About two weeks ago the first New York Jets depth chart was released. With roster cut down dates approaching next week, Monday at 4 p.m. eastern time to 75, and Friday by 9 p.m. to 53, we will look at some of the initial surprises, and lend some insights into names to watch whom might make that final cut.
(1) Which player(s) are the biggest surprise on both (a) offense and (b) defense?
Donald Lappe: On offense, Josh Baker. Being the closest thing to an h-back has given him a niche, though I didn't expect it to be so pronounced in Tony Sparano's offense. On defense, Josh Mauga and Nick Bellore holding off Demario Davis and Marcus Dowtin. I know Davis has been nicked up, but I expected Dowtin to make more of a run at the two-deep. Mauga and Bellore have stepped up and held their own.
Peter Schifani: The one slight surprise was seeing undrafted free agent wide receiver Royce Pollard ahead of Jordan White on the depth chart, but that was likely because of White's injury, which has since healed. On the other side of the ball it was expected the Jets would see more from linebacker/defensive end hybrid Ricky Sapp, but a high ankle sprain has bothered him since the beginning of camp. Hopefully he can be healthy again and contribute by mid-season.
Chris Tripodi: Howard over Hunter is slightly surprising at the moment, if only because the Jets were so steadfastly committed to Hunter throughout the offseason and training camp. He has certainly struggled so far and the Jets have nothing to lose by giving Howard a chance on Sunday against the Panthers, but just a few weeks ago nobody thought he was a threat to Hunter's job no matter how much he struggled, especially considering how the Jets stuck with Matt Slauson last year after his 2010 struggles. There were no real surprises to me defensively but I'm surprised the Jets wouldn't list Coples behind both Wilkerson and DeVito, considering Wilkerson is considered more of a long-term answer and they want to get the rookie as many snaps as possible.
(2) What do you think of the three headed monster at starting safety? (what I like to personally call the Freebird rule… and if you know why, points for you)
Donald Lappe: I like it. Eric Smith has great value as a leader and is a solid player who was exposed in coverage. LaRon Landry is built for this defense and should make a lot of plays, but needs to be paced as he continues to recover. Yeremiah Bell is another strong leader and a good tackler. They fit well together.
Peter Schifani: Since both Landry and Smith will still not be 100% by week one it makes sense to see any combination of all three in the defensive backfield, to (1) confuse opposing offenses, but (2) provide the strongest set possible in coverage against whatever tight ends and wide receivers come there way.
Chris Tripodi: I like the three-safety setup, especially because of Landry's injury history. Smith has proven to be a reliable performer for the Jets but not necessarily somebody you want playing every snap, while easing Landry back in with 30-40 snaps per game may keep him healthy and more effective. Bell is a solid veteran safety who should stabilize a position that was a big struggle for the Jets last season and be a big boost to their defense.
(3) Do you think that there will be any undrafted free agents make the roster?
Donald Lappe: I still think there is room on the roster for Ryan Steed. Rex Ryan loves defensive backs and Ryan Steed was a steal as an undrafted free agent. I would also keep an eye on Royce Pollard, who has impressed me so far this preseason. The roster numbers just don't seem to be in Royce Pollard's favor.
Peter Schifani: Barring injuries to any starters or second team members it's hard to see any of the Jets current crop of undrafted free agent will make the 53 man roster. I would expect to see several of them be added to the practice squad: wide receiver Royce Pollard, defensive back D'Anton Lynn, linebacker, Marcus Dowtin, and tight end Hayden Smith.
Chris Tripodi: I don't see any undrafted free agents making the roster this season. Donnie Fletcher and Brett Roy seem to have the best chance based on the depth chart and their play this training camp, but it looks like a long shot at this point.
Donald Lappe: I think Josh Brown wins the kicking job. The Jets, namely Mike Westhoff, put a lot of time into Nick Folk, but he's inconsistent. That missed field goal against the New England Patriots on the opening drive at MetLife Stadium last year still sticks out.
Peter Schifani: As much as I want Josh Brown to win the job, so far in competition Nick Folk has the edge by hitting a slightly higher percentage. If Brown can hit more field goals, especially longer ones in the final two preseason games then he may beat out Folk, otherwise it's still Folk's job to lose.
Chris Tripodi: I think Folk will win the kicking job for the Jets in what has been essentially an even competition so far in training camp in the preseason, mostly due to the fact he was serviceable for the team last season and is six years younger than Brown. This was Folk's job to lose from the start so unless he really struggles in the final two preseason games, he should be the team's kicker to start 2012.
(5) Surprisingly no word on competition for T.J. Conley at punter, do the Jets bring in anyone before week one?
Donald Lappe: At this point, I doubt it. Certainly wouldn't be a bad idea, but unless it's a known commodity as a clear upgrade it's too late to stage a true competition at punter.
Peter Schifani: While I am sure we would all agree that the Jets need a consistent upgrade at this position, since no one else has even auditioned for the team, it does seem T.J. Conley will be punting for the Jets at least in week one.
Chris Tripodi: At this point it's hard to believe they will bring in any serious competition for Conley, which means it's likely the Jets will start 2012 with the same kicker and punter from 2011. Depending on who you ask, that may or may not be a good thing. Personally, I'm okay with it. But I wouldn't be surprised to see some in-season moves if either Folk or Conley struggle.
We will see by 4 p.m. on Monday what the New York Jets do to trim down to 75, and later in the week to the final 53. Hopefully they will get the most talent possible and all positions so should injuries creep up they have depth that can step up and take over in the short or long term.
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