Re-Setting the New York Jets’ Depth Chart: Offense

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Re-Setting the New York Jets' Depth Chart: Offense

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL preseason is finally over, and now the start of real games is imminent. The New York Jets have made it through a long training camp that saw quarterback controversy, player arrests, injury and ridiculous Rex Ryan press conferences.

However, that same preseason also saw the emergence of several young players into potentially key contributors as the Jets surprisingly went 3-1. Of course, preseason records are completely meaningless, but it is better to enter the regular season on a hot streak.

The Jets began the summer with 90 players, and they are now down the final 53 (full breakdowns of the cuts can be found here, here and here). The Jets have already made a few tweaks to the final roster (here and here), and they could yet make a few more before they kick things off on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Jets’ quarterback battle controlled the majority of the summer headlines, but there were quite a few other position battles in training camp. The Jets have an interesting group of young players at the skill positions, and they will be expected to achieve big things this season.

On the line, the Jets will rely heavily on veterans, and the unit is expected to be the strength of the team. C Nick Mangold and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson are the two best players on this side of the ball, and they will be the leaders of the offense.

Of course, all eyes will be on Geno Smith, as he will be the starter in the season opener. Whether or not he is ready is up for debate, but the Jets are prepared to give him a chance.

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Quarterback

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Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Starter: Geno Smith

Reserves: Mark Sanchez (injured), Matt Simms, Brady Quinn

Sanchez and Smith were in a close competition throughout the preseason, and it appeared that Sanchez had done enough to win the job until he was injured against the New York Giants. Sanchez’s injury may be more severe than previously thought, and him ending up on IR is not out of the realm of possibility.

It is this uncertainty that has caused the Jets to keep four quarterbacks. Simms looked very good in preseason, and he will be the third stringer. Quinn was just signed recently as depth and insurance, and the length of his stay with the team will depend entirely on Sanchez’s health.

Sanchez’s injury made Smith the starter by default, which is very worrying following his poor preseason. Smith is not even close to ready, but he will be thrown into the fire in Week 1 against a Tampa Bay defense that includes one Darrelle Revis. The Jets are pinning their hopes on Smith, and if he doesn’t improve dramatically it will be a very long season in New York.

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Running Back

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The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Starting RB: Chris Ivory

Starting FB: Tommy Bohanon

Reserves: Bilal Powell, Alex Green, Mike Goodson (suspended)

The Jets sought to remodel their backfield this offseason, trading for Ivory, signing Goodson and drafting Bohanon. Ivory will start and be the workhorse, but Powell played well enough in preseason to steal some carries away from him.

With Goodson suspended, Powell and Green will each get a shot at the third down back role. Powell will probably be given the first chance, but Green is a much better fit and could prove to be a steal for the Jets, who claimed him on waivers following the final cut deadline.

At fullback, Bohanon was a revelation in camp and more than earned his starting job. Bohanon is very well rounded, and his abilities as a receiver will be very useful, especially while Goodson is suspended. This backfield has a ton of potential, but none of the players are proven. However, given the talent on hand, expect the Jets to have a very solid rushing attack.

Note: Goodson is on the reserve/suspended list and thus does not count against the 53 man roster. Someone will be cut to accommodate his return in Week 5.

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Wide Receiver

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley

Reserves: Santonio Holmes (injured), Clyde Gates, Ryan Spadola

The Jets have a very young group of wide receivers, but the team believes they have the potential to become a solid group of playmakers. Kerley is the best receiver on the team, but they would be well served to focus on playing him out of the slot as opposed to on the outside.

Hill is expected to step up and become the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, and he was one of the most improved players in camp. He still struggles to put together a complete and consistent game, but he will receive plenty of targets.

Young talents Gates and Spadola won their spots with impressive performances in camp. Gates is a burner who could become a very good deep threat, while many around the Jets are calling Spadola the next Wayne Chrebet.

The wild card, of course, is Holmes. He may or may not be ready for Week 1, and he and the Jets continue to offer conflicting reports on his health. If healthy, Holmes is the most proven target on the team and would be a vital addition for Smith’s development. If not, there is even more pressure on the young players to develop.

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Tight End

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Starter: Jeff Cumberland

Reserves: Kellen Winslow, Konrad Reuland

Cumberland was one of the breakout stars of the summer for the Jets, scoring touchdowns in each of the first two preseason games. Cumberland is the type of big, fast target that has revolutionized the tight end position, and he has the ability to become a top receiving threat for the Jets, especially in the red zone.

Winslow will allow the Jets to use two tight end sets, as he and Cumberland are each very good receivers. Young quarterbacks often target their tight ends heavily, and Winslow and Cumberland could be very good safety valves for Smith.

Reuland made the team because of his ability as a blocker as well as his versatility to play fullback. Reuland won’t rack up many stats, but he will still be a vital part of the offense. This is one of the very few areas where the Jets are strong, and they will count on continued top performances from their tight ends.

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Offensive Line

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Starters: LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LG Vladimir Ducasse, C Nick Mangold, RG Willie Colon, RT Austin Howard

Reserves: OT Ben Ijalana, OT Oday Aboushi, G Brian Winters, G William Campbell, C Caleb Schlauderaff

The offensive line is the strength of the offense, and four of the five starters are excellent veterans. The fifth, however, is draft bust Ducasse, and he will be in a continuing battle with Winters for the starting left guard spot. Allowing Ducasse to start is one of the biggest mistakes the Jets have made, and they need to get Winters ready and into the lineup ASAP.

The Jets kept 10 linemen, a surprisingly high number. Aboushi and Campbell had up and down performances, but they made the team because the Jets invested draft picks in them. Neither is likely to see much of the field this season.

Ijalana was a waiver claim, and he is a former second round pick who tore an ACL in each of his first two seasons. The Jets are hoping that he can stay healthy and be a bargain in his third year, as he has yet to have the chance to display his natural talent in the NFL.

With the uncertainty around it, the line must be the rock for the offense this season. They are by far the best position group, and strong play from them is a must if the Jets want to have even a respectable offense.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google


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