By Chris Lopresti
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Here is my first and only crack at predicting the initial 53-man roster. I did my best to steer clear of similar lists from other writers, reporters and outlets. I'm sure there are plenty of similarities because I don't anticipate many surprising cuts.
In fact, the early departures of Braylon Edwards, Joe McKnight and Stephen Peterman will probably be more noteworthy than anything that happens before the final deadline arrives at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Keep in mind that a lot could change before the season opener as other players become available on waivers and via trade. For the purposes of this exercise, I've only included players that are currently on the Jets' active roster.
Without further adieu ...
Sticks: Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms
Cut: Graham Harrell
Analysis: Four QBs is not ideal (especially on this roster), but I think the Jets are in a tough spot. We don't know when Sanchez will be ready to play. McElroy is banged up as well but is respected in the locker room and a serviceable backup. You'd know what to expect from him if he had to play in a pinch. The Jets have preached competition all summer. Well, Simms accepted the challenge and elevated his game. In fact, he probably played well enough that the Jets won't be able to sneak him through waivers and onto the practice squad. That leaves John Idzik and company with a tough decision right off the bat.
Running Backs (4)
Sticks: Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory, Kahlil Bell, Tommy Bohanon
Suspended: Mike Goodson (doesn't count against 53-man roster until reinstated)
Cut: Mossis Madu
Analysis: No surprises here. The Jets aren't going to enter the regular season with two halfbacks, especially when you consider Ivory's injury history. Bell had a VERY productive preseason and offers some versatility. He's a physical runner who runs low and has decent speed. He can probably play some special teams as well. We'll see if he sticks around when Goodson completes his four-game suspension. Even if Lex Hilliard hadn't suffered a season-ending injury, Bohanon likely would have won the starting FB job. The entire coaching staff has been impressed with his work.
Wide Receivers (6)
Sticks: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Ben Obomanu, Ryan Spadola
Cut: Mohamed Massaquoi, Zach Rogers, Michael Campbell
Analysis: With the uncertainty surrounding Holmes, it makes sense to keep six. Furthermore, I think Spadola and Obomanu both deserve roster spots based on their play throughout the entire summer. Obomanu was quiet in practice but really showed up in the preseason games and also plays special teams. I think you're all familiar with Spadola's work by now. He was, arguably, their most consistent WR throughout camp, and it certainly translated to game-day success (13 catches, 216 yards, TD). You feel bad for Campbell and Rogers because they each made their share of plays (especially Campbell against the Eagles). In a normal year, one of them might have stolen a spot, but they were over-shadowed by Spadola's efforts. The Jets might have a riot on their hands if the local product (Howell, N.J.) doesn't make the final roster.
Tight Ends (3)
Sticks: Kellen Winslow, Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland
Cut: Chris Pantale
Analysis: One of the biggest question marks entering camp, but maybe the easiest decision heading into the regular season. Winslow's knees have held up nicely thus far. That's a great sign for him and for the organization. If he's healthy, he's going to produce. Don't sleep on Cumberland either. I overlooked him a bit in my training-camp preview, but he had a solid summer and is probably one of the faster TEs in the league. His route-running seems to have improved and I think he'll excel in Marty Mornhinweg's system.
Offensive Lineman (8)
Sticks: Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Austin Howard, Willie Colon, Brian Winters, Vladimir Ducasse, Caleb Schlauderaff, Oday Aboushi
Cut: Jason Smith, Erik Cook, Will Campbell, J.B. Shugarts
Analysis: Here's where things start to get a little tricky. In my opinion, the first six guys are locks. After that, it's a toss-up. The departure of Peterman and Dalton Freeman probably saves Schlauderaff (at least for now). I didn't love Aboushi's performance this summer, but he was a fifth-round pick and they need some bodies for depth. I suppose he could end up on the practice squad. Smith was absolutely awful against the Eagles, so I don't see how he sticks around. Campbell is very raw making the transition from defensive line, so he needs a lot of work. Shugarts didn't stand out much, negatively or positively.
Defensive Lineman (6)
Sticks: Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Kenrick Ellis, Damon Harrison, Leger Douzable, Junior Aumavae
Cut: Antonio Garay, Tevita Finau, Lanier Coleman
Analysis: FULL DISCLOSURE: I went back and forth on Garay before ultimately deciding to keep him. Within 10 minutes of that decision, the news broke that he had been cut. Not all that surprising because he didn't play much in the first three preseason games and then got plenty of work against the Eagles. That's usually a bad sign when you're 33 and only got a $65,000 signing bonus. Damon Harrison's emergence probably sealed his fate. The Jets might also like Finau or Aumavae as a project at DT. I'll go with Aumavae because of his size (6-foot-2, 310). The rest of the guys are slam dunks. Ellis is still struggling to stay on the field, but they're not going to cut bait with him just yet. Douzable had an impressive summer and drew praise from Rex Ryan on more than one occasion.
Sticks: David Harris, Demario Davis, Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace, Garrett McIntyre, Antwan Barnes, Ricky Sapp, Nick Bellore, Danny Lansanah
Cut: Josh Mauga, Troy Davis, Jacquies Smith, JoJo Dickson
Analysis: The Coples injury makes this an interesting decision. The Jets haven't updated his condition so we don't know how serious the injury is or when he might return. McIntyre steps into the starting lineup with Barnes/Sapp ready to be unleashed in pass-rushing situations. Bellore is a solid backup with plenty of value on special teams. Lansanah was another training-camp surprise, and he seems like a lock to make the final roster. Mauga can't get healthy, which usually spells doom. I think the Jets like what they saw from Troy Davis and Smith, but the math doesn't add up for either of them (in my eyes). However, this is probably the group where I'll have a few mistakes.
Defensive Backs (10)
Sticks: Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner, Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen, Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Josh Bush, Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant
Cut: Rontez Miles, Royce Adams, Mike Edwards
Analysis: Ryan loves to have depth in the secondary so he can deploy all sorts of different packages/looks. I'm sure many of you would love to include Wilson on the "cut" list, but I don't see it happening. Ryan values his versatility and plans on using him all over the field. He had a rough preseason, but mostly because he was matched up against big/physical WRs on the outside. Don't plan on that happening much once the regular season begins. Building off of that, I thought Walls played very well this summer. If Milliner (calf) isn't ready to go in Week 1, I would consider starting Walls opposite Cromartie and using Wilson in sub packages. Lankster and Trufant are grizzled veterans who know this system and also play special teams. Landry will quarterback the secondary. Sounds like Allen and Jarrett are dead even for the other starting safety job. Ryan has indicated that he may rotate those guys throughout the season depending on the opponent. Miles is an intriguing player and I suppose he could make it over Bush. But he missed time early in camp with an injury, so they'll probably want to get a better look at him on the practice squad.
Sticks: Nick Folk, Robert Malone, Tanner Purdum
Cut: Dan Carpenter
Analysis: Another FULL DISCLOSURE: News of Carpenter's demise was reported before I submitted this projection, but I did give the edge to Folk and echoed the same thought on WFAN early on Friday morning (around 2:35 a.m., for those who are curious). He's the incumbent and Carpenter really didn't have enough time to prove himself. He arrived in Florham Park a few days ago and only had one attempt against the Eagles (good from 45 yards). If he remains a free agent and Folk struggles out of the gate, he could return quickly. Malone and Purdum won their jobs by process of elimination.
Follow me on Twitter @CLoprestiWFAN for updates and analysis. Questions, comments and/or concerns? Fire away in the section below or tweet at me.
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