It all begins with a Week 1 matchup against the Ravens at MetLife Stadium. But prior to then, general manager Joe Douglas, head coach Robert Saleh, and the staff will need to figure out the 53 guys they will go into battle with.
Which Jets players will earn spots on the final roster? Here is our early projection:
Quarterback (2): Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco.
I think the only thing worth discussing here is the fact the Jets are keeping two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster instead of three.
The third would be Mike White, of course. But in order to clear spots, the team may elect to initially carry just the two signal-callers while White is either a practice squad addition or preseason trade bait.
Running back (5): Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, Nick Bawden (fullback).
Expect the Jets to keep four primary running backs with Bawden being the team’s lone fullback.
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur will look to get the most out of a committee led by Carter and Hall, with Coleman’s veteran leadership and Johnson’s experience in the system leading them to earn roster spots.
Wide receiver (6): Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, Braxton Berrios, Jeff Smith, Denzel Mims.
Davis, Moore, Wilson, and Berrios are locks, with Berrios adding additional value as a return specialist. Smith seems to have the upper hand on Mims heading into training camp, but I can definitely see the Jets having newfound confidence in the latter after he showed up to minicamp in great shape.
Tight end (3): C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert.
Wilson will have a reliable tight end trio alongside him. There’s no way Douglas signed Uzomah and Conklin and then drafted Ruckert in the third round just for the coaching staff to dump any of them in the preseason.
Offensive tackle (4): Mekhi Becton, George Fant, Max Mitchell, Conor McDermott.
Barring major issues (which are certainly possible with Becton), expect the 2020 first-rounder and Fant to start at the two tackle spots. Although, it’s still unclear who will be the left tackle for Week 1.
Given Becton’s injury- and weight-related problems, the Jets would be better off keeping two reserve swing tackles on the roster instead of one. Douglas drafted Mitchell in the fourth round and McDermott already has experience in the system.
Offensive guard/center (5): Connor McGovern, Laken Tomlinson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Dan Feeney, Nate Herbig.
McGovern (center), Tomlinson (left guard), and Vera-Tucker (right guard) will earn starting spots barring injury. While Feeney provided crucial depth last year and appeared in 16 games with five starts, Douglas sees something in Herbig due to the fact he claimed him off waivers in May. Herbig started 17 games combined for the Eagles over the last two years.
Defensive end (5): Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson, Micheal Clemons, Jacob Martin.
Everyone in this group should have a significant role in Saleh’s defense, as the head coach wishes to build a dominant defensive line similar to the one he coached in San Francisco.
Lawson is returning from a long-term Achilles injury (on an expensive contract, mind you), Franklin-Myers just earned an extension last year, and Johnson was a first-round pick this offseason.
Clemons will make the team as a fourth-round draft pick who should find time on passing downs and Martin provides the necessary NFL experience (13.5 sacks in 61 career games).
Defensive tackle (4): Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, Solomon Thomas, Jonathan Marshall.
Williams will most certainly earn a starting job. Rankins, Thomas (who signed with the Jets this offseason and has experience with Saleh from his 49ers tenure), and Marshall (a 2021 draft pick) should battle for the other starting role.
Linebacker (5): C.J. Mosley, Quincy Williams, Jamien Sherwood, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Marcell Harris.
Mosley, Williams, Sherwood, and Nasirildeen are likely locks to make the roster. Expect Mosley and Williams to assume starting roles while the Jets are looking to bank off the talent of Sherwood and Nasirildeen (both 2021 draft picks).
Multiple guys could be up for that fifth roster spot, but Harris has been with Saleh for a number of years (including in San Francisco) and should have an edge thanks to that experience.
Cornerback (7): Ahmad Gardner, D.J. Reed, Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Javelin Guidry, Justin Hardee.
Gardner and Reed will be the two starting boundary cornerbacks while Hall and Echols will likely be the top two depth options in that regard.
While Carter II and Guidry can work out of the slot, Hardee makes the roster as a valuable special teams asset.
Safety (4): Jordan Whitehead, Lamarcus Joyner, Jason Pinnock, Ashtyn Davis.
Whitehead joined the Jets on a two-year deal this offseason and Pinnock shows promise at safety entering his second season. Douglas also had enough faith in Joyner to re-sign him after he suffered a season-ending triceps injury just nine snaps into last year.
Davis isn’t the most talented but his athleticism and knowledge of Saleh’s system could provide him an edge in roster spot battles.
Specialists (3): Greg Zuerlein (K), Braden Mann (P), Thomas Hennessy (LS).
Expect Zuerlein to oust Eddy Pineiro for the placekicker job while Mann and Hennessy don’t have much competition for the punter and long snapper roles (at least right now).