The New York Jets released their first official depth chart of the summer today, and it sent one very clear message: newcomers are going to have to earn their spot. The starting lineup looks almost identical to the one the Jets ended the season with, as Eric Decker and Dimitri Patterson were the only offseason additions to be giving starting nods, which was expected given that they were signed to fill essentially vacant roles.
The big news was that Geno Smith was listed ahead of Michael Vick as promised, but Chris Ivory is ahead of Chris Johnson at running back while safeties Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry are in front of Calvin Pryor as well. At receiver, Greg Salas and Clyde Gates are in front of Jalen Saunders and Shaq Evans, while Jeff Cumberland remains the starting tight end over Jace Amaro. The point of all this is very simple, as Rex Ryan and John Idzik want to make sure that everyone on the team knows they won’t get anything they haven’t earned.
Realistically, Pryor is going to start at free safety, Johnson and Amaro will fairly evenly split time with Ivory and Cumberland, respectively, and Saunders and Evans are much more likely to make the team than Salas and Gates. However, the Jets are doing the right thing by making sure they earn their spot. Such a move plays well with the veterans in the locker room, and it keeps rookies from getting too confident.
Fans shouldn’t read much into this, as things are going to change dramatically over the next month. This depth chart might give some indication of how reps will be divided against the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday, but performances in that game will see the depth chart change significantly. That game will present an opportunity for players like Saunders and Evans to establish themselves as potential contributors, and the way the depth chart looks in a week or two will offer a much better indication of what the final roster will be. For now, this is a motivational ploy as much as anything, but changes are certainly coming in the near future.