible” for Mauldin, so we went ahead and slotted him there. After all, he’s missed virtually the entire preseason and training camp. Jenkins and Martin should be the starters after they’ve had nice camps while Bishop and Donahue could easily fill in if one of them struggles.
Inside linebackers (5): Darron Lee, Demario Davis, Julian Stanford, Bruce Carter, Frank Beltre
Adam: Lee continues to look like a liability on passing downs, but the 2016 first-rounder isn’t in danger of losing his roster spot entirely. Still, Lee is why Stanford and Carter are so important here. They’ll make the roster as back-ups and special teams players but can also find some playing time defending the pass (Carter, especially).
Cornerbacks (6): Buster Skrine, Morris Claiborne, Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts, Marcus Williams, Derrick Jones
Max: Claiborne and Skrine should open up the season as the starters in the Jets’ base defense, but of course in 2017, base defense is really nickel packages. In need of depth at the position, New York will keep six cornerbacks, highlighted by Burris (who had an interception against the Giants) and Williams, who many hoped would pull himself into the starting job. Roberts and rookie Derrick Jones add depth. Roberts may be the single player to benefit the most from the trade of Dexter McDougle.
Safeties (4): Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Rontez Miles, Terrence Brooks
Adam: Behind the Jets’ top two draft picks are special teamer extraordinaire Miles and new acquisition Brooks. We don’t think the Jets would initiate a player-for-player trade with Philadelphia at the eleventh hour only to cut the guy in a week, but we’ll have to watch how Brooks performs going forward.
Special teams (3): Thomas Hennessy (long snapper), Ross Martin (kicker), Lac Edwards (punter)
Adam: Just like the Brooks trade, New York gave up safety Ronald Martin to acquire Hennessy from Indianapolis. Who trades for a long snapper? A team that’s about to cut veteran snapper Tanner Purdum, that’s who. In other faux positional battles, Martin has looked like the better placekicker all camp, and unless Chandler Catanzaro makes multiple 50-yarders in the preseason finale, we’re sold on the Duke youngster.