The New York Jets play the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth, and final, preseason game of the year. The majority of the starters for both teams will not be playing as this final exhibition game is designed to help teams fill out the bottom of their rosters. Many players are safe, locked into a gauaranteed roster spot, many others are destined to be cut and a handful of players need a big game tomorrow night to earn their roster spot.
On Monday Todd Bowles was asked how many roster spots are solidified and he said, "It has to be in the forties. I couldn't tell you if it was upper or lower, but it has to be in the forties." I'm going to go ahead and guess that it's in the mid-to-upper forties, but a few key injuries and some underwhelming choices as backups at certain positions make determining who those last few players will be much more difficult.
With the injury to Geno Smith the Jets will be forced to carry four quarterbacks until Smith can return. Typically teams like to only carry three quarterbacks, but because the Jets won't be willing to risk losing Bryce Petty by subjecting him to the practice squad process and they are also not willing to actually play Petty early in the season they will be forced to keep Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Petty and either Matt Flynn or Josh Johnson. Flynn is the overwhelming favorite to get that fourth spot right now but if Johnson outplays Flynn by a significant margin it is entirely possible he could win that fourth spot and send Flynn packing.
A few other things to consider involving injuries, will Dee Milliner and/or Stevan Ridley start the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, opening up temporary roster spots for other players, or will they take an active roster spot from the start? If Ridley starts the season on the PUP list Zac Stacy would be a lock to make the final 53-man roster to start the season, but if Ridley takes an active roster spot do the Jets still keep Stacy and decide to ditch the fullback position althogether by cutting Tommy Bohanon?
With Sheldon Richardson serving a four-game suspension to start the season the Jets will likely carry and extra defensive lineman to start the season. Leonard Williams will fill in for Richardson on the field but they'll need a backup for Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson until Richardson returns. Will that backup be Ronald Talley or Stephen Bowen?
Which offensive lineman have managed to impress the Jets enough to keep around as backups? Bowles praised Willie Colon for his, "hunger" and "aggressiveness," saying Colon simply "wanted it more." When he was asked who Colon's backup would be, would it be Brian Winters? Bowles said, "Right now. He's still playing for some more two nights (Thursday night) from now." Does this mean Winters needs to play well to cement his role as the backup? Or is it possible once the front office starts looking at other teams cuts Winters could become unemployeed as the bring in a new backup guard?
Then there's a position game, how many receivers do they want to keep? Devin Smith and Jeremy Kerley are both dealing with injuries and might not be ready for the opener, do the Jets just go short on receivers for the first few games or do they keep an extra receiver? Ideally would they want to keep only six receivers or seven?
These are just some of the questions Bowles and Mike Maccagnan will have to face when making the final decision. For now we'll take a look at the roster, list all the locks, the players on the bubble, the ones destined to be cut and we'll also look at a few players who could be candidates for the practice squad.
As mentioned above Bowles said they have 40-something players that have solidified roster spots, I'm closer to 50 but that's including Milliner and Ridley as well as a couple of players that I might consider locks but I'm not sure Bowles and Maccagnan agree.
QB (4) - Smith, Fitzpatrick, Petty, Flynn or Johnson (Again Flynn is the heavy favorite but considering he is just getting healthy to consider him a lock would be foolish. He needs to have a good game, or at least a better game than Johnson. Regardless the Jets are defeinitely keeping four quarterbacks.)
HB (3) Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Zac Stacy (I think Stacy has done enough to earn a roster spot regardless of what they do with Ridley and while I think they will, more likely than not, keep fullback Tommy Bohanon I wouldn't be shocked if they just decided to go with four running backs and can't consider Bohanon a lock.)
TE (2) Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Davis (I actually think they will have three tight ends on the final 53-man roster but I think that tight end is on another team and the Jets will have to wait for him to get cut.)
OL (7) Nick Mangold, Breno Giacomini, James Carpenter, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Willie Colon, Wesley Johnson, Brent Qvale (The Jets will keep more offensive line, that much I'm sure of, which ones will they keep?)
