Locks, trade bait, final cuts

The Jets are getting deep into training camp. They are in their fourth week of practices, and their second preseason game is coming up Monday against the Falcons.

It feels like a good time for a 53-man roster projection.

The good news for the Jets is this exercise is much tougher this year than in any recent year I can remember. There have been some years when I have done an initial run at the 53-man roster and only come up with 35 players. This year, there were some tough decisions to make.

Here is a look at what I expect right now and some thoughts on each position:

QB (3): Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White

New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco #19 during the first half when the New York Jets played the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
Zach Wilson’s knee injury puts Joe Flacco in position to start the season opener and keeps Mike White on the Jets roster as a third quarterback.
Robert Sabo

This one became a lot easier after Wilson’s injury on Friday. There had been a question about whether the Jets would carry three quarterbacks on their roster. Now they have to.

RB (4): Michael Carter, Breece Hall, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson

The end is near for 2020 draft pick La’Mical Perine, who has had some good moments in training camp. This position is simply too crowded. Unless there is an injury to the top four, he’s history. Undrafted rookie Zonovan Knight has had a really strong camp and should land on the practice squad.

WR (5): Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, Braxton Berrios, Jeff Smith

New York Jets' Denzel Mims participates in a drill at the NFL football team's training facility in Florham Park, N.J., Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Denzel Mims, who lacks the special-teams dimension of a typical fifth receiver, is a candidate for a preseason trade.
AP

The first four are locks. Smith gets the edge over Denzel Mims because he plays special teams. The Jets are trying to get Mims involved on special teams, but I’m skeptical it will actually happen. It would not be surprising if Mims gets traded before final cuts. Calvin Jackson has been impressive. He should have a spot on the practice squad.

TE (4): C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, Kenny Yeboah

The top three are new acquisitions who will definitely be on the team. I’m going to give Yeboah the nod over Trevon Wesco because of special teams. Ruckert also can replace Wesco as the primary blocking tight end.

OL (9): Duane Brown, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern, George Fant, Dan Feeney, Max Mitchell, Conor McDermott, Chuma Edoga

I probably have one too many here, but I think Mitchell is going to be inactive for every game. I just don’t think the fourth-round pick is ready. Feeney can play guard and center. McDermott can play tackle and guard. Edoga may be the odd man out, but the Jets probably will hang onto him as insurance at tackle.

DL (10): Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins, Solomon Thomas, Jermaine Johnson, Jacob Martin, Micheal Clemons, Bryce Huff, Nathan Shepherd

Jets’ Bryce Huff stretches during practice at training camp in Florham Park, N.J.
Bryce Huff has won over the Jets’ coaches, but he may find it difficult to win a spot in the team’s deep defensive line rotation.
Bill Kostroun

This is the toughest position on the team to figure out. The Jets have great depth on the defensive line. That is going to lead to some good players getting cut. Veteran Vinny Curry has battled a hamstring injury in camp, and he could be cut. The coaches love Huff, but he might get caught in a numbers game.

LB (5): C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, Kwon Alexander, Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen

The starters are set, but there are questions about depth at this position. Adding Alexander certainly helped. He will start in the base defense. Sherwood and Nasirildeen are just in their second seasons making the move from safety to linebacker. They are also special-teams contributors. Marcell Harris was playing a lot before Alexander arrived and Del’Shawn Phillips is a favorite of the coaching staff, but I think both will be cut.

CB (6): Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, Michael Carter II, Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Justin Hardee

Jets’ D.J. Reed catches a pass during practice at training camp in Florham Park, N.J.
The addition of D.J. Reed in free agency has helped the Jets turn one of their more shallow position groups into one of their most improved.
Bill Kostroun

This position has been significantly upgraded this offseason, and the trickle-down effect is clear. Hall and Echols have gone from starters to backups, and players who were backups last year now will land on the practice squad. Hardee is a special-teams ace. Javelin Guidry is on the bubble for me. He could be the backup at nickel for Carter, but I just could not squeeze him in. It would not be surprising, though, if he sticks.

S (4): Jordan Whitehead, Lamarcus Joyner, Jason Pinnock, Ashtyn Davis

Whitehead is the only sure thing here. Joyner has had an underwhelming camp, and you have to wonder whether the Jets would consider replacing him. Pinnock has played well and feels like an ascending player. Davis is hanging on by a thread, as are several members of the 2020 draft class. Elijah Riley and Will Parks have had good moments, but I can’t see the Jets keeping too many safeties.

ST (3): Greg Zuerlein (kicker), Braden Mann (punter), Thomas Hennessy (long snapper)

The only question here is kicker. Eddy Pineiro is now dealing with back tightness, and that gives Zuerlein the edge. It has been a good competition, but I am going with Zuerlein.

A welcome return

Jets’ Carl Lawson speaks with the media after practice at training camp in Florham Park, N.J.
Carl Lawson and his teammates will be closer to the media this season than they have been since before the COVID-19 pandemic limited locker room access for the press.
Bill Kostroun

The postgame of Jets-Eagles on Friday night was significant for those of us who cover the Jets because we were back in the locker room for the first time since the end of the 2019 season. I know fans do not care much about what the media goes through, but being in the locker room after two years away from it because of COVID restrictions was significant.

It struck me when I was driving home from Philadelphia that I was confident the injury to Wilson was not significant because of what I saw in the locker room. Players were upbeat, music was blaring and guys were joking around. I have been in locker rooms after a player is lost for the season, and this certainly was not that.

These are the kinds of insights that were lost without access the locker room. It was tough to have a feel for the team. In 2020, when the Jets started 0-13, people would ask about the mood around the team. I could guess that it was not good, but it was not the same as being in front of guys and being able to talk about it with them. It was hard to gauge whether they had packed it in for the season because we couldn’t see up close whether they had given up.

That’s what made Friday a welcome return. I can now look forward to a regular season when we can go into the locker room during the week and talk to players. It enhances the coverage and helps us let the fans know what is truly going on.

Stat’s so

Joe Flacco is in line to start the season opener against the Ravens with Zach Wilson recovering from knee surgery. Here is how Flacco has fared over the past three seasons since he left the Ravens. He has played for the Broncos (2019) and Jets (2020, 2021), and has a 2-11 record as a starter:

15 games
13 starts
272 completions
438 attempts
62.1 comp. pct.
3,024 yards
15 TDs
8 INTs
86.4 passer rating

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