Throughout the season, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What are your thoughts on the Jets initial 53-man roster?
EA: The Jets are young. They have 21 players who are either rookies or second-year pros, a big number even in a league dominated by youth. All eyes will be on QB Zach Wilson from the get-go, but Alijah-Vera Tucker will start at LG and WR Elijah Moore will be counted on to make an impact in the passing game. Those three players should be foundational pieces along with LT Mekhi Becton, a first-round pick in 2020. RB La'Mical Perine, a fourth-round pick in Joe Douglas' first draft class, will be part of the committee approach at RB and WR Denzel Mims flashed big-play potential in his rookie campaign. On defense, this corner group figures to have second-year pro Bryce Hall at one outside spot and a rookie or second-year player across the way (Brandin Echols, Jason Pinnock, Isaiah Dunn or Javelin Guidry). At nickel, it will be either rookie Michael Carter II or Guidry as the Jets feel both DBs are NFL starters. The likely partners with C.J. Mosley at linebacker are first-year pros and converted safeties in Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen. Braden Mann will handle punting duties for a second season while rookie Matt Ammendola takes over at kicker. This youthful roster will bring a lot of energy and it will be fun to watch its growth as the season progresses.
EG: I don't think there are a lot of surprises all things considered, but I thought it was interesting the Jets elected to keep seven wide receivers. Jeff Smith received first-team reps throughout training camp and showed versatility in the run game against the Eagles in the preseason finale. He had 3 rushes on end-arounds for 44 yards (14.7 avg) where he showcased vision, speed and burst. He would have been subject to waivers if the Jets let him go, which means the other 31 teams would have had an opportunity to claim him. The youth at CB also stands out, which has been documented after the release of CB Bless Austin. The Jets have seven CBs: three drafted rookies in Michael Carter II, Jason Pinnock and Brandin Echols; one undrafted rookie in Isaiah Dunn; and two second-year players in Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry. That room is rounded out by fifth-year pro Justin Hardee, who has almost exclusively had a special-teams role with the Saints in his first four seasons in the NFL. Head coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas are excited to see how they perform after a training camp with some flashes and typical rookie moments. Saleh said a long time ago that Seahawks HC Pete Carroll taught him not to be scared to play young players and there's no position on the roster with less NFL experience than at corner. A couple of quick nuggets – placekicker Matt Ammendola won the job and was perfect against both the Packers and Eagles. It seems like it's his job, but how will he perform when the games count? The Jets have a lot of bodies up front on the DL including five defensive tackles. It's always started up front for Douglas and Saleh. Linebacker is another young position with two rookies in Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeeen along with C.J. Mosley and Blake Cashman. Douglas added Quincy Williams on waivers, too.
RL: The Jets' "final 53" has of course been anything but final and will continue to be, but that's normal. The roster snapshot after the dust settled this week shows high numbers with 10 DBs and nine D-linemen and a low count with five LBs, but that is to be expected with Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich's conversion of the defense into a 4-3 unit. Similarly, seven WRs seems high to me from Jets rosters past, but you have to like all seven so maybe that's a good number especially for executing Mike LaFleur's West Coast scheme. Really the biggest concerns aren't with the specific breakdowns as they are with exactly how fast is this entire group? Exactly how quickly can it move from green to battle-tested? And the 53 players won't be the only roster that matters. There's Saleh and his roster of coaches who will need to guide the group toward unmistakable progress, regardless of the adversity that is sure to hit here and there. I am optimistic that the ride may be bumpy but surely will be exhilarating.