Since the 2012 NFL Draft is now about 24 days away, it seemed appropriate to delve into how we believe the New York Jets roster will shape up after that time, especially with any remaining free agents that may be signed. We also make some predictions on additions from the draft itself.
We do expect the entire offensive line to remain unchanged, but certainly hope for right tackle Wayne Hunter making improvements in his pass blocking ability. Dustin Keller will certainly return as the starting tight end, but with Jeff Cumberland being the primary backup, just the addition of a third, primarily blocking, tight end, such as Anthony Becht would prove helpful. The question remains who will be the number two receiver opposite Santonio Holmes and we still expect to see Braylon Edwards return as number 17 in green and white. The quarterback depth chart is set, with Mark Sanchez followed by Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy. At running back behind Shonn Greene and change of pace back Joe McKnight, we feel Ronnie Brown can return to form and fill that role nicely.
This is where the most overall change is likely to take place, even though Rex Ryan would likely prefer more continuity. The defensive line should remain unchanged from last season, especially with Sione Pouha locked up for three more years. In the linebacking corps, all starters are signed and under contract, but Bryan Thomas is only for one year. Expect that Courtney Upshaw, if drafted in the first round, will likely see lots of playing time on the outside and supplant Thomas early on. Since Bart Scott has dropped weight we hope to see better play, but the Jets will also likely draft an eventual replacement for Scott as well. In the secondary, obviously there will be no change at the starting corners, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The defensive backfield may look completely different, certainly with the addition of LaRon Landry as strong safety, with the question remaining who plays along side him at free safety. It seems the Jets could steal away both of the Redskins starting safeties from 2011, if O.J. Atogwe is brought on board at free safety. If Landry proves to be injury prone still then Eric Smith is still viable, but drafting Mark Barron is not out of the question as an eventual replacement.
The final season for Mike Westhoff should still allow for him to bring along less proven talent and new additions to make the special teams one of the best units in the NFL. Both kicker Nick Folk and punter T.J. Conley will have competition once camps starts. The Jets could make a push to sign Mat McBriar away from the Cowboys before then to give them an upgrade. We also expect that to replace the departed Marquice Cole, Logan Payne and Ellis Lankster will be re-signed and given larger roles.
One thing the Jets are likely going to have to do is clear some more cap space by letting go of lower-end talent if they plan to sign not only all the free agents I mentioned above, but sign all of their draft picks. As with any new season for any professional sports teams there is always some upheaval and change, and the New York Jets are no stranger. Until training camp opens we wait to see if any, or all of the predictions will come to fruition.
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