DL (5) Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Leonard Williams, T.J. Barnes, Leger Douzable (Again the Jets will keep more than five but will it be Talley or Bowen? Or will they keep both until Richardson comes back from his suspension? Also the suspension means Richardson doesn't count to the final 53 for now, but a player will have to be cut when he returns)
CB (7) Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Marcus Williams, Dexter McDougle, Darrin Walls, Dee Milliner (Maybe Milliner starts the season on short-term IR but I feel confident he will make the team. Bowles loves his corners and makes them work so the idea of him keeping seven corners sounds right to me)
K (1) Nick Folk
P (1) Ryan Quigley
LS (1) Tanner Purdum
That makes 48 locks for me, maybe 47 if Milliner goes on short-term IR. Obviously there's the possibility that my locks don't match up with Bowles and Maccagnan's locks. Maybe I'm misreading some of the backup offensive lineman, maybe Milliner isn't a lock, maybe Walls isn't a lock. And if I have to pick a truly surprising cut from this list, maybe Kerley doesn't make this team. With the way his contract is structured it wouldn't make sense to cut him now but he clearly hasn't won the hearts of this new coaching-staff.
ON THE BUBBLE
Only five spots, give or take an IR placement or a previously stated lock unlocked and dropped, left to fill but who has the inside track to earning a spot with a solid performance tomorrow?
(WR) Shaquelle Evans - I think Evans makes the opening day roster. Maybe if the Jets know Kerley will be ready for the opener they can go with only five receivers for week one but if he's not, or the Jets want six, then Evans should make the opening day roster. Once Kerley and Smith are both healthy then I think you'll see Evans get cut with the intention of signing him to the practice squad.
(KR) Walt Powell - If the Jets decide to use a roster spot on someone who can only return kicks than Powell will get the job, but with all their needs can they afford to do that? Or will they just go with some combination of Decker, Kerley and Smith?
(LB) Jason Babin - I feel like Babin should make this team, but do the Jets really need eight linebackers? And should Babin replace any of the other seven? Maybe he's not so likely to make it.
(DE) Stephen Bowen/Ronald Talley - At least one of these guys probably has to make the roster or maybe the Jets could keep Babin and use him as a backup defensive end more than an outside linebacker. All three of these guys have a good shot of making the roster, maybe two of them, but who wins might be decided on the field tomorrow night.
(OL) Ben Ijalana, Dakota Dozier, Jarvis Harrison, Oday Aboushi - I think Harrison makes the final 53. Ideally they'd like to sit him on the practice squad and let him develop but I'm not sure they're willing to risk losing him. Ijalana would probably be another lock if he was healthy but since he's not maybe the Jets go in another direction. Aboushi is still a head-scratcher to me, he played pretty well last year but has seemingly fallen so far out of favor with this new staff that I feel like he's not making this team.
(LB) Erin Henderson - I wanted to make Henderson a lock because I think he can still be a really good linebacker but between his injury and Lattimore's coverage ability I'm not sure he will make it.
(FB) Tommy Bohanon - If Chan Gailey wants a fullback on his roster Bohanon will make this roster. If they decide they could be fine without one well then...
(LB) Joe Mays - Mays had a solid camp, he's good enough to make an active roster. I'm not sure he's good enough to make this active roster, but maybe he still still win a job with a hige game tomorrow.
(TE) Arthur Lynch, Wes Saxton - I haven't seen anything from either of these two that would suggest anything more than practice squad but as previously mentioned the Jets likely need a third tight end. If one of these guys has a big game tomorrow maybe they can win that third tight end job. If not the Jets will be rummaging through the waiver wire for a new tight end on cut day.
GOOD AS GONE
(OT) Charles Brown
(S) Durell Eskridge
(FB/LB) Julian Howsare
(CB) Keon Lyn
(RB) Daryl Richardson
PRACTICE SQUAD CANDIDATES
(LB) Deion Barnes
(LB) Taiwan Jones
(DT) Deon Simon
(DE) Jordan Williams