Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Randy Lange and Olivia Landis will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What will the Jets' toughest roster decision be?
EA: The pandemic has provided teams with more flexibility on cut-down weekend than they've had in the past. You are reducing your player count from 80 to 69 (53-player roster + 16-man practice squad) and clubs have an extra cushion with the P-squad because six of those spots are open to any player, regardless of experience. (To put this into proper context, practice squads last year had a maximum of 10 and no player could have no more than two accrued seasons.) Then starting next week, the Jets can promote two practice squad players to the active roster and carry 55 players into each game. The significance of the practice squad will mean more than in the past. Finally, all NFL clubs can place an unlimited number of players on short-term injured reserve and those players only have to sit three weeks as opposed to eight. Without getting player specific, the waiver process might be the most challenging aspect in this next step of roster construction. There were no preseason games to evaluate the back-end of rosters, so there is only so much digging you can do through the clips and on social media for updates on players. Also, teams are rarely putting starting-caliber players on waivers, plus there are COVID-19 testing and protocols that will immediately delay a new player's arrival. So I think ultimately the toughest decisions will involve weighing a backup/special teams contributor/young developmental player who has been in your system for an entire camp vs. a backup/special teams contributor/young developmental player who has been in someone else's system for months -- and you don't have recent film on the latter.
EG: Let me start by saying I do not envy General manager Joe Douglas and his staff this weekend. Head Coach Adam Gase said that the team would probably have about five difficult decisions, although the NFL is allowing teams to have 16 practice squad players as opposed to 10 in years past. That means there's a chance the Jets can fill their P-squad with players they cut -- if they clear waivers. I'm keeping an eye on the wide receivers. The Jets' WRs were banged up throughout training camp. Denzel Mims (hamstring) missed the majority of training camp; Jeff Smith, who was taking first-team reps, hurt his shoulder; Breshad Perriman (knee) missed time; and Vyncint Smith underwent core surgery. As a result, Jehu Chesson, Josh Malone, George Campbell and Lawrence Cager all received an increased workload. The Jets' decision makers will have to balance wideouts they haven't seen a lot in practice (e.g. Donte Moncrief and D.J. Montgomery) and evaluate them against the guys that have been in camp while taking the injured players into account and when they might return. There's a lot of balls in the air at WR not to mention the players who will be released from the other 31 NFL teams.
See the Top Photos from Thursday's Practice at Training Camp
RL: It looks to me like a lot of potentially good wideouts won't make the final 53. We certainly wouldn't say the Jets' WR group is loaded with proven talent, and yet a lot of newly acquired veterans have stepped in and relative unknowns have stepped up with the training camp injuries to veterans Breshad Perriman, Vyncint Smith and Jeff Smith, and rookies Denzel Mims and Lawrence Cager. Chris Hogan and Donte Moncrief have had some solid pro production. D.J. Montgomery showed some initial upside with the Browns before the Jets acquired him on waivers. J. Smith was having a good camp until his shoulder injury. Josh Malone and Jehu Chesson have pro experience. Cager and fellow UDFA George Campbell have great size. With Jamison Crowder being joined by Perriman, Mims and WR/PR Braxton Berrios plus possibly Hogan and Moncrief, there may be one more WR slot left while there are 13 on the roster at this moment. Some are sure to return to the expanded practice squad, but as students of football math know, 13 into 6 doesn't go.
OL: Roster decisions, as Head Coach Adam Gase said this week, are "the part of the business where it's not fun because guys have been invested in this." The training camp roster consisted of 80 players competing for a spot on the team, but will be reduced over the weekend to 53 on the active roster and 16 on the practice squad. The shortened training camp, a raft of injuries and the lack of preseason games means that many players have not been fully evaluated. The competition in several position groups makes decisions challenging and it's fair to say that cutting down the Green & White's roster is the toughest part of the weekend.