There are few surprises on the New York Jets’ initial roster. However, there are weaknesses abound and very few strengths.
Opening week is upon us. NFL teams had the difficult task of filling out their roster without any preseason games to help them make decisions. As such, there was drastically less movement on the waiver wire than normal, leaving the New York Jets to have to piece together a roster from their own players and nothing else. A difficult task due to the talent on the Jets roster.
Nonetheless, Joe Douglas and Adam Gase have made the difficult decisions and the roster has been set.
QB: Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco, and James Morgan
Sam Darnold is set to fight for his contract, and potentially his future, as the New York Jets quarterback. This is his last year to make an impression before the Jets have to make the decision to pick up his fifth-year option.
If the team does poorly, it’s very possible they don’t. If they do poorly enough that they’re in a position to grab one of the top three quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, then this could be the end of the line for Darnold.
Behind Darnold, the Jets have Joe Flacco. The former Super Bowl MVP isn’t going to be ready early in the season, but the Jets don’t want to put him on IR. So, he makes the opening week roster.
Rookie James Morgan is going to be the team’s third-string quarterback all year long. Early in the season, the Jets will be calling up a quarterback, either Mike White or David Fales, from the practice squad to take over backup duties. When Flacco is healthy, that’ll be his job.
Morgan has to take this year to sit back and learn.
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, La’Mical Perine
The Jets are likely to have a three-headed monster at running back in 2020. Le’Veon Bell will lead the way as the team’s top back. His ability as a receiver is the best of the three and his ability to turn nothing into something is second to none.
Frank Gore will be the team’s go-to power back. In short yard situations and in the red zone, Gore will provide a change of pace. His slower, power rushing style will help wear down the defense and open up holes for Bell on the outside later in the game.
La’Mical Perine is going to see the fewest touches, but he should see some time. The rookie is effective in the passing game, has decent power, and underrated game speed.
Perine was one of the stars of camp. When he comes back from his ankle sprain, look for him to make some noise in the limited carries he gets.
WR: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Chris Hogan, Braxton Berrios
The Jets wide receiver core is among the weakest in the NFL. It doesn’t help that they’ve dealt with a ton of injuries. Jeff Smith and Vyncint Smith have both ended up on IR to start the year, though they’re expected to be back for Week 4.
Breshad Perriman has been dealing with a knee issue that has lingered longer than the Jets anticipated. He may not be ready for Week 1.
Denzel Mims missed nearly all of training camp with a hamstring injury. He didn’t take one rep in team drills. It’s hard to see him starting Week 1 without any reps.
That leaves Chris Hogan and Jamison Crowder as the team’s starting receivers. Two smaller receivers best used in the slot. Neither is a particularly inspiring option in the passing game.
Behind them is Braxton Berrios. He’s the team’s punt returner and backup slot wide receiver. It wouldn’t be wise to expect much production from him offensively.
If the Jets need, they have a number of wide receivers on the practice squad who could play Week 1. The most likely are Donte Moncrief and Josh Malone.
Moncrief has NFL experience as a starting receiver, while Malone was the Jets’ top receiver for most of training camp.
TE: Chris Herndon, Trevon Wesco, Ryan Griffin
The Jets have a solid tight end room. Chris Herndon was on the verge of stardom his rookie year. His numbers were some of the best that the NFL has seen, both receiving and blocking, since Rob Gronkowski. His numbers were nearly identical to George Kittle’s rookie year.
Herndon missed nearly all of 2019 due to suspension and injuries, but he’s back in 2020. If he can make good on the upside he showed in 2018, the Jets could have a superstar on their hands. That would take a lot of pressure off the Jets’ poor receiving corps.
Ryan Griffin is the backup tight end. He did a decent job replacing Herndon in 2019 before an injury ended his season. He provides decent depth in 2020 even if he’s not the same player he was before the injury.
Trevon Wesco is the team’s primary blocking tight end and the fullback. He had a standout camp as a receiver, but his primary role will be hitting people. If he’s clearing the way in the running game, then he’s doing his job.
OT: Mekhi Becton, George Fant, Chuma Edoga
The Jets have two huge question marks at tackle. Rookie Mekhi Becton earned a ton of praise at camp, but he’s still very raw. His pass blocking was an issue at Lousiville and he’s never played in a pro-style offense. Even if he’s going to be a star one day, he’s not likely to be one come Week 1.
George Fant was a career backup with the Seahawks. He gets his chance to be a starter here. Little was said about his camp performance, which is honestly a good thing.
Chuma Edoga is the swing tackle. He’ll be ready to take over in case either player gets injured. It wouldn’t be a shocker if he stole Fant’s job if he underperforms.
OG: Alex Lewis, Greg Van Roten, Cam Clark, Connor McDermott
Guard is a huge weak spot for the Jets. Alex Lewis was one of the worst guards in the NFL in 2019. He returns as a starter in 2020, and he’ll be playing next to Mekhi Becton, which will make both of their lives more difficult.
Greg Van Roten is set to replace Brian Winters on the right side. He’s improved every year of his NFL and CFL career. The hope is he continues on that upward trajectory. Even if he doesn’t, Van Roten is a solid pass blocker who should be able to help George Fant.
Rookie Cam Clark is the primary backup at guard. He showed flashes in camp, but mostly dealt with injuries. He’s not likely to see much time in 2020.
Connor McDermott is the Jets emergency lineman. He’ll be ready to go at either guard or tackle if injuries pile up at both spots.
C: Connor McGovern, Josh Andrews
The Jets fixed their center problems in 2020. Connor McGovern was a top-10 center in 2019 with the Denver Broncos. He’s set to anchor the Jets in 2020 in both the pass and run game.
Josh Andrews is set to be his backup. The former Indianapolis Colt is a versatile interior offensive lineman who can play center or guard. He’s appeared in at least three games in each of the last four years, but he’s never started a game.
The Jets are hoping that McGovern, who’s only missed one game in his three-year career, can stay healthy.
DL: Henry Anderson, Foley Fatukasi, Steve McLendon, Kyle Phillips, Quinnen Williams, Jordan Willis, Nathan Shepherd
The defensive line is one of the Jets’ strongest units. They are the best run-stuffing defensive line in the NFL, but the pass-rushing could use some work.
Steve McLendon is going to be the team’s most used nose tackle. He’s one of the best run stuffers in the NFL, but he doesn’t provide much pass-rush ability.
Behind McLendon is Foley Fatukasi and Nathan Shepherd. The young defensive linemen were stellar in run defense in 2019, and improved as pass-rushers late in the season. Nathan Shepherd is the better pass rusher of the two, though Fatukasi led the team in run sacks in 2019. Both will see a ton of snaps in 2020.
Quinnen Williams and Henry Anderson are expected to be the team’s starting defensive ends. Williams struggled his rookie year, as he dealt with a high ankle sprain. He got better as the year went on and the Jets are hoping he lives up to his lofty draft expectations in 2020.
Henry Anderson also dealt with injuries in 2019, which led to a massively disappointing season. He’s hoping to stay healthy and return to his 2018 form.
Kyle Phillips led Jets’ defensive lineman in snaps in 2019. He excelled in run defense, but provided next to nothing in the passing game. Expect him to see a ton of snaps all season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he steals Anderson’s starting job… again.
Lastly, Jordan Willis is a situational player. When used effectively, Willis is a decent pass rusher. He’s just not an every-down player though. The Jets are hoping to get him going in 2020.
ILB: Blake Cashman, Avery Williamson, Neville Hewitt, Patrick Onwuasor
The Jets took a huge hit when C.J. Mosley opted out of the 2020 season. If training camp is any indication, he’s going to be replaced by Blake Cashman.
Cashman has his starting spot locked in. Throughout camp, he only played with the starters and rarely came off the field. He’s the most athletic linebacker on the team and he excels in coverage. If he can stay healthy, which has been a problem for him, he’s going to start.
It’s unclear who’s going to start opposite Cashman. Neville Hewitt has taken most of the reps with the starters in camp, but Avery Williamson is the best linebacker on the team when he’s healthy.
Patrick Onwausor is a backup who likely won’t see much time in 2020. He suffered an injury in camp and is going to miss a significant amount of time to start the year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets place him on IR at some point in the near future.
OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Tarell Basham, Jabari Zuniga, John Franklin-Myers, Harvi Langi, Frankie Luvu, Bryce Huff
The Jets have a huge issue at edge rusher. Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham are expected to start and neither can put pressure on the quarterback. Both struggled mightily to put any kind of consistent pressure on quarterbacks and both are just average against the run game.
Rookie Jabari Zuniga missed most of camp with a quad injury, so it’s unlikely he’ll play much early in the season. When he does, expect him to move all around the defense, playing linebacker, defensive end, and defensive tackle.
The other rookie is Bryce Huff. The undrafted free agent struggled to make an impact in camp and is likely at the bottom of the barrel to start his NFL career. He’s likely last on the depth chart.
John Franklin-Myers, Frankie Luvu, and Harvey Langi are all in one big group as backups. They’re all younger players who haven’t established themselves. Luvu is most likely to see early playing time, but all three of them will likely see time throughout the season.
CB: Bless Austin, Pierre Desir, Arthur Maulet, Brian Poole, Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston
The Jets have a weak cornerback core. Pierre Desir missed most of camp with a hamstring injury, but he’s expected to the team’s number one corner. His experience in a zone scheme makes him the ideal fit for Gregg Williams‘ defense.
Bless Austin is expected to start opposite Desir. Austin is hoping to build on his strong rookie season. Now that he’s 100% healthy he has the chance to lock down a starting job well into the future with a strong season.
Brian Poole returns to play slot corner. Poole was the best slot corner in the NFL in 2019. If the Jets defense is going to return to their dominant ways from 2019, they’re going to need him to repeat that success.
Arthur Maulet is the team’s primary backup both inside and out. He was decent as the team’s number one corner to end the 2019 season, but his play tailed off every week. He’s decent depth, but the Jets hope they won’t be asking too much from him in 2020.
Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston are also backups. Both have starting experience in zone defenses, so they can play if needed. Neither has been consistent in their career though, so it’s difficult to pinpoint their exact role moving forward.
S: Marcus Maye, Bradley McDougald, Ashtyn Davis
The Jets don’t have Jamal Adams, but they still have a strong group of safeties. Marcus Maye was the biggest star at camp for the Jets. He has taken over Adams’ role and has excelled. He could have a breakout 2020 season.
Bradley McDougald excels in man coverage. Expect him to cover tight ends all year. He’s also been a sure tackler for the majority of his career, so he shouldn’t be a liability in the run game.
Ashtyn Davis had a strong camp and he’s expected to have a huge role in his rookie year. He’s likely to play a ton of single-high coverage where he can show off his speed.
K: Sam Ficken
Sam Ficken struggled mightily as the Jets’ kicker in 2019. He was one of the worst kickers in the NFL. He didn’t seem to be much better in camp. That said, he had a better camp than Brett Maher.
He may not have the kicker job all season, but he will be the kicker to start the season.
P: Braden Mann
Braden Mann had a strong camp. He showed off his strong leg and his coffin punting prowess. He should provide an immediate upgrade over Lac Edwards in just about every way.
LS: Thomas Hennessy
The Jets are lucky to have one of the best long snappers in the NFL. There have very few special teams mistakes thanks to Hennessy. Since Hennessey joined the Jets in 2017, the Jets haven’t had a single blocked punt or botched snap on a field goal.
These things can be easily overlooked over the course of a season, but they can make a big difference